Processes for responding to allegations of abuse
This chapter provides an outline of Defence processes for responding to
allegations of abuse. It will also address the three issues identified in term
of reference (c) relating to the need for a victim's advocacy service;
systemic and cultural issues related to reporting and investigating abuse; and
data and information collection and dissemination regarding abuse in Defence.
Processes for responding to allegations of abuse
Australian Defence Force
Currently, the Defence processes for dealing with incidents of abuse are
contained in the Defence Instructions (General) (DI(G)) dealing with the
management of unacceptable behaviour, sexual offences and notifiable incidents.
Defence provided the committee with an outline of the procedures for reporting
a sexual assault. This outline referenced a number of Defence policy documents.
It noted that all alleged sexual offences which occur in the Defence workplace
must be immediately reported to the ADF Investigative Service (ADFIS) who
coordinate and determine the appropriate jurisdiction for handling the matter.
Sexual offences are 'notifiable incidents' and must be
reported to ADFIS who must then act in accordance with Defence Instruction
(General) ADMIN 45-2 – The Reporting and Management of Notifiable Incidents.
Irrespective of the decisions made by ADFIS, any sexual offence complaint
involving an ADF member, Defence APS employee or Defence contracted staff
member as the complainant, respondent or witness must be managed as a workplace
issue and in accordance with Defence Instruction (General) PERS 35-4...
Defence policy provides multiple options for the complainant
to report an incident of sexual offence. While Defence's policy is that a
complaint should be made to the complainant's commander or manager, other
options remain available to the complainant. These include health provider, civilian
or Service police, a more senior person in the chain of command or line
Commanders and managers are responsible for the management of
sexual offence complaints in the workplace involving people under their
Therefore, commanders and managers are responsible to ensure
the matter is immediately notified to ADFIS, and with the advice of ADFIS, to
determine the most appropriate way to manage the matter in accordance with
Defence Instruction (General) PERS 35-4...
Upon notification to ADFIS of a Notifiable Incident, ADFIS
must take into account the range of jurisdictional and operational
considerations and, where appropriate, report the alleged offence to civilian
police. Serious sexual assaults cannot be investigated by ADFIS without consent
pursuant to section 63 of the Defence Force Discipline Act. Therefore these
matters are referred to the civilian police and ADFIS remains the Defence
The processes for responding to allegations of abuse were recently
assessed as part of the Defence cultural review completed by the Inspector-General
ADF—the Review of the Management of Incidents and Complaints in Defence
including Civilian and Military Jurisdiction. The Inspector-General ADF
made 38 recommendations covering a broad range of areas. In relation to the
management and reporting of unacceptable behaviour and unacceptable sexual
behaviour, the Inspector-General ADF found that:
ADF personnel, including those who have only recently joined,
appear to be aware of their complaint avenues. There appears also to be a high
level of confidence in management processes for unacceptable behaviour
complaints. However, relevant policy is confusing and in urgent need of reform
The Inspector-General ADF made a number of specific recommendations in
this area, largely focusing on inconsistencies in key policy documents. In
summary, these recommendations included that:
- where suitable, greater use of alternative dispute resolution
across Defence should be encouraged (Recommendation 18);
- the appointment of case officers to support complainants and
respondents should be required in all cases (Recommendation 19);
- Defence Instructions dealing with management and reporting of
unacceptable behaviour and sexual offences should be reviewed to clarify the
administrative action which may be taken when disciplinary action is pending
- the policy on management of all unacceptable behaviour and sexual
offences should be combined in a single policy reference (Recommendation 21;
- Defence's administrative policies should be amended to provide for
administrative suspension from duty, including the circumstances in which a Commander
may suspend an ADF member and the conditions which may be imposed on the
suspended member (Recommendation 22).
