New Commissioner appointed to strengthen suicide prevention for defence personnel, veterans and their families

Posted 6th February 2020 in Updates from the Prime Minister's National Suicide Prevention Adviser

New Commissioner appointed to strengthen suicide prevention for defence personnel, veterans and their families

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of a National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention and a new Veteran Family Advocate. This is a welcomed announcement that will strengthen our national approach to suicide prevention, addressing some of the concerns expressed by veterans’ families.

In November I provided initial advice to the Prime Minister, which outlined the need for a fundamental shift to a broader approach to suicide prevention with the service and support needs of people at the centre of all strategies and initiatives. It has become clear to me over the past few months of engaging with people across Australia, that we must draw on people’s lived and living experience of suicide, including the experiences of families and carers, to know how services and programs can best meet their needs.

The announcement yesterday of a new National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention and a new Veteran Family Advocate is a step in the right direction, to ensure the very specific needs of defence personnel, veterans and their families are understood and can be addressed effectively.  

Australia’s present approach does not always respond to those in distress in a timely way and the response at times does not fully consider the specific experiences and needs of the person. We know that the factors contributing to suicidal distress can be very different, based on a person’s experiences and there is a need for a whole-of-person approach. 

The appointment of the National Commissioner and Family Advocate enables some of our emerging recommendations to be actioned more immediately for serving and former members of the Australian Defence Force, and their families. This includes reviewing past suicide cases to determine risk factors to inform policies and practice in suicide prevention, a focus on tailored support for groups who are vulnerable to suicide, as well as improved engagement and support for families and carers.

I expect that the ongoing advice we are providing to the Prime Minister in 2020 about improved coordination and effectiveness in suicide prevention, will inform the ongoing work of the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention. I look forward to working with them to ensure that our broader review and advice can inform their priorities going forward, meaning that Australians get the right support at the right time. 

The work of the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce will remain focused on the whole population and consider all groups that may be more vulnerable to suicide to inform cross-portfolio and whole of government approaches.

More information about the announcement is available here

A summary of initial advice to the Prime Minister is available here

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Updates from the Office of the Prime Minister’s National Suicide Prevention Adviser and Taskforce