Defence and Veteran Legal Services Newsletter—Issue 10 June 2023

A message from our Director

At times in the past, our First Nations people fought for Australia but came home to the same problems they faced before they left.

Many were denied citizenship - or even the right to drink with other veterans at the front bar - while their white mates were given land grants through soldier settlement schemes.

First Nations veterans were excluded from soldier settlement schemes.

So it was entirely fitting that we marked Reconciliation Week from 29 May-2 June. The theme was “be a voice for generations”.

Last year on Remembrance day, we heard how whole families were torn apart while First Nations men were away at war.

First Nations women, left without a breadwinner, were not entitled to government assistance to help with the family and often children were removed as a result.

This contributed to the Stolen Generations.

Our profile piece and podcast this month is on Jane Inglis, who is representative of too many of our clients. She loved her time in the military, but her experience with the Department of Veterans' Affairs since her medical discharge has been underwhelming to say the least.

She hopes that the Royal Commission will improve the DVA processes so veterans feel like the department has their backs, rather than acting far too often in opposition.

And finally, a reminder - we are now less than six months away from the date of final submissions for the Royal Commission, October 13.

If you’ve been thinking about telling your story, but you haven’t got around to it yet, I invite you to contact us as soon as possible. Our lawyers can make the process easy for you and answer any concerns that you may have.

Jasmine Stanton

'We need to transform to the discharge process'

JANE INGLIS has experienced years of frustration with the Department of Veterans' Affairs after she was medically discharged.

The culture needs to change

woman in army uniform, Jane Inglis

I joined the Australian Defence Force in the Army in 1991.

I was allocated to the Royal Australian Corps of Transport and was one of the first females to go into a land command transport unit. I spent 14-and-a-half years in the defence force and was medically discharged in 2005.

Sexual assaults

The reason I was discharged was because I had sustained a dislocated elbow, and then had surgery provided by Defence Force, which went wrong. And I ended up with a paralysed and very contracted arm for a number of years

I was functioning in my job day to day, but I didn't meet the required standards, because I was on medication.

During my career, I was subject to two sexual assaults, and they were both handled very poorly and have continuing mental effects on me today.

In neither case did the perpetrator suffer any consequences.

Two reasons

I told my story to the Royal Commission for two broad reasons.

First, I think that the Defence Force still needs to make some significant changes in its culture and how it treats people and how it fosters everybody across the board.

They really need to get rid of a lot of the people that have been there a long time, because those people say they want to make changes, they put posters up, they send out beautiful training aids, but they don't practice what they preach. They're too stuck in the mud, they need to go.

Department of Veterans Affairs

The second is to overhaul the discharge process and the way that the Department of Veteran Affairs works – or often, doesn’t work.

After I was discharged on medical grounds, I was more or less left to my own devices and eventually became unable to work due to the physical and mental injuries sustained over my career.

It may surprise you to hear that, overall, I would definitely do it again in a flash. I thoroughly enjoyed my military career.

It gave me a real sense of stability in spite of the fact that I had seven postings. And it gave me a sense of purpose.

Fitted like a glove

It definitely enabled me to develop a lot of skills and to use my intelligence which was wasted. through my schooling years.

I just felt like it was like putting on a glove, you know, it really fitted.

Role call

MAUREEN BATES-McKAY is a First Nations woman whose job is to engage stakeholders to enlist their help in persuading veterans to tell their stories.

"My great uncle was in the Light Horse at Palestine during World War I and an older brother is a Vietnam veteran."

What brought you in to working with veterans?

I like interacting with people in the community and I believe I can make a contribution. I also had some experience with engagement work with two other previous Royal Commissions and, after hearing about the stories of suicide among service people, I wanted to be a part of the change no matter how small it may be.

What do you enjoy about your role?

I work in an enthusiastic and supportive team, and I get the chance to meet and speak to people all over the country.

What do you like about military and ex-military people?

My great uncle was in the Light Horse at Palestine during World War I and an older brother is a Vietnam veteran.

I have always had an interest in the stories and experiences of service people and, growing up in Bourke, I always tried to attend Anzac marches.

What did you do before working with DAVLS?

I was a lawyer with the Child Support section and with the Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities team in Legal Aid.

What would you like the Royal Commission to achieve?

Hopefully, the Commission will be a game changer and assist with the development of appropriate policies and support services for the wellbeing of current people in the services and for those who have left but who are struggling daily.

What are your strategies for managing stress and burnout?

I take time for aqua classes at a local gym. Also, I live opposite a sporting oval with a popular walking track; a few laps during my lunch break always helps me feel better.

Outside the wire - outreach across the nation

Group of people smiling standing in front of sign Riverina Veteran Wellbeing Centre
DAVLS lawyers Gerry Stapleton and Verity Mannix (far left) with staff from the Riverina Veteran Wellbeing Centre.


Our lawyers Verity Mannix and Gerry Stapleton travelled to Wagga Wagga in May.

They met clients at the Pro Patria Centre and the Riverina Veteran Wellbeing Centre, and also attended an ADF Member & Family Transition Seminar.

