It wasn’t much. No hot running water and no immediate toilet or shower facilities (under the main house, quite the walk in the middle of winter I must tell you). As you can see from the above text there were no problems with my landlady in the previous four and a half years. For what it was worth, it was home.
J* might be looking at more rent and thinks a bloke who stood on a wall for a bit might not be a good option (I wasn’t asked). More likely she is worried about her sketchy son who moved in about two years back and his mates getting up to no good. Her son loved stealing my mower fuel or taxing the odd thing out of the barn that took his fancy.
Whatever the reason, the thing that changed her mind was the Royal Commission.
So, my home for four and a half years is gone.
Anyways, my whole family comes over to help me. The five of us spend the best part of three hours cleaning and tidying up (it’s one room). Literally, my cabin is the tidiest part of the property (as the owner and the kids are filthy) and I’ve hardly been there over the past year. When the clean is done I even buy her a VB ‘tallie’ and leave it in the fridge to say no hard feelings.
Later on the same evening I get a text from J* saying there were things she was not happy with and implying she was going to withhold the bond. Minor stuff but I’ve seen her do it to another tenant. I told her to keep her bond. I’m done dealing with evil people.
I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that even 25-years later my service costs me. Everyday. Sometimes in small ways and then you get days like this.
Being ‘triggered’ is part of my “thing”. I’ve only noticed it in recent years but on reflection it has been happening for a quarter-of-a-century. Just had one today. I’ll document to help explain things!
Here it goes…
I see a tweet via Luke Henriques-Gomes. This is the tweet:
Straight away and out loud I say this… “I fucking know Dun & Bradstreet”.
I’m better with memory work in 2022. I’m surprised by the date but only by one year (which for me is pretty good).
So, after the Australian Army sent me insane in March 1997, I struggled on for another 18-months, in the Army. Then I went very publicly insane again in October 1998. The Army decided after a long fight to give me an Administrative Discharge (effectively a Dishonourable Discharge) and fine me $500.
By the time I got this lovely letter from Dun & Bradstreet I was on struggle street.
Before I make the declarations, I’d like for you to consider the following.
I won’t be able to point to a single document or set of events that would assist in this search. I’ll try but I’m likely to fail the direct request you are seeking. That said. I put forward this FOI request because it is important.
So, a quick story before the declarations.
It is the 6th June 2019. I have recently been released from the Cooinda Mental Health Service, my first MH hospitalisation (unfortunately, not my last). I am trying to work out the MyService website. It is almost as awful as the Centrelink services I have become accustomed to as my health deteriorates.
I fckn hate medals. Hate the glorification of the military. Hate ANZAC Day. Anyways, I finally got a gong and Wayne Swan pins it on me, so I think it is all good. Except, it isn’t good. I wear it once and I’m so shitty wearing it I give it away to my second son (who thinks it has some value). Back to 2019…
I’m doing the whole MyService thing on the MyGov site and they ask me do you want to sign up for the Covenant and I’m like, OK… Should be cool right?
I’m going through the process to get a nice letter from the DVA Minister, the Secretary (oh, Liz) and a pin I could wear instead of the gongs. Even though I hate it all I can find a way through. Until…
Some fuckwit at DVA doesn’t understand rank. There is no drop-down for Signalman. Signaller sure. Bombardiers aplenty… Language matters.
I go berko of course. Even put in an official complaint (completely ignored).
Back to official declarations.
This is a request for the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 for access to the following documents:
Any Australian Army documents that detail the last document that included Signalman
Should you have any questions in relation to this request, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I didn’t participate in the early hearing blocks of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. I understood that listening to the stories of other witnesses would be traumatic. I understand I can get triggered. I was being very careful.
Over the past fortnight, I have been following the proceedings with much interest. It’s my old outfit. 3 Brigade (I didn’t connect with the 3rd Combat Brigade rename). After 25-years absence I thought that with time and distance it would be enough to insulate me from further triggers.
I was very wrong.
This would be a wonderful segue into my specific topic of interest. Mefloquine. Just a note. Tafenoquine is a relevant subject too and I thought it would have been discussed in Townsville.
Wrong, on both accounts.
Yet, something else came up watching the Royal Commission. If you were watching it as a veteran or currently serving member it should send chills down your spine. According to the witness testimony this week they apparently interviewed more than a 100 people in Townsville during the fortnight of hearings. Via Transcript Day 5 − Townsville, 24 June 2022. Excerpt:
CHAIR: Good morning, Mr Gray, Mr Free. We want to place a number of matters on the record today before we hear from you hopefully. By way of background, and happy to place this on the record. Counsel and Solicitors Assisting us have requested this brief procedural hearing this morning.