Defence cultural reforms and the
Re-Thinking Systems Review
The Pathway to Change strategy identified 'Corrective processes' as one
of the six key levers for implementing cultural change in Defence. In this area
Our attitudes towards misconduct and approaches to responding
to incidents are informed by our culture. Many of our current challenges in
managing bad behaviour are the product of incoherent policy amendments and
inconsistent approaches to managing our rules in the past.
The Review of the Management of Incidents and Complaints in
Defence reinforces that the actual boundaries we have set for ourselves are
mostly fitting, but the actions we take when our people act outside these
boundaries are not always effective. The Pathway to Change will simplify
approaches for dealing with misconduct through policy amendment, including changes
easier to understand.
As we make these improvements, we expect that the number of
reports of unacceptable behaviour may rise before falling over time. Therefore,
we should not be alarmed by an early spike in reported incidents as it may well
be a positive sign of renewed confidence in our system. We will test this
interpretation through our planned check-point evaluations in implementation.
Defence informed the committee that some progress has been made in
relation to a number of the recommendations of the Inspector-General ADF's
review. For example, in relation to the recommendation for consolidation of
policy documents, Defence noted that the intent behind the Inspector General ADF's
recommendation 'is to be implemented through the establishment of a new
Complaints and Alternative Resolution Manual rather than through the
recommended consolidation of DI(G) PERS 35-3 and DI(G) 35-4'.
The implementation of other recommendations was either 'being
progressed', 'under further consideration or was 'on hold' pending the completion
Re-Thinking Systems of Inquiry, Investigation, Review and Audit in Defence Review
(Re-Thinking Systems Review):
The Re-Thinking Systems Review is considering a number
of recommendations in the Pathway to Change strategy, including those in the
IGADF review. The aim is to ensure that there is a coherent reform agenda. A
number of the Pathway to Change recommendations may be overtaken by the Re-Thinking
Systems Review. However, the underlying intent of the recommendations will
be addressed in the models under development....
These recommendations relate to matters such as quick
assessments, administrative inquiries and the redress of grievance process, the
continuing viability of which are all being considered as part of the Re-Thinking
System Review. The underlying concerns of these recommendations, including
complexity and delay associated with these processes, will be addressed in the Re-Thinking
Systems Review, having regard to the direction of the overall Pathway to
Australian Public Service (APS)
The DLA Piper Review identified that a 'low number' of reported
incidents of abuse occurred in the Department of Defence APS workforce.
The Defence annual report for 2011-12 noted that:
During 2011-12, the Directorate of Conduct, Performance and
Probation in Defence People Group finalised investigations into 96 employees
for suspected breaches of the Code...Of the 96 employees investigated, 43 were
found to have breached at least one element of the code and 56 sanctions were
imposed...Employment was terminated in 12 cases and a financial penalty was
applied in 23 cases. A further 16 employees resigned during the investigative
process or before any sanctions were imposed. There were 43 employees who
breached the Code last financial year.
In 2011-12, the most common type of misconduct (39 out of 43
cases) was inappropriate behaviour during work hours, for example, failing to
treat other employees, clients or stakeholders with respect. The second most
common type of misconduct (14 cases) was harassment and/or bullying.
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) noted that all APS employees
are bound follow to the APS Code of Conduct which 'places a statutory
obligation on employees, when acting in the course of employment, to treat
everyone with respect and courtesy, and without harassment'. It stated:
One factor that we believe is beneficial to dealing with this
issue in the APS is that roles and responsibilities for preventing and
responding to harassment and bullying are clearly defined, and employees have several
avenues through which they can receive advice or make complaints.
The ASPC noted that APS agency heads have 'all the rights, duties and
powers of an employer' and must establish procedures for determining whether an
employee has breached the Code of Conduct. Agency heads may impose sanctions where
employees are found to have breached the Code of Conduct, ranging from a
reprimand to termination of employment.
Further, the APSC noted the amendments made by the recently legislated Public
Service Amendment Act 2012 'will strengthen the powers available to
agencies to investigate suspected breaches of the APS Code of Conduct, including
in relation to harassment and bullying, by former employees'.
