Veteran Royal Commission - Jacqui Lambie Network

Julie-Ann’s son
should be alive

Julie-Ann’s son should be alive

Dave was a veteran who asked for help and didn't get it.

In his darkest moment, he reached out to his department. To save his life. They told him to try again in six months. And now he’s gone.

Dave's story isn't unique. We’re losing a veteran every week, and this is just the ones we know of.

I want every Australian to see this video. Because it’s one thing to try and explain this issue to someone, but when they watch this, they get it straight away. This is how we cut to the core of the issue. It’s how we get a Royal Commission.

We’ve had 17 reviews in the last 17 years. And every one of them has said the same thing. There’s something broken at the heart of how we treat our veterans. It starts when they’re serving, and it carries on long after their service is over. It’s a shadow that hangs over every enlistment and it doesn’t ever, ever let go.

Our veterans served us. Now they need us to serve them.

people
have joined me in the fight for
a Royal Commission into
Veterans Suicide.

Bureaucracy
is killing our kids

Brad Fewson served for nearly two decades.

He has a terminal brain injury, as a result of his service. Now he's paying out of pocket for his treatment. He feels like a burden on his family.

His wife is afraid to go to sleep in case something happens to him. Brad needs full-time care — from a professional. Laura isn't a professional. She's a conscript. And she's on her own.

Brad and Laura want a Royal Commission into the system that is killing them.

Jesse Bird was killed by his own government.

He was wounded by war, but broken by bureaucracy. He warned the Department of Veterans Affairs he was close to becoming a suicide statistic. They did nothing.

Jesse’s family wants a Royal Commission into veteran suicide. They don’t want the Government’s cut-rate coroner.

Jesse fought a system built to protect him. He’d want us to keep fighting.

Bureaucracy
is killing
our kids

Brad Fewson served for nearly two decades.

He has a terminal brain injury, as a result of his service. Now he's paying out of pocket for his treatment. He feels like a burden on his family.

His wife is afraid to go to sleep in case something happens to him. Brad need full-time care — from a professional. Laura isn't a professional. She's a conscript. And she's on her own.

Brad and Laura want a Royal Commission into the system that is killing them.

Jesse Bird was killed by his own government.

He was wounded by war, but broken by bureaucracy. He warned the Department of Veterans Affairs he was close to becoming a suicide statistic. They did nothing.

Jesse’s family wants a Royal Commission into veteran suicide. They don’t want the Government’s cut-rate coroner.

Jesse fought a system built to protect him. He’d want us to keep fighting.

We need a full
Royal Commission

If we’re going to get serious about veteran suicide, we need to get serious with our response to it.

Nothing less than a Royal Commission can save a life a week.

When what we need is a full Royal Commission, all we’re getting is a government-picked Commissioner.

It doesn’t have the power or authority of a Royal Commission. It doesn’t have the scope or scale of a Royal Commission. It’s got less than half the resources of a Royal Commission. All it is is another coroner, doing another review.

It’s a PR exercise that won’t save a single life. In fact, it could make things worse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse established the National Redress Scheme. Approximately 60,000 survivors of child sexual abuse are eligible for support as a result.

The banking Royal Commission secured over $10 billion in customer remediation from the banks.

The 1995 Wood Royal Commission investigated the corruption of the New South Wales police force. It saw seven police officers jailed.

Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, the mortality rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody has halved. Indigenous people are now less likely than non- Indigenous people to die in prison custody.

People have high expectations for Royal Commissions. That’s part of their value. Because we’ve got high expectations, we expect their recommendations to be taken up. And governments face unrivalled pressure to act. The fact that sometimes, they don’t achieve everything we hope they will, just shows how much faith we place in Royal Commissions to get the job done. And there’s a reason we have that level of faith.

But for the record, Royal Commissions have a record of achievement most governments would kill for. If you don’t think Royal Commissions change anything, you’re not paying attention.

The government is already planning to spend $40 million on the National Commissioner into Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, not including any other money that is spent on the problem itself. They’re planning to spend that money, year in, year out.

A Royal Commission is more expensive -- typically, around $100 million -- but it doesn’t last forever. You pay it once then you focus on how to put its recommendations into action. So within three years, we’ll have spent more on the Prime Minister’s never-ending commissioner than we would have spent on a Royal Commission, but we won’t have a final list of recommendations.

If you want to save money, spend it once wisely instead of wasting it forever.

We have plenty of suggestions on how to make things better, that’s true. But all we get on how those suggestions are being turned in to solutions are talking points coming from the heart of the problem itself.

There are so many stories of people experiencing their own level of trauma at the hands of the ADF and DVA, and the only way they get access to any help is if the very organisations causing the pain decide to cooperate.

What’s required is the ability to turn over every record under every rock.

What’s more, a Royal Commission can do what every weaker alternative can’t do: bring everybody involved in this catastrophe to the same table. BEcause it’s not just DVA, like the Productivity Commission report went into. It’s not even just veterans, like the Senate Foreign Affairs & Trade References Committee report went into. It’s veterans, it’s ADF, it’s the RSLs, it’s the advocates, it’s the Ministers, it’s the bureaucracy, it’s the treating psychiatrists and it’s the culture itself that binds it all together.

Every suicide is a tragedy, whenever it occurs. But different groups are committing suicide for different reasons. And veterans are killing themselves in greater numbers than the overall population. What’s stranger is that veterans cannot enter the ADF unless they pass a mental health check first. People who are mentally and physically fitter than the average general population when they go in are dying by their own hand higher than the general population. There’s something going on that we can’t account for, and it’s unique to the defence community. Every suicide deserves to be investigated but when every suicide comes back to the same core reasons, you’ve got to start doing something about the core.

