State and territory governments and the federal government have agreed to work together to collect better data on areas such as veterans’ suicide, homelessness and incarceration rates and to press for a new military service question on the next Census.
Veterans’ Affairs ministers from every state and territory have agreed to co-ordinate their efforts to give governments more accurate and meaningful data about veterans’ lives after they leave the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and transition to civilian life.
A recent parliamentary inquiry by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee highlighted the current paucity of data on ex-service men and women.
The Committee’s report, due on March 30 2017, is likely to recommend better data collection about the lives of veterans in order to track trends and to better target support services.
It is likely that rates of suicide and poor mental health among veterans is under-reported.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) told Government News last week that it did not have a complete picture of suicides among veterans.
“While Defence records all incidences of suspected or confirmed suicide among current serving members of the ADF, DVA does not have a complete picture of suicides in the ex-serving population. This is because DVA only becomes officially aware of a death by suicide of a veteran if a claim for compensation is lodged by a dependant in respect of the death of a veteran. In this case, a cause of death must be investigated to establish a relationship with service,” said the DVA.
Data improvements agreed by the ministers:
- Ask for a military service-related question in the next Census
- Developing standardised military service history indicators to use in data collections for suicide and homelessness
- To meet with state-based and national ex-service organisations to discuss better coordinating efforts addressing homelessness and other services
- NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia currently collect data on veteran incarceration; other states and territories will investigate following suit
- NSW and Victoria to share information on their veterans’ homelessness programs
- State and territory governments to provide information on their services as part of every ADF transition session for those leaving the military
- Commonwealth to advise states and territories when ADF personnel are medically-discharged to help plan support services
- Commonwealth to ensure all medically-discharged veterans have a Medicare card when they leave the ADF
The federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan said the first ever meeting of Veterans’ Affairs Ministers had underscored their joint commitment “to re-double our efforts tackling the challenges faced by our veterans”.
“All levels of government are providing important support and services to our veterans that recognise their service and sacrifice but we have to ensure we are coordinating our efforts,” Mr Tehan said. “Our veterans will benefit from a more unified approach as a result of getting all the relevant ministers together in one room to better coordinate services and gather important data.”