Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison has announced the creation of an independent body to investigate suicides among defence force personnel and veterans.

The new National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention will lead an independent and permanent office tasked with investigating suicides and related issues and look at ways for suicide prevention.

Morrison said: “Those veterans and all serving men and women protect our community and our freedoms. It is our duty to do the same for them.

“I believe what we have developed addresses the needs of those veterans, their families and our serving men and women. We will be permanently vigilant about their welfare.”

The national commissioner will be an independent and permanent public accountability body and will compel the production of evidence and summon witnesses.

Additionally, the commissioner will work with each state and territory coronial office and provide an ongoing investigative function of individual cases of suicide to make recommendations to the government.

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Initially, the Australian Government will invest $40m to support the commissioner’s work and establish an immediate, independent review of historical veteran suicide cases. An interim report will be delivered within one year.

Work will be technically supported by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, along with coronial and legal experts.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said that the Commissioner will also deliver an Annual Veteran and Defence Suicide Death Report to the parliament.

Chester added: “This will be a transparent report directly to the parliament on an annual basis on suicides within the defence and veteran community, including an update on the implementation and evaluation of measures to reduce suicide risk factors.”