Conclusion and recommendations
The terms of reference of the committee's inquiry are directed to the
DLA Piper Review report and the government's response. However, the clear
interactions and overlaps between the DLA Piper Review report and the announced
Defence cultural reforms mean that some aspects of these reviews and the broader
Pathway to Change strategy have also been considered in the committee's report.
While the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce aims to assist victims of abuse in
the past, the Defence cultural reforms are intended to implement changes to prevent
abuse in the future.
Events have moved relatively rapidly since the Senate referred the
inquiry to the committee. In particular, the government's response to the DLA
Piper Review report has been released, including an apology in Parliament by
the Minister for Defence to victims of abuse in Defence, and the announcement
of the establishment of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce. Subsequently, the
Taskforce has now progressed from its establishment phase to its operational phase.
The cut-off date for new allegations about abuse in Defence to be raised with
the Taskforce, 31 May 2013, has passed. The Taskforce is now in the process
of dealing with the estimated 2140 allegations of abuse in Defence which have
In broad terms, the committee has welcomed the announced components of the
government's response. The committee also acknowledges the ongoing bipartisan
support for the objectives of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce and the
Pathway to Change Defence cultural reforms.
In particular, the committee concurs with the statement of the Minister for
Defence to Parliament on 26 November 2012:
Acknowledging the past and taking responsibility for it is
only the first step. We must ensure that such abuse can never be tolerated
again. We must place the safety and wellbeing of the young men and women of the
Australian Defence Force above all else.
The committee is constrained in the comments and recommendations it can
appropriately make by the fact that most of the government's response to the
findings and recommendations of the DLA Piper Review is still in the process of
implementation. Nonetheless, the committee wishes to express its views and make
recommendations in a small number of specific areas.
Apologies to victims of abuse
The DLA Piper Review report noted that '[a] significant number of the
persons who contacted the Review indicated that their primary wish is for Defence
to acknowledge that abuse has occurred and to express regret for that action'.
In this context, the committee particularly welcomes the apologies for abuse in
Defence made by the Minister and by the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF).
However, in the view of the committee, it was unfortunate that notice
was not provided to victims of abuse in Defence to enable them to be present in
the House of Representatives for the Minister's apology. The apologies to the
Stolen Generation, the Forgotten Australians and those who suffered from
forced adoption practices have highlighted that some individuals can find
witnessing these important official statements a significant, and even
cathartic, occasion which publicly acknowledges suffering which they have
experienced. The committee considers it would be beneficial for victims of
abuse and useful for Defence's ongoing cultural reforms if these statements of
apology were prominently displayed by Defence and commemorated in its official publications.
These actions are likely to reinforce and consolidate the cultural reform
Defence intends to achieve in the coming years.
The committee recommends that Defence prominently display,
and commemorate, the apology by the Minister of Defence and the Chief of the
Defence Force to victims of abuse in Defence.
Access to Volume 2 of the DLA Piper Review report
The committee was concerned to receive evidence from Dr Gary Rumble, one
of the leaders of the DLA Piper Review, that Volume 2 (containing the detail of
the individual allegations) had not been provided to the Secretary of the
Department of Defence, or the CDF or the Service Chiefs.
The competing public interests inherent in the issue of how Volume 2
should appropriately be distributed were evident in the views of the Defence
diarchy. At the public hearing, Mr Dennis Richardson, the Secretary of the
Department of Defence, commented on the Minister's decision to withhold Volume
2 of the DLA Piper Review report from Defence:
The minister felt it was best to have the material dealt with
by a task force totally independent of the department and that, in that
context, it was best not to provide the material to anyone in the department.
I would not have thought it made any sense to give [Defence]
volume 2 and at the same time have a task force proceeding because I would have
then needed a team in Defence as big as the [Defence Abuse Response Taskforce]
to go through all of the material and you would have the [Taskforce] making
judgements and you would have people working for me making judgements. I think
that would get rather messy...The minister has taken a proper decision, which was
within his prerogative.
On the other hand, General David Hurley, the CDF, acknowledged at the
public hearing that he would like 'to know if there are currently serving
members who have serious allegations being made against them that need to be
In relation to Defence's ability to respond to systemic issues without access
to the detail of individual allegations in Volume 2, the CDF described the decision
as–—'You either risk the process by accusations of interference or you bear
some risk in terms of dealing with systemic issues...'
