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Independent Review

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About the Independent Review

The Australian Government has announced that the National Commissioner will conduct an Independent Review of Past Defence and Veteran Suicides. Commissioner Boss has commenced the comprehensive Independent Review.

Terms of reference for the Independent Review

The Australian Government has announced revised terms of reference for the Independent Review.

The review is being conducted independently from the Australian Government, including with independence from the Department of Defence and the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

It will look into risk and protective factors and systemic issues related to suicide risk among serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members, by examining past deaths by suicide, or suspected suicide, of ADF members and veterans.

It will give specific consideration to ADF service, transition out of the ADF, and pre and post-service issues. It will, as relevant, also consider the broader social and cultural factors that may relate to suicide risk.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care are providing technical expertise to support the Independent Review. Find out more about the agencies supporting the Independent Review.

Scope of the Independent Review

The National Commissioner can consider any past death by suicide, or suspected suicide, of an ADF member or veteran who served at least one day or more. This includes cases that are being investigated by a coroner and suspected deaths by suicide. However, the National Commissioner will not make, influence, review, or overturn coronial findings.

The agencies supporting the Independent Review will focus on deaths by suicide among serving and ex-serving ADF members, which occurred between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2018, who served one day or more since 1 January 2001. This is the date range for which the most comprehensive and robust data and information is available.

Contact us if you are unsure what this means for you.

Participating in the Independent Review

The insights, stories and understanding about the impact of the loss of a loved one which families and others affected by the death of a loved one can offer are a key aspect of the review. Participation will be on a voluntary basis.

Engagement with families and others will be at the discretion of the National Commissioner, who will consider the best ways for this to occur. This may include written submissions, meetings or interviews, round table discussions, or providing evidence at hearings.

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.

Participants will be heard in a safe, welcoming and supportive environment. They will have access to services that support their participation. Supports may include legal financial assistance, connection with appropriate counselling support, and payment of reasonable costs related to participation.

You can register your interest in participating in the upcoming work of the National Commissioner.

Reporting

The National Commissioner will deliver an interim report of the Independent Review to the Australian Government within 12 months of commencing the review. The final report will be delivered within 18 months. The Australian Government will be required to respond to the findings and recommendations in the report.

Literature Review

As part of their work to support the review, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) has undertaken a literature review which looks at existing research and policy approaches, international patterns, and risk and protective factors for deaths by suicide among serving and ex‑serving ADF people.

The analysis in the literature review is consistent with previous findings about these deaths. The literature review also highlighted:

  • A connection between ‘moral injury’ and an increased risk of death by suicide.
    • Moral injury refers to feelings of shame, guilt, remorse, and meaninglessness arising from experiences in which an individual performs, witnesses, or learns about actions that violate deeply held moral and ethical beliefs.
  • International research suggests that financial and housing instability, employment issues, and social problems may increase suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts amongst veterans.
  • International data indicates that veterans who identify as transgender have higher rates of suicidal thoughts, attempts and deaths by suicide than veterans who do not identify as transgender.

The literature review is available for download.