VETERANS mental health advocate John Shanahan keenly hopes the fundamental purpose of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide does not get lost amid political upheaval.
Mr Shanahan warned Australia does not have time on its side - and fast rising suicide statistics showed this.
Re-elected Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce's frontbench shuffle has polarised veterans communities across the nation, months out from the royal commission.
Mr Joyce dumped long-serving federal Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester to instead reward New South Wales MP Andrew Gee.
This comes just after Mr Shanahan has made his initial submission to the commission and separately followed this up with the Veterans Affairs Department.
Mr Shanahan said the process was "harrowing" but he felt it was an important chance to get off his chest his experience with son Nathan Shanahan, a returned special forces soldier and firefighter who died by suicide in December 2016.
"I feel very strongly that we need to wrap our arms around veterans - they don't want to be handed phone numbers to call. These are highly vulnerable people," Mr Shanahan said.
"We have made in-roads but there is still a lot more to be done and we don't have time on our side...This reaffirms what we're doing isn't totally working to draw [suicide] numbers back down.
"We definitely need more funding but we need the government to really look at the issue. If anyone thinks what we're doing is working then they need to question the rate of suicide - it doesn't add up.
"...Working with veterans is fine, but it is actually about solving the problems."
Working with veterans is fine, but it is actually about solving the problems.John Shanahan
Mr Shanahan plays a key role in Walking Off the War Within events across the nation each year, walking alongside defence and emergency service personnel and their supporters.
This follows in the tradition of Nathan who made the first walk alone, from Mildura to Adelaide, to raise awareness for veterans' post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety.
Mr Shanahan said there was no doubt the forgotten people in the bigger issue were families, particularly women and children.
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison relented in April for a broad-ranging national inquiry into systemic issues facing Australian Defence Force members and the rate of veteran suicide.
The prime minister had long been keen on instead appointing a commissioner to explore the issues.
Mr Shanahan has always preferred the grassroots approach of a royal commission, listening to people affected, as opposed to the potential for a commissioner that might not be entirely bipartisan.
Timing for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has not yet been made official, according to the Veterans Affairs Department website.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Open Arms on 1800 011 046
- Soldier On: 1300 620 380
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