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Tuesday, 12 September 2023
Page: 84

Ms TEMPLEMAN (Macquarie) (16:14): When we encourage people to sign up and serve in the Defence Force, no-one can predict exactly what the consequences for that individual will be. Some have really positive experiences, but obviously not all people do.

I had the privilege of hearing this week from the three royal commissioners inquiring into defence and veteran suicide: Nick Kaldas, a former deputy commissioner with the New South Wales Police Force; The Hon James Douglas KC, a retired Queensland Supreme Court judge; and Dr Peggy Brown, a psychiatrist and member of the Military, Veterans' and Emergency Services Personnel Mental Health Network. All of them are eminently qualified to be commissioners on this royal commission.

They shared with us some of their insights about the themes they are seeing in the evidence that they continue to take, including things like the slow and complex processing times of the Department of Veterans' Affairs; problems with the transition that personnel expense as they move into the civilian world; the preparation they have had before they leave defence; and the barriers to accessing mental health support in a timely way.

I want to thank the commissioners for their work. It must be very challenging hearing the sort of testimonies that they are—from bereaved family members and from veterans and personnel who have themselves contemplated or survived a suicide attempt. And of course there is the challenge of coming up with recommendations that will change the current trajectory so that we don't lose more defence personnel to suicide than we do in active duty.

While we as a government look forward to the final report next year from the royal commission, we are taking many steps to change things in the meantime. One of those is to have a veterans and families wellbeing hub in the Hawkesbury. I am pleased to say that the election commitment I made last year is progressing with the decision by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs to provide funding to New South Wales RSL to work on a business case for a hub they propose to operate. This is a key step. I know we all want to see excellent value for taxpayer dollars, and the hubs we are developing go through a rigorous and thorough process to ensure they're delivering what is expected and needed for the veterans and defence personnel and families of today and tomorrow. The Hawkesbury hub is on top of the Scheyville community wellbeing hub being funded with a $5,000,000 grant to the Hunter Anzac Memorial group. So there will be a lot of support for veterans in the Hawkesbury.

I also want to commend 37 Squadron at RAAF Richmond for the family day they held at the weekend. I was privileged to see families checking out the aircraft and trying the virtual reality simulator. People might have seen a large number of Hercules aircraft flying around the district. That was a real treat for families. It took the involvement of a wide range of RAAF Richmond personnel, including reserves, and I thank them for making it possible.