House of Representatives Committees

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Chapter 7 Reviews of Defence Culture


7.1                   In April 2011, following an incident at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), the Minister for Defence announced that a series of urgent reviews would be conducted into aspects of Defence culture.

7.2                   The reviews announced by the Minister were:

n  Review into the Treatment of Women at ADFA and in the wider ADF;

n  Review of the use of Alcohol in the ADF;

n  Review of the use of Social Media in Defence;

n  Review of Personal Conduct of ADF Personnel;

n  Review of the Management of Incidents and Complaints in Defence; and

n  Review of Defence APS Women’s Leadership Pathways.

7.3                   The reviews were overseen and coordinated by a Steering Committee chaired by the Vice Chief of the Defence Force.[1]

7.4                   It was originally intended that, for the review of the Defence Annual Report 2010-2011, Defence would simply update the Committee on the progress of these reviews. However, on 7 March 2012, the Defence Minister announced the outcomes of all the reviews into the Defence culture with the exception of the second part of the Review into the Treatment of Women in the wider ADF by Elizabeth Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner (expected to be released later in 2012).

7.5                   At the same time as releasing the individual reviews, the Minister advised that Defence’s response to the reviews would be encapsulated in a document titled ‘Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture’. The Minister advised this document outlines how the recommendations of the reviews will be implemented consistent with the wider Defence Reform Program. He further advised ‘Pathway to Change’ builds on the institutional and personal accountability reforms in Defence to implement the Review of the Defence Accountability Framework (the Black Review).

7.6                   As a result of these announcements, the Committee received a full update on the proposed outcomes of these completed reviews at the hearing with Defence into the Defence Annual Report 2010-2011.

7.7                   A summary of each of the reviews into Defence culture and key outcomes announced by the Minister for Defence follows.

The Review of the use of Alcohol in the ADF

7.8                   Professor Margaret Hamilton, an executive member of the Australian National Council on Drugs, led an independent panel to review the overall strategy for managing the use of alcohol in the ADF. Her recommendations include:

n  The preparation of an evidence-based alcohol management strategy for implementation within Defence;

n  Defence to ensure that the pricing of alcohol available at Defence establishments is consistent with the alcohol management strategy;

n  Developing an approach to collecting and responding to alcohol related data to enhance its value in terms of managing individuals and strategic planning; this will include alcohol screening of individuals at recruitment and across important career transition points, particularly post-deployment, and a whole of ADF Alcohol Incident Reporting System;

n  Commanders to assess situations in which alcohol is proposed to be used informally or formally and where specific approval would then be required for the use and access to alcohol within ADF work location; and

n  Defence to form alliances and partnerships with other organisations and individual experts on alcohol outside Defence to provide their input into alcohol policy and program development and implementation.[2]

The Review of Personal Conduct of ADF Personnel

7.9                   Major General Craig Orme, Commander Australian Defence College, led this review with a focus on assessing the effectiveness and current policies governing ADF conduct, and identifying areas of strength and weakness. He recommends a culture that is just and inclusive. His recommendations include:

n  The ADF more explicitly state values and behaviours on enlistment, and reinforce them through education and practice; and

n  The Navy, Army and Air Force continue to improve avenues of communication for members to report concerns about personal conduct through the formal chain of command and through confidential methods of reporting.[3]

The Review of the use of Social Media in Defence

7.10               Mr Rob Hudson, from the consulting company George Patterson Y&R, led a team to examine the impact of the use of social media in Defence, with the aim of developing measures to ensure that the use of new technologies is consistent with ADF and Defence values. His recommendations include:

n  All policies relating to the use of social media, the internet or cyber activities be reviewed, including guidelines to ensure they are consistent with the overall social media policy and engagement principles;

n  Defence should consider reviewing social media training and the way it is prioritised and delivered in order to ensure consistency, including relevant resources, guidelines, and support mechanisms; and

n  Resources be provided to support the understanding and management of social media in Defence.[4]

The Review of Defence Australian Public Service Women’s Leadership Pathways.

