‘ADF killed my son’: Mum ramps up vet suicide campaign

A grieving Adelaide mother's determined campaign for a Royal Commission into military

veteran deaths by suicide will intensify this Remembrance Day, November 11.

Julie-Ann Finney - the mother of former marine technician David Stafford Finney who took his life this year after developing post-traumatic stress (PTS) - has organised "Vets We Forget" gatherings in nine cities across the country.

They add a poignant dimension to Remembrance Day 2019.

"We will be gathering to support all our broken veterans and to remember those that lost their battle," Ms Finney told The Advertiser.

"We are calling on all Australians to wear a yellow armband on Remembrance Day to remember the more than 500 veterans who have officially died by suicide this century in what is a national tragedy."

Ms Finney, of Blair Athol, who first broke her silence in an exclusive Advertiser story on Anzac Day, said she was comfortable producing banners declaring the "ADF (Australian Defence Force) kills our bravest".

"It's how I feel and it's the truth," she said.

"The ADF killed my son.

 

Julie-Ann Finney with a picture of her son David, who lost his battle with PTS after serving in the Navy. Picture: AAP Image/Brenton Edwards
Julie-Ann Finney with a picture of her son David, who lost his battle with PTS after serving in the Navy. Picture: AAP Image/Brenton Edwards

"David desperately wanted to stay alive but he was failed by a broken system that is seeing more than one veteran a week take their own life."

Premier Steven Marshall - with state responsibility for Veterans' Affairs - echoed her sentiments.

"Veterans' suicide is a national tragedy and a royal commission certainly deserves consideration," he said.

It was a major reason his government recently appointed Nathan Bolton - an army veteran who served in Afghanistan and suffered PTS - to the Premier's Council on suicide prevention.

Ms Finney met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday and federal Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester on Thursday to further her campaign for a Royal Commission.

"Nothing else will placate me and nothing will stop me until it happens," she said.

"They want me to go away and grieve in silence but they have another thing coming."

Ms Finney will attend the Vets We Forget gathering in Canberra, where her son was based for some of his 20-year military career that ended on February 1 this year after a crippling battle with post-traumatic stress.

She has collected more than 250,000 signatures on a petition calling for a Royal Commission that will be presented to federal parliament by Senator Jacqui Lambie - herself an army veteran.

"This petition is about the systemic failures of the Australian Defence Force and Department of Veterans' Affairs, who had numerous opportunities to save my son - and they failed," she said.

The "peaceful and respectful" Adelaide gathering will be held on the corner of King William Rd and North Tce.

It starts at 11.02am next Monday, just after the traditional minute's silence to honour those lost in war.

More than 1000 people, including current and former veterans and family members, are expected to attend the event that is likely to affect traffic flow in the area for a short time.

Traffic police will be in attendance

Other "Vets We Forget" gatherings will be conducted in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Gold Coast, Townsville and Cairns.

For support or information on mental health issues:

■ Lifeline: 13 11 14

■ beyondblue: 1300 224 636

■ MensLine: 1300 789 978

■ Veterans and Veterans' Families Counselling Service: 1800 011 046

■ Veterans' After-Hours Crisis Counselling: 1800 011 046

■ Defence All Hours Support Line: 1800 628 036

■ Defence Family Helpline: 1800 624 608