The committee considers this is a particularly vexed issue. The
committee shares Dr Rumble's concerns regarding access to Volume 2 and the
delays in decision making by the government in relation to the recommendations
in that report. The DLA Piper Review Volume 2 report revealed a large number of
plausible cases of abuse which demanded a response by government. The delay and
the additional assessment of claims by the Taskforce will mean long periods of
waiting for victims of abuse. The commencement of action against the alleged
perpetrators of abuse has also been delayed, potentially allowing them to
commit further acts of abuse.
Nonetheless, the committee recognises the large volume of material
associated with the DLA Piper Review, particularly in Volume 2 containing the
detail of individual allegations, as well as the material associated with the
Defence cultural reviews could have contributed to the delay in the
government's response. The DLA Piper Review also noted that the
allegations of abuse it had received were 'plausible and consistent' but
acknowledged that it 'had only heard one side of the story'.
Even so, the committee supports the CDF's view that he would like to know if
there are serving members who have serious allegations being made against them
that 'need to be dealt with'. In this regard, the committee underscores the
statement by the Chair of the Taskforce, the Hon Len Roberts-Smith QC who in
the second interim report wrote:
[I]n a small number of cases, where an alleged abuser remains
in Defence and is alleged to have perpetrated serious sexual or other abuse on
one or more occasions, I may decide it is necessary to bring the matter to the
attention of Defence. I envisage that such a recommendation could be made where
I feel that, for the safety and wellbeing of other Defence employees, it is
necessary so intervention can occur.
The committee believes that this approach by the Chair of the Taskforce
is to be commended, but would like it to go further. The committee believes
that the Chair of the Taskforce should inform the Secretary of Defence and the
CDF of any serving member who, in the Chair's opinion, has a serious and
credible allegation of abuse made against him or her.
The Taskforce staff includes '[e]xperienced AFP officers, including
investigators and intelligence analysts, to assess the allegations received, and,
gather and examine additional information on the reporting and management of
allegations of abuse by Defence personnel'.
Other groups have been established within the Taskforce to specifically deal
with allegations regarding incidents of abuse at ADFA and HMAS Leeuwin.
Further, the second interim report highlighted some of the specialist work
being undertaken by the Taskforce that should produce a better understanding of
the nature of abuse in Defence. For example:
[P]olice intelligence analysts working within the Taskforce
will analyse this data on the Taskforce Case Management and Document Management
Systems to identify trends, particular bases, establishments or ships with
significant levels of allegations, repeated names of alleged abusers and other
Where appropriate, the Taskforce will refer matters to Defence or to
Commonwealth, State and Territory police. The Chair of the Taskforce, the Hon
Len Roberts-Smith QC outlined how this process is intended to operate in
The Taskforce will only work towards those outcomes the
complainant indicates he or she wants. For example, a complainant may allege a
serious sexual assault. If, after gathering further information, the Taskforce
is of the opinion there was a clear criminal act, it may refer the matter to
the relevant police agency. However, the Taskforce will not make that referral
if the complainant does not wish it to occur.
The same approach applies in the majority of situations where
there is a matter that I, as the Taskforce Chair, could provide to the Chief of
the Defence Force (CDF) or Secretary of Defence with a recommendation for
military justice or administrative sanctions against an alleged abuser. This
referral will also be subject to agreement from the complainant.
In the committee's view this approach is a sensible and responsible
response to these issues. As mentioned above, the committee has noted the
consideration that the Hon Len Roberts-Smith is giving to informing Defence of
cases of alleged abuse by serving members where intervention is necessary to
protect the safety and wellbeing of other Defence employees. In this regard,
the committee believes that the Secretary of Defence and the CDF should be made
aware of any cases where members currently serving in Defence have had serious
allegations of abuse made against them.
The evidence of Dr Rumble highlighted to the committee that there is ambiguity
in the government's response regarding which body is responsible for responding
to the systemic issues which the DLA Piper Review identified for
consideration in Phase 2. One of its terms of reference directs the Taskforce
to 'liaise with the Minister for Defence, Chief of the Defence Force and the
Secretary of the Department of Defence on any implications of its work for
Defence's Pathway to Change and other responses to the series of reviews into
Defence culture and practices in particular the work done by the Sex
Discrimination Commissioner into the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and ADFA'. The
committee does not consider this is sufficient to address the systemic issues
raised by the DLA Piper Review report.