In his Review report, the Inspector-General ADF highlighted that '[i]ncreased
integration of Defence workplaces renders mutually consistent ADF and
Australian Public Service (APS) complaints handling arrangements more important'.
He recommended that a 'review of the interface between ADF and APS complaints
management processes in the Defence workplace should be expedited'. The
Inspector-General ADF noted that 'some work to deal with this issue has
commenced in People and Strategies Division and considered this should be
A dedicated victims' advocacy service
The need for a dedicated advocacy service for victims of abuse in
Defence was not extensively discussed in the DLA Piper Review report. The Australian
Government currently funds a range of advocacy services for different groups. In
the Defence portfolio, DVA provides funding which supports advocacy services
conducted by Ex-Service Organisations to provide a range of services, including
assisting individuals prepare applications for military benefits. In other
portfolios, funding supports some form of advocacy activities, including some for
victims of abuse. For example, the Department of Families, Housing, Community
Services and Indigenous Affairs has provided funding to community organisations
which advocate for and support persons who suffered abuse as children while in
The Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) noted that Defence
and Ex-Service Organisations currently provide some advocacy and support
services to members of the ADF and veterans. However it also stated 'ADSO is
not adverse to the establishment of a specific independent Victims Advocacy Service,
but cautions that should such a service be introduced it should be truly "independent"
and be visibly separate from any Commonwealth department'.
The Inspector-General ADF considered that 'the establishment of the
[Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Responses Office] might well meet any need
for a victim's advocacy service in cases of sexual misconduct'. He stated that
the intention is for the SEMPRO to provide victims of sexual misconduct with a
means to access immediate support and advice. 
The Inspector-General ADF also noted that the approach of the Sexual Offence
Support Person (SOSP) Network, developed at HMAS Cerberus, is 'intended to
provide immediate practical and, where necessary, medical support to victims
together with assistance in reporting the offence to police and guidance in
dealing with other legal matters that flow from a sexual offence'.
Further information on the SOSP Network was included in the Churchill
Fellowship paper provided by Ms Angela Ballard. She identified the SOSP Network
as one of a number of 'best or promising' practices:
The principle of the SOSP network is that a small pool of
personnel, readily identifiable as part of the command element in any ship,
military establishment or other military formation, who responds to complaints
of a sexual offence and provides the complainant (victim) with the options
available to them and facilitates access to any crisis counselling, support,
policing, medical and legal services as required by the individual. The SOSP
also manages the situation on behalf of the Command, by ensuring all governance
requirements are met. The most important aspect of the SOSP network is ensuring
the welfare and any medical needs of the complainant (victim) are seen to and
that a counselling session is provided. The preference here is to refer them to
the local rape crisis centre which is the lead agency in victim care, although
they (the victim) does have the option to seek counselling through Defence
support services which includes; psychologists, doctors, social workers and
The Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lynette McDade, had the
view that there were sufficient mechanisms in Defence to provide support to
victims of sexual and other abuse. These included Defence Instructions dealing
with the management and reporting of both sexual offences and unacceptable
behaviour; annual mandatory training for ADF members on unacceptable behaviour
and complaint mechanisms, an extensive equity and diversity network and a
complaints hotline. She concluded:
I see little value in establishing a victim's advocacy
service. It has been my experience that both the complainant and indeed the
accused are well supported by unit members and chaplains throughout the trial
In Defence, Fairness and Resolution centres provide advice and
assistance to personnel on equity and diversity issues and workplace conflict.
