Reviews of allegations of abuse in the Defence Force

Parliament house flag post

Reviews of allegations of abuse in the Defence Force

Posted 26/09/2013 by Moira Coombs

In March 2011, an incident occurred at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in which it was alleged that an 18 year old female cadet was filmed without her consent while having sex with a male colleague, with the footage then sent using Skype to six other cadets watching in a nearby room. The ‘Skype incident’ at ADFA was the catalyst which generated a number of inquiries and various cultural reviews dealing with the management of ADFA.


Kirkham Review

The first review was conducted by Andrew Kirkham QC, a former senior air force officer and military law expert, who was requested by the then Vice Chief of the Defence Force to conduct an Inquiry into the management of the Skype incident and its aftermath. The report of the Kirkham Inquiry, provided to the Minister of Defence on 13 December 2011, was not published as it focussed on individual actions rather than organisational deficiencies or shortcomings and it included personal detail.


Culture Reviews

Further cultural reviews were carried out in addition to the Kirkham Inquiry. These reviews investigated various aspects of Defence culture and were intended to ‘address ongoing concern in relation to failure to meet appropriate standards of conduct.’ The reviews included:

Review of the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force Academy and Australian Defence Force 3 November 2011

Independent Advisory Panel on Alcohol – The use of Alcohol in the Australian Defence Force 2011

Review of Social Media and Defence 2011

Beyond compliance: professionalism, trust and capability in the Australian Profession of Arms 2011

Review of the management of Incidents and complaints in Defence including civil and military jurisdiction 2011

Review of Employment for APS women in the Department of Defence 2011

In response to the reviews, the then Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, together with the Secretary of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force jointly announced on 7 March 2012, ‘a strategy of cultural change and reinforcement in Defence and the Australian Defence Force’, entitled Pathway to Change: evolving Defence culture.

DLA Piper Review

After the Skype incident, a number of allegations of sexual and other forms of abuse emerged. The Secretary of the Department of Defence engaged DLA Piper (then DLA Phillips Fox) to review each allegation methodically and at arm’s length from Defence and to make recommendations for further action. The final report of Phase 1 of the review was delivered to the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith on 17 April 2012. Phase 1 assessed all allegations of abuse, to determine whether they had been properly managed and to recommend further action. Phase 2 will deal with Defence’s processes for responding to allegations and make appropriate recommendations concerning systemic issues. The Government response to the DLA Piper review agreed with all its recommendations and provided that the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce would be responsible for Phase 2.


Defence Abuse Response Taskforce

The Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, chaired by Len Roberts-Smith, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of WA and former Judge Advocate General of the Australian Defence Force, was established on 26 November 2012. Also on that day, the then Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, delivered an apology on ‘behalf of the Government to the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who have suffered sexual or other forms of abuse in the course of service to the Australian Defence Force and their country.’

The Taskforce will assess individual allegations of abuse occurring before 11 April 2011 and respond to those cases in order to determine an appropriate outcome. Possible outcomes include:
  • referral to counselling
  • a Reparation Payment of up to $50,000referral of appropriate matters to police or military justice authorities for formal criminal investigation and assessment for prosecution
  • referral to the Chief of the Defence Force for administrative action, and/or 
  • restorative engagement, possibly including apologies from senior Defence officer.

The deadline for reporting such abuse was 31 May 2013.

The work of the Taskforce involves three phases. Phase 1 relates to establishing the Taskforce, Phase 2 involves the operational aspects of the Taskforce’s work and Phase 3 is the conclusion and legacy issues of the Taskforce. The First Interim report of the Taskforce, submitted to the Minister for Defence and the Attorney-General on 14 March 2013, was concerned with Phase 1. A second interim report, released on 20 June 2013, is concerned with the transition to Phase 2.

The Taskforce has received more than 2400 complaints and about 100 of those had been immediately identified as suitable for payment of reparations, with that number expected to increase as the Taskforce’s work progressed. To date, 49 reparation payments have been made. Ten cases have been referred to police for investigation with more expected to follow. To date, cases have been referred to police in NSW, Tasmania, ACT, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland. The period of operation of the Taskforce has been extended to 31 May 2014.

The Taskforce is also establishing protocols to share information with the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




immigration refugees elections taxation asylum Parliament criminal law election results Australian Bureau of Statistics social security disability citizenship Indigenous Australians political parties United Kingdom UK Parliament Census statistics banking early childhood education Middle East Australian foreign policy OECD Australian Electoral Commission voting mental health Employment military history by-election election timetable China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament Productivity Defence income management asylum seekers High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title Senate ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories leadership aid Papua New Guinea emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding Electoral reform politics refugees immigration asylum Canada procurement Australian Public Service firearms Indigenous health constitution High Court e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament women 2015 International Women's Day public policy ABS Population Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade skilled migration Private health insurance Medicare Financial sector EU national security fuel China soft power education violence against women domestic violence Fiji India Disability Support Pension disability employment welfare reform Tasmania Antarctica China Diplomacy Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency Sport ASADA Federal Court WADA ADRV by-elections state and territories terrorism terrorist groups Bills corruption anti-corruption integrity fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform science innovation research and development transport standards Afghanistan Australian Defence Force NATO United States social media Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism higher education Higher Education Loan Program HECS welfare policy pensions social services welfare ASIO Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Australian Secret Intelligence Service intelligence community Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 sexual abuse online grooming sexual assault of minors labour force workers

Show all
Show less
Back to top