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About the National Commissioner

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On 5 February 2020 the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, announced the creation of the new National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention. This announcement recognises that too many Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and veterans take their own lives, and that concerted action is needed to ensure that everything possible is done to prevent these deaths.

The National Commissioner will examine ADF and veteran deaths by suicide, with a main focus on supporting the prevention of future deaths. The National Commissioner will not make, review, or overturn coronial findings. However, they will work closely with coroners to support a better mutual understanding of the systemic issues, trends and risk factors relevant to deaths by suicide of serving and ex-serving ADF members.

Subject to the passage of legislation, it is expected that the National Commissioner will have the power to:

  • inquire into the circumstances of past and future deaths of serving and ex-serving ADF members by suicide, including suspected deaths by suicide
  • hear about the impact of deaths of serving and ex-serving ADF members by suicide on families and others affected
  • make findings and recommendations to the Australian Government following such inquiries
  • promote the understanding of suicide risk factors for serving and ex-serving ADF members, and protective factors that can improve their wellbeing and prevent suicide.

Powers of the National Commissioner

Subject to the passage of legislation, the National Commissioner will have full Royal Commission-like powers to gather information and evidence. This includes by consulting families and experts, as well as summoning witnesses. With these powers, the National Commissioner can also get relevant information and reports, including from government departments such as the Department of Defence and the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

The National Commissioner’s powers will be set out in legislation. Find out more about the legislation process on the Attorney-General’s Department website.

Independence from government

The National Commissioner will be independent from the Australian Government. This enables them to independently inquire into the factors and systemic issues that contribute to deaths by suicide. It also enables them to play an enduring public accountability role.

Subject to the passage of legislation, the National Commissioner will be required to provide a public report to the Australian Parliament each year. This report will include findings and recommendations to the Australian Government about matters the National Commissioner considers relevant. This will include any causes and risk factors associated with deaths by suicide of serving and ex-serving ADF members, as well as actions to help prevent future deaths, including improving wellbeing.

The Australian Government has said it intends to be fully accountable, and will report annually to the Australian Parliament on implementation of the National Commissioner's recommendations. The National Commissioner will monitor the Australian Government’s response to each report.

Families, ADF members, and veterans are an important focus

Families, serving and ex-serving ADF members, and other people affected by these deaths by suicide are an important focus of the National Commissioner’s work. The National Commissioner will be able to hear from families, serving and ex-serving ADF members, and other people affected by these deaths by suicide. The National Commissioner will need to determine how to do this. It could involve written submissions, meetings or interviews, round table discussions, or providing evidence at hearings. The National Commissioner’s powers to compel evidence and hold hearings are subject to the passage of legislation.

The following principles guide our work:

  • We will take a restorative and trauma-informed approach. This means that the principles of safety, confidentiality, consultation and informed participation will underpin the way we operate.
  • We recognise the important insights that families and others affected by deaths by suicide of serving or ex-serving ADF members have. Drawing on these will help the National Commissioner to understand the contributing factors, and tragic consequences, of these deaths.
  • We recognise that families and other affected people may wish to be included in relevant inquiries by the National Commissioner. We also recognise and respect that people may not wish to share their experiences with us. People should have the choice about whether or not to participate.

Register your interest

Participating in the upcoming work of the National Commissioner

If you need any assistance, or clarification on how to have your voice heard, please telephone us on 1800 570 819 (9:00 am and 5:00 pm AEST/AEDT weekdays, except public holidays), or email us at enquiries@ncdvsp.gov.au, or write to us by post.

Please tell us if you would like to participate in the upcoming work of the National Commissioner

The Office of the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention is planning its future work and we would like to hear from you if you are interested in participating in the National Commissioner’s activities. 

The goal of the National Commissioner’s work is to support the prevention of future deaths by suicide of ADF members and veterans. The National Commissioner is committed to uncovering and understanding the systemic issues that are contributing to these tragic deaths, including to identify what contributes to, and protects against, suicide for current serving and former ADF members.

The National Commissioner’s findings and recommendations about these important issues will be informed through a range of activities, including through the commissioning of expert research and evidence, conducting round tables and meetings, and through public submissions and public and private hearings. However this can only take place once the National Commissioner legislation is in place. 

The insights, stories and understanding offered by families and others closely affected by the loss of a Defence member or veteran to suicide, will be of crucial importance to the National Commissioner’s work. So too will the invaluable contribution of experts, advocates, community groups and other interested stakeholders. Defence members and veterans who have struggled with their mental health and experienced suicidal thoughts or behaviours, whether during their service or as a veteran, will also have important insights to share.

The National Commissioner will be requiring information and evidence from Government organisations about these issues, including from the Australian Defence Force and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Interim National Commissioner, Dr Bernadette Boss CSC, has written to the Chief of the Defence Force, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Inspector‑General of the Australian Defence Force asking them to provide information on the actions they have taken in response to the numerous recommendations that have been made in relation to the mental health and suicide of serving and ex-serving Defence members, and information they hold relating to any known deaths by suicide.

The National Commissioner wants to talk to families, community organisations, and others closely affected by these deaths as a first priority, to hear their insights and views, before speaking with Defence and DVA.

There will be a range of ways in which people can participate in the upcoming work of the National Commissioner, including for example through participating in face to face round table discussions, meetings, sharing of stories and insights through written submissions, and participation in hearings.

Over time, the National Commissioner intends to visit all states and territories around Australia. Some activities may be conducted virtually depending on individual circumstances, or broader public health requirements (particularly noting the changing impacts of COVID-19 on the ability for people to travel interstate).

The National Commissioner is committed to supporting people to contribute in a trauma-informed and restorative way. This includes offering people choice about how they may wish to participate, and enabling them to participate when they are ready - in their own time. There is no closing date for families or others to register their interest to participate. Those who do choose to contribute will be given options on how their information is identified and published.

To register your interest please email, mail or call the Office at: 

  • Email: enquiries@ncdvsp.gov.au
  • Post: GPO Box 1347, Canberra ACT 2601
  • Phone: 1800 570 819 (9:00 am and 5:00 pm AEST/AEDT weekdays, except public holidays)

To assist the Office in registering your interest, please tell us:

  • Your name or a way that we can identify you (you may use a pseudonym or remain anonymous if you wish)
  • How we can contact you (for example a contact telephone number, email address or mailing address)
  • What state or territory you live in (this will help us to plan events)
  • If you represent an organisation or a group, details of that organisation or group
  • How you would like to be involved. Please list all of the ways you would be interested in participating, for example:
    • Telling us your experiences
    • Attending a roundtable discussion or focus group with other interested people
    • Attending a private meeting
    • Making written submissions
    • Giving evidence at a private hearing
    • Giving evidence at a public hearing
    • Attending a public hearing as an observer
  • Any particular topics or areas that interest you.

Staff from the Office of the National Commissioner can assist you to understand what each option may involve.

Further information about opportunities to engage, including opportunities to make submissions, will be made available on the National Commissioner website, and will be notified to those who register their interest.

If you need any assistance, or clarification on how to have your voice heard, please telephone us on 1800 570 819 (9:00 am and 5:00 pm AEST/AEDT weekdays, except public holidays), or email us at enquiries@ncdvsp.gov.au, or write to us by post.