JOHN Shanahan spent his Saturday night in Brisbane listening to the horror and "torture" returned service personnel endure in trying to get mental health help.
Mr Shanahan listened to them recount a little of their experience in war, watching mates being blown-up before their eyes; or, the fresh pain in remembering a young solider, aged 30-something, who died by suicide days ago.
This was why he felt a royal commission into veterans' suicide was vital. These were the grassroots stories that needed to be independently unearthed and heard for what he felt could make any difference.
Mr Shanahan returned to Ballarat on Monday from a Walking Off the War event as pressure continued to mount on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to establish the royal commission after being urged by all sides of politics.
This comes after the Prime Minister's bid for a commissioner to look into the issue was defeated in parliament.
The prime minister has remained keen on creating an ongoing commissioner but made clear on Monday he would not stand in the way of a non-binding parliamentary motion for an independent inquiry, which is set to sail through both houses for approval.
Returned Services League Victoria members voted to support the call for a royal commission first with veterans and their families wanting to be heard in an independent forum.
This too, is what Mr Shanahan has been championing for a long time.
Mr Shanahan continues to promote his son Nathan Shanahan's legacy via Walking Off the War Within events nationwide to push for greater mental health support for defence force and emergency service personnel and their families.
Nathan, a former special forces soldier and firefighter, completed the first Walking Off the War Within solo by trekking from Mildura to Adelaide six years ago as he faced his own war within. Nathan took his own life in December 2016.
His mates continue to lead walks in his footsteps.
As such, Mr Shanahan hears the stories of serving personnel and their families - and he said there was still a long way to go in appropriate support.
We need to get to the grassroots...this is the first time we might see some light at the end of the tunnel.- John Shanahan, Walking Off the War Within
"I've been against a commissioner because that wasn't bipartisan and whichever government was in power, the role would be formed with a lot of their ideology," Mr Shanahan said.
"We need to get to the grassroots and the people affected for truer insights into what's going on...It's a been a long, hard struggle but this is the first time we might see some light at the end of the tunnel."
Mr Shanahan has been in constant contact with Tasmanian independent senator Jacqui Lambie, a former soldier, and was confident a royal commission would be established.
Coalition senators voted with Labor, the Greens and independents to establish a royal commission last week.
The motion notes Australian Defence Force personnel have a suicide rate of less than half of the wider community's while serving, but nearly twice the general population rate once they leave. It calls on the Morrison Government to establish a royal commission into the rate of suicide among serving and former ADF personnel.
IN OTHER NEWS
Federal Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester told the parliament on Monday the government would carefully consider the longstanding proposal
"The prime minister himself has never ruled out a royal commission," Mr Chester told parliament on Monday.
"We will continue to listen to ex-service organisations, listen to our own backbench, particularly the veterans on that backbench, listen across the chamber and across the parliament as we deal with this particularly complex and sensitive issue".
Walking Off the War Within Ballarat event is at St Patrick's College oval on April 24.
For crisis support:
- Lifeline, 13 11 14
- Soldier On, 1300 620 380
- Open Arms, 1800 011 046
- with AAP
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