Julie-Ann Finney
Julie-Ann Finney

RSL feud over president’s attack on grieving mum

EXCLUSIVE

Several independent RSL state branches have distanced themselves from the club's National President, after he accused a grieving mother who lost her son to suicide of trying to "assuage her guilt".

Julie-Ann Finney, who lost her son - navy veteran David - to suicide, has been pushing for a royal commission for two years, backed by The Daily Telegraph's Save Our Heroes campaign.

In emails obtained by The Telegraph, former Major General and RSL National President Greg Melick attacked the proposed commission a day after it was voted in favour in parliament last week.

David Finney, a navy engineer who lost his battle with PTSD. Picture: Mike Burton
David Finney, a navy engineer who lost his battle with PTSD. Picture: Mike Burton

"All you have done is help the Opposition and crossbenchers play Russian roulette with veterans suicide. You are one of the ones responsible for prolonging the risk to veterans," Mr Melick wrote.

"Julie (Anne) Finney has done immense damage to the cause to assuage her guilt over her failed relationship with her son and many families who did not want massive public exposure will now suffer significant trauma.

"I have not seen one mental health professional push for a RC (royal commission) and many were very happy with a (national) commission (er) which they considered the more effective option."

The mother of Dave Finney, Julie-Ann Finney. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
The mother of Dave Finney, Julie-Ann Finney. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

When asked by The Daily Telegraph, Mr Melick said his remarks were made in a private communication to an individual and were not intended for public or further distribution.

Ms Finney said: "I have not met this president, yet he takes his advice from a Facebook campaign that my relationship with my son failed.

"I will not benefit from a royal commission in any way, my son is dead. The benefit will be to living veterans.

"I adored my son throughout is life and the only failure raising this incredible man was that I failed to stop him completing suicide."

RSL NSW President Ray James said Mr Melick's views weren't "shared by him" and instead was committed to working with the government to support a royal commission that will improve the wellbeing of veterans.

His comments were echoed by RSL Queensland President Tony Ferris who condemned Mr Melick's remarks.

"We want to be very clear that RSL Queensland and our members do not support these highly offensive and insensitive comments as reported in the media, directed to a grieving mother," he said.

"She has been campaigning tirelessly since losing her veteran son to suicide and trying to bring a positive way forward for veterans."

Julie-Ann Finney as reached more than 400,000 signatures on change.org calling for a royal commission into veteran suicides
Julie-Ann Finney as reached more than 400,000 signatures on change.org calling for a royal commission into veteran suicides

The comments prompted Senator Jacqui Lambie to organise a fundraiser to help support Ms Finney who has been funding most of her travels across Australia for the past two years in a bid to raise awareness for a royal commission.

"She's not getting paid to fight this fight. She's not getting rich. Wealthy men on the public purse are getting paid a salary to undermine her and she's fighting back with the change in her pocket," she said.

"Anything I can do to add strength to her arm, I'll do it."

Since 2019, there has been a stark generational divide over the need for a royal commission into veteran suicides.

Mr Melick has previously dismissed the idea of a royal commission, saying it's an expensive distraction and waste of time.

He instead favours the government's proposed permanent national veteran suicide commissioner, but the idea has failed to gain support from Labor or the crossbench.

 

Suicide Prevention Australia chief executive Nieves Murray said there is a "clear need" for change, with the organisation backing calls for a royal commission. It was also supported by SANE Australia.

"A royal commission could strengthen and support the enduring commissioner role to carry on important work after the royal commission has concluded," she said.

Last week parliament voted in majority favour of the royal commission after it passed through the Senate with the backing of major parties.

Although the motion passed through the House of Representatives is only symbolic, rather than a bill to create a royal commission.

The power to establish a commission now stands with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, after several of his backbenchers broke ranks to speak out in support.

Veteran advocates have reported at least 19 defence suicides this year alone, which was almost twice the figure from the previous three months.

A petition calling for Mr Melick's resignation have garnered more than 1000 signatures in a few hours.

Lifeline 13 11 14

Originally published as RSL feud over president's attack on grieving mum

Julie-Ann Finney holds a photo of her late son David. Picture: Mike Burton
Julie-Ann Finney holds a photo of her late son David. Picture: Mike Burton
RSL National President Greg Melick. Picture: Chris Kidd
RSL National President Greg Melick. Picture: Chris Kidd


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