At the public hearing, General Hurley told the committee that some
information in relation to systemic issues from Volume 1 of the DLA Piper
Review report was taken into account when Defence developed the Pathway to
Change strategy. Further, he suggested that Defence's continuing engagement
with the Taskforce would inform Defence's cultural reforms where there was a
'delta' or policy overlap.
The committee considers that the Taskforce will provide valuable input
to Defence's reforms. For example, the intelligence analysis of abuse
identified above. However, in the view of the committee, the overlap in the
government's response to the DLA Piper Review and the other Defence cultural
reviews has resulted in a lack of clarity in relation to how many of the
systemic issues and findings identified by the DLA Piper Review will be specifically
addressed. The committee agrees with Dr Rumble that there is a risk that
some issues could 'fall through the cracks'.
An example is Issue S12 raised by the DLA Piper Review in the Supplement
to Volume 1, which deals with spent convictions and recruitment into the ADF:
Phase 2 to consider whether it would be appropriate for
Defence to seek the making of a regulation under s 85ZZH(k) of the Crimes
Act 1914 that would add recruitment into the ADF to the exclusions from the
operation of the spent convictions legislation.
While the Review suggested this should be considered by Phase 2 of the
Review, further examination of this issue is not part of the Defence Abuse
Response Taskforce's terms of reference which are focused on responding to past
victims of abuse. Nor, from the government's response, is it clear how this
issue will be considered within the Defence cultural reforms. In the view of
the committee, the question of which body deals with the systemic issues and
findings raised by the DLA Piper Review report is less important than
ensuring these issues are clearly and publicly addressed in a timely manner.
Given the Taskforce's focus on providing assistance to past victims, the
committee considers that Defence is best placed to respond to these issues and
findings as part of its implementation of Defence cultural reforms.
Mr Robert Cornall AO, the Deputy Chair of the Taskforce, informed the
committee that one contribution of the Taskforce's activities to cultural and
systemic issues in Defence may be through the restorative engagement program.
As this program will include facilitated meetings between victims of abuse in
Defence and senior Defence personnel, this is likely to have benefits for both
victims and senior Defence officers—who will have first-hand access to the
personal experiences of victims of abuse. The committee considers that these senior
officers will be best placed to consolidate systemic and cultural change within
Defence into the future. The committee hopes to see participation in the
restorative engagement program by a broad range of senior Defence officers.
The committee recommends that Defence formally respond to
the systemic issues and findings of the DLA Piper Review in its public reporting
on the progress of the implementation of the Pathway to Change Defence cultural
The committee recommends that Defence actively encourage
senior officers to participate in the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce's
restorative engagement program with victims of abuse.
Processes for responding to complaints of abuse
At the public hearing, General Hurley, the CDF, observed that Defence
had initiated the Re-thinking of the Military Justice System Review
(Re-Thinking Systems Review) in 2011 which has examined elements of the system:
the collection of data; inquiry investigation; internal review; and external
review processes. General Hurley told the committee:
We are about to receive stage 2, the second major report,
from the team that is doing that. Then we will take it from there in terms of
which way we will move forward. You can imagine that if we were to change [the
military justice system] significantly there would be a lot of regulatory
changes and the [A]cts would need to change.
The committee supports the objectives of the Re-Thinking Systems Review
in terms of building a comprehensive approach to restructuring military justice
processes. The committee considers that the Inspector-General ADF's review into
the management of incidents and complaints identified a number of important
issues in relation to when administrative action can be taken by commanders or
managers in responding to a report of unacceptable behaviour or a sexual
offence. These issues were also highlighted in the DLA Piper Review
recommendations. The committee was pleased that the Minister's recent statement
to the Parliament included progress in this area:
Defence's administrative policies are being 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.
The Inspector-General ADF's review also highlighted the complex, and sometimes
confusing, Defence policy documents related to the management of reports of unacceptable
behaviour. The committee welcomes the evidence from Defence that progress
appears to have been made in the consolidation and redrafting of policy
documents dealing with processes for responding to incidents of abuse. The
Minister also recently noted that 'training and information provided to ADF
members in relation to the management of incidents and complaints is being
simplified and improved'.
