Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide - Frequently asked questions

Last updated:

Back to top

What is a Royal Commission?

A Royal Commission is a public inquiry. In Australia, Royal Commissions are the highest form of inquiry on matters of public importance and are independent of Government.

A Royal Commission has broad powers to investigate, gather evidence and summon witnesses to appear before it. It can hold public and private hearings and hear directly from individuals about their personal experiences to help inform its work, and to identify any systemic issues that need to be addressed. 

Importantly, a Royal Commission can make recommendations to Government about what needs to change, and what should be done to ensure that change happens.

Terms of Reference for a Royal Commission will often state that the Royal Commission is not required to make findings of civil or criminal wrongdoing. This is because a Royal Commission can gather information without the limitations on evidence and procedure that would usually apply in a court. As such, a Royal Commission does not make judicial decisions. 

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide will be independent of the Government, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and the Department of Defence (Defence).

Back to top

How will the Royal Commission be established?

The Government will seek the Governor-General’s approval to establish the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide now the public consultation process to inform the draft Terms of Reference has been completed.

The Governor-General establishes a Royal Commission by issuing Letters Patent, which set out the Terms of Reference and appoint the Royal Commissioner or Commissioners.

Back to top

What is the role of the Attorney-General’s Department?

Feedback from the consultation process has been provided to the Attorney-General’s Department. The Attorney-General will finalise Letters Patent setting out the Terms of Reference and provide administrative support to the Royal Commission.

Back to top

What is the role of the States and Territories?

As the Royal Commission will need to examine all aspects of the support available to veterans, the most effective way to ensure a comprehensive inquiry is for the Royal Commission to be established jointly with the States and Territories.

State and Territory Governments have conducted consultation processes within their jurisdictions. Feedback will be used to inform the Terms of Reference.

Back to top

What is the role of DVA?

The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel, the Hon Darren Chester MP, lead a public consultation process to inform the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission. Feedback has been provided to the Attorney-General’s Department. The Attorney-General’s Department will now draft the Terms of Reference and provide administrative support to the Royal Commission. 

DVA has no role in the establishment or administration of the Royal Commission. Rather, its role is to provide information requested by the Royal Commission in the course of its inquiry.

Back to top

What issues will the Royal Commission consider?

The Royal Commission is expected to examine the systemic issues and any common themes in past deaths by suicide of Australian Defence Force members and veterans and the experience of members and veterans who may continue to be at risk of suicide. 

This includes all aspects of service in the Australian Defence Force and the experience of those transitioning; the availability and quality of health and support services; pre-service and post-service issues for members and veterans; members’ and veterans’ social and family contexts, such as family breakdown, as well as housing and employment issues for members and veterans.

Back to top

How can I have my say and tell my story to the Royal Commission?

Processes for engagement with the Royal Commission, including opportunities to make submissions, will be determined by the Royal Commission once it has been established.  Processes for engagement will be widely advertised.

The Attorney-General’s Department will provide administrative support to the Royal Commission once it has been established. Neither DVA nor Minister Chester will be involved in the administration of the Royal Commission.

The Office of the National Commissioner continues to hear stories from families, serving and ex-serving members who have been affected by the deaths by suicide of Defence members and veterans. Please visit the Office of the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention website for more information.

Back to top

How long will the Royal Commission run for?

Given the complex issues to be considered, and the importance of hearing from ADF members, veterans, and families, the Government envisages that the Royal Commission is expected to require 18 months – 2 years to complete its work.

Back to top

What impact will the Royal Commission have on DVA’s other work, including claims processing?

A dedicated Royal Commission Taskforce is being established within DVA. This is to ensure that we maintain our focus on supporting veterans and their families, alongside being responsive to requests DVA will receive from the Royal Commission. 

DVA will continue to prioritise important work on reducing the claims backlog, veterans’ mental health and wellbeing programs, service delivery, and our ongoing transformation.

Back to top

What support is available to people engaging with the Royal Commission?

For anyone who finds engaging with this process difficult, support is available and can make a difference.

Serving ADF members and their families can contact their local Garrison Health Centre or the All Hours Support Line available 24/7 on 1800 628 036.

Veterans and families can contact Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling for free support and counselling available 24/7 on 1800 011 046 or by visiting the Open Arms website.

Veterans and families who wish to remain anonymous can also contact Safe Zone Support for free support and counselling, 24/7 on 1800 142 072.

Community members can contact:

If life is in danger, please contact 000

Back to top

Will the interim National Commissioner continue their work?

The Government intends that the Royal Commission and the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention will operate in a complementary way to achieve meaningful, long-term change.

The Royal Commission will look at past deaths by suicide (including deaths by suspected suicide, and lived experience of suicide risk) from a systemic point of view. 

The National Commissioner will have a forward-looking role, including overseeing the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations into the future. 

The work already undertaken by the interim National Commissioner may be made available to the Royal Commission to inform its work.

The Office of the National Commissioner continues to hear stories from families, serving and ex-serving members who have been affected by the deaths by suicide of Defence members and veterans. Please visit the Office of the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention website for more information.

Back to top

Where can I find more information about the Royal Commission?

Once the Royal Commission has been formally established, it will have a dedicated website that will provide further information, including how you can engage with the Royal Commission, should you wish to do so.

In the meantime, information will continue to be provided on the DVA website.

Back to top
Was this page useful?
Please tell us why you selected 'Yes'?
Please tell us why you selected 'No'?