The Royal Commission investigating Defence and Veteran Suicide has been granted increased resources to ensure its private face-to-face sessions continue seamlessly.
A new role, termed “assistant commissioner,” has been instituted. Under the newly ratified legislation from 14 September, this official will facilitate trauma-sensitive and more informal private sessions, enabling individuals to recount their personal experiences. The Royal Commission, which began its investigations in July 2021, has already overseen 535 private sessions, with approximately 400 more anticipated before they finalize their findings.
Until now, the Royal Commissions Amendment (Private Sessions) Act 2023 only permitted a commissioner to orchestrate these private sessions. However, the latest amendment ensures that this change is applicable to all subsequent royal commissions.
To bolster the operations of the Veteran Suicide Royal Commission, an expert defence member, possessing the required qualifications, experience, and seniority, will provide support. This move aims to guarantee that the commission accomplishes its objectives by the stipulated reporting deadline of 17 June 2024.
Nick Kaldas, the former Deputy Commissioner of NSW Police and the current leader of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, communicated updates on the progress to the National Press Club in the ACT earlier this month. On 13 September, he remarked, “The concerns we’ve unearthed seem to have gone unnoticed or haven’t piqued enough interest. It’s crucial that the public and the media pay more attention to these issues. Only then will it be in the spotlight, prompting even politicians to take note.”
Kaldas later informed the press about instances where the commission’s access to documents was hindered due to reasons such as public interest immunity, parliamentary privilege, and cabinet confidence.
In a related development, the Australian federal government has unveiled plans to formulate a fresh Defence and Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which will cater to the mental health needs of Defence personnel, veterans, and their families.