The centres are staffed by personnel trained in equity and diversity, dispute
resolution, conflict coaching, facilitation, and are accredited mediators. However,
LtCol Paul Morgan criticised the advocacy role of the Fairness and Resolution
Fairness and Resolution centres do not advocate for
individuals or for victims as a group. Fairness and Resolution do not act
independently of Defence, and in fact are an intrinsic part of the ADF and
Defence abuse management system which has so woefully maintained a culture of
abuse across so many decades. ADF members have no capacity to influence the
actions of Fairness and Resolution, and it is beholden to ADF commanders particularly
when those ADF commanders actively resist allowing Fairness and Resolution to
LtCol Paul Morgan considered that a dedicated victim's advocacy service
ought to be established as abuse victims in the ADF face unique problems in
advocating their case. He commented:
Unlike any other Australian worker, they are part of an
organisation that has its own laws restricting their freedom to speak out
combined with its own police force, courts, and detention centres to enforce
The consequence of this is that Defence members are reliant
upon family members to speak out publicly when abuse occurs, and particularly
when reported abuse is mismanaged. Defence members are obviously reluctant to
drag family members into the fray. This places extraordinary pressures on
families, and the fear of repercussion is strong.
LtCol Paul Morgan also noted that '[t]here is no support group for
current or past victims, as there are for abuse in other parts of society'. He
commented that ADF members are not authorised to establish such a group, and
Defence has shown no interest in supporting victims in this standard method.
Ms Jennifer Jacomb also supported the creation of a national advocacy
service funded by the Australian Government 'based upon existing Ex Service
Organisations'. She considered it should be arm's length from the Government to
maintain its independence and integrity but be staffed by ex-Service members as
victims 'will feel more comfortable talking to someone who understands the
Systemic and cultural issues in reporting abuse
The context of abuse in Defence
Several submissions highlighted that abuse in Defence should be
considered in the context of the abuse that exists in other parts of Australian
society. For example, the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations emphasised
that incidents of abuse are not unique to Defence and stated that 'sexual abuse
continues in a variety of institutions, whether they be Universities, Churches,
Schools, Institutions, or indeed the individual Services'.
The Inspector-General ADF noted that the DLA Piper Review report was
appropriately 'victim focussed' but considered it should also 'be kept in
perspective'. He argued that it would be incorrect 'for the allegations
chronicled by DLA Piper to be taken to be generally representative of the
service experience of most of the many tens of thousands of ADF members who
served in their respective Services over the 60 odd years covered by the
Further, he cautioned:
Managing these aspects in a way that is not unduly damaging
to those against whom allegations are made but remain unproven, is likely to be
a particularly challenging task for the ADF, especially where the parties
involved by still be serving members. More broadly, the reputational damage to
Services, units and other uninvolved members arising simply by association, may
also become an issue if not sensitively managed.
While emphasising that the aim of the ADF should be 'zero tolerance of
any maltreatment, sexual, bullying or otherwise', Mr James Sandison also
highlighted that the number of complaints should be considered in the context
of the large number of members of the ADF:
I understand that some 800 complaints have been received
covering the 50 year period. 360,000 divided by 800 shows that one person in
450 over the last 50 years has complained of maltreatment, or just over 0.2 per
cent...A calculation of this type is only to illustrate the extent of the
problem, once again the aim is zero tolerance.
Mr James Sandison outlined his personal experiences and treatment in naval
service for the committee, which highlighted how accepted cultural norms and
practices in military service had changed over time. He also identified an
issue relating to the appropriate allocation of responsibility for abuse in
Defence training institutions and more generally. He suggested:
If the offences occurred within the first few weeks at ADFA,
then the problem may be more ascribed to the problems in the community in
general. If the offenders have been in the Cadet Corps for, say longer than two
months, then the ADFA system is at fault.
Ms Angela Ballard noted that, while her Churchill Fellowship paper
identifies 'best practices' of several comparable military forces, 'it does not
provide a solution to the problem'. In her view '[s]exual [a]ssault and other
abuse is a complex social issue on a global scale, which...the ADF in insolation,
does not have the experience, skills or knowledge to respond to'.
Cultural and systemic issues
The DLA Piper Review report made a variety of findings in relation the
systemic and cultural issues in the reporting of abuse in Defence. In
particular the DLA Piper Review found that '[p]revious reports and Defence file
material indicate that aspects of the culture in many parts of the ADF have
discouraged reporting by victims or witnesses'.
