A message from our Director
The clock is ticking.
People now have fewer than 50 days to make a submission to the Defence suicide Royal Commission.
As that deadline approaches, please help us spread the message about the free support we provide to assist people with the preparation of their submissions.
It is critical for people to contact us now if they want to take advantage of our free assistance. Submissions (which must be lodged with the inquiry by October 13) can often take some time to prepare.
Remember: there’s never been a better time to speak up. Tough new confidentiality laws are now in place to protect the privacy of people who make a submission to this Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.
I implore people to seize the day and make a submission to this unprecedented inquiry. It enables them to tell their stories about how they have been treated and how they respond to the challenges arising from military service. Those stories – that will underpin the Royal Commission recommendations – have immense power to change things for the better.
If you want to share your story with this inquiry, we can support you to do that. Call us on 1800 33 1800.
Role call: DAVLS Canberra lawyer Isabelle Whyte
What brought you to this role with DAVLS?
My grandfather is a Vietnam veteran who served in the RAAF. I have always had a lot of respect and appreciation for him, and his service made me want to give back to the defence and veteran community. So, I jumped at the opportunity to work with the Defence and Veterans Legal Service. I was also interested in the mental health aspect of this work and the chance to assist clients with complex needs.
What do you like about serving and ex-serving ADF people?
I like the community and its camaraderie and mutual support. Within that community, people are always up for a chat and always willing to help their mates out.
What do you enjoy about your role?
I am incredibly fortunate to have a job that brings me immense joy and aligns perfectly with things I am passionate about. DAVLS enables me to actively contribute to the wellbeing of our clients and to play a role in their transformative healing journeys. It has been an amazing experience to be part of that and to help clients share their stories with the Royal Commission.
What did you do before working as a lawyer with DAVLS?
I have always enjoyed providing legal assistance to a diverse range of clients. Before joining DAVLS, I worked in civil litigation and human rights law, including mental health law and disability law. This generally involved highly vulnerable clients with very complex needs. I have also worked in property law.
What are your strategies for managing stress?
I manage my stress by having hobbies and a good support network. Having great colleagues, and a healthy workplace environment, means I do not take work stress home. I also have a great bunch of friends and family that I can talk to and laugh with. Wine & cheese helps too!
Outside the wire - outreach across the nation
Across Australia, we continue to support our clients and help them to share their stories with the Royal Commission.
We travel widely to inform people about that free assistance. The round-up below provides some highlights of our outreach work in various locations and it also spotlights some of our free resources.
New South Wales
As shown above and below, in recent weeks we have been focussing on a number of events in regional areas.
In Wagga Wagga, we attended the Riverina Winter Wellbeing Expo. This event had a special focus on supporting members of the defence and veterans communities. However, we may have been upstaged a little by the Australian Army Band from Kapooka (pictured)!
In Newcastle we were pleased to be part of the Hunter Homeless Connect Day. This important event connects people to support services and enabled us to speak with a number of veterans and their families about the free support we provide.
We were warmly welcomed when visiting RSL sub-branches on the NSW Central Coast. We spoke with members about the help we provide to veterans.
And our NSW team member Maureen was flying the flag for DAVLS - and spreading the word - on a recent trip to parts of northwest NSW including Broken Hill.
First Nations resources
The Royal Commission has produced resources to support and encourage First Nations people to share their stories with the inquiry.
These resources can be found here.
We strive to work in partnership with other organisations that support those who have served.
Our WA lawyers Mitch and Jim recently visited the Veterans Transition Centre which is on a 42-acre bushland property at Jarrahdale, south of Perth.
This centre provides short-term respite accommodation for veterans and their families, and helps people with the transition to civilian employment. In addition, it offers counselling and other support services.
Mitch and Jim also attended an Ex-Service Organisation Round Table hosted by the Army’s 13th Brigade. These events foster collaboration and discussions about the issues facing veterans in WA and across Australia.
Our Victorian team has stepped up its assistance for incarcerated veterans who want to make a submission to the Royal Commission.
It is distributing posters and information packs to Victorian prison inmates who have served in the ADF.
It has also been working with veterans groups in regional areas including Geelong and Wodonga (pictured).
The work of our Melbourne staff was praised at a recent Victoria Legal Aid awards event.
