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Performance measure 5.3: Support the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention

Support the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention to examine defence and veteran deaths by suicide.

This performance measure was achieved.

Performance targets


5.3.1 Support the Commissioner to commence the review of past cases in accordance with internal project plan



  • Portfolio Budget Statements 2020–21, Outcome 1, Program 1.1, page 30
  • Corporate Plan 2020–24, page 44

5.3.1 In November 2020, we established and staffed the Office of the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention to support the interim National Commissioner to conduct an independent review of veteran suicides in accordance with terms of reference issued by the government.

We used 3 measures to evaluate and assess this progress:

  • An assessment of the achievement of commencement milestones.
  • A case study of any challenges encountered in the engagement with the defence and veterans community.
  • Discussions with the interim Commissioner to evaluate effectiveness in supporting the review.

Commencement milestones

We met 5 of the 6 milestones:

  • The Office was established and operational by November 2020.
  • The interim Commissioner’s communication channels (website, email, phone lines) were active on 1 October 2020 (in advance of the November 2020 target).
  • Information-gathering activities and policy analysis commenced in advance of the December 2020 target with the first requests for information sent on 16 November 2021. To 30 June 2021, 206 requests for information were made resulting in the production of over 19,000 pages for material from a range of sources including the Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
  • Discussions with stakeholders commenced by December 2020 with 26 sessions held by 30 June 2021 involving 149 community organisations, mental health bodies and representatives from all levels of government.
  • Meeting with individuals and families affected by suicide commenced in March 2021. Since February 2021, we have supported the interim Commissioner to meet privately with 23 families and other current or former serving members of the Australian Defence Force with a lived experience of suicide. We did so in a sensitive and safe way, including specialist counselling staff to minimise trauma and harm. We developed a COVIDSafe policy to mitigate the risk of travel and face-to-face meetings during the pandemic.

The milestone to commence public engagement processes by May 2021 was partially met. This was due to the limitations placed on public hearings as a result of the absence of legislative protections and powers. We arranged a research symposium in March 2021 where academics and experts convened to consider aspects of defence and veteran suicide prevention and mental health. A total of 306 delegates attended, either virtually or in person and videos of the conference sessions were published on the interim Commissioner’s website.

Case study

We supported the interim Commissioner to produce a report to government which set out the work undertaken in relation to engagement with the defence and veteran community, including key engagements and how they contributed to progress of the review, and challenges to the commencement of the independent review and how they were overcome. Inclusion of this information in the report replaces the proposed case study, as the role of the interim Commissioner evolved throughout the reporting period. The interim Commissioner’s report details the methodology used to conduct the review and will be publicly released following presentation to Parliament.

Discussions with the interim Commissioner

We also conducted internal review discussions with the interim Commissioner to evaluate our effectiveness in supporting the review. The interim Commissioner's feedback was generally positive, noting the flexibility, adaptability and professionalism of our staff.