Defence and Veteran Legal Services Newsletter—Issue 18 March 2024

Final public hearings can put the blowtorch to the belly

It’s regarded as a great Aussie expression and was allegedly coined by NSW premier Neville Wran.

Applying the blowtorch to the belly is a phrase that highlights the application of pressure and, at times, rigorous public scrutiny.

In Sydney this month, the metaphorical blowtorch has been on display at times at the final public hearings of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

That national inquiry has been holding public hearings around Australia since late 2021. The Sydney hearings are significant because they involve very senior figures including Cabinet ministers, military chiefs and top departmental officials. The hearings provide a final opportunity for those figures to be publicly questioned by the Royal Commission about the conduct of their agencies.

This sweeping Royal Commission - and the blowtorch public hearings that can sometimes accompany it - will likely never be repeated in our lifetimes. They provide a rare chance to right past wrongs and forge a stronger future for those who serve our nation and protect its people.

In addition to the public hearings, almost 6,000 people made a submission to the Royal Commission. Our service helped about a quarter of those individuals to prepare their submissions, and we continue to provide free and independent legal support to current and former ADF members.

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

Director of the Defence and Veterans Legal Service

Role Call: our Queensland lawyer Kathryn Starkey

Three photos of Kathryn. In the first two she wears an ADF uniform. In the third she is in office attire.

Kathryn is one of our many staff members who either served in the ADF or come from a Defence family.

Like Kathryn, everyone at our service is committed to delivering free legal support that is tailored to the needs of veterans and ADF members.

Kathryn, what brought you to this role with DAVLS?

My own experiences – as an officer in the Australian Army and the daughter of a Vietnam veteran - were what brought me to this role.

I was pleased to see the commencement of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, and knew I had unique experiences that I could utilise to help others participate in the inquiry.

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

They both have fantastic and amazing stories of adventure, courage and overcoming hardship. Despite some of the horrendous experiences these people have had due to their service, they remain proud to have provided that service - and that is inspiring.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

What I have most enjoyed about this role is being able to provide a veteran, or a current serving ADF member, with the environment in which they can safely and comfortably speak openly about their experiences and struggles.

It is rewarding to see and hear how much relief they feel when able to speak freely about their lived experiences. I have also very much enjoyed meeting Vietnam veterans and listening to their experiences and being able to share my own with them.

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

Before starting with DAVLS, I practised as a criminal defence lawyer within the private sector. Before becoming a lawyer, I worked as a perioperative registered nurse for eight years.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

I enjoy spending time with my two young sons and fiancé in our beautiful home in the bush.

Support from solicitors – and from Starsky

A photo of two people with a white Labrador dog.
Starsky the labrador joined us for a while at the Royal Commission hearings in Sydney.

We attend every hearing of the inquiry – providing free, independent and confidential legal support to current and former ADF personnel as well as their families.

Our staff - including Yolanda and Taras – were at the Sydney hearings this month. And so too was Starsky! He was trained by Integra Service Dogs Australia, an organisation that provides these animals to veterans and first responders.

Smiling woman, Liz, at an information stall.

Our staff attend ADF transition events across Australia to provide free legal support to current and former ADF members.

A photo of John and Edmund at an information stall.

Our team members, including John and Edmund (above) and Liz (left), have recently attended transition events in Townville and Melbourne.

A photo of two smiling women at an information stall.

If you would like DAVLS to deliver a presentation or attend an event in your community, contact us at

Royal Commission results in new legislation

The Commonwealth government is seeking feedback about new draft legislation that will affect many Australian veterans.

It says the proposed new laws will “simplify and harmonise” systems that oversee veterans’ entitlements, compensation and rehabilitation.

The proposed changes respond to criticisms and recommendations from the Royal Commission that is examining the treatment of those who have served.

To find out more about the draft legislation and how you can provide feedback about it, visit

These proposed changes highlight the positive impact of the Royal Commission and the submissions it received from Australian veterans, their families, and veterans’ organisations.

We proudly supported many veterans who made submissions to the Royal Commission about issues relating to entitlements, compensation and rehabilitation.

Blood, sweat and tears

Marble spheres on grass, and a wreath in front of a marble sphere

Memorials come in all shapes and sizes.

At the Australian War Memorial, we recently laid a wreath at a new sculpture that recognises the suffering caused by war and military service.

It’s called “For Every Drop Shed in Anguish” and its rounded forms represent blood, sweat and tears.

The War Memorial commissioned the artwork in consultation with veterans and their families who have experienced, or witnessed, service-related trauma.

Dates for your diary

A key date to be aware of

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.

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

Triple Zero 000