Defence Abuse Response Taskforce
In general, the committee has been impressed with the rapid 'roll out'
of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce as it has moved from the 'establishment'
phase to its 'operational' phase. The decisions made by Taskforce in relation
to assessing the threshold test of 'plausibility' of claims have been
recognised by the committee as a positive development.
However, a number of issues were raised during the inquiry which relate to the
The delays in the government's response to the DLA Piper Review have
caused some complainants additional stress and concern. The victims of abuse in
Defence can, understandably, be cautious of reporting abuse to authorities, particularly
where previous reporting of abuse to Defence may have been mismanaged. The
committee understands that some of those making allegations of abuse have not
been satisfied with the level of responsiveness from the Defence Abuse Response
The Taskforce's first interim report makes it clear that considerable
resources are already being directed to communication with stakeholders
including: a telephone hotline; a complainant liaison team to make initial
contact with complainants and a case coordination team to provide a consistent
point of contact for complainants.
The second interim report noted that, by 6 June 2013, the Taskforce had
contacted approximately 1380 complainants to answer queries, assist
complainants to complete the Taskforce's forms and provide supporting
information and to discuss the options available to complainants. It also
mentioned that many complainants were concerned about the effect the Reparation
Payment could have on other entitlements
The committee considers that the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce could
further refine and enhance its liaison and communication efforts with
complainants. This could include regular updates to complainants on the status
of their claims to reassure them their claims have not been ignored and
additional information on the likely impact of the Reparation Payment on their
Reparation and compensation issues
The committee notes some complainants were disappointed with the quantum
of the reparation payments being made available under the scheme announced by
the Taskforce. While these amounts are in line with some other compensation
they clearly will never be capable of compensating those victims who have
suffered the worst forms of abuse, including serious sexual offences.
Nonetheless, these reparation payments will serve an important purpose in
acknowledging that wrong has occurred.
Previously settled matters
The committee has a concern in regard to matters which may have been
settled between Defence and the person abused under terms of confidentiality or
a non-disclosure agreement. In these circumstances, a person may feel inhibited
from reporting abuse they have suffered to the Defence Abuse Response
Taskforce. The committee understands these issues are under consideration by
the Taskforce, which will ask the 'Commonwealth to grant a limited waiver of
confidentiality obligations and/or deeds of release and indemnity to
complainants who wish to report allegations about abuse to the Taskforce'.
In the view of the committee, the Reparation Scheme should be considered
entirely separate from any other compensation process available to victims of
abuse in Defence. It is clear the announced Reparation Scheme is not
intended to compensate individuals for incidents of abuse and is not intended
to affect the other legal rights of claimants. Given these circumstances, Defence
should waive any confidentiality agreement from any previously settled matter
which may restrict victims of abuse from engaging with the Defence Abuse
Response Taskforce's processes. Furthermore, where a person can demonstrate
they were subject to such a confidential agreement, they should be allowed to
make a claim to Taskforce despite the fact the date for the receipt of claims
Perpetrators of abuse
The most serious finding of the DLA Piper Review was that those who may
have abused others or who have committed serious offences may still be serving within
Defence and could now be in senior positions. The Review identified this issue as
presenting significant risks for Defence.
The significance of this issue has been confirmed by the activities of the
Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, which has received additional reports of abuse
at ADFA and HMAS Leeuwin.
In the view of the committee, where the Taskforce finds sufficient
evidence that serving members of the ADF have committed criminal or service
offences they should be swiftly referred for investigation and prosecution
(where the alleged victim consents to this referral). The committee notes that assessing
this aspect of claims of abuse is a core part of the activities of the Defence
Abuse Response Taskforce. The Taskforce's first interim report outlined that:
Where the Chair forms the view that an allegation of abuse
may constitute criminal conduct, and there is (or is reasonably likely to be on
further investigation) evidence of it, the Taskforce will refer the matter to
the Police agency in the jurisdiction in which the offence was alleged to have
occurred. Such referrals will only occur with the consent of individual
complainants. Police will then proceed in accordance with their individual jurisdictional
policies and procedures. Any decision to conduct further investigations will be
determined by the relevant Police jurisdiction.