7.11               Ms Carmel McGregor, the former Deputy Public Service Commissioner, examined the effectiveness of current strategies and proposed recommendations across a range of issues regarding employment pathways for Defence APS women. (Ms McGregor has subsequently been appointed to the position of Deputy Secretary People Strategies and Policy in Defence). Her recommendations include:

n  The Secretary issue an explicit statement to senior leaders and staff to reinforce the importance of gender diversity to build a sustainable workforce;

n  The establishment of a rotation program for senior women at Senior Executive Service Band 2/3 within the broader APS;

n  Ensure female membership in senior decision-making bodies;

n  Implement a development program for Executive Level women that includes job rotation, as well as over-representing women in existing development programs;

n  Embed a focus on identifying and developing women for leadership roles, including a facilitated shadowing and coaching component, in the new talent management system; and

n  Establish a central maternity leave pool for central management of the full-time equivalent liability associated with maternity leave.[5]

The Review of the Management of Incidents and Complaints

7.12               The Inspector General ADF, Mr Geoff Earley, conducted a review of the management of incidents and complaints in Defence, with specific reference to the treatment of victims, transparency of processes, and the jurisdictional interface between military and civil law. His recommendations include:

n  Funding to be provided as a matter of priority to contract out the task of reducing the current grievance backlog of cases to suitably qualified legal firms;

n  Training and information provided to ADF members in relation to the management of incidents and complaints be simplified and improved;

n  Defence’s administrative policies be amended to provide for administrative suspension from duty, including the circumstances in which a Commander may suspend an ADF members, and the conditions which may be imposed on the suspended member; and

n  An improved process to manage grievances in Defence also be developed.[6]

7.13               The recommendations of this review would be further considered in the context of other reforms to aspects of the military justice system and Part Three of the HMAS Success Commission of Inquiry Report.[7]

The Kirkham Inquiry

7.14               The Minister for Defence announced that the Kirkham Inquiry report is a detailed review of the management of the ‘Skype Incident’ and its aftermath and that, after careful consideration of policy and legal advice, the Inquiry report will not be published, even in redacted form. He advised that, in relation to specific allegations made in the media, the Inquiry found:

n  The Commandant did not order or advise the female officer cadet (OFFCDT) to apologise to cadets in her Division for having gone to the media;

n  The female OFFCDT was offered counselling in her meeting with the Commandant;

n  No Sergeant had spoken offensively to the female OFFCDT on leaving the Commandant’s office;

n  The female OFFCDT was not abused by cadets in morning assembly on 6 April 2011;

n  No speech of apology was cancelled because of the volatile mood of cadets and fears it would fuel anger directed at the female OFFCDT by fellow cadets; and

n  The female OFFCDT’s room was not plastered with shaving foam.[8]

7.15               The Inquiry found that, in the circumstances, it was reasonable for ADFA staff, including Commodore Kafer and the Deputy Commandant, to reach the conclusion that it was appropriate to proceed with and conclude the two disciplinary charges against the female Officer Cadet. The Inquiry also found that, overall, neither the Commandant nor the Deputy Commandant made an error of judgement in their decisions to commence and conclude the disciplinary proceedings against the female OFFCDT. The Inquiry also found that it would have been a reasonable course of action to not commence and conclude the disciplinary proceedings.[9]

7.16               The Minister further advised that the Kirkham Inquiry found no legal basis for action against Commodore Kafer and that any resumption of his duties would be a matter for Commodore Kafer’s chain of command. Based on the findings in the Kirkham Inquiry Report and the Broderick Report, the Vice Chief of the Defence Force determined that Commodore Kafer would resume his duties as Commandant of ADFA. [10]

DLA Piper Review

7.17               This review involved the engagement of the law firm DLA Piper by the then Secretary of Defence to review allegations of abuse received in the aftermath of the ADFA Skype incident methodically and at arm’s length from Defence. The Minister for Defence announced that Volume 1: ‘General Findings and Recommendations’ of the Review had been received as well as the first tranche of Volume 2: ‘Individual Allegations’. The second tranche of Volume 2 is expected to be submitted to the Minister for Defence in March 2012.[11]

7.18               The Executive Summary of Volume 1 of the DLA Piper Review advises that the review has received specific allegations within scope from 847 different sources and that many of these sources made more than one allegation. It advises that there are allegations across every decade from the 1950s to date. It further advises that the allegations are incredibly diverse and it is not possible to summarise the nature of the allegations as a group. [12]

7.19               The Committee notes that, on 10 July 2012, the Minister for Defence released the initial report of the DLA Piper Review into allegations of sexual and other forms of abuse in Defence, and advised that the Review’s findings and recommendations are being carefully and methodically considered.[13]

Current Status

7.20               Defence advised that, in conjunction with the Minister for Defence’s announcement on the outcome of the reviews, Defence released its response to those reviews: Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture on 7 March 2012. Defence observed that these reviews have drawn attention to Defence’s many strengths, however, they have also identified serious issues which must be addressed. The Pathway to Change document:

