When the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide embarked on its Melbourne hearings, it marked another step in Australia's ongoing effort to address a complex and deeply concerning issue. This inquiry, initiated in 2021, was no spontaneous governmental decision but a product of consistent lobbying by veterans and advocacy groups. Among the voices calling for this inquiry was Jacqui Lambie, whose dedication to the veteran community's causes helped spotlight a topic that needed national attention.
While the commencement of the Commission itself was a significant milestone, the road to understanding and potentially rectifying the problems highlighted by it is long and multifaceted. The scope of the Commission's investigation is vast, with the need to examine complex and often interrelated issues, with institutional failure and the need to better support mental health at the core of the enquiry.
The Commission's recent plea for an extension, subsequently denied, raises a pragmatic concern: How does one ensure a thorough and detailed investigation within a restrictive timeframe? The sheer volume of information—amounting to over 230,000 documents—and the testimonies of both public witnesses and private individuals demonstrate the complexity and depth of the problems under scrutiny.
The refusal for an extension, while met with mixed reactions, prompts a significant consideration: the possible need for a permanent oversight body. Such a body could ensure continuity in addressing the concerns raised during the Commission's tenure and operate as a safeguard against potential issues in the future.
But while the procedural aspects of the Commission are vital, it's equally crucial to understand the human stories behind the numbers. For many veterans, this Commission offers a platform to air their grievances, share experiences, and hope for systemic change that could benefit both current and future defence personnel.
The role of advocacy in bringing about the Royal Commission highlights a foundational principle of democratic societies: that persistent, informed, and focused advocacy can guide governmental action. The Morrison government's reluctance to launch the Commission only amplifies the impact of such concerted efforts.
Moving forward, the nation will keenly watch the outcomes of the Melbourne hearings and subsequent recommendations of the Commission. At its heart, the hope remains that the inquiry's results will not only offer insights into the issues at hand but also inform tangible, actionable strategies that better support veterans and their families.
The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide is not just an inquiry—it's a testament to the power of advocacy and the importance of addressing complex issues head-on. As the Melbourne hearings progress, the broader hope is for genuine, informed, and long-term solutions to emerge.