Service life in the Northern Territory will be a key focus of the Royal Commission as it starts its seventh hearing block in Darwin today.
The inquiry will hear from senior Defence personnel from HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal, in Katherine. The Commission will take an in-depth look at service life, examining topics such as unacceptable behaviour, injury prevention, transition, and support for families.
Lived-experience witnesses from the Northern Territory will also give evidence.
Commission Chair, Nick Kaldas APM, said the Darwin hearing was an important opportunity to hear about the unique experiences of veterans as well as the 12,000 current-serving Defence personnel and their families living in the Territory.
“Living or being deployed to rural and remote locations can create serious challenges for veterans, serving personnel and their families,” Commissioner Kaldas said.
“Additional stresses such as feeling isolated, not having support of your loves ones, or having difficulty accessing emergency or allied health services, can be enormously difficult.
“We’ll explore these issues further, including the types of supports that should be in place, during this hearing block.”
The hearing will also examine critical incidents during deployments, as well as Defence recruitment, and practices used to target women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds.
Suicide prevention among First Nations people will be explored and the Commission will take an in-depth look at the operation of Open Arms – Veterans and Family Counselling service.
The hearing, at the Hilton Darwin Hotel, will sit until October 27 and is open to the public.
Those unable to attend in person can watch via livestream.
The Royal Commission has so far received around written submissions from more than 2,500 individuals and organisations across Australia, including 57 from the Northern Territory.
Anyone affected by Defence and veteran suicide is encouraged to make a submission and supports are in place to help with the process.