The RSL welcomes Government’s Royal Commission response and forwards its own submission

The Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) has welcomed the Federal Government’s response to the Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

The RSL commended the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Matt Keogh on his apology in Federal Parliament to serving and former military personnel who he said had been let down by his Department and the Department of Defence over numerous decades.

The Royal Commission’s Interim Report found urgent action was needed to eliminate the unacceptable backlog of veterans’ compensation claims, with almost 42,000 awaiting processing at the end of May.

RSL Australia President Greg Melick said the Minister acknowledged that current systems were not sufficient to improve the wellbeing of Defence members, veterans, and their families.

He said Minister Keogh highlighted the need for better information and navigation of services available for veterans and their families and the need to focus on the transition from military service into civilian life.

“These are all issues that the RSL raised in its submission to the Royal Commission and reiterated in our response to the Commission’s Interim Report we have also lodged today,” Greg Melick said.

“We particularly welcome the Government’s determination to focus on the wellbeing of Defence and veterans’ families and the Federal Opposition’s substantive support for the Government’s response.”

In its own submission in response to the Royal Commission’s Interim Report, the RSL has strongly endorsed all 13 recommendations, saying they are sensible, significant, and vital.

Greg Melick says RSL Australia fully supports the Commissioners’ calls for legislative reform, to improve claims processing at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and to increase protections for those engaging with the Royal Commission.

“The RSL has been calling for many of these reforms for several years and notes that several other inquiries have recommended similar actions.

“It is now inherent on the Federal Government, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Australian Defence Force, and all those in the Defence community to push for the implementation of these recommendations.

“The RSL has a role to play in holding accountable those responsible for their implementation, ensuring urgent and immediate action is taken by all involved.

“It is also incumbent upon the RSL to proactively address issues that have been examined by the Royal Commission but were not included in the Interim Report. This includes identifying ways for ex-service organisations to work together to better serve the needs of veterans and their families, particularly in navigating the services available to them. The RSL and other ex-service organisations (ESOs) have begun this work, but there is much more to do.”

Greg Melick said most importantly, the RSL noted the sobering, serious and distressing nature of the Royal Commission’s Interim Report.

“It should not be forgotten that at its core, this Royal Commission is about addressing the heart-breaking phenomenon of suicide and suicidality among serving and ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Forces.

“The RSL is committed to working with the Royal Commission and the entire Defence community to understand, reduce, and eventually eliminate, Defence and veteran suicide,” he said.

RSL Australia Interim Response – September 2022

RSL Australia – Annexure – Harmonisation of Legislation – September 2022