I am proud of our veterans and grateful for the sacrifice and service they provide to our nation in times of war, conflict and, more recently, in the recovery from the devastating bushfires. Our veterans and all serving men and women of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) protect our community and our freedoms, and it is our duty to do the same for them.
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the establishment of a powerful new independent body to investigate all suspected veteran and ADF member suicides, and to work to help save lives.
The National Commissioner will have the enduring power, scope and resources to investigate suicides and related issues as they arise, rather than being restricted by a one-off review.
Our government has invested an initial $40 million to support the commissioner's work and this will be expanded to ensure whatever resources needed are provided.
We are committed to ensuring our veteran and ADF programs and services, including mental health, are actually supporting people.
A veteran family advocate will also be appointed to directly engage with the families of veterans and ADF members, to ensure perspectives of veterans and their families are at the heart of policy and decision-making by government, prompting better health outcomes and reducing the risk of suicide.
I thank Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester for delivering these important roles, which come off the back of major improvements made last year through the Australian Veterans' Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Act 2019.
This Act enshrined in legislation a statement saying the Department of Veterans' Affairs must apply a fair, just and consistent approach when accessing veterans claims.
This will better ensure department staff adopt a beneficial approach when interpreting legislation and act in the best interest of veterans and their families.
Don't forget this Sunday, February 16, is National Servicemen's (Nasho's) Memorial Day. I encourage you to attend your local service. I will be attending at the Nambucca Valley Sub-branch service at ANZAC Park in Nambucca Heads, from 11am.
If you are a veteran, ADF member, or family member who would like counselling, contact Open Arms - Veterans and Families Counselling on 1800 011 046, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.