I have reproduced below a Facebook post by a good friend of mine, Kat Rae. The post was private, so sharing it was difficult. 

Kat is a private person, and she doesn’t seek to be the “face of a movement”. But her message is so compelling that I asked her to allow me to share it widely.

While the post is about veterans, the message is much broader. 

The role of the public service isn’t to be safe; it’s to keep Australians safe. That ought to be built into the design of every process and policy and its implementation.

It needs the courage to examine what is being done and test it, to consider it in context, and to remember that at the end of every action or inaction, someone matters.

Please have the courage to make a difference.  

Kat Rae
Kat Rae with her artwork Deathmin (2023), a 157cm-high stack of post-death admin. (Photo: Michelle Ferreira) 

Kat Rae’s Facebook post 

Humbled and proud to have my work, ‘Deathmin’, selected as a finalist of the Napier Waller Art Prize exhibition, to be held at Australian Parliament House from 29 May.

After my veteran husband Andrew suicided in 2017, I inherited a stack of post-death admin. This ‘deathmin’ contains thousands of pages where Andrew requests support for his broken body. Eventually, DVA paid $7 fortnightly, later reduced to $5. Three months before Andrew died, payments ceased.

The Inspector General ADF is supposed to investigate and report on each veteran suicide within a year, with recommendations to prevent further deaths. Andrew’s report was six years overdue, redacted, ignored pertinent facts and lacked any recommendations to save lives.

Andrew’s report was signed off in March 2023 but came to me in October. I had just three days to share my experiences with the Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide before submissions closed.

In the army, you are taught that no matter how tired you are, you cannot lean against walls. Heavy with fatigue and leaning precariously like the fate of so many, Deathmin is weary and wants to rest.

Deathmin is a counter-monument to the strong, upright imagery often conveyed in the AWM.

At my height and Andrew’s weight, Deathmin embodies the burden placed on veterans and their families. It asks bureaucratic institutions to care for the people they say they will.

You can find Kat at her website and on Instagram (kathryn_a_rae). You can find more details about the Napier Waller Art Prize at the Australian War Memorial website.

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