. . . integrates the recommendations of six reviews into a coherent, cohesive plan of action with responsibility for implementation allocated to specific senior Defence leaders. Importantly, the authors of each of the reviews have been part and parcel of the development of the Pathway to Change and are supportive of the approach being taken. At its heart, Pathway to Change is about behaviours – towards Defence and its institutions and, critically, to each other. It is not acceptable for actions that affect the safety and well being of our people, and compromise our capability, to be regarded in any way as normal. We should be surprised, angered, embarrassed and saddened any time there is a revelation about poor behaviour by a member of the Defence community.[14]

7.21               The Committee concurred with Defence’s evidence that, in general, Defence personnel exemplify good behaviour. However, the Committee observed that often, in the media, a link is drawn between the Defence environment and incidents of bad behaviour by Defence personnel. The Committee expressed a view that, while any poor behaviour is unacceptable, there are fewer instances in Defence than in many other organisations. The Committee questioned how Defence was addressing the issue of the media inferring a causal link between Defence and the poor behaviour of some of its personnel, rather than recognising societal trends.

7.22               Defence responded that it cannot account for how the media reports on such issues. However, Defence is held to a high standard and will continue to uphold those standards.[15]

7.23               Defence further noted that:

. . . these incidents do not define Defence, but that is what people are using them to do. A lot of external commentary defines Defence by these incidents. I utterly reject that . . . we are about growing people, not damaging them. We are about taking young kids off the street and giving them a great opportunity to develop life skills and career skills and be part of a great institution.[16]

7.24               Defence confirmed that the Secretary and CDF will be accountable for the overall success of this cultural reform program, but both recognise that this will take a sustained effort from all Defence staff over a number of years to achieve. Defence reinforced its commitment to tackling cultural challenges at source. For example, Defence is already implementing some of the recommendations from the Broderick Review into the Treatment of Women at the Australian Defence Force Academy.[17]

7.25               Defence stated:

. . . some of the initiatives you will see in the Pathway to Change document are revolutionary, others are more subtle, but all will impact Defence daily life in some way. It is important to note that the Pathway to Change is not all about introducing a series of new policies. Most of our policies are sound but can be, at times, inconsistently applied. So, part of our role is to consolidate, modify and clarify existing policies so they are consistent with our cultural intent. As Defence members we understand that we are quite rightly held to higher standards and greater scrutiny than the majority of Australian society and, while we strive for a clean record, if things do go wrong, we must be able to demonstrate that we have the moral courage to act and the ability to respond in an appropriate and timely manner. The Australian Defence Force and the Defence organisation of the future will embody our cultural intent, and we will be trusted to defend, proven to deliver, and respectful always.[18]

7.26               The Committee asked how statements made in the Pathway to Change document will be measured, and how individuals within Defence will be held accountable.

7.27               Defence responded that there will be difficulties with measuring specific statements in the Pathway to Change document itself. The overall intention is to inspire Defence people and outline the aspirations for their behaviour. The Pathway to Change document outlines the type of organisation Defence wishes to be and wishes to be recognised as. Underneath that statement there are the reports with recommendations, which can be measured.[19]

7.28               Defence reiterated that the senior leadership within Defence are accountable for implementing the Pathway to Change.[20]

7.29               The Committee commended Defence for the Pathway to Change document and discussed the issue of how long it would take to tackle challenges. The Committee asked at what stages progress would be reviewed.

7.30               Defence responded that it would be able to provide a progress update in twelve months’ time at a future Committee hearing.[21]

7.31               The Committee asked for an update on the RAR Buddies Facebook website.

7.32               Defence noted that this was a website:

. . . that is populated largely by men who have served in the Royal Australian Regiment or who are currently serving in the Royal Australian Regiment, an infantry organisation within the Army. The purpose of the website was both social and charitable. It had about 1300 members. It was set up as a place to exchange information and raise money, and, indeed, they have raised $20,000 for Legacy. A very small group, during the course of last year, began to make use of the website in an inappropriate way, but because the website was closed, that is, you had to have a password to get into it – the Defence Force and, certainly, Army, remained completely oblivious to the details that were being posted and the corruption of the site.[22]

7.33               Defence stated that it became aware of the type of material being posted on the site at the beginning of 2012 and then gained access to the site. Defence advised that it appeared that there were about 30 personnel in the total website population that appeared to be using this site inappropriately. This appeared to include only one serving Army member. This issue is currently being investigated and action will be taken if involvement is proven.[23]  Defence also advised that:

Not only have I written to all the members of the RAR Buddies website, whether they were serving or not, to express my concern about what occurred, but I have also sent out to all members of the Army the need to stress again the fact that we are all individually accountable for our actions.[24]

Treatment of Women at the Australian Defence Force Academy

7.34               The Committee requested an update on the actions being taken at ADFA in response to the Broderick Review into the Treatment of Women at ADFA.