The committee understands that the Taskforce has established protocols
with State and Territory police forces for referral of matters. The committee
notes that while the Taskforce appears well equipped to assess the plausibility
of claims of abuse for the purposes of the Reparation Scheme, the gathering of
sufficient evidence for a referral to authorities for investigation and
possible prosecution is a different matter. The Taskforce is not a statutory
agency and has no special powers of investigation to compel disclosure of
information or documents.
The Taskforce's terms of reference include advising whether a Royal
Commission would be merited into any categories of allegation raised with the
DLA Piper Review or the Taskforce, in particular the 24 ADFA cases.
The second interim report of the Taskforce indicated that, at this stage, 'while
powers to gather evidence would assist in examining these matters, it is by no
means clear that a Royal Commission is the necessary or the most appropriate
mechanism to do so'.
The Chair of the Taskforce, the Hon Len Roberts-Smith QC, told the committee that
the Minister has indicated to him, that should he form the view that the powers
of a Royal Commission were needed they would be made available.
The committee considers this is an appropriate approach to this matter.
Concerns were raised during in the inquiry in relation to the lack of
legal advice to complainants contacting the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce
regarding abuse. It was noted during the inquiry that as part of the Defence
F-111 Deseal/Reseal compensation process, an Air Force Military Compensation
Liaison Office was available to claimants as a source of 'impartial advice and
assistance in relation to the preparation, submission and progression of
Unfortunately, as the cut-off date for raising claims has expired, in the view
of the committee, it is impractical to attempt to retrospectively offer access
to legal advice to those making claims to the Taskforce. The committee
understands that the Taskforce has put a number of measures in place to clearly
communicate its processes to claimants. The committee also notes that the
Taskforce reparation process will not affect the other legal rights of
claimants and some legal firms are also offering their services in this area.
'Out of scope' claims
At the outset of the inquiry, the committee emphasised that 'it is not
in a position to resolve individual disputes or settle complaints about alleged
abuse in Defence'. Nonetheless, several submissions and communications to the
committee sought to raise specific allegations of abuse which the DLA Piper
Review had determined to be 'out of scope'. While not having seen the
individual allegations made to the DLA Piper Review contained in Volume 2, in
the view of the committee, the DLA Piper Review had a robust and practical
approach in its definition of 'abuse' and 'out of scope' claims.
The committee also notes that the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce has
indicated that it will reassess allegations concerning abuse in Defence made to
the DLA Piper Review, if the individual consents to that reassessment,
including those determined to be 'out of scope'.
The Taskforce has outlined that types of alleged abuse that fall within the
scope of the Taskforce are allegation of:
- sexual abuse;
- physical abuse;
- sexual harassment; and
- workplace harassment and bullying.
Legacy issues and permanent functions
As previously noted, the cut-off date for raising allegations with the
Defence Abuse Response Taskforce has now passed. Complaints of abuse to the
Taskforce were required to relate to alleged abuse in Defence which occurred
before 11 April 2011. Accordingly, new claims of abuse will be dealt
with by Defence, outside of the Taskforce processes.
The Taskforce has indicated that its operations will conclude with a
Recommendations will be made with respect to any ongoing
action required or outstanding matters that require resolution after the
Taskforce has completed its role and been disbanded (for example, monitoring
any subsequent prosecutions or other action).
The storage and delivery of all Taskforce materials will be
organised to adhere to appropriate requirements of handling and storing such
The Inspector-General ADF has also suggested there is a possibility that
the Taskforce's compensation arrangements 'could be adapted for ongoing use'.
In the view of the committee, at the conclusion of the Taskforce's operation,
the Minister for Defence, together with the Attorney-General and the Minister
for Veterans' Affairs, should investigate whether any of the functions and
capabilities which have been developed as part of the Taskforce's operation
should be continued. The committee considers that any functions of the
Taskforce which are determined to have ongoing value should be located
externally to Defence.
The Taskforce has also indicated to the committee that the database of
complaints it has developed (once the information is depersonalised), could
potentially provide a valuable statistical resource in relation to incidents of
abuse in Defence over time.
In the view of the committee, this information will be an important asset
developed from the process which should not be wasted.
The committee recommends that Defence provide a waiver of
any confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement which could prevent a person from
engaging with the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce.
