THE appointment of an independent commissioner to address the tragic rate of suicide among serving and former Australian Defence Force personnel is a welcome initiative that will help save lives into the future.
RSLWA State President Peter Aspinall AM said the move by Prime Minister Scott Morrison would mean the issue of suicide among defence personnel would be addressed, here and now – and on an enduring basis.
“I congratulate Prime Minister Morrison for standing up for our Veterans and serving men and women, and thank him for listening to the Veteran community,” Mr Aspinall said.
“RSLWA has been strong on the need to address the issue as it arises, knowing what has gone before. One more suicide is one too many after the tragedy of 419 Veterans taking their own lives since 2001.”
Mr Aspinall said there were concerns that a royal commission would get bogged down in looking backwards as to the causes and what happened in the past 15 years. Now, the Veteran community could get behind the new independent commissioner and help prevent more tragedy.
“While well-intended, a royal commission would be like looking in the rear-view mirror. The appointment of an independent commissioner will have the power, as a permanent watchdog, to get on top of the appalling rate of suicides and be proactive in dealing with it,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s announcement comes at a time of the soon-to-be opened RSLWA Veteran Central facility in Perth and the development of Veteran Hubs throughout the State.
RSLWA Chief Executive Officer John McCourt said that when Veteran Central in Perth opened its doors this spring, it would have some of the best mental health services for Veterans of anywhere else in Australia.
“Veteran Central will have a mix of mental health services including initial counselling, the support from a team of psychologists and, if and when needed, clinical support by a specialist team of highly trained psychiatrists.”
Mr McCourt said the sadness of losing mates to suicide had seen an increasing determination among the Veteran community to push for a better way to help those who might be struggling and to support their families in times of need.