7.35               Defence advised that, immediately following the release of the Report by Ms Broderick, the Commander Australian Defence College (ADC) established an ADC Reviews Implementation Team to manage implementation of the report’s 31 recommendations. This team will also consider the recommendations of other Defence culture reports relating to the Australian Defence Force Academy.[25]

7.36               Defence confirmed work is underway or complete on the majority of recommendations from Ms Broderick’s review, and that key actions have included:

n  Implementation of a Residential Support Officer scheme where junior military officers who possess required attributes reside in the junior cadets’ accommodation.

n  Provision of a range of support options for cadets, including posters and a wallet-size ‘ready reckoner’ which incorporate support and emergency contact phone numbers for key internal and external support services including the Australian Defence Force Hotline, Rape Crisis Centre, Lifeline, Mensline, Beyond Blue, and drug and alcohol counselling.

n  Working closely with the ‘Group of Eight’ universities in the ‘Linking with Universities’ Forum, including meeting with senior academics and Managers of Halls of Residence. As part of this program, ADFA hosted a two day ‘Ethics Seminar’ in April 12 which was attended by 40 students from ADFA and Group of Eight Universities.

n  Collaboration with an external consultant to design and develop a pilot Sexual Ethics Program, intended to provide ADFA cadets with a course on healthy and respectful relationships.

n  Development of a Sexual Harassment Survey which, together with the refinement of complaint handling processes at ADFA and the development of performance metrics, will progress recommendations relating to data collection and handling.[26]

DLA Piper Review

7.37               The Committee raised some concerns about the DLA Piper review and the terms of reference, specifically, the issue of certain cases being ‘in scope’ or ‘out of scope’.

7.38               Defence advised that, although the Defence department commissioned the DLA Piper review and the Terms of Reference were developed by Defence with discussion with the Minister’s office and are publicly available, it was up to DLA Piper to assess complaints against those Terms of Reference. Defence does not have direct control of this process.[27] 

7.39               Defence noted that there is a process in place to review cases which the DLA Piper team have deemed to be out of scope.[28]

Alcohol Management

7.40               The Committee requested an overview of the evidence that was provided and led to the development of the alcohol management strategy.

7.41               Defence advised the Committee that a program on alcohol management had been initiated with the Australian Drug Foundation in mid to late 2010. This program had evolved into focus groups with groups of young men and women. However, as a result of Professor Hamilton’s review, any action on implementing an alcohol management strategy had been delayed until her review had been finalised.[29] Now this has occurred, Defence will continue to develop and implement its alcohol management strategy.[30]

7.42               Defence provided a summary of perceptions expressed about drinking behaviour in the ADF during a series of focus groups conducted across Australia. This summary includes feedback from interviews with over 1,000 ADF members:

The overall perception held by senior ranks of the ADF was that drinking practices have changed over the last 15-20 years, as the organisational culture has shifted to a model of risk management. This was primarily perceived as inevitable, as civilian organisations have also shifted towards this model.

Senior command and senior Non Commissioned Officers (NCO) differed in their opinion of the outcomes of this change. Senior command more often reported that the change has facilitated a more capable, accountable and responsive Service. Senior NCOs tended to believe that this was something of a loss of tradition impacting on bonding and morale.

The most frequently reported positive aspects of drinking, from all three Services, included the role of drinking in socialising, networking and unwinding from work responsibilities. This is often perceived as an integral part of ADF culture and tradition. This helps team cohesion, bonding, and morale-building. These perceptions are shared across ranks.[31]

7.43               Defence further noted:

There was relative consistency between the junior and senior ranks regarding the negative consequences or impacts associated with alcohol consumption. Terms such as ‘poor decision’, ‘poor judgement’, ‘violence’ or ‘fisticuffs’ were frequently used by junior ranks to describe the negatives of alcohol consumption.

