Darren Chester at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith
Darren Chester at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith

Minister’s comment doesn’t help veterans



THE grieving families of defence personnel who have suicided during or after their service have called for a Royal Commission to examine the issue.

The Prime Minister has said he would give them a response in the new year.

The Opposition has already offered its bipartisan support.

It was troubling to read in the latest Vetaffairs newsletter that the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, Darren Chester, wrote " … Not everyone who leaves the ADF is broken, busted and bad".

Such statements only compound the problems ex-service people face.

The minister also said they were improving Department of Veterans' Affairs "making it faster, simpler and easier for veterans to access services, whenever and wherever they need them".

After spending more than an hour on the phone to the department and not getting to speak to anyone, my ex-serviceman husband called into the Maroochydore office and had excellent service by the only person working there, even though she was obviously flat out.

Given the high number of veterans living on the Sunshine Coast, their office is woefully understaffed.

As for the online service portal, MyService, that is a story for another day.

A recent report found 42 ex-service personnel suicides in 2017, bringing the number up to 419 since 2001 with ex-serving females twice as likely to suicide as the general population.

It is time a spotlight was shone on this issue.

Comments such as the minister's are far from helpful in enabling ex-service personnel transition back into the general population and getting timely support when they need it.