Defence and Veteran Legal Services Newsletter—Issue 17 February 2024

The power of sunlight and public scrutiny

“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

–Louis Brandeis

As the Royal Commission prepares to start its final public hearings next week, the above quote about transparency remains both true and timeless.

The enquiry has held public hearings across Australia since late 2021. Next month’s final hearings – in Sydney – will put a spotlight on very senior figures including ministers, military chiefs and top departmental officials.

Put simply, these hearings provide a rare opportunity for Commissioners to put hard questions to decision-makers in positions of power. That public scrutiny is a crucial part of the enquiry’s efforts to highlight problems, understand their causes, and to find lasting solutions.

We hope the final public hearings, and the delivery of the Royal Commission’s final report in September, will lead to positive changes for past, present and future members of the ADF.

We attend all hearings of the Royal Commission and, at those hearing venues, we chat to veterans about the free legal support we provide.

If you’re at the Sydney hearings, feel free to pop over and say g’day to our staff.

Wherever you are in Australia, you can call us on 1800 33 1800 for free legal support about a wide range of issues - including veteran entitlements and compensation.


Jasmine Stanton 

A quick tip about keeping records wherever possible

If you or a loved one are in the ADF, here’s a tip about keeping a record of injuries.

Veteran benefits compensate people for the ongoing impairment arising from injuries sustained as a result of their service. However, many serving members don’t mention injuries at the time and ‘soldier on’ without reporting the injury.

Unfortunately, it can be harder to get your veteran entitlements in later years if injuries have not been noted on your service medical file.

We suggest you record all your service-caused injuries before you discharge, even if that means raising longstanding injuries that you did not previously report.

Role Call: Kate Hehir

Kate is the senior solicitor in our team that helps veterans with issues regarding their entitlements.

Kate, what brought you to this role with DAVLS?

I had heard about the fantastic impact the staff at DAVLS were having working with the veteran community. I was thrilled when I learned the team was providing advice to veterans about their entitlements, an area that I was practising in. It is a great privilege to work in a team which is so focused on providing a holistic, trauma-informed service to veterans across Australia.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

I love spending time with my family and friends – at the beach, playgrounds or on bushwalks. When I get some time to myself, I love swimming, running or reading a book.

What do you like about serving and ex-serving ADF people?

I admire the courage and resilience of our clients. Helping servicewomen and servicemen navigate the complex bureaucracy of accessing their entitlements is one small way I can thank them for their service to Australia.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

It is incredibly rewarding to contribute to work that has a meaningful impact on the lives of our clients. That work can range from referring a client to a service that provides ongoing support, right through to assisting a client to obtain compensation for their injuries.

What did you do before working as a lawyer with DAVLS?

Prior to joining DAVLS I worked across a number of teams at Legal Aid NSW. Most recently, I was with its Veterans’ Advocacy Service. I also have experience in human rights law and in legal matters where people challenge the administrative decisions of government agencies. My work has involved several Royal Commissions, including working at the Your Story Disability Legal Support service that helped people participate in the Disability Royal Commission.

Lest we forget

A collage of images from a ceremony commemorating the bombing of Darwin.

We were recently in Darwin again to assist NT veterans and ADF members.

We also paid our respects at events commemorating the anniversary of the bombing of Darwin.

The 1942 attacks killed more than 250 people. We honour their memory and pay our respects to those who served.

We also recognise the vital contributions, and sacrifices, of civilians who bravely responded to these attacks.

Trusted information, free legal advice – and always independent

High numbers of veterans continue to contact us for free legal support. They are often dealing with problems regarding veteran entitlements.

If you’re seeking reliable information or legal advice, we are here to help.

Our service is completely free, totally confidential, and we are independent of all agencies including Defence, DVA and the ADF.

Our support can include providing trusted information, general legal advice, preliminary legal assistance and guided referrals.

For more information, or to chat about your options, call us on 1800 33 1800.

Client feedback

Photo of a man watching a sunrise. Text says "Thank you for all your hard work and effort... the work you've done for veterans is exemplary".

Free support with private sessions

A graphic showing two people talking. The text says 'Royal Commission private sessions: free legal support. Free call 1800 33 1800 DEFENCE & VETERANS LEGAL SERVICE Free, Independent, Confidential.’

Have you already booked a private session meeting with the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide?

If so, we can provide free legal support and advice to assist you with that upcoming meeting.

Please note, however, that the deadline for booking a private session has now passed.

Private sessions will continue to be conducted in the months ahead. They allow a person to have a confidential, face-to-face discussion with a Royal Commissioner or an Assistant Commissioner These conversations give people the opportunity to tell their stories in a supportive environment that recognises the traumatic impact of the issues being discussed.

Future hearings and dates for your diary

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

Key dates to be aware of

  • 4 March 2024 - Royal Commission Sydney public hearings begin
  • 9 September 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 in your community

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

We 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 us at

At your event, we can answer your questions in a friendly and relaxed environment.

Depending on your event, we can also include opportunities for confidential, one-on-one discussions. Enter your description

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.

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.

Serving members

We travel widely to inform Defence Force members and their families about the support we provide to those who are currently serving.

Defence families

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 with legal issues.

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.

Crisis support

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

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