Legislative Council: Wednesday, October 19, 2022


Veterans' Mental Health

The Hon. S.L. GAME (16:08): I move:

That this council—

1. Recognises that—

(a) roughly 6,000 veterans have insecure housing or are classified as homeless;

(b) 73 per cent of veterans will report some form of mental health issue within the first 12 months of discharge;

(c) 20 per cent of veterans will experience suicidal ideations, or attempt to suicide; and

(d) the number of veterans who have died by suicide is potentially much higher than reported due to coroners not using a consistent definition of suicide or lodgement in the National Coronial Information System.

2. Recognises that proven assistance to this important cohort of South Australians can be found through:

(a) safe and stable housing;

(b) a greater connection to community;

(c) financial security with improved employment prospects and meaningful work;

(d) strong and supported personal beliefs or faith;

(e) improving support to veteran specific assistance groups, such as Soldier On or Phoenix Health; and

(f) timely access to affordable and reliable professional mental health assistance.

3. Recognises that South Australian veterans should be prioritised by the government for improved services and outcomes.

I am appalled by the headlines coming from the interim reports of the federal Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. It is reprehensible that men and women who have faithfully served our country are experiencing this level of mental anguish without proper support. It is an abysmal expectation that three out of four discharged military personnel will end up with a mental health disorder.

Additionally, a high number of veterans live with financial insecurity, housing insecurity and a lack of consistent affordable mental health care. We know that a number of veterans commit suicide while waiting for their assistance claims to be processed at an understaffed federal office hindered by a revolving door of eight different ministers of veterans affairs within the last 10 years.

I understand the royal commission will go on for some time and once more will bring forth recommendations that will be similar to the 750 recommendations made and ignored in the 2009 independent report by Professor David Dunt into veteran suicide. That report looked at methodologies to reduce alcohol misuse, curb suicide ideation, improve therapies for veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. Professor Dunt's report for the Minister for Veterans Affairs was not the first nor the last paper addressing these issues in detail. Let's not pretend that this royal commission will be the silver bullet to fix the array of problems some veterans face.

For veterans living in South Australia, the two-year backlog of assistance claims must be cleared, mental health services specific to veterans need to be resourced, and housing and employment pathways after transition to community must be prioritised. This cannot simply be handballed by the state government as a federal issue. The Albanese government have already admitted that they do not intend to commit to any new reforms, protections or legislation. South Australian veterans should be prioritised by the government for improved services and outcomes.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I. Pnevmatikos.