It is well known that under-reporting of abuse (particularly
sexual abuse) is common in the wider community. Previous reports and studies
show that the strength of the ADF culture, necessary for operational readiness and
effectiveness, is, however, responsible for substantially increasing the under-reporting
of abuse that already exists in the wider community. There are many reasons for
under-reporting both by victims and witnesses (fear of retribution; concern
over career consequences; embarrassment; and distrust of the complaint handling
In his review into the management of complaints in the ADF, the
Inspector-General ADF noted that:
In the 2009 Unacceptable Behaviour Survey, three-quarters of
the respondents (75%) felt that their immediate supervisor was committed to
preventing and stopping unacceptable behaviour, to at least a moderate extent.
However, of those who indicated in that survey that they had made a complaint
about unacceptable behaviour, 41% of the respondents reported "lack of
support from supervisor" as a barrier to making the complaint.
The Pathway to Change strategy acknowledged that Defence has cultural
issues in relation to the reporting abuse and other unacceptable behaviour. It
stated that Defence needed to adopt a 'reporting culture':
We will also take actions to shift attitudes and willingness
to speak up when we become aware of inappropriate behaviour by a colleague in
Defence. Several of the Reviews indicate that we do not do this sufficiently.
The Pathway to Change stipulates that our people must put each other's safety
and dignity before loyalty to a peer group.
We particularly need to remove the stigma of communicating
distress to those who have a responsibility for our welfare; whether it relates
to injury or other ailment, perceived threat, intimidation or harassment. There
is no pride to be found in watching others suffer or for remaining in denial
about a serious problem.
At the public hearing, Defence indicated it was looking to obtain
comparative benchmarks from other organisations. The CDF, General Hurley,
commented that Defence had approached the Group of Eight universities to
request they undertake the same sexual harassment surveys and other monitoring which
was conducted at ADFA. None of the universities agreed to this request.
General Hurley also discussed the challenges for Defence in communicating public
messages around culture:
On the whole though when we appear in front of the media we
do not get a positive outcome, regardless of the message. I only need to go to
the conference I held on gender in Defence and security over the last two days,
when I think there was a great story to be told; but the only report was a
quote from me saying we have not increased the number of women in 20 years.
That is the focus, so it is very hard for us to push through that. We might
need to create the opportunities ourselves to discuss the issues, but it is not
a story that the media wants to pick up on.
The committee also received a range of viewpoints in relation to
systemic and cultural issues in reporting abuse within Defence. In the view of
the Inspector-General ADF, the systemic or cultural issues in reporting (or not
reporting) sexual or other forms of abuse in the ADF were similar to those in
the wider community. However he noted that '[i]n the more closed environment of
the ADF, victim concerns about possible recrimination or impact on career may
act as a stronger disincentive to report sexual abuse than in the community at
Nonetheless, he considered:
The establishment of SeMPRO together with a renewed emphasis
by the ADF on taking swift action against those who attempt to dissuade victims
from reporting or who otherwise take recriminatory action against them for
making a report should help minimise cultural issues arising specifically from
reporting in the military environment.
However, other submissions suggested there were serious issues for
victims regarding reporting of abuse in Defence. In particular, submitters who
indicated they had been victims of abuse noted that they feared they would be
targeted if they reported incidents of abuse at the time.
LtCol Paul Morgan also pointed to several factors which discourage victims in
Defence from reporting abuse. For example, he noted that:
Victims fear complaining because they fear that they will not
get future employment. They fear that they will have to explain to a potential
future employer that they left the Army because of an unresolved complaint of
abuse by a colleague. Employers are understandably wary of employing 'complainers'
and only when Army admits in writing that the complainer was justified in
making their complaint, can an abuse victim explain this to a future employer.