On the following day they participated in a stallholder day at the Riverina Veteran Wellbeing Centre.

This event also included representatives from Open Arms, Disaster Relief Australia, Defence Health, Navy Health, HMC Group Solutions, Talent Solutions (part of RSL Lifecare NSW) and the Australian Military Bank.

We received a great email afterwards:

’A HUGE thank you for attending our Drop-in Day today at the Riverina Veteran Wellbeing Centre here in Wagga! It was SO great to see everyone’s smiling faces, and we hope everyone had a chance to network and reach those who attended for information. We look forward to seeing you all at our future events.’

Ink in the Lines - military tattoos

Tattoo with reds and orange colour with wording - Fear is a reaction, Courage is a decision

Our Solicitor in the Hunter region in NSW, Yolanda D’Aquino, has been busy seeing clients and doing outreach in the community.

She has presented to community workers in Newcastle, Port Stephens, Maitland and Singleton about our service & the Royal Commission and has been attending regular social events such as Soldier On coffee catchups at the Singleton Diggers and the beautiful Heritage Gardens at East Maitland.

Local services such as the Newcastle Veteran Wellbeing Centre, Singleton Neighbourhood Centre, Toronto Private Hospital, Suicide Prevention Network Hub in Elermore Vale, the Newcastle and Wallsend Libraries and Singleton Police Local Area Command have also been a focus for Yolanda as she takes every opportunity to visit and connect with clients and the community.

To spread the word about DAVLS, Yolanda recorded a podcast for Legal Aid NSW’s Law for Community Workers Podcast which you can listen to here.

Yolanda recently took some time out to enjoy the Ink In the Lines exhibition at the Newcastle Museum, curated by the Australian War Memorial, which tells the Australian military story through tattoos.

Yolanda is looking forward to the Newcastle ADF Transition Seminar in June and the opportunity to meet more local Defence members and families to share information about our service and the Royal Commission.

Lucky enough to live near the coast, Yolanda wants to make a special mention of the Newcastle Memorial Walk which hovers over the ocean above a headland.

With its elevation and spectacular 360 degree views of Newcastle and the Pacific, it is particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset and the perfect place to stop and take a moment to reflect.


two men and a woman standing at a DAVLS sign
The team in Victoria - (from left) - John McDougall, Karla Randle and Steven BarasMiller. Edmund Gale not shown.

In addition to helping our expanding number of Victorian clients, we have continued to visit stakeholders including RSL branches and Community Legal Centres.

Importantly, we have now negotiated with Corrections Victoria to establish a dedicated telephone service in all Victorian prisons that will allow inmates to contact the DAVLS national Info Line.

There have been some staffing changes during the month. Our lawyer Karla Randle has moved into a senior lawyer role at Victoria Legal Aid and her DAVLS position will be filled by Edmund Gale.

We thank Karla for her great work and are pleased to welcome Edmund to our team.


Woman standing holding brochure

In addition to helping clients, our Canberra solicitors have been providing outreach assistance and information.

They have connected with ACT social support services, including those that help homeless people, and organisations such as ACT Unions.

This outreach work provides information about the Royal Commission and the support provided by DAVLS.

Lawyer Rachael Taylor also visited Nowra in May to maintain our presence in the area and to provide valuable outreach.

At HMAS Albatross she provides a drop-in service for current serving members and their families on base. Rachael also spent time at the Nowra Veteran Wellbeing Centre which continues to be a valued partner of DAVLS in the Shoalhaven region.

South Australia

Man, Michael Pagano standing next to painting of Digger blowing a bugle
Lawyer Michael Pagano on outreach in South Australia.

Our Adelaide lawyers Gabrielle Karas and Michael Pagano continue to assist SA clients and spread the word about the legal help delivered by DAVLS.

They provide outreach assistance at the offices of stakeholders and have been distributing information packs across metropolitan Adelaide and regional SA.

Gabrielle and Michael are also preparing for the Royal Commission hearings, and Private Session meetings with Commissioners, in July.

Western Australia

Man, Mitch Caubo, doing television interview
DAVLS lawyer Mitch Caubo spreads the word with a Channel 7 interview.

It’s been a particularly busy period for our WA staff because of the Perth hearings of the Royal Commission.

Our lawyer Mitch Caubo spoke to ABC Radio Perth and 6PR. Mitch was joined by his client Jane Inglis (read her story in the main feature, above) and she also spoke to Channel 7 News about her experiences in the Army. We hope Jane’s story resonated with WA veterans and encouraged more people to participate in the Royal Commission.

In the Royal Commission hearings, Commissioners focused on leadership and accountability among senior ADF personnel.

Our WA lawyers, Jim Moss and Mitch Caubo, set up a stall just outside the hearings where they met a lot of veterans who wanted to find out how they can share their story with the inquiry.

Mitch also attended an ADF Member and Family Transition Seminar and spoke with about 40 people at this event.


smiling woman, Andrea McGarry, standing next to DAVLS sign
Lawyer Andrea McGarry on outreach in Tasmania.

