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We have a bloody big problem here

The suicide rate for young veterans is double the average.


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.






UPDATE:

The Government’s announced something. It’s an embarrassment. It’s a never-ending inquiry with an unnamed Commissioner looking into an unspecified problem. It’s a review of the last 17 reviews.

The families of veterans who’ve taken their own lives deserve better than a fob off.

We’ve had 17 reviews in the last 17 years. We can’t accept a never-ending inquiry that never draws a line in the sand and says enough is enough.

You don’t end the problem if you don’t end the review. .

Now’s the time to stand up and say nothing less will do. Demand a Royal Commission into veterans’ suicide – a full one. Demand it has an end date. Demand a moment when the government shifts from being told what to do to just bloody getting on with doing it. Anything less is a sell-out. And I won’t cop it.

But here’s the good news. The Government’s announced something because the pressure is working. We’re close to getting a full Royal Commission and we can’t take our foot of the gas by accepting second-best. Stand with me now and send a message that near enough isn’t close to good enough.






A national tragedy and a national disgrace




DVA is broken

DVA is broken

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.

Surplus before soldiers

Surplus before soldiers

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.

Reviews don't replace results

Reviews don't replace results

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.

Veterans are going bankrupt waiting for help because their department is forgetting about them.

My inquiry in the last Parliament found that veterans are seeking help from the Department of Veterans Affairs and having their claims delayed or denied inappropriately because DVA staff are overworked and undertrained.

We recommended more staff. The Government agreed.

So what did they do? They cut DVA staff by 15 per cent since that inquiry began.

The Productivity Commission has found that “not all DVA staff are appropriately trained to deal with potentially vulnerable clients”. Those are the clients ending up as suicide statistics.

Jesse Bird wrote to DVA condemning the way he was treated over the phone. A short time later, he was a statistic too.

Another 2019 review found that the way DVA handles the claims of veterans is “potentially harmful to client mental health”.

DVA’s supposed to help these people, and yet the second most common reason for there being delays in veterans getting the help they need is because DVA simply loses their paperwork or forgets to make a decision.

The status quo is not acceptable...

  • The department that’s supposed to help veterans is making them worse.
  • The Government treats veterans like a budget item instead of a national priority.
  • We treat veteran suicide like it’s a problem happening to someone else.

Are you ready to join the fight to fix these problems?

I'll stand beside you


More veterans have lost their life by suicide than have been killed in active duty since Vietnam. It’s time for a Royal Commission into veteran suicide.