They were recognised for the fairness, care, courage and inclusive support they provide to people in Victoria who have served. There was also praise for their teamwork, their outreach services, and their collaborative work with other organisations.
Our Info Line team is based in Queensland and has handled more than 2,000 calls since our service started in late 2021!
That free phone line - call 1800 33 1800 - provides information, referrals and help with Royal Commission submissions.
The Info Line is staffed by a specialist team that is highly experienced in assisting current and former members of the Defence Force, as well as their family members.
On your initial call to this number, we can:
- provide introductory information about engaging with the Royal Commission
- direct you to our free resources
- arrange to email or 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 , the ADF, the Defence Department and all other agencies.
If you don’t feel like talking, you can also find online information at
When leaving the military, people experience big life changes that sometimes require legal support.
Across Australia, we regularly attend ADF transition events that support people with that change.
Some of our ACT and NSW staff recently travelled to Nowra for the Shoalhaven ADF transition day.
We provide free preliminary legal advice about a wide range of common legal problems. Call us on 1800 33 1800 to learn more.
The Royal Commission recently held its Adelaide public hearings. It also conducted private sessions that gave individuals an opportunity to speak face-to-face with a Royal Commissioner.
Our staff members - including Gabrielle, Michael, James, Verity and Jeremy - have been helping South Australians to tell their stories and participate in the Royal Commission.
During the Adelaide hearings, our assistance was highlighted by national media outlets including ABC TV News and SBS World News.
Future hearings and dates for your diary
The Royal Commission has held public hearings in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Townsville, Hobart, Darwin, Wagga Wagga and Adelaide.
Key dates to be aware of:
13 October 2023 – Royal Commission submissions close
20 November - Royal Commission public hearings in Sydney
17 June 2024 - final Royal Commission report due
Many of our resources are available for download from our website. We are also happy to send out printed copies to our stakeholders.
Where possible, we can also send them our promotional materials that help to spread the word about our free services.
To order our free resources (including posters, brochures, wallet cards and factsheets etc) please contact us at DAVLS@legalaid.nsw.gov.au.
DAVLS in your community
Our lawyers work with local ex-service and veteran support organisations across the country, delivering community presentations and attending community events.
Book a presentation
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 DAVLS@legalaid.nsw.gov.au.
At your event, we can answer your questions in a friendly and relaxed environment. This includes questions about engaging with the Royal Commission, what is involved, and how it can benefit you and others.
Depending on your event, we can also include opportunities for confidential, one-on-one discussions.
Royal Commission hearings
You can also find us at Royal Commission hearings.
We attend all the hearings and we have an information stall at the hearing venues. These stalls help us to connect with members of the Defence and veteran community.
This webinar includes information from our staff about the support we provide and some of the options that are available to our clients.
Helping groups that can face additional barriers
We work closely with support organisations across Australia to spread the word about the specialist services we provide. Through this work, we have identified some groups (see below) that may face additional barriers when it comes to engaging with this Royal Commission.
We travel widely to inform Defence Force members and their families about the support we provide to those who are currently serving.
We attend many events and locations involving Defence families. This includes family fun days and sessions at wellbeing centres that support ADF families. At these locations and others, we highlight the important role that family members can play in shaping the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
Sex and gender diverse communities
We have engaged the help of various organisations that represent LGBTQIA+ personnel and veterans, and we provide support to help them tell their stories to the Royal Commission.
First Nations people
Through close consultation with First Nations communities, we have developed a range of resources including posters and brochures for First Nations people. We also liaise with key stakeholders and attend events focussing on Indigenous veterans and ADF members.
Veterans in prisons
We strive to ensure people in prison can access our services wherever they are in Australia. We have created resources for use in prisons. We also provide outreach services in some correctional facilities and deliver our support to inmates via phone or video.
Stories From the Frontline
Our podcast series, Stories from the Frontline, showcases first-person stories from veterans that have a connection to our service.
The episodes are powerful and short - usually about five minutes long.
Listen to them here.
For immediate help in a crisis, please contact one of the following services:
Suicide Call Back Service (a 24-hour counselling service for suicide prevention and mental health) 1300 659 467
Lifeline Australia (a 24-hour crisis support line) 13 11 14
Beyond Blue (free, immediate short-term counselling) 1300 224 636
Open Arms (a 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