Herbert MP Phillip Thompson, former Labor member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly with the notice of motion.
Herbert MP Phillip Thompson, former Labor member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly with the notice of motion.

Political push to fight military suicides

THE battle against veteran suicide will see the Coalition and Labor join forces in parliament today.

Two veterans-turned-MPs from both major parties have supported a motion to appoint an independent National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide.

Herbert MP Phillip Thompson announced the commissioner with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in February this year.

But when coronavirus struck and parliament was suspended, the motion was stalled as the Federal Government dealt with the pandemic fallout.

The notice of motion signed by Phillip Thompson and Mike Kelly.
The notice of motion signed by Phillip Thompson and Mike Kelly.

Now, with the help of former Labor member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly, Mr Thompson will formally introduce the motion that is "close to his heart".

"This is an issue which has affected me personally, affected many friends of mine as well as family members," Mr Thompson said.

"I've buried too many friends of mine who've died by suicide, too many mothers have buried too many of their sons and daughters."

This will put into motion the appointment of a national commissioner to investigate suicide among the Australian Defence Force and veteran population, and a Veteran Family Advocate will be appointed to lead engagement and advocacy among families.

Mr Thompson said working with Dr Kelly, who retired from the Australian Army in 2007 as a colonel, proved how important this was to the defence community.

"The veteran community has an extremely high rate of suicides," he said.

Mr Thompson added the commission would not have an end date, but would have the same powers as a royal commission.

"We've been working with defence, veterans, families, spouses, mums, dads and even children in Townsville," he said.

"(They) have been screaming for something to be done in suicide prevention in men and women who put on uniforms.

"It's not a one-off thing that will give a report in 18 months or two years.

"It will keep going at the task, listening, working, and delivering change to help bring the number of these suicides down, because there is no acceptable number."

The commissioner will be independent of the government and not only look at what has happened before, but finding patterns and trends that can inform policy to help minimise suicides.

Mr Thompson said introducing the motion into parliament was just the first step.

"It will not feel good until there is a commissioner appointed and work is being done," he said.

He added the family advocate was "sorely needed".


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