Saturday Aug 07, 2021
Saturday Aug 07, 2021
A decision to join the Australian Defence Force, be it army, navy or airforce, is a life-defining decision. The change that every recruit who becomes a soldier goes through, is forever. Military training and active service is an experience that re-shapes a person’s life. Our ADF personnel must be highly skilled, self-reliant, brave and courageous, and many become wired for conflict. The physical, emotional and mental demands on individuals in deployment are impossible to imagine for those of us who haven’t served.
When our defence personnel finish serving our country the transition back into civilian living is challenging for many. For some it is too challenging.
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found that 432 serving or ex-serving members suicided from 2001 to 2017. In 2018, 33 suicided.
Ex-serviceman are 3.1 times more likely to suicide if discharged for medical reasons than if discharged voluntarily.
And there are in excess of 5,000 ex-servicemen and women who are homeless over a 12 month period.
Successive governments have more than enough data that shows too many of our defence personnel are not getting the support needed to cope with defence force work, or cope after that work is finished.
A senate inquiry found that one in four returned solders had experienced a mental disorder and the rate of suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts, was double that of the general population.
It has taken so long, needlessly and excruciatingly long for the Australian Government to recognise the unique nature of military service and to establish a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. It’s disappointing that the Government’s own agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, has shown disregard, disrespect and callousness towards our veterans and that it has taken until this year for parliament to force a Royal Commission. The stories are numerous and share a common theme of delay, deny and destroy.
Jesse Bird was a private with Townsville's Infantry Battalion who served an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2009-10.
He had been pursuing a claim for permanent impairment for almost two years and just weeks after losing the claim and pleading for help, Jessie committed suicide. After his death DVA approved his claim.
As a nation Australian must do better to recognise the service, sacrifice and immense challenge our servicemen and women and their families face, especially when it comes to returning to regular lives.
The Australian Government provides nearly $12 billion in federal funding to support 325,000 veterans and their families each year, yet too many remain unsupported. For some veterans, only other veterans understand well enough to help heal and re-integrate.
Highly skilled and motivated defence personnel upon retirement from the ADF must have access to meaningful work. Veterans cannot be courageously defending your nation this week and then be left with a void the next. As I've already said military training and active service is experience that re-shapes people’s life.
We need more organisations like Bootstraps, which are veterans for veterans, receiving funding in our communities. Only veterans know what veterans have been through. Our courageous servicemen and women need to know that Australians understand the vulnerabilities and frailties that can come from active service. Our veterans need better care, and a sense of honour and urgency from support agencies.
The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide needs to deliver for the men and women who have fought for our country. Veterans and all ex-service men and women need better mental health and transitional support and our country needs improved ways for veterans who are not actively seeking support to identify and get such needed support. Defence Force personnel and their families deserve that.
Our guests today:
SAM KAVANAGH served in the Army for 20 years and spent time in Combat Engineers, Signals and Corps of Intelligence. His father served for over 30 years in the RAAF. Sam set up Bootstraps, a group for veterans. Sam and Bootstraps are dedicated to Australians who have laced up a boot in service of our country.
DR SHARITH SIPPEL was trained as an Electronic Warfare Linguist which is communications and intelligence and served for 5 years. Sharry left the Navy 20 years ago and retrained as a chiropractor.
Our Nation Today. August 7, 2021