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Former top cop to head veterans' suicide royal commission

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Former NSW Police deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas will lead a royal commission into veteran suicide, which will conduct an in-depth analysis of systemic risk factors leading to serving and returned personnel taking their own lives.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday released the terms of reference for the inquiry, revealing former Queensland Supreme Court judge James Douglas and Peggy Brown, a psychiatrist and national mental health policy leader, would assist Kaldas.

“The death of any Australian Defence Force member or veteran is a terrible tragedy that is deeply felt by all Australia but particularly those who served alongside them and their families,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

He said Kaldas also had experience as an investigator of chemical weapons used in Syria.

The commission will look at common themes relating to veteran suicide including the potential impact of pre-service, service, transition, separation and post-service issues.

It will be able to inquire into any previous death by suicide, including suspected suicide.

The royal commission is due to provide an interim report on August 11, 2022, and a final report on June 15 the following year.

The inquiry had been delayed by the prime minister’s overseas travel and a Nationals leadership spill, which saw Darren Chester dumped as veterans’ affairs minister and replaced by Andrew Gee.

The government initially resisted a royal commission into veteran’s suicide but bowed to the pressure of a long-running campaign by former soldiers, backed by all sides of federal parliament.

The inquiry will examine all aspects of Australian Defence Force service and the experience of those who transition to civilian life.

It will look at the availability and quality of health and support services as well as issues facing ADF members and veterans including family breakdowns, housing and employment.

Private sessions will be available for witnesses.

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