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27 Jun 2019 20:36
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  •   Home > News > International

    Veterans' Minister says he can't 'see the point' of royal commission into veterans' suicides

    The Veterans' Affairs Minister says he can't "see the point" in establishing a royal commission into veterans' suicides, despite admitting the Government doesn't know how many ex-military personnel have taken their own lives.

    The Veterans' Affairs Minister can't "see the point" in establishing a royal commission into veterans' suicides, despite admitting the Government doesn't know how many ex-military personnel have taken their lives.

    The Morrison Government is under mounting pressure to establish a royal commission, with the NSW RSL publicly backing the move as several veterans and their families highlighted the mental health problems facing returned service people.

    NSW RSL president James Brown said the "tragic" spate of suicides required urgent attention.

    "I've had my own friends take their own lives as well including mates I deployed alongside to Iraq," Mr Brown said.

    "This issue needs to be firmly on the agenda of the Morrison Government."

    However, Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester said a lawyer-led inquiry would divert resources from frontline services.

    "I don't want to spend 100-odd million dollars paying lawyers when that money could be spend on medical assistance, mental health specialists providing on-the-ground support for our veterans," Mr Chester said.

    "I've had probably the best part of 20 roundtables with veterans [and] ex-service organisations this year where we've gone through various issues.

    "I've got medical experts [and] mental health specialists meeting with me in a few weeks' time."

    However, he admitted the Government did not know how many veterans died by suicide.

    "We believe in the order about 30 veterans per year take their own lives," he said.

    "I'm sorry that I sound a bit vague on that but we actually don't know every veteran in Australia."

    Mr Brown said the uncertainty highlighted Australia's fragmented approach to veterans' support.

    "It's a tragic and inexact science and much of the reporting comes via word of mouth," he said.

    Mr Brown said the Government should include a question about military service in the next census to find out how many veterans were in Australia and where they lived to provide better services.

    A Government-backed Productivity Commission report into veterans' support services is due in the coming weeks.


    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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