Interestingly, senior NCOs highlighted the use of alcohol as a ‘symptom of other problems’. This potentially raises the importance of attention to co-morbidity rather than addressing alcohol-related problems in isolation. A number of workshops mentioned compromised mental health as a potential outcome of heavy drinking.[32]

7.44               Finally, Defence advised:

In terms of the more junior members; officers, NCOs and Other Ranks emphasise the personal and professional consequences of alcohol-related behaviour . . . Loss of reputation was often noted . . . . There is also acknowledgement that poor behaviour in community settings can impact on the reputation of the ADF.

Additionally, Junior NCOs indicated that the ‘media approach was a problem’ with reference to the Army’s alcohol consumption. The perceived practice of binge drinking among younger members was almost wholly associated with ‘Gen Y’, that is, bingeing is a ‘normal’, almost acceptable, practice among people aged 18-24 in the Army and in civilian life.

A fundamental aspect of drinking frequently noted by participants is the issue of ‘accountability’, particularly in reference to resultant anti-social or irresponsible behaviours. Accountability of actions, on both an individual and managerial level was discussed, though, frequently, command saw junior ranks as needing to be accountable for their actions and troops saw command as needing to be more accountable to support the troops in better managing their recreational drinking.[33]

7.45               The Committee also sought an update on the issue of alcohol pricing in Defence establishments.

7.46               Defence responded that, in some messes, the actual price of alcohol is not reduced, but it is able to be delivered at a reduced price because overheads, such as the facilities, are reduced, and the cost of staff is already included in messing contracts. This results in the price of alcohol in officers and SNCO’s messes being less than the price in an airmen’s or soldier’s mess which is, in turn, less than it would be in the outside community. Defence advised that the pricing of alcohol was already being reviewed as part of the SRP.[34]

7.47               Defence noted that there are a number of complexities about this issue. Firstly, ADF personnel are, mostly, adults who are trusted to go to war and conduct operations, so how much control and what can be controlled needs to be considered. Secondly, Defence establishments are often a mix of workplace and accommodation, particularly on board a ship.[35]

7.48               Defence further noted that it is reviewing its data collection, audit and reporting systems on alcohol sales and consumption to assist in making decisions as part of the review process.[36]

7.49               The Committee asked about the reintegration of personnel who are finishing deployments.

7.50               Defence stated that, in respect of reintegration and alcohol:

The program is evolving. Last year we ran a trial in theatre on the base at Minhad. That comes with some difficulties because you are actually trying to run this in a workplace where there are a lot of other people who are not reintegrating and looking to come home. Also, there are cultural sensitivities in running a program like that with alcohol in the country that it is in. So, we are looking at a far broader approach at the moment where we do look to run the program but we run the program at home.[37]

7.51               The Committee observed that Mr Gyles, in his report into HMAS Success, suggested that military Commanders may be gun-shy about taking action to maintain discipline. The perception was that the pendulum has swung too far towards individual rights. The Committee asked what Defence’s view of this contention was, and whether it was doing anything to redress the issue of balance.

7.52               Defence advised that it had only recently received the Gyles report and was currently reviewing it. Senior leadership will meet with Mr Gyles to discuss the genesis of these statements and the philosophy that led him to those observations. This will then enable Defence to assess how to respond to this issue. Defence noted this is an important issue as it affects the discipline environment for the ADF:

The report asks us all to sit back and reflect on the journey we have been on for the last seven years or so, and the treatment and direction that military justice has taken. It gives us an opportunity to look at that calibration.[38]


7.53               The Committee notes the following in respect of the Defence Cultural Reviews:

n  The reviews into Defence culture have drawn attention to Defence’s many strengths, however, there are still cultural issues to be resolved.

n  Defence has developed an overarching document: Pathway to Change which integrates the recommendations of six Defence culture reviews into a plan of action with responsibility for implementation allocated to specific senior Defence leaders.

n  Defence leaders are committed to implementing the aspirations outlined in the Pathway to Change document, noting this will take time to permeate the organisation.

n  The Committee notes that issues of inappropriate behaviour are not isolated to the ADF. Rather, this is a societal issue. The Committee has been informed, compared to community statistics, that the ADF has a relatively low number of incidents. Notwithstanding, the Committee commends the ADF’s resolve to ensure there is zero tolerance to bad behaviour, and zero tolerance to turning a blind eye when complaints are made by members of the Australian Defence Force.


Senator Mark Furner
Chair, Defence Sub-Committee


Mr Michael Danby MP