As a veteran, I support suicide royal commission
AN OPEN LETTER TO A VETERAN ON THE SUICIDE CRISIS:
Your views aren't always heard above the din of debate on the unfolding veteran suicide crisis.
One obvious reason for this is because, as one of 640,000 Australian veterans, the voices are many and diverse. A less obvious reason is that the tenets of military life can occasionally undermine veterans' interests in civilian life.
Whatever your rank, service, or corps, you would have likely spent years working in a culture which encouraged putting your mates' needs above your own. This incredibly selfless value system - which remains integral to my life and maybe yours - can serve as a compass to navigate civvie street.
In my case, the army gave me many values, opportunities, experiences and especially life-long friendships that I wouldn't trade for the world. But I know that the military strengths can sometimes work against your long-term health by telling you to quietly grit your teeth through hardships.
We can see this at play in the debate on whether we need a royal commission into veteran suicide.
Some veterans don't want a royal commission. They point to similarly high suicide rates among fireys, ambos and police officers and want to put their mates first. They say: "We're not the worst off, don't focus on us." They suggest broadening a royal commission to suicide in general and claim there is nothing distinct about the suicide crisis among veterans, despite all the studies proving otherwise.
This sentiment is well-meaning and grounded in the integrity of our defence force but can be unhelpful to veterans' wellbeing. Many veterans and RSL branches around the country are calling for a royal commission into veteran suicide. They support this initiative because they're sick of losing former comrades to suicide. They're sick of the fact that 10 times more Diggers have died by suicide than in Afghanistan since 2001. I'm aware of four lost this last week alone.
We must do more. Parents shouldn't be burying their sons and daughters in peace time.
There are two common furphies against a royal commission.
The first is that we face a binary choice between either investigating veteran suicides at a purported cost of up to $100 million, or funding veteran services and suicide prevention programs. This is misleading. We can and should do both because an inquiry wouldn't cut into DVA's budget.
The second is that there is nothing new to investigate because we have already had a Senate inquiry and a Productivity Commission report on related issues. But despite DVA having responded to the former, suicides haven't slowed. As for the latter, its mandate wasn't to investigate veteran suicides.
I want to respectfully encourage you to speak out, because Australia needs to hear your input in this important national debate.
If you're in favour of a royal commission like I am, please join the 271,000 Australians who have signed a petition calling for one. And if you're not, please engage with proponents as we all seek the best way to reduce veteran suicides.
If you're struggling this festive season, seek support from your mates, family and health professionals. We can all do something this Christmas if we each reach out to mates.
Luke Gosling OAM, Veteran, Federal Member for Solomon