The committee recommends that, following the conclusion of
the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce's operation, the Minister for Defence
facilitate the productive use of the Taskforce's depersonalised statistical
database of information regarding reported incidents of abuse in Defence.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government commission
an independent review to determine whether any of the functions of the Defence
Abuse Response Taskforce's should continue and how to ensure these functions
can continue to be performed effectively. This independent review will report
its findings and make recommendations to the Minister for Defence, the
Attorney-General and the Minister for Veterans Affairs.
The committee recommends that, at the conclusion of this
independent review, the Minister for Defence, the Attorney-General and the
Minister for Veterans' Affairs, should assess whether any of the functions of
the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce should continue in another form.
Advocacy services for victims
The committee considers there is scope for improvement in the provision
of advocacy services to victims of abuse in Defence. This includes advocacy for
individual victims and advocacy on behalf of victims of abuse as a group.
The committee notes that support for victims of sexual abuse will
increase with the establishment of the SEMPRO in July this year. However, it is
not clear to the committee whether the support services for victims of sexual
abuse will extend to active advocacy. It is clear that while there are a number
of contact points for support for victims of abuse in Defence, there does not
appear to be a person or group within Defence tasked with advocating on behalf
of victims' interests.
For example, under the current Defence Instructions, 'case managers' are
appointed at the discretion of the commander or manager to assist complainants,
respondents and witnesses during the complaint management process. While case
managers are required to explain the support services available to the parties
to the complaint, and facilitate access to these services, they do not appear
to have any advocacy role. During the inquiry, the Alliance of Defence Service
Organisations made the point that a case manager should be appointed in every reported
case of abuse. This was also a recommendation of the Inspector General ADF in
his review of the management of complaints.
Defence indicated this was one of a number of recommendations that were 'either
being progressed or are under further consideration'.
The committee considers this recommendation should be implemented.
The committee notes that an equivalent of the Sexual Offence Support
Persons Network does not appear to currently exist for other forms of abuse in
Defence. There does not seem to be an equivalent advocacy network of support
persons in Defence for non-sexual forms of abuse. Similarly, the initial focus
of SEMPRO is on supporting victims of sexual unacceptable behaviour, harassment
and assault. The exception appears to be the Residential Support Officer scheme
at ADFA. In the view of the committee a gap exists in the Defence cultural
reforms in relation to a specific support for victims of non-sexual forms of
In terms of systemic advocacy, in the view of the committee, Defence
would benefit from engagement with advocacy organisations representing the
interests of victims of abuse in Defence. These systemic advocacy organisations
potentially could provide valuable input and feedback into the ongoing Defence
cultural reforms. As a first step, Defence should not discourage serving
members of the ADF from forming an association or a support group for those who
identify as victims of abuse in Defence. Further, Defence should proactively
engage any associations or organisations which represent members who have
suffered abuse in Defence. For example, the committee notes that during the
course of the inquiry, an association for victims of abuse in the ADF was
established in Victoria.
The committee recommends that Defence implement
recommendation 19 of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force's
review—that the appointment of case officers to support complainants and respondents
should be required in all cases.
The committee recommends that Defence assess whether additional
support services for victims of non-sexual forms of abuse should be included
within the Pathway to Change cultural reforms.
The committee recommends that Defence engage in dialogue
with associations which represent the interests of victims of abuse in Defence.
Conflicts of interest
The committee does not accept the assertions made during the inquiry
regarding claimed conflicts of interest in the appointment of senior lawyers from
DLA Piper to conduct the DLA Piper Review or the appointment of the Hon
Len Roberts-Smith QC to head the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce. In the
opinion of the committee, these persons have undertaken complex and difficult
tasks and demonstrated the highest levels of integrity in the performance of
Nonetheless, the committee is concerned that there is the potential that
some victims of abuse may feel reluctant to communicate their claims to the
Taskforce by these claims or the perception that the Taskforce is not
independence of Defence. As previously noted, it is very likely that victims of
abuse will be reticent to report abuse to an institution they do not completely
understand or trust. In the view of committee, it would assist the Taskforce to
prominently highlight its independent character, its arms-length relationship
to Defence and its lines of responsibility to the Minister in its
communications with potential claimants and other stakeholders.
Recent reports of unacceptable behaviour
The committee has been disappointed to see recent reports of Defence
personnel allegedly engaged in unacceptable behaviour.