In May, our lawyer Andrea travelled north to attend RSL Tasmania’s Annual Congress in Grindelwald.

It was the largest congress in Tasmania for several years and it attracted more than 100 delegates.

Andrea addressed the congress and spoke about the services provided by DAVLS and the closing dates for Royal Commission submissions. She also outlined new privacy protections for people who make a submission.

Following the presentation, Andrea also spoke with delegates and stakeholders at an industry forum.

Stories from the Frontline

We’re proud to announce the next episode of our podcast series, Stories from the Frontline.

The short audio productions – around five to six minutes each – showcase first-person stories from veterans with a DAVLS connection.

Jane Inglis - whose story appears in this newsletter - tells her story of reslience.

Listen to her story here.

Calls continue to the DAVLS helpline

We provide information, referrals and help with submissions and private sessions through our free DAVLS helpline on 1800 33 1800, and call volumes continue to rise.

The Info Line is staffed by a specialist team that is highly experienced in assisting current and former members of the Defence Forces, as well as their family members.

On your initial call to this service, we can:

  • provide introductory information about engaging with the Royal Commission
  • direct you to our free resources
  • arrange to post information to you
  • book you a free appointment with one of our lawyers, anywhere in Australia (these appointments are confidential and there’s no obligation on you to act as result of that appointment).

When you call the Info Line, you can remain anonymous if you wish.

The help provided by the Info Line, and by all our staff, is free, confidential and completely independent of the Royal Commission, DVA and ADF.

If you don’t feel like talking, you can also find online information at

If you call 1800 33 1800 out of hours, please leave a message so that we can call you back.

DAVLS in your community

three pictures of woman and men lawyers sitting at tables with DAVLS branding

Our lawyers are working with local ex-service and veteran support organisations across the country, delivering community presentations and attending community events. You can catch up on a recent webinar on our website. If you would like DAVLS to deliver a presentation or attend an event in your community, either in person or virtually, contact Karen Mills at

We can answer your questions about engaging with the Royal Commission, what is involved and how it can benefit you and others in a friendly, relaxed environment. Depending on your event, we can also include opportunities for confidential, one-on-one discussions.

We have been attending all Royal Commission hearings and staffing an information stall at the hearing venues. These have been a valuable point of connection with interested members of the Defence and veteran community and an opportunity for information exchange with members of the Royal Commission team.

We are working closely with support organisations across Australia to spread the word about the specialist services we provide. You know your community and your community’s needs. Through this work, we have identified some groups who may face additional barriers when it comes to engaging with this Royal Commission:

Sex and gender diverse communities - We have engaged the help of various organisations representing and speaking for LGBTQIA+ personnel and veterans, and helped tell their stories to the Royal Commission and publicly.

Defence families – We are staffing stalls at family fun days, giving presentations to families through wellbeing centres and events, speaking about the value of families’ experiences and delivering presentations in the community that highlight the important role family members can play in shaping the Royal Commission’s recommendations and legacy.

First Nations people – Through close consultation with First Nations communities, we have developed a range of resources including posters and brochures targeted to First Nations people. We are also contacting key stakeholders, attending indigeneous events.

Veterans in prisons and hospitals – We have developed posters for display in correctional facilities and are working to ensure people in prison can access our services wherever they are in Australia, including by offering outreach services, phone and video contacts.

Serving members - we are visiting bases, talking to stakeholders, attending ADF Family Days and taking submissions from those currently serving.

First Nations resources

The Royal Commission has produced several new resources to support and encourage First Nations people to share their stories. The Royal Commission wants to hear from serving or ex-serving First Nations people about their experience with the Navy, Army or Air Force, including family members. Submissions are open until 13 October 2023.

Royal Commission resources can be found here.

Future hearings and dates for your diary

The Royal Commission has held public hearings in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Townsville, Hobart, Darwin and Wagga Wagga.

Commissioners will travel to New Zealand and the United States in the first half of 2023, to learn about these countries’ military mental health and wellbeing policies and approaches.

Roundtable discussions, stakeholder reference group meetings, and private sessions will continue to be held in 2023 and Commissioners will continue to visit Australian Defence Force bases, review submissions and conduct research.

Key dates to be aware of:

17 July 2023 – public hearings in Adelaide

13 October 2023 – submissions close.

17 June 2024 – final Royal Commission report due.


Thumbnail images of various DAVLS resources such as brochure, factsheet and wallet card.

Many of our resources are available for download from our website. We are also happy to send out supplies for you to share.

We have additional promotional materials if you can help us get information out about our free services.

To order free resources, including posters, brochures, wallet cards and factsheets, or inquire about promotion, please contact us at

Crisis support

For immediate help in a crisis, please contact one of the following services:

Suicide Call Back Service (24-hour counselling service for suicide prevention and mental health) - 1300 659 467

Lifeline Australia (24-hour crisis support line) - 13 11 14

Beyond Blue (free, immediate short-term counselling) - 1300 224 636

Open Arms (free and confidential 24/7 national counselling service for Australian veterans and their families) - 1800 011 046

Defence All-hours Support Line - 1800 628 036

Triple Zero - 000