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Defence and Veteran Suicide: Prevention through understanding symposium

The interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, Dr Bernadette Boss CSC convened the Defence and Veteran Suicide: Prevention through Understanding symposium on Wednesday 10 and Thursday 11 March 2021 in Canberra.

The symposium was attended in-person and online by more than 250 veterans, families, academics, experts, practitioners, representatives from the Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs, ESOs and others interested in listening to current and emerging research on mental health and suicide in the defence and veteran community.

Christine Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Mental Health Commission and National Suicide Prevention Adviser to the Prime Minister, delivered the keynote speech on the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan: the importance of family engagement.

The symposium was broadcast via webcast which is available for viewing on the Office of the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention YouTube channel.

The interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, Dr Bernadette Boss would like to thank the speakers and attendees for joining her at the first Office of the National Commission symposium.

Videos and papers

Symposium – Video 1: Welcome to Country, Paul House

Symposium – Video 2: Keynote address by Christine Morgan

Symposium – Video 3: Gwen Cherne, Veteran and Family Response

Symposium – Video 4: Geoff Evans, Vulnerability and Risk: a model or intervention on curves

Symposium – Video 5: Scientia Professor Richard Bryant

Symposium – Video 6: Professor Sharon Lawn, The DVA Wellbring and Support Program

Symposium – Video 7: Dr David Caldicott, The Medicalization of Illicit Drugs

Symposium – Video 8: Coroner Jacqui Hawkins, Case study: Jesse Bird inquest

Symposium – Video 9: Dr Kay Danes OAM, Leading reform; an analysis of suicide risk, self-harm and reputational peril impacting serving members of the Australian Defence Force.

Symposium – Video 10: Nikki Jamieson, Moral trauma and veteran mental health

Sympsium – Video 11: Professor Sandy McFarlane, Investigating suicide by ADF members and ex-serving personnel

Symposium – Video 12: Dr Madeline Romaniuk, The impact of transition out of the ADF on mental health

Symposium – Video 13: Dr Katelyn Kerr, predictors of Suicide in Veterans

Individual speaker papers can be found below:

Geoff Evans, CEO Disaster Relief Australia and veteran

  • Evans_MH Symposium_Presentation_Notes
  • G.Evans symposium abstract

Sharon Lawn, Flinders University

  • WASP Health Utilisation Costs FINAL REPORT Edited &
  • WASP Presentation for Vet Commissioner Forum

Scientia Professor Richard Bryant, School of Psychology, UNSW

  • Professor Richard Bryant 2021 symposium presentation

Dr Kay Danes OAM, alumni of Southern Cross University School of Law & Justice, Researcher & Policy Analyst

  • A Summary of Presentation by Dr Kay Danes, OAM to the Research Symposium 11 March 2021
  • Dr Kay Danes 2021 symposium presentation
  • Submission by Dr Kay Danes, OAM_The Office of the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention. Research Symposium 11 March 2021 vf2

Nikki Jamieson, PhD candidate, School of Health, UNE, and veteran mental health advocate

  • Nikki Jamieson 2021 symposium presentation
  • Published Editorial Invisible Wounds Moral Injury
  • Published Military Moral Injury concept analysis

Madeline Romaniuk, Associate Director of Mental Health Research, Gallipoli Medical Research Institute

  • Romaniuk 2018 JMVH
  • Romaniuk et al M-CARM
  • Kerr 2018 TPI

Dr Katelyn Kerr, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Toowong Private Hospital, Trauma Recovery Programs & Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention

  • K.Kerr - Increased risk of attempted suicide in Aus vets is associated with TPI

Read all of the symposium speaker papers

Bottom section

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the speakers and attendees for joining Dr Boss at this important event. The important issues raised will contribute to the interim National Commissioner’s work, including the Independent Review of Past Defence and Veteran Suicides.

Dr Boss and the Office of the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention are committed to listening to the stories of families and other individuals affected by suicide in a supportive and trauma informed way. The insights provided by veterans and their families will continue to form an invaluable component of the interim National Commissioner’s work. We encourage individuals looking to participate in round table discussions or one-on-one meetings to contact the Office of the National Commissioner for more information and to register their interest – everyone should be heard.

Contact the office of the National Commissioner to share your story by calling 1800 570 819 (9:00 am and 5:00 pm AEST/AEDT weekdays, except public holidays), or by emailing

If you, or someone you know needs support, you can contact:

  • Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Open Arms (current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel and their families are able to seek this free and confidential support) on 1800 011 046
  • ADF Mental Health All-hours Support Line (for current serving Australian Defence Force personnel and their families) on 1800 628 036.