National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention
The death by suicide of any Australian Defence Force member or veteran is tragic for the family, and felt by the entire community. Preventing these suicides is a government priority.
On 5 February 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the Australian Government will establish a new National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention (National Commissioner) to inquire into suicides of serving and former ADF members.
Establishing a National Commissioner is a priority of government, and work is underway. We have set up a dedicated taskforce to progress the establishment of the National Commissioner, their office, and supporting legislation, as quickly as possible. The Office of the National Commissioner will be part of the Attorney-General's portfolio.
The National Commissioner will work to identify and understand the factors and systemic issues that may contribute to suicide risk among serving and former ADF members, and make recommendations to government about actions and strategies to prevent future suicides.
The National Commissioner will have appropriate statutory independence from government. They will be able to gather information and evidence, including by consulting experts and families and summoning witnesses, and obtaining relevant information and reports from government departments such as Defence and Veterans' Affairs.
The National Commissioner will be given relevant powers, like a Royal Commission, to enable them to:
- undertake broad ranging inquiries relevant to their role and hear from any relevant party (including veterans and their families)
- conduct public and private hearings
- compel the production of evidence and summons witnesses.
The National Commissioner will provide a public report on their findings and recommendations to the Parliament each year. Government will be fully accountable, by being required to report annually to the Parliament on implementation of the National Commissioner's recommendations.
The powers of the National Commissioner will be set out in legislation, which is currently being developed. We will provide more information about opportunities for consultation throughout the legislation process.
Ahead of the legislation being finalised, the government is working to appoint an interim National Commissioner to begin an independent review of past defence and veteran suicides. Terms of reference for the review will be announced publicly.
Affected families will be invited to participate in the work of the National Commissioner, including by making submissions. Families who wish to participate will receive support to do so. This will enable families to make an important contribution, so that we can learn from the past and support suicide prevention.
We will provide updates on progress and timeframes here, with the Office of the National Commissioner to have its own website once established.