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A Missed Opportunity: Rethinking the Appointment of Repatriation Commissioners

The announcement of Mr. Kahlil Fegan DSC AM as the new Repatriation Commissioner has prompted concerns within the veteran community about the prospect of more-of-the-same, even in the wake of the Royal Commission’s calls for reform.


As impressive as Kahlil's credentials may be, the veteran community's call for systemic change cannot be ignored. That includes breaking the habit of appointing the brass into roles in which they carry the risk of entrenched perspectives. Indeed, the appointment of a figure so intertwined with the current system could be perceived as maintaining the status quo.


As pressing veteran issues come to the forefront, it may be time to consider commissioners from outside of the Defence bubble.


It's not Kahlil that's the issue – it's the continual reliance on appointing figures from within a system that many argue is already failing. If our goal is to improve outcomes for our veterans, shouldn't we be looking outside the traditional paradigm?


For decades, the veteran support system has leaned heavily on leaders groomed within the military. However, the recent revelations from the Veterans' suicide royal commission show that the current system has grave shortcomings.


To address these profound challenges, there's a compelling argument to be made for leadership that brings a fresh perspective.


We've long witnessed appointments of individuals whose expertise predominantly lies in bureaucratic and managerial spheres. While these skills are undoubtedly essential, they should be complemented by a deep understanding of the multi-faceted challenges faced by our veterans today.


It's not just about policy-making or administration; it's about mental health, societal reintegration, and addressing the unique traumas faced by those who serve.


Perhaps it's time to rethink the criteria for such a pivotal role. Could a leading expert in mental health, or a veteran advocate with a proven track record outside the military bureaucracy, bring the transformative change the community so desperately needs?


This isn't a call to discredit Kahlil or his predecessors but rather a call for future appointments to challenge the status quo.


Australia's veteran community deserves nothing less than a rigorous, innovative approach to its leadership selection. As the landscape of warfare and its consequences evolve, so should our strategy in supporting those who bear its brunt.


To genuinely respond to the findings of the Royal Commission, we must be willing to think outside the box, embracing leaders from the outside who can bring both administrative prowess and a fresh care-based perspective. In doing so, we might just find the path forward to truly supporting our veterans in the holistic manner they deserve.

 


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