National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention

The Australian Government is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Bernadette Boss CSC as the new interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention.

Dr Boss holds a PhD from the University of Sydney and has practiced as a barrister in Australia and the United Kingdom, primarily in the areas of family law, criminal law, administrative law and human rights law.

Since 2012, she has served as a Magistrate and Coroner of the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court and has also served in various command and staff roles in the ADF where she was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross.

“Dr Boss’ significant experience as both a Magistrate and Coroner, coupled with her understanding of human rights issues and experience in the Australian Defence Force, make her well placed to engage with the families, friends and communities affected by the loss of a loved one,” Attorney-General Christian Porter said.”

“Her office will be truly independent and deliver genuine transparency as it helps to uncover the root causes and contributing factors in ADF member and veteran deaths by suicide.”

Subject to passage of legislation currently before the Parliament, Dr Boss’ role will be formalised as the National Commissioner with powers broadly equivalent to a Royal Commission to:

  • inquire into the circumstances of past and future ADF member and veteran deaths by suicide, including suspected deaths by suicide
  • hear about the impact of ADF member and veteran deaths by suicide on families and others who are affected
  • make findings and recommendations to the Australian Government; and
  • promote the understanding of suicide risks for ADF members and veterans, and factors that can improve the wellbeing of ADF members and veterans.

Like a Royal Commission the National Commissioner will be independent from Government. Unlike a Royal Commission, however, the National Commissioner will be an enduring institution, so it can continue to monitor and report on the implementation of its recommendations in the future.

Dr Boss said it is an honour to be tasked with addressing this important issue which is disproportionately impacting Australia’s defence and veteran community.

“I know many families, serving and ex-serving ADF members and others who have been calling for action in response to these tragic deaths. I want to hear their stories,” Dr Boss said.

The Government has also announced the Terms of Reference for the Independent Review of Past Defence and Veteran Suicides which Dr Boss will commence upon appointment. Details of the Terms of Reference are attached.

The National Commissioner’s work forms part of the wider mental health agenda, complementing the work being undertaken by Christine Morgan as the Prime Minister’s National Suicide Prevention Advisor.

The Attorney-General congratulated Dr Boss on her appointment.

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