The background is as follows: before our hearing program began, we were concerned to do everything we could to encourage serving and former members of the Defence Force to come forward with any information they considered relevant to our Terms of Reference, and to ensure that there would be appropriate arrangements in place for sensitive information so that they would face no risk of legal liability for sharing information with us. This is a very important issue for the Royal Commission, as you can appreciate, and we want to ensure every protection is given to those who come forward with information. In October last year we asked Solicitors Assisting to send the Commonwealth a proposed written arrangement to achieve this. We were not proposing to elicit any protected information or even sensitive operational information; we simply wanted an unambiguous green light given to serving and former serving members to provide appropriate and textual information for us relating to their accounts about the circumstances of service that led to their experiences of suicidality or witnessing suicidality or witnessing risk factors in service without fear that by doing so, they could in any way get into trouble for revealing Defence‑related information.
As the Townsville leg came to an end Commissioner Kaldas, to his credit tried to reassure Veterans that any evidence you give to the Royal Commission won’t be prosecuted. He brought up the powers of the Royal Commission legislation to protect witnesses and the fact that General Angus Campbell made a public commitment to not prosecute anyone for giving evidence.
The Commonwealth have yet to offer such comfort to Veterans. In fact, their reticence comes in the same week as it was confirmed the Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus would allow the Commonwealth to pursue ATO whistle-blower Richard Boyle.
Just to be clear.
If you have no protected legal rights, you effectively have no rights. Other Veterans have tried to disclose sensitive information including war-crimes and have been subjected to severe legal ramifications. This includes David McBride. I can’t believe I’m backing an Officer, but we live in strange times.
As much as I appreciated the strong words by Commissioner Kaldas, the decision to pursue witnesses legally won’t be a decision for the Royal Commission or of the Australian Defence Force. It will be a Commonwealth matter.
As for the ADF, officers and the assurances of the General Campbell. I don’t believe him. So far, the fallout from the Brereton report into extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan elicited the following actions from the ADF in regards to Operation Slipper.
They forgave the officers and gave then legal immunity.
They dismissed or charged the Diggers. Some of these guys have since taken their own life.
They discussed disbanding units. Still pending.
They were about to remove the combat medals of Veterans. Still pending.
Every time I saw her presenting on the Footy Show it would trigger me. I would blow up. “Turn that shit off, I cannot stand her”, I would scream. I don’t watch Rugby League at home so I would only be triggered at my friend’s place. In the end it became a running joke.
“Turn the TV off, Erin is on”. The boys would laugh.
For the record I have never met Erin. Wish her all the best.
Amnesia is funny.
I came across this letter during my research into my history as crippling bad flashbacks kicked off. Again, not Erin’s fault for my history. Turns out her Dad kicked off those memories. Jim sent this to me as I was coming apart, not for the first time as other records would confirm. I first reported my mental health problems a month after exposure to mefloquine, went psychotic, got misdiagnosed and got released. After many flips, I finally flipped out for real in October 1998. The Australian Army dumped me and wiped their hands.
This was the official response from Jim on my DFM (the modern and poorer version of a court-martial for Diggers. Officers still get a court-martial). For the record. I was still sick.
Luckily, I kept the letters from his angry Legal Officer at the time. Defence Archives did not.
The date mentioned in this letter, the 16th August 1996 is completely wrong. No date was actually written by the RMO because it was all moving so quickly. The soldier in front of me was used as a writing board, and then it was my turn and then the next. 100-odd strong.
That said, thanks to the Surgeon General, ADF for her letter of support.
We look down at the near century old corpse. We all laugh. The beret’d Sergeant tells us to shut the fuck up and concentrate. At the bottom of the pit lays the skeleton of the previous occupant. A cheap burial perhaps? The wood has mostly crumbled into dust. It’s been 99-years and they are getting moved on. The coffin lowers into the six-foot hole with a quiet concentration. Later that day we will lower the corpse of my very good mate. It is both a moment of gravitas and levity.
There are seven of us. Six Other Ranks (ORs) and a Sergeant. The Sergeant and four of the ORs are from the Regiment. Two Signal blue from Townsville. Might have been an even number of beret’d and Signal blue? We all know each other or are known to each other. A good set of blokes. It is an official burial with a catafalque party in Perth, WA.
We finish the practice session.
On the return to Campbell Barracks we read the paper. In the pages are the latest updates on the third murder. A serial killer was stalking the streets of Perth. Three girls. All similar. Young. Good sorts. The first two in 1996 then a big gap until last month. No idea who was murdering them.
One of the Boys tells us that the WA ‘coppers’ have visited the Barracks recently. They haven’t ruled out it might have been a soldier who was knocking off the women. Just a friendly interview at this stage just to rule the Regiment out of it.
Opinions rattle and roll around the bus. It’s good banter and it takes our mind off things.
I rattle off a quick-fire set of statistics. I don’t yet know it but my brain has changed in the last month and I am now recalling information differently than before the MLD [Mefloquine Loading Dose]. At the end I opinion that it was highly unlikely for a Regiment guy to be the killer because most US serial killers historically kill after they leave the services. Not always, but mostly. Think Jeffrey Dahmer. I read a lot of criminal investigation books in those days.
Everyone is impressed with our wisdom until the Sergeant comments out of the side of his mouth.
“Fuck off you idiots”.
We all laugh. Another moment of levity before the tension of the day.