Grieving mother’s battle for veteran son gains ground

An online petition calling for a royal commission into suicide rates in the military run by a grieving Adelaide mother has exceeded 110,000 signatures.

Julie-Ann Finney lost her son David in February after the young father had battled Post Traumatic Stress for a decade.

Ms Finney, of Blair Athol, has also been invited to make a special submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into compensation and rehabilitation for veterans.

She is determined for her son not to be lost in vain and will do all she can to see a full investigation into the devastating consequences of PTS in the military.

Reports show that on average a veteran loses their life to suicide each week, but experts say the actual number is far higher.

"I cannot stand by and watch the carnage," Ms Finney said.

"I will not stop until we have positive strategies and good outcomes in place for our veterans.

"I believe this can only come about with a Royal Commission into the failings of the ADF and the DVA resulting in an alarming number of veteran suicides."

Ms Finney was in Melbourne last week to attend another inquiry into the death by suicide of Jesse Bird, whose family also claim he was badly let down by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

An official inquiry in 2017 found there were significant failures by Veterans' Affairs that increased Mr Bird's risk factors and that urgent changes are needed to protect other vulnerable veterans.

Ms Finney said there had been little progress since.

The recent death of Ben Carr in Queensland affected her greatly.

The 34-year-old former army veteran who saw combat in Afghanistan died on Anzac Day.

"For a short moment I thought of giving up," she said.

"That is, until once again, it occurred to me that if I don't fight, then at least once a week there will be another beautiful man or woman down, another family broken and another mother experiencing overwhelming grief.

"I cannot live with that and nor should any Australian."

 

Dave Finney during his time with the Navy.
Dave Finney during his time with the Navy.

 

Ms Finney has been invited to present a submission on David's history with the military to the Productivity Commission, which is looking at compensation and rehabilitation for veterans.

The commission closed hearings in March but will take her evidence in a special public hearing.

Since her story appeared exclusively in The Advertiser on Anzac Day Julie-Ann has spoken with several federal and state politicians and policy makers.

Her petition hosted on the change.org network is seeking to attain 150,000 signatures.

"This petition is about the systemic failures of both the ADF and DVA, who had numerous opportunities to save my son and they failed," she said.

"The Australian Government gave DVA a bucket of money to help in this area but it doesn't seem to be working.

"This is a national tragedy and something needs to be done about it."

 

Dave Finney with Chad Gillingham, the Honolulu man he saved from drowning in 2016.
Dave Finney with Chad Gillingham, the Honolulu man he saved from drowning in 2016.

 

This Sunday, for Mother's Day, Julie-Ann will run in the Mother's Day Classic fun run in Adelaide to support a friend with cancer, with the heaviest of hearts.

"I will be one child short," she said.

"It is not a day that I want to celebrate this year, my daughter is broken and so is my heart.

"My grief is overwhelming, but I will continue to protect my son's memory and his legacy until we have appropriate reforms and outcomes for our veterans.

"I will not stop until we have a Royal Commission."

 

IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE MENTAL HEALTH OF YOURSELF OR A LOVED ONE, SEEK SUPPORT AND INFORMATION BY CALLING:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyondblue: 1300 224 636

MensLine: 1300 789 978

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service: 1800 011 046

VVCS or Veterans Line After-Hours Crisis Counselling: 1800 011 046 (while overseas: +61 8 8241 4546)

Defence All Hours Support Line: 1800 628 036

Defence Family Helpline: 1800 624 608

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