LtCol Paul Morgan highlighted the length of time of investigations of claims
of abuse as a factor in discouraging the reporting of abuse. He considered that
'Defence is systematically incapable and unmotivated to manage abuse issues in
a timely fashion':
The failure to manage abuses in a timely manner is a key
problem for the mental health consequences of abuse in the ADF. Most people can
accept a timely outcome that doesn't seem quite fair. They struggle most with
the unending rollercoaster of hoping the ADF will act, and despair that it will
not. This pattern reflects the finding of the Senate Inquiry into the military
Another key systemic issue identified by LtCol Paul Morgan was that '[u]nlike
any other reasonable Australian workplace, Defence continues to maintain a policy
of retaining abusers in the workplace alongside those that they abuse':
The culture and policy in Defence is to maintain victims in
the workplace with their abusers while investigations are occurring. These
investigations, as in my personal case, can extend well beyond a year. Victims,
as in my case, are often asked or pressured to limit their exposure to work
that may bring them into contact with their abusers, while abusers face no such
limitations. Defence argues due process for abusers, but does not place the
same weight on timely 'due process' for victims.
Whistleblowers Action Group (Qld) considered that principal cause of the
abuse in Defence rested with the personal involvement of the leadership of the ADF
'in activities that frustrate the purposes of the military justice system'. It
considered 'this example to commanders and to Defence members in general, has developed
a culture that is opposed to the system of protections for soldiers from unacceptable
behaviour including all forms of abuse'.
The Alliance of Defence Service Organisation (ADSO) thought that it is 'clear
that the majority of members of the ADF wish to invoke signature behaviours that
reflect high moral and ethical standards'. ADSO noted that recent official
statements on Service values in the ADF, including statements made General
Hurley, meant that is was 'clear that the Services are determined to take
whatever action is necessary to address the issues surrounding sexual abuse in
Data and information collection
The DLA Piper Review identified the database held by the Fairness and
Resolution Branch concerning incidents of unacceptable behaviour as one of a
number of key databases of information on abuse in Defence. It noted:
Fairness and Resolution Branch records the information from
complaints reported by commanders and managers on a database that records all
reported unacceptable behaviour complaints and the outcomes. The name and
personal details of Defence respondents who have had formal action taken
against them as a result of a substantiated complaint of unacceptable behaviour
are recorded in this database. We understand this database is referred to as
the Fairness and Resolution Unacceptable Behaviour Database. The database also
records all sexual offence complaints and, if formal action has been taken, the
details of the respondents in these cases...The database is intended to assist in
the identification of repeat behaviour. Access to this database is restricted
and controlled by Fairness and Resolution Branch.
The DLA Piper Review report concluded that the 'fragmentation of storing
of relevant data on more than one system or database confuses and possibly impedes
the provision of information to those who need it - relevant managers and units'.
It considered Phase 2 should consider 'a review of all databases that record
performance, conduct issues and complaints relevant to abuse/unacceptable
behaviour and that consideration be given to creating a centralised and integrated
The Review of the Treatment of Women at ADFA also included a recommendation
for the establishment of a database to manage complaints and incidents. This
recommendation was accepted in the Pathway to Change strategy.
The committee did not receive a large amount of evidence specifically in
relation to data and information collection. The Inspector-General ADF's review
of the management of complaints considered the administration of complaints in
the ADF. It considered that the 'centralisation of complaint administration in Fairness
and Resolution Branch [in 2006] and the introduction of the Complaint
Management, Tracking and Reporting System (COMTRACK) have been useful
Given the inherent complexity of the various elements of
complaint handling from grievances to unacceptable behaviour and sexual
offences, the consolidation of the administration of complaint handling in one
central agency, which could also provide advice to line managers, is sensible
and its continuing role is strongly supported.
As part of the review, the Inspector-General ADF recommended that '[a]dequate
arrangements should be put in place to ensure sufficient resources are available
to maintain COMTRACK at optimum currency'.
His submission also noted that his office collects and monitors data about the
disciplinary system, the administrative inquiries system, and the military
justice system generally through its performance review function. This
information is analysed and summarised annually in the Inspector General ADF
Catalogue of Military Justice Statistics.
