Homelessness. Not my first rodeo but it has been a while.
I moved into the cabin, a converted bee aviary in early 2018. It has been home for 4.5-years.
On the 30th of October 2022 I advised my landlady that I was involved in the Royal Commission into Defence & Veteran Suicides.
A week later I was told to leave.
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.
Joy. Homeless again…
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.
Thank you for your service. Also, thank you Joel…
9th September 2022
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear FOI Coordinator,
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.
For your review and consideration
9th September 2022
If you need help…
Thank you for your interest. More Mefloquine Dispatches can be found here.
13th Sep 2022: Permission for administrative release of documents
12th Sep 2022: Defence FOI Acknowledgement
It isn’t my bag, Commissioner… Yet here we are.
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.
Good article here and a reminder that General Campbell actually commanded JTF633. Officers escape legal responsibility, but what about their moral accountability? I’m trying not to sound snarky, but I’ll just assume he forgave himself while also giving himself legal immunity. Also, he just had his CDF role extended by 2-years.
That was last Friday. On the second week the matter of confidentiality and protected information was raised in the morning then quietly dropped. It was an important session.
Here is the 27th of June 2022 AM Hearing List (note the 3.15pm session):
This was the official version…
I immediately queried the change and received this response.
To sum up. I welcome the words of Commissioner Kaldas but they are just words. Without the same assurances from the Commonwealth, they are at best misleading, at worst plain wrong.
I’m all in but if you have given evidence or are considering giving evidence which might include sensitive information, I would seek some legal advice prior to submission. Just to be on the safe side.
On that note, be safe.
My daily reminder that as of 1st July 2022 it is the 360th day of the Royal Commission and we still haven’t discussed Mefloquine or Tafenoquine..
Lieutenant General John Caligari.
I watched his evidence to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide today. Credit where credit is due. The work he has done putting together The Oasis is very impressive.
Except it is pure veteran washing.
Not one question about Mefloquine or Tafenoquine though. A drug known to cause suicide.
Bit odd when you consider Submission 65 into use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force Senate Enquire of 2018. Excerpt via screenshot:
Two hours of testimony and not one question about this? An oversight maybe?
Anyway, you can read the entire report here: 180716_Submission_1RAR_Sub65
Just a reminder. Today is the 350th day of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide and we still haven’t started talking about mefloquine or tafenoquine.
Upon reflection I took this post down. I was very triggered at the time.
To the Lost.
It all started with Erin Molan.
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, nor General Jim Molan.
Yet, every time I saw either of them, I would flip out. Amnesia is funny.
Decades after leaving the Army I’m researching my service history and I come across this document.
No wonder Erin would trigger me. Turns out her father did my Service Review back in 2002 and I completely forgot about it. I could imagine him angrily coming out of his office at HQ 1 Division and forcefully telling his Legal officer to ‘get rid of this uppity Digger’ or words to that effect.
So, in March 2002, I get two letters. One from General Molan, the other from a legal Lieutenant Colonel. The legal letter details my mental health better than I could. I simply wasn’t making sense. Items that should have been in my personnel record were missing. Important information including a forgotten operation and mefloquine exposure not included. No wonder I sounded crazy.
Imagine if General Molan had of properly looked at my case. In his role as 1st Division & Deployable Joint Force HQ he would have been aware of the complications arising from the widespread use of Tafenoquine and Mefloquine during the Bougainville and East Timor deployments. Service people were going crazy everywhere. No one made the connection because it got lost in the operational tempo hype.
In fact, no one listened to me in 1998 and by 2002 I was causing problems from 1 Division to the Judge Advocate they just wanted rid of me. My case would have been one of the first of the many hundreds, perhaps thousands that would follow? It would take more than a decade and a half just to the Tafenoquine trials reviewed.
All too late to make a difference.
Because of Generals like Jim Molan.
16.01.2023: Senator for NSW, Major General Andrew James Molan (ret) died after a long battle from prostate cancer.
No tears from me.
When I put in my first FOI in early 2019 the response was to refuse my request and to shit-post me.
By November 2019, I have been in a constant battle with Defence Archives for months seeking information concerning Operation BARITONE. All via the Freedom of Information (FOI) mechanisms.
I was given a hard NO on the 21st of November 2019. See appended:
Then a week later Defence Archives confirmed the news stating that files had been recovered. Some had been destroyed. The files still existing would not be released. A harder NO.
I proved the mefloquine exposure via Red Cross records which were 20-years old. AHQ destroyed the documents relating to the exposure.
What is worse. When I proved it all, they still decided to shut me down. Because they don’t give a shit about Diggers.
Make of that what you will…
If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.