Dubbo Photo News
DID WE FORGET?
Veteran Suicide: Royal Commission a start, but action MUST follow, local veteran urges
EARLIER this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the federal government will take the step of recommending to the Governor-general the establishment of a Royal Commission into Defence and Veterans Suicide, following a period of consultation on draft terms of reference, with the relevant community and state and territory governments.
Just days out from ANZAC Day, the news was welcomed by many veterans who have been lobbying the government for years for such an inquiry.
Dubbo veteran Jason Scanes, who now lives in Queensland, formed an organisation called Forsaken Fighters to fight for the rights of foreign nationals who worked with Australian military personnel and who now need protection from the regimes in their nations.
Mr Scanes told Dubbo Photo News that, in Australia, the price is still being paid for an incomplete strategy, with ongoing trauma for our veterans and their families and lives being lost.
“The announcement is welcome, but for many veterans it comes at an emotional time as we move into ANZAC Day,” he said.
“The prime minister has taken significant blows in the polls relating to sexual assault allegations, poor handling of the Inspector-general Australian Defence Force (IGADF) report and the call for Royal Commission (RC) for veterans over recent months.
“I think many will remain sceptical and will be looking closely at the terms of reference to this RC. Most veterans will want to see more than just words, they will expect action now from this government. Time will tell if that happens, and I hope that history is not an indication on this issue.”
Mr Scanes said it’s been an emotional week for many veterans as the announcement of the withdrawal from our longest war now has an end date coincided with concerns over processing times for veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs and then the prime minister’s Royal Commission announcement.
“Many might be asking if the Prime Minister called the Royal Commision back in December 2019, when Julie-anne Finney and Labor were calling for one, would we have lost so many (veterans to suicide) since?” Mr Scanes asked.
“I know I am asking myself this question, having lost a mate, who I enlisted with 25 years ago, at his own hands back as recent as January (this year).
“It is important to remember, our defence force personnel serve the government of the day, they serve all Australians and any attempts to politicise these issues will be judged harshly.”
Meantime, NSW Shadow Minister for Veterans Greg Warren, who grew up and went to school in Dubbo and served in the Australian Army before entering politics, is calling on the Berejiklian government to ensure the Royal Commission into veteran suicide leads to meaningful change for veterans in NSW.
Mr Warren said the state government must assist its counterparts in Canberra with all aspects of the Royal Commission, including implementing all the future recommendations.
“Far too many Australian veterans have taken their own lives or attempted suicide,” Mr Warren said.
“I am wary that there has been a plethora of inquiries and reports into this matter, yet little has been done to curb this serious issue.
“This royal commission must buck that trend and be followed through with immediate action – veterans, their families and their friends need real and positive change.”
Support services are available:
z Open Arms provides 24-hour free and confidential counselling and support for current and former ADF members and their families 1800 011 046, or through Safezone on 1800 142 072.
z The Defence all-hours Support Line is a confidential telephone and online service for ADF members and their families 1800 628 036.