This inquiry had its genesis in the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee’s report on its inquiry into Suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel. That inquiry found concerns were still being raised about the model through which mental health care is provided. Years ago the Repatriation Hospitals provided veterans’ health services in an environment that understood and was responsive to veterans’ needs. While it is not practicable to re-establish that system this report supports the establishment of networked Centres of Treatment Excellence for Veterans’ Mental Health. These centres would support the development of the body of knowledge and new therapies in veterans’ mental health, provide a means to increase the number of appropriately trained mental health practitioners and provide veterans with the assurance that the treatment offered was focused on their needs.
It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of ADF members who transition to civilian life do so relatively smoothly and without major difficulty. However, for a small proportion transition can be a difficult and potentially dangerous time. Those whose transition is involuntary and on medical grounds, and those whose experience of trauma while in the ADF is exacerbated by stress experienced during transition, are most at risk. To address this, the committee has recommended assigning clear responsibility for transition to Defence and providing for a professional case management approach to support the transition process.
It is also important to recognise that those people close to transitioning ADF members may be on that journey with them and are often also the first line of support. For this reason the committee supports making transition training and support services more broadly available to the families of transitioning ADF members and providing this access beyond the ADF member’s formal separation.
Finally, I would like to record the committee’s appreciation to all those who made written submissions to the inquiry or who gave oral evidence at public hearings. It is not easy for most people to appear before a Parliamentary committee and it is particularly difficult when the evidence is about an individual’s personal experience. All who gave evidence to the Committee were motivated to improve the transition experience for those who came after them and the altruism and commitment of their effort is to be commended.
Senator Jim Molan AO DSC