Over the last fifteen years, on average a veteran commits suicide every two weeks. Last year, it was nearly one a week.
It’s getting worse. Whatever we’re doing isn’t working. We’re not doing enough. And what we are doing is part of the problem.
There’s the culture of the defence forces with how they deal with pressure and post-traumatic stress disorder. There’s administrative failure from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs – a recent independent study found that the way that veterans engage with the Department may actually make their suffering worse. There’s where the brass has failed our diggers – with well-meaning government programs botched, mismanaged or abandoned altogether. And if there’s any problem that we know we need to solve, but seem incapable of solving, it’s the issue of how to keep our diggers alive in service and alive on their return.
We need a Royal Commission to be able to look without fear or favour into the operation of the ADF and the DVA.
No other type of investigation has the scope or power of a Royal Commission. We need both. We can’t accept anything less.
Four people died in twelve months under Kevin Rudd’s ‘pink batts’ home insulation scheme. We have 50 veterans killing themselves a year. And we know – we know for a fact – that the bureaucracy we’ve created to help these people is actually contributing to their suffering. Demand a Royal Commission. Because nothing else works, nothing else will do.
The department that’s supposed to help veterans is making them worse.
An independent study from 2019 found that the process of going to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for help could actually be harming the health and wellbeing of our returned servicemen and women. The Department is not functioning. It’s delaying and dithering while veterans are dying. There have been countless reports into what needs to happen to fix the department, but government after government keeps tinkering with things at the edges without engaging with the harsh truth – the department is not fit for purpose. It needs a clear-out.
The government treats veterans like a budget item instead of a national priority.
If you want to prove to me you think veterans are heroes, you don’t just say so on Anzac Day. You back up your words with actions. You pay every cent it takes to nurse a wounded warrior back to health. A veteran’s contribution to this country doesn’t end when they take off the uniform. But we’re failing to give our veterans the support they need to transition back into civilian life and use the skills and experience they’ve developed in service of our country. They’re being sucked into a black hole of bureaucracy and buck-passing. They reach out for help, we slap a pin on them and send them on their way. We know what it takes to help our veterans. It’s going to cost money. We just have to pay it. I’m sick of politicians who tell a veteran their health is too expensive. Words are cheap. Our political leaders are cheaper.
We treat veteran suicide like it’s a problem happening to someone else.
Every suicide is a tragedy to those who are affected by it. Imagine losing a child to suicide. It’s heartbreaking. And you know what? To leave a veteran feeling like they don’t have anywhere to turn for help, and there’s no hope left in life – those families didn’t do that. We did that. We all let that happen to that veteran, and that family. Every time we elect a government and fail to demand things change, we endorse the status quo. That doesn’t sit easy on my conscience. I’m not going to keep letting this happen. This ends now.