Navy diver John Armfield testifies at Royal Fee into veteran suicide

A navy clearance diver who served Australia in Afghanistan was left alone sobbing in his automobile after selecting up a secret Defence report into his brother’s suicide, as allegations of great failures within the ADF’s psychological well being tradition proceed to mount.

Ex-diver John Armfield, testifying earlier than the Royal Fee Into Defence and Veteran Suicide on Wednesday, stated he discovered about an inside inquiry into the 2011 demise of his youthful brother, RAAF Main Aircraftman Andrew Armfield, ten years after the traumatic occasion.

However when the report was made accessible to him, he informed the fee how he drove to the publish workplace to select it up with none help in place to assist him course of the findings, which he stated revealed critical failures in his brother’s care.

“I used to be sitting in my automobile, damaged,” he stated, with tears filling his eyes.

“I’d loyally served my nation and that is how they’d given me the report on my little brother’s demise.”

“I sat there and sobbed. I couldn’t take it dwelling to my household.”

Mr Armfield informed the Fee the navy had apologised to him for the “failings” that will have led to Andrew’s tragic demise.

“There have been so many failings admitted to me,” Mr Armfield stated.

The contents of the report weren’t publicly aired in the course of the testimony, however Mr Armfield stated extreme understaffing in psychological well being help was one issue that will have contributed to his brother’s passing.

He stated he was not knowledgeable on the time concerning the report’s existence or its end result.

Mr Armfield stated he had “struggled” to pay money for the report, which he discovered about by the Royal Fee, and stated he felt “indignant” concerning the bureaucratic obstacles he had confronted to get to the reality about what occurred to his brother.

The Fee additionally heard how Mr Armfield allegedly confronted a hostile tradition when he flagged considerations about his brother’s care to his superiors.

In a single occasion, the diver, who wore a jacket with medals on his chest and sat earlier than a photograph of Andrew as a younger boy, found recordsdata on his brother’s passing on an inside Defence storage system.

“All this, was sitting on Goal (the storage system) and accessible to me,” he stated.

“I used to be very torn and emotional that this was there.”

When he raised considerations about potential privateness breaches to his commanding officers, he says he was threatened with potential felony expenses for illegally accessing the system.

Mr Armfield was cleared of any wrongdoing, however solely after 9 months of what he referred to as stress and hardship going through the opportunity of a felony continuing, telling his spouse at one level that if he was arrested, he wished her to movie it and ship it to the media.

The diver and recruiter, who spent 20 years within the navy earlier than leaving in 2023, additionally says Defence tried to dodge accountability for its alleged failure to correctly look after his brother.

When he wrote a letter of criticism to the navy about its dealing with of his brother’s care, he obtained a letter referring him away from Defence and again to the Royal Fee.

“I admire it is a very troubling matter for you, and word that your brother’s case is being thought-about by the RCDVS,” the letter states.

“Because the RCVDS would, at current, be the suitable discussion board to refer this side of your criticism to, I’m unable to help additional with this side presently.

“Defence has been legally compelled to offer info, together with the Inquiry report you consult with, to the Royal Fee.

“I encourage you to proceed to avail your self of the help mechanisms that you must take care of this difficult scenario.”

Mr Armfield blasted what he referred to as a “two-tiered tradition” within the navy, with one algorithm for enlisted members and one other for the officer class.

“It’s important to be accountable in your actions,” he stated.

“I’ve fought the system for two-and-a-half years.

“That’s the challenge, there isn’t any accountability.”

Mr Armfield stated Commonwealth attorneys had redacted the names of the general public officers he had contacted throughout his struggles with Defence, although it’s understood he has met with a number of the highest serving members of the federal authorities and Liberal Opposition.

Nick Kaldas, the chair of the Fee, thanked Mr Armfield and stated his assertion and story would assist the Fee “significantly.”

In a speech to the Nationwide Press Membership in September final yr, Mr Kaldas stated the investigation into the suicide disaster roiling Australia’s navy neighborhood has been “stymied and stonewalled” by defence and authorities paperwork.

“Regardless of the federal government establishing a royal fee and the legislature wanting sure points investigated, acquiring essential info from Commonwealth our bodies in a well timed method has been tough,” he stated.

“Our success would require authorities and its businesses, together with the ADF, defence and DVA, to, as soon as and for all, get on-board and act.”

Deaths by suicide have taken the lives of 1600 servicemen and ladies between 1997 and 2020 or 20 occasions the variety of service personnel killed on lively responsibility.

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