21 November 2022

Royal commission to hear Wagga veterans and Defence personnel at the next hearing

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Commissioners Dr Peggy Brown, Nick Kaldas and James Douglas KC

Commissioners Dr Peggy Brown, Nick Kaldas and James Douglas KC at the Darwin hearing block. Photo: Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide public hearing will commence next week in Wagga.

The Royal Commission will conduct its eighth hearing block from 28 November to 1 December at the Mercure Wagga Wagga. The proceedings will also be available via livestream on the Royal Commission’s website.

The Royal Commission says the hearings may contain materials and images that are distressing for some people. The public nature of the hearings also means that there may be people in military uniforms as well as military service providers in attendance.

There will be four hearing sessions: Monday 28 November from 11 am to 6 pm, Tuesday 29 November from 8:30 am to 4 pm, Wednesday 30 November from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm and Thursday 1 December from 8:30 am to 5 pm. Times are approximate and subject to change.

Anyone can attend the hearing, and those wanting to attend are required to preregister.

READ ALSO Veterans advocates say calls for a well-being centre in Wagga do not go far enough

Member for Riverina Michael McCormack is encouraging serving and ex-Defence members to make a submission to the commission head of the Wagga hearing next week.

“I would encourage anyone who has a story to tell to reach out to the Royal Commission,” Mr McCormack said.

“The Royal Commission has heard some tragic stories and I would also urge anyone distressed by material or images at the Wagga Wagga hearing to seek out support or speak to a member of the inquiry’s counselling team.

“As a former veterans affairs minister and former assistant defence minister, I know how important the Royal Commission is to the Defence Force community and their loved ones.”

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide will commence its Public Hearing Block 8 in Wagga Wagga on Monday 28 November 2022. Photo: The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

Mr McCormack said last month’s hearing in Darwin gave the Royal Commission an insight into the unique challenges of military service in the Top End and he expected a similar experience in Wagga.

He said Wagga was the only regional city with all three arms of the Defence Force and thousands of veterans had made the Riverina and the Central West their home after leaving the Australian Defence Force.

The Royal Commission was established on 8 July 2021 as an inquiry into the overrepresentation of serving and ex-Defence members in deaths by suicide in Australia.

The Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide was handed down on 11 August 2022. The Royal Commission’s interim report delivers 13 recommendations for immediate action with an urgent call to clear the backlog of claims.

READ ALSO McCormack slams Labor Government for ‘neglecting veterans of Riverina’

These include simplifying and harmonising veteran compensation and rehabilitation legislation, improving the administration of the claims system and eliminating the claims backlog.

The Royal Commission’s inquiry focuses on identifying systemic, structural and cultural issues and solutions to suicide and suicidality among serving and ex-Australian Defence Force members.

The report also makes some preliminary observations about various issues, including suicide prevention and wellbeing, families, Australian Defence Force culture, transition, and a possible body to follow the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission will continue to carefully read the submissions, listen to people with lived experience, consider evidence, hear from experts, and conduct research until the final report is handed down in June 2024.

The Royal Commission will accept submissions until 13 October 2023.

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