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President Update – 5 February 2020

Dear RSL members,

Earlier today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the appointment of the National Commissioner for Defence and Suicide Prevention. The commissioner will act as a dedicated coroner, able to investigate cases of suicide in both the veteran and current serving population. They will also make recommendations on suicide prevention and veteran welfare.

RSL NSW echoes the statement made by RSL National President, Major General Greg Melick, welcoming the announcement, and we too will work with the commissioner in any way necessary to help combat the scourge of veteran suicide.

General Melick said, “the independent commissioner will provide a next level of inquiry and an ongoing ability to provide recommendations to government and this must assist in achieving better outcomes for our veterans”. The future facing nature of the appointment ensures a continuous dedication to tackling this issue. You can read RSL National’s full statement HERE.

The government will also establish a Veteran Family Advocate focused on policy relating to the families of veterans and their experiences. We hope to have a regular and ongoing dialogue with the advocate, with family and social connection being integral to a veteran’s transition into civilian life.

In addition to these appointments, we hope the government will act on its commitment to implement existing recommendations from the productivity commission report into veterans’ services. Valuable learnings from that report can help strengthen any action taken for veteran welfare.

With the commissioner due to produce an interim report in 12 months, RSL NSW will maintain its focus on implementing a new strategic plan with an emphasis on veteran welfare and advocacy. Ongoing work includes:

  • The national partnership with Open Arms to provide suicide awareness training across Australia for people who have contact with veterans;
  • The services RSL DefenceCare provide in welfare, claims and advocacy, and housing assistance to support veterans and their families in times of crisis;
  • Veteran Sport Australia, championing the role of sport and social connection in the transition and recovery processes;
  • Employment schemes in partnership with both the NSW government and private sector;
  • And finally, you, the members, providing a ‘boots on the ground’ role, caring for veterans in local communities, offering camaraderie where it is needed most, and ensuring the spirit of service in Australia is never forgotten through various commemorative activities.

I would also like to acknowledge the role of the families that came forward to share their tragic stories, and the veterans who have spoken about their experiences with mental health issues. This permanent appointment, independent from the government and DVA, must work to ensure their suffering and public struggle was not for nothing. As a leader in this sector, RSL NSW will continue to work with veteran families as they navigate life after service. Together, we can build a better future for the veteran community.



Ray James

Acting State President

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