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Grieving mum to tell of 'moral injury' as suicide inquiry opens in Brisbane

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A suicidologist who is also the mother of an army veteran who took his own life will be the first witness to appear at the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide at its first round of public hearings.

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Nikki Jamieson will join a panel of experts to give evidence about her own experience, following the death her son Daniel in 2014 and her subsequent work as a university researcher into the impact of ‘moral injury” within veteran communities.

Evidence from veterans and their families will be the main focus in the first two weeks of the wide-ranging inquiry being held at the Brisbane Convention Centre from Monday.

The commission has flagged its landmark inquiry into Australia’s defence force culture will include confronting accounts of life in the service, including bullying, “concerns over the treatment of women”, sexual and physical assaults and ritual hazing of new recruits.

Evidence will also be heard about the challenges of accessing mental health support after deployment and “the loss of identity and community” after transitioning to civilian life.

Chair of the inquiry, commissioner Nick Kaldas, said on Friday he and his two fellow commissioners believe it is a “once in a generation opportunity for lasting, fundamental change” to tackle the suicide crisis.

Commissioner and psychiatrist Peggy Brown added that “while I don’t believe that any government department … in Australia sets out to fail, or to lack compassion, there can be no doubt that systemic issues are contributing to the suicide deaths of our defence members and veterans”.

“That is something this royal commission must change – absolutely.”

A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in September revealed more than 1200 serving and former Australian Defence Force died by suicide between 2001 and 2019.

It found male veterans were 24 per cent more likely to die by suicide than the general population and female veterans twice as likely.

The royal commission is due to produce an interim report by August 11 next year and a final report by June 15, 2023.

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