More than 500 Australian veterans have died of suicide since 2001 – an outrageous statistic.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a Royal Commission examining suicides between active and veteran servicemen, bowing to public pressure as the number of veterans increased.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra on Monday, Morrison said he hopes the investigation will demonstrate a “healing process” for grieving families.
“I hope it will be a process where veterans and families can find a little comfort, but it clearly cannot replace the loss,” he said.
Australian troops have been involved in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are deployed for humanitarian missions in the Pacific.
According to government data, more than 500 Australian veterans have died of suicide since 2001 – a statistic that has sparked public outrage, including in the prime minister’s own Liberal Party.
For comparison, 41 Australian soldiers died in 20-year conflict in Afghanistan.
The problem has become a hot topic in Australia following a senior campaign by Julie-Ann Finney, whose son David, a former naval officer, committed suicide in 2019 after he was dispatched to Iraq, East Timor and Bougainville earlier.
According to ABC television station, he was released from the hospital in 2017, after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
‘A long time to come’
Finney welcomed Morrison’s announcement, telling ABC the move was “far from coming”.
“Eventually, the voices of the veterans will be heard. Finally, families can stand up and share their stories, ”she said.
Morrison said he hopes the Royal Commission will begin the hearings later this year.
“It’s not just the big risk our Self-Defense Force personnel face when they participate in those deployments,” he said.
“We must also understand… human cost, and that cost is most significant when we see it in the suicide deaths of our veterans.”
The final committee recommendations are scheduled for 2023, he said. A standing national commissioner will be tasked with ensuring that recommendations are implemented.
A Royal Commission’s announcement today on veterans’ suicides is welcomed. This is something veterans and families, and Labor, have called for since 2019. We are delighted that Morrison Gov has finally agreed to do the right thing of veterans and their families. surname #auspol pic.twitter.com/3635g0MDMe
– Brendan O’Connor (@BOConnorMP) April 19, 2021
The opposition Labor Party also welcomed this move.
Brendan O’Connor, a Labor legislator, said: “We are delighted to see the government has made the decision.
“But it seems it did it reluctantly, late and because of the pressure the veteran community is under. [and] families of veterans, ”he added.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada are also exploring ways to reduce suicide rates among active and veteran servicemen.