LGBTQIA+ defence veterans urged to contact Royal Commission

Yvonne Sillett, lesbian Australian Defence Veteran, was driven out of army
Images: Supplied, Royal Commission

For ADF veteran Yvonne Sillett, sharing her story of the mistreatment she experienced during her service due to her sexuality was a “cathartic” and “overwhelmingly positive” experience.

The Royal Commission Into Defence and Veteran Suicide was set up in July 2021.

Last year, the lesbian veteran told the Royal Commission serving in the Australian Defence Force was her lifelong dream.

But Yvonne was surveilled and interrogated by superiors in a prejudiced “witch hunt”. Ultimately, she was driven out of her job because of her sexuality.

“Because I was gay, I was a national threat,” Yvonne recalled.

The veteran is now urging other LGBTQIA+ Australians who’ve served in the military to share their own stories with the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission’s 11th public hearing wrapped up in Melbourne earlier this month. The next is in Sydney from November 20, 2023.

But an October 13, 2023 deadline for veterans to make submissions to the Royal Commission is now just days away.

Yvonne said her participation in the inquiry was “a cathartic experience” for her.

“It enabled me to share my views about issues that had caused me considerable distress,” she said.

“It proved to be an overwhelmingly positive experience.”

Why and how to make a submission to the Royal Commission

Joel Wilson, who is a trans man, also shared his own “very poor” experience during his service.

“LGBTQIA+ Australians have a proud history of serving in the Defence Force, but the Defence Force hasn’t always looked after us,” he said.

“Making a submission was another step toward healing. [The Royal Commission] has the capacity to improve the treatment of past, present and future members of the ADF.”

More information about submissions is available at the Royal Commission’s website here.

Veterans Joel Wilson and Yvonne Sillett are working with the Defence and Veterans Legal Service. The service is offering free, confidential and independent legal support to veterans wanting to make a submission.

Visit the Defence and Veterans Legal Service’s website or call 1800 33 1800 to find out more.

‘Unquestionably a national crisis’

Speaking at the National Press Club this month, Royal Commission Chair Nick Kaldas said the rates of suicide and suicidality among serving and ex-serving ADF members are “unacceptably high”.

“Successive Governments, the ADF, and the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs have failed to adequately protect the mental health and wellbeing of those who serve our country,” Kaldas told the National Press Club.

“The numbers are heartbreaking. There were at least 1,600 deaths by suicide between 1997 and 2020 of veterans who served on or after 1 January 1985.

“That’s more than 20-times the number killed in active duty over roughly the same period. It is unquestionably a national crisis.”

The Royal Commission Into Defence and Veteran Suicide will next sit in Sydney from November 20, 2023.

The Commissioner will deliver his final report by June 17, 2024.

If you need support, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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