Firstly, the goal of any inquiry into how to prevent suicide by veterans and serving ADF personnel is to prevent there being any ‘new wounds’. For those who would be traumatised by such an inquiry, they would of course not be compelled to give evidence. Royal Commissions are often emotional for those contributing their stories. It’s not a reason not to hold one.

Here’s an example. The Royal Commission into Aged Care or the treatment of people with disabilities are both revisiting deeply painful traumas, but it is not done gratuitously. It is done for a purpose of inviting people to share their experience, so that we can tie those experiences together where there are common causes and find ways to make sure nobody else experiences it again.

That’s what this comes down to. No parent who’s experienced the suicide of their child wants another parent to know what that feels like. But if we don’t hear their stories, we don’t learn their lessons.

Don’t be fooled. While the Prime Minister has said what he’s announced is ‘bigger and better’ than a Royal Commission, there are clear differences that show it’s a watered down bargain bin solution being marked up as the real deal.

  1. It has less than half the resources of a Royal Commission. It's being sold as the same thing as a Royal Commission, but when you give something 40% of the resources and expect it to get the same sorts of results, you are setting it up for failure.
  2. It doesn't have the independence of a Royal Commission. Unlike a Royal Commissioner, the National Commissioner will be created and filled by legislation. The Government of the day decides who the Commissioner is, and they sit within a Government department. And if the Government decides the Commissioner is getting too powerful, or asking too many hard questions, the government can fire the commissioner whenever it wants and replace them with a new one.
  3. It cannot ever deliver a final list of recommendations. It just sits there. Part of the power of a Royal Commission is that it sits as a moment in time, and reflects on how we got here, and how we get away from here. It delivers a final report, and the report has a final list of recommendations. It's then up to the Government to implement those recommendations. You cannot draw a line in the sand if you never deliver a final list of recommendations. You just keep delivering updates.
  4. It risks making things worse, not better. It's designed to be an alternative to a Royal Commission, but it's a completely untested alternative. The PM says he's come up with a new and brilliant solution that means it's better than a Royal Commission. But nobody has ever done it like this before, and maybe there's a reason for that. He's decided not to go with a tried and tested model that works, in favour of a risky and unproven model that could backfire and make things worse.

Firstly, Australia can walk and chew gum at the same time. I don’t want to look another grieving parent in the eye and have to say, ‘we could have done more to prevent this, but we had bigger things to worry about.’

And I’m not the only one.

The Prime Minister and I both agree that this is an issue that needs urgent and immediate intervention. We both agree that what we’ve done up until now isn’t working. We both agree that this is a problem that needs more than just another inquiry. But unlike the Prime Minister, I think veteran suicide is serious enough to warrant a Royal Commission.

And that’s what I don’t understand.

If you think the four deaths that occurred during the Rudd Government’s ‘Pink Batts’ home insulation program was enough to warrant a Royal Commission - and the Liberal Party does think that, because they called it - you’ve got to tell me why four veterans deaths a month isn’t worth the same treatment.

If you think allegations of corruption in the trade union movement was enough to warrant a Royal Commission - and the Liberal Party does think that, because they called it - you’re got to explain to me why it’s not worth a Royal Commission into why the homeless rate for veterans is double the national average.

If you think the suffering and abuse of children and young teenagers at the Don Dale Detention Centre is worth a Royal Commission - and the Liberal Party does, because they called one - ask yourself what we should do about the fact that one in ten veterans will plan their own death.

I won’t sit around and be told that we have more important things to worry about than this. For every family that loses someone to suicide, there is nothing more important. And if there is anything we can do to lessen that pain, or prevent that sort of tragedy, well there’s nothing more important to me either.

Can you chip in to make that happen?

people
have donated so far.

Saturate social media with these stories

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Help us reach 1 million voters by December.

We've set a target to reach 1 million voters by December. We're targeting crucial swing seats and seats filled with veterans, to maximise the pressure we can exert on all sides. Help us make this an issue that politicians cannot ignore. Even a small donation can have a huge impact.

Help us run newspaper ads in high profile publications

Help us run newspaper
ads in high profile publications

Politicians read newspapers. Let's get in their faces.

We're going to take out big, full-page ads in key newspapers we know are being read by the people we need to win over. We've designed them to be impossible to ignore. Politicians will see them, but so will voters. And we need both if we're going to win.

Put our TV ad on the air

Put our TV ad
on the air

Veterans and Aussies all over the country have funded a TV ad.

This ad says more in 30 seconds than the PM's National Commissioner could say in a year — because it lets the mums of veterans speak for themselves. It's brutal, it's raw, and it changes people's minds. And we're going to get it in front of the PM — by running it during a Cronulla Sharks NRL game.

Pick the campaign you'd like to help fund.

PS: Hey, Jacqui here.

If you’re on the fence about whether to join this fight, I’m sorry. You’re not going to want to hear this. But I need you to pick a side.

I’m on the side of Jesse, Dave, Michael, Ian, Daniel, and next week, when the next veteran considers their own suicide, I’ll be on their side too.

Because this is about more than reviewing suicides of the past: it’s about stopping them. It’s about saving a life a week. It cannot wait.

Fences aren’t designed to be seats. If you’re going to sit on one, don’t wait too long.

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Authorised by: Jacqui Lambie, Jacqui Lambie Network, Burnie, TAS 7320