During the public hearing, Defence noted that one of the tasks of SEMPRO
'will be a central repository for data on offences in the ADF'.
Ms Carmel McGregor commented:
[W]e have a system called COMTRACK within the department
where all of the incidents or complaints about unacceptable behaviour are
lodged. In terms of setting up SEMPRO, we are also looking at what the best
database is that we can leverage from within the department or find elsewhere
so that those sorts of issues that were raised can be comprehensively captured.
I guess it is a work in progress. We also have the ADFIS database. But trying
to get a comprehensive picture is a longer term initiative.
At the committee's private briefing, the Defence Abuse Response
Taskforce highlighted the challenges which exist in relation to the way Defence
records have been stored in the past. It noted that the use of previous paper
based records systems and the movement of documents over time could result in
relevant personnel files being difficult to locate.
DVA outlined a number of factors in dealing with data exchange and
information collection with Defence regarding compensation:
DVA is required under the [Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation
Act 1988] and the [Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004]
to provide a copy of claims from ADF members who are still serving at the time
they have claimed. In addition, where the person is still serving at the time
their claim is determined under the MRCA, DVA must provide a copy of that
determination to Defence.
As with all claims for compensation, DVA must investigate the
claim to establish the facts of the case. As part of this process DVA will
contact Defence through the longstanding Single Access Mechanism arrangements.
This can include Service history, medical documents and any other evidence that
may be relevant.
The Defence Pathway to Change strategy document indicated that, in
future, Defence intends to have a greater focus on data collection to inform
decisions and track the progress of reforms:
Currently, information about ourselves, our practices and our
behaviours tends to be gathered and used for reacting to individual occurrences.
In future we will establish databases and importantly, improve our approach to using
the data so that we have a strong evidence base.
In his supplementary submission, Dr Gary Rumble considered that victims
of abuse in the ADF should have access (redacted as necessary) to reports of
previous Defence inquiries which could corroborate their accounts and
information about DVA claims brought by other individuals which corroborate
their allegations by giving similar accounts.
He noted that Defence does not hold a consolidated record of reports of
previous inquiries in relation to abuse and that DVA could identify clusters
and patterns of alleged abusive conduct in the claims it receives. He argued
that this information could assist in the assessment of DVA claims and in
general Defence risk management and reform processes, as well as being of
assistance to the Taskforce.
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OIAC) noted that
the ADF, the Department of Defence and the Defence Materiel Organisation are
required to comply with the Information Privacy Principles when handling
It made a number of suggestions, particularly in relation to the information in
the Fairness and Resolution Database (FRD), ensuring ADF personnel are fully
informed regarding how their personal information in relation to complaints of
abuse and in Service records will be handled. These included:
- emphasising the importance of Defence complying with the
Information Privacy Principles when handling personal information;
- recommending Defence consider a Privacy Impact Assessment in
relation to the FRD;
- suggesting consideration of whether Defence Instructions
(General) carry the force of law to provide greater certainty regarding
Defence's obligations in relation to the handling of personal information in
- noting that Defence has obligations to take reasonable steps to
ensure the personal information in the FRD is accurate, up-to-date and complete;
- emphasising the importance of ensuring that ADF personnel are
fully informed about how their personal information relating to complaints of
abuse within Defence will be handled.
Privacy issues relating to the FRD were also considered as part of the
DLA Piper Review. The Review sought advice on the application of the Privacy
Act 1988 to the FRD which suggested that there was scope for more
information to be stored in the database. It commented that 'the more
information that can be recorded on the database, the more effective it will be
as a management tool'.
The Review considered that Phase 2 of the Review should 'discuss with Fairness
and Resolution Branch and other appropriate areas of Defence the content of the
information that is currently available on the Fairness and Resolution
Unacceptable Behaviour database to expand the information recorded there and
increase its availability and value to managers'.
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