This has included circulating inappropriate material, sometimes using Defence communication
systems, or uploading inappropriate material to social media. The committee
does not propose to comment specifically on matters which are the subject of
Defence and police investigation. However, the committee notes that the Pathway
to Change strategy identified that as improvements in Defence occurred 'the
number of reports of unacceptable behaviour may rise before falling over time'.
The committee also noted that Pathway to Change will implement the
recommendations of the Review of Social Media and Defence.
These recent reports of unacceptable behaviour in the ADF highlight the need
for reform in this area.
Parliamentary oversight and review
The committee welcomes the Minister's and Defence's commitment to
informing the Parliament and the Australian public on the progress and outcomes
of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce and the Defence cultural reforms. Further,
the committee notes that, being based in the Attorney-General's Department, the
operations of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce will continue to fall under
the scrutiny of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation
Committee's estimates process. The Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Legislation Committee will also be able to monitor the ongoing implementation
of the Defence cultural reforms through its estimates process. Despite this
ongoing parliamentary scrutiny, the committee considers there will be a need to
specifically review the progress that has been made by Defence in effecting
cultural reform when the Pathway to Change strategy implementation concludes.
The committee recommends that, at the completion of the
implementation of the Pathway to Change strategy, the Australian Government conduct
an independent review of its outcomes and an assessment of the need for further
reform in Defence.
The occurrence of abuse in Defence, as identified by the DLA Piper
Review and by other processes, has caused a terrible legacy of physical and
psychological harm to many men and women serving in the ADF. Accordingly, the
committee supports Defence's ongoing zero tolerance approach to dealing with
incidents of abuse within its ranks. As a community we expect members of
Australia's armed forces to uphold the highest ethical and moral standards. This
high expectation has contributed to the close attention and scrutiny that incidents
of abuse in Defence have received.
It would be unrealistic to expect that in an organisation the size and
complexity of Defence that incidents of abuse would never occur. It is also
important to acknowledge that the problem of abuse is not unique to Defence. As
some submitters noted, similar abuse has occurred, does occur and unfortunately
likely will continue to occur (despite the best policies to prevent it) in
other areas of Australian life—tertiary institutions, workplaces and community
organisations. The challenge for Defence is to evolve its processes,
procedures, values and behaviour to minimise incidents of abuse and
appropriately address incidents of abuse where they occur.
The committee is hopeful that the legacy of the DLA Piper Review and the
Defence cultural reviews—the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce and the Defence
cultural reform strategy Pathway to Change—will both bring resolution to
victims of past abuse and prevent further abuse from occurring in the future. In
both cases it is too early to form a conclusive judgement on the government's
response, however, on the evidence received, the committee considers that
significant progress has been made. The committee has been disappointed by the
response of Defence when matters relating to abuse have been raised in the past.
Previous assurances by senior officers have not translated in to effective
reform. Nonetheless, the committee recognises that the problem of abuse has
been acknowledged at the highest levels within both Defence and the Australian
Government and substantial resources have been directed to addressing it.
The committee recognises that effecting cultural change within large
organisations and communities, including those such as Defence, is a particularly
difficult endeavour. In a different context but pertinent to the problems
confronting Defence, the Secretary of Defence, Mr Dennis Richardson, told the
committee recently that:
The easiest thing in the world is to play around with
structure. I could change the structure of Defence any time within a week. That
is not hard. Structure is normally the superficial surface level of issues.
Addressing issues below the structure is far more difficult and, indeed, takes
time. I have seen too many cases of people who play around with structure and
walk out and declare victory. More often than not, the big issues you are
talking about are not structural. They are attitudinal and they are cultural.
During times of transition, clear direction and symbolic action by leadership
can send important messages regarding appropriate standards of behaviour to the
lower ranks. In this regard, the committee wishes to highlight the ADF's response
to the alleged circulation of emails within Defence containing content
demeaning to women announced by the Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, Chief
of Army, on 13 June 2013.
The tenor and character of the response by Defence to these allegations provides
some evidence to the committee that cultural change in Defence is occurring. This
is one of a number of signals from Defence that it intends to become an
inclusive workplace where abuse is not tolerated. The incident is also evidence
that the ongoing reforms to evolve Defence's culture need to continue. The
committee is hopeful that further positive cultural change in relation to
responding to abuse will be achieved in Defence.
Senator Alan Eggleston
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