Chief of Navy message following ABC 7.30 report on Operation RESOLUTE

Published on Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett (author)

Topic(s): Chief of Navy, Operation RESOLUTE

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Last night ABC 7.30 aired a program looking at Defence activity in support of Operation RESOLUTE. The thrust of the program was that Navy personnel are suffering as a result of our border protection responsibilities, that Navy was not providing adequate mental health support to personnel involved in the operation, and that incidents and tragedies were being covered up.

Navy people are asked to do challenging and important jobs every single day - in scenarios ranging from humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, operations in the Middle East and elsewhere, border protection duties and in our every day roles ashore and afloat. These tasks impact each of us in different ways - that is to be expected and is human nature rather than a sign of weakness. Some days being in the Navy is really tough. As a Defence Force we have not always realised and not always acknowledged the impact of military service on our people.

Last night’s ABC program cast doubt on Navy’s understanding of the challenges and our commitment to support our people. Nothing could be further from the truth and we are constantly looking for ways to improve the level of support to Navy personnel in all scenarios. 

Our procedures are regularly revised to incorporate lessons that we have learned - the acquisition of equipment to enable the recovery of bodies from the water is a good example as is the development of safer methods and procedures for disposing of derelict vessels.

In light of the unique operational stressors associated with border protection operations a tailored Operation RESOLUTE Mental Health Program was developed and a trial of this program, for selected RESOLUTE crews, commenced in June 2011. In August last year the program was fully implemented and became mandatory for all Operation RESOLUTE personnel.

In October this year I challenged you all to “look out for each other and yourself” and reinforced the need for strong social connections with family, friends, colleagues and the wider community.

To fight and win at sea, requires each of us to be the best we can - in terms of our individual and collective skill, our physical health and, importantly, our mental health.

That is why we now screen members who have deployed on operations for mental health concerns.

That is why we have mandated annual awareness training to eliminate the stigma with mental health issues. 

That is why we provide avenues to assist those of us who need support. Navy people who are diagnosed with medical conditions that affect their service are provided with care and employed for extended periods under arrangements which focus on their rehabilitation.

Most importantly that is why I ask every one of you to be vigilant, look after your shipmates and ask the question, “R U OK?”

I can assure you that where there was a loss of life at sea associated with our operations all these matters were reviewed - and a number were subject to extensive coronial inquiries.

Our people's achievements in saving lives and performing their duties in difficult circumstances are extraordinary and often heroic - but this work can take its toll.

If you are suffering as a result of your service, or if you believe someone is suffering, then I would urge you to use all the resources listed below.

Acknowledging the impact of these matters is the first step towards resolution.

For help please call:

All Hours Support Line | 1800 628 036 | www.defence.gov.au/health/i-all-hours.htm
A confidential telephone service to help ADF members and their families Defence or civilian mental health services, including psychology, medical, social work, and chaplain services.

Fighting Fit | www.defence.gov.au/health/healthportal
This Defence-run health and wellbeing portal directs members and their families to mental health help services, support and information.

Veterans and Veterans' Families Counselling Service | 1800 011 046 | www.vvcs.gov.au
VVCS provides free and confidential, nation-wide counselling and support for war and service-related mental health conditions, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance and anger.

Defence Family Helpline | 1800 624 608 | www.defence.gov.au/dco
The Defence Family Helpline is run by Defence Community Organisation, the lead agency in Defence providing support and resources for the families of military personnel. The Helpline is staffed by human service professionals including social workers and psychologists who can provide support, help or advice anytime, day or night.