Defence personnel and veterans rush to beat Royal Commission deadline
By Kirsten Webster
A legal service funded by the federal government has fielded more than 1,200 calls in a year from veterans and their families who want to be heard by the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. Almost a quarter of the demand is coming from Queensland’s veterans community with 341 calls taken by the Defence and Legal Service in February. Likewise, 316 calls were made to the New South Wales service, 190 from Western Australia and 140 calls were made in Victoria.
Brisbane-based veteran SiuPing Wong is one of the hundreds currently preparing a written submission to the Royal Commission. She is being helped by solicitor Kathryn Starkey who has provided Ms Wong’s quotes to the ABC. “I am speaking up because I don’t want to see any more veteran suicides,” Ms Wong said.
“I have experienced continual depression. Life is miserable for me now. “Each day, I feel exhausted and in pain. I have struggled with thoughts of suicide most days.” Ms Wong was medically discharged from the Royal Australian Air Force after a training accident. “I have suffered enormously,” Ms Wong said. “Physically, mentally and emotionally.
“The task of getting appropriate medical and psychological support has been confusing and frustrating. “After my medical discharge, I was effectively left on my own to work out my future healthcare. I was not supported by the ADF.”
Deadline looms An April 28 deadline for private submission requests to the Royal Commission has prompted a surge in veterans wanting to tell their story, Ms Starkey says. “They know that nothing is going to change for them because it’s already occurred,” she said. “But they take great satisfaction and comfort out of being able to finally sit down with someone and have someone sit there and just listen to them.”