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Royal Commission Interim Report recommendations

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Interim Report delivers 13 urgent recommendations – and a milestone opportunity to address a devastating problem in our community.

At a glance:

  • The Royal Commission has so far held a total of 47 hearing days.
  • Five locations have been visited by the Commission to date.
  • At least two further locations are scheduled – Darwin and Wagga Wagga.
  • The interim report delivered 13 urgent recommendations for change.

Released on 11 August 2022, the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Interim Report included very little discussion of ex-service organisations (ESOs) or the role of ESOs.

Instead, it focused on legislative reforms that would enable information gathering through the remainder of the Commission, simplify veterans’ access to entitlements, enable the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to clear a backlog of claims and process future claims in a timely manner, and improve access to information for current and former Defence personnel and their families.

The RSL continues to work with the Commissioners, other ESOs and stakeholders to address the urgent needs of the Defence community. We support the Commission’s calls for legislative reforms that simplify and standardise veteran entitlements, and its recommendation that the Federal Government and DVA take urgent and immediate steps to fix problems with the processing of claims for veterans.

The Commission also proposes additional protection for those engaging with the Royal Commission and reforms to improve access to information. In providing support for veterans and their families who engage with the Commission through the RSL NSW Royal Commission Office, we’ve seen firsthand the need for this, and support the measures the Commission proposes.

What the RSL is doing

Our representatives have been present at all hearings and engaged with local Defence personnel and veterans, building on the RSL’s initial submission that was informed by the contributions of State Branches, sub-Branches and individual members.

We are also actively participating in the Royal Commission’s Stakeholder Reference Group, which allows the Commissioners to hear directly from key representative stakeholder groups about the needs of our community.

What we are hearing from veterans, their families and other witnesses reinforces the findings of 21 previous inquiries and reports since 2007, and more than 335 recommendations from these inquiries.

It’s clear that the required reform will be difficult, but it is necessary to get it right to improve the wellbeing of veterans and their families.

Opportunities to improve

During this process, the RSL has identified opportunities to help us better meet the needs of veterans and their families, and taken steps to address some of the findings of the Commission’s earlier hearings. Each of these is supported by a range of ESOs, with the RSL committed to a leading role:

  1. Ongoing, sustainable funding. The RSL is lobbying the Federal Government to provide guaranteed and sustainable needs-based funding to ESOs. This would allow ESOs to undertake long-term, research-based, innovative projects and programs that address deep-rooted issues and risk factors for suicidality, while promoting lifetime wellbeing for veterans and their families.
  2. Catalogue of Services. The RSL is leading a novel national initiative, in collaboration with other major ESOs, to create an app-based catalogue of veteran services. The app will provide easy access to information about a wide range of services based on the user’s location, and may be used by veterans or their families, or within sub-Branches to recommend local resources.
  3. Veteran Wellbeing Centres. RSL NSW has established two Veteran Wellbeing Centres (VWCs) in key garrison towns, Nowra and Wagga Wagga, and more are being planned. VWCs focus on health and wellbeing, and are welcoming hubs for veterans and their families, connecting them to a range of services including transition, employment, health and social support.

The 13 recommendations

The Royal Commission Interim Report includes 13 recommendations, which are outlined below:

  1. Simplify and harmonise veteran compensation and rehabilitation legislation
  2. Eliminate the DVA claims backlog
  3. Improve the administration of the claims system
  4. Have the DVA to provide advice on its funding needs
  5. Remove the DVA Average Staffing Level Cap
  6. Increase protections for persons engaging with this Royal Commission
  7. Provide exemptions from parliamentary privilege
  8. Limit public interest immunity claims
  9. Improve administrative release of information
  10. Co-design information to increase awareness of redactions for access requests
  11. Embed trauma-informed practices for information access
  12. Encourage up-to-date consent for information access
  13. Co-design education on information access mechanisms

RSL NSW has been working closely with its national network of State Branches and sub-Branches to provide ongoing support to veterans and families throughout the Royal Commission. If you require support, please contact the RSL NSW Royal Commission Office.

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