Australia to hold inquiry into military suicides

SYDNEY (Agencies): Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a Royal Commission to examine suicides among serving and former military personnel, bowing to public pressure as the toll mounts among veterans. Speaking to reporters in Canberra on Monday, Morrison said he hoped the inquiry would prove a “healing process” for grieving families.

“I hope it will be a process by which veterans and families can find some comfort, but it obviously can’t replace the loss,” he said. Australian troops have been involved in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and deployed for humanitarian missions in the Pacific. According to government data, more than 500 Australian veterans have died from suicide since 2001 – a statistic that has fuelled public anger, including among the prime minister’s own Liberal Party.

By comparison, 41 Australian troops died during the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan. The issue became prominent in Australia following a high-profile campaign by Julie-Ann Finney, whose son David, a former naval petty officer, committed suicide in 2019 after he had earlier been deployed to Iraq, East Timor and Bougainville. He was medically discharged in 2017, after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the ABC broadcaster. Finney welcomed Morrison’s announcement, telling ABC that the move was “a long time coming”.