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Heartbroken mother responds to ‘bittersweet’ victory in veteran suicides campaign

Veteran campaign announcement
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The mother of a veteran who took his own life says the announcement of a permanent, independent commissioner into veteran suicides is “incredibly bittersweet”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will appoint a National Commissioner for Defence and Suicide Prevention who will have the powers of a royal commission.

More than 400 serving and ex-servicemen and women have taken their own lives since 2001 at a rate that is 18 per cent higher than the rest of Australians.

The announcement is a major step towards reducing the shocking statistic and has come about after a sustained and brave campaign from Julie-Ann Finney, whose son David took his own life 12 months ago.

Julie-Ann tells Alan Jones she received a phone call with the good news last night.

“The Prime Minister did ring me last night and explain to me.”

“I did go out to the cemetery last night and I told my son he was remarkable and I’m very proud of him and he matters.”

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Many had been calling for a royal commission into veteran suicides but say the permanent commissioner is an even greater victory.

“So many people have been supportive in this so I hope they’re all feeling like we’ve made steps today,” Julie-Ann says.

“I need further details but it’s a step in the right direction, that’s for sure, and I’m very grateful.”

“This is incredibly bittersweet, we just hope that we can stop other parents going through it.”

The government will spend $40 million setting up the commissioner’s office with an interim report due in 12 months, a final report in 18 months and then an ongoing annual report to parliament.

Minister for Veteran Affairs Darren Chester tells Deborah Knight they will need to create legislation before a commissioner is appointed.

“We need to work very closely with state jurisdictions.

“I’m expecting the states to be very cooperative of this.”

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Veteran campaign announcement