Minister for Defence - Defence Abuse Response Taskforce report

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Senator the Hon David Johnston

Minister for Defence

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26 November 2014

The Government has received the final report of the out-going Chair of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART), the Honourable Len Roberts-Smith RFD QC, and his report on Defence Abuse at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Both reports were tabled in Parliament today.

Mr Roberts-Smith and his Taskforce team have worked diligently in often difficult circumstances delivering outcomes for former Defence members who have alleged abuse against them. They have worked tirelessly with complainants demonstrating empathy and compassion.

The DART was created to provide Defence personnel who have complained of physical abuse, sexual abuse, harassment or bullying, with an avenue for resolution through counselling, reparation payment, participation in a restorative engagement process and other more traditional means, such as administrative sanctions or criminal action.

The Government recognises considerable work remains to be done. Further support is required for those who have contacted the Taskforce. The Government is determined to ensure that the Taskforce’s terms of reference be fully and independently discharged.

Therefore, while the Taskforce was due to conclude on 30 November 2014, the Government has decided to extend the Taskforce with a view to bringing its important work to a timely and appropriate conclusion.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Defence have appointed the current Deputy Chair of the Taskforce, Mr Robert Cornall AO to lead the Taskforce and accelerate its work.

As a former Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, Mr Cornall brings a wealth of experience to this position.

In response to Mr Roberts-Smith’s recommendations regarding the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), the Minister for Defence has also directed the Department of Defence to engage the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to work with him to examine the issues raised in the report on Defence Abuse at ADFA.

Ms Broderick has a great deal of credibility on this issue. She is a strong advocate for women, she led the review into the so-called ADFA Skype incident and she is very familiar with both ADFA and the wider Defence community.

Her pioneering work on cultural change in the ADF and her deep engagement with Members in her continuing work places her in an ideal position to consider the appropriate response to the DART report including the recommendation around a Royal Commission into ADFA.

The Government believes strongly that perpetrators and those who failed to act against them should be accountable but we are also mindful that any process should not re-traumatise victims. Any accountability mechanism must go hand and hand with cultural and systemic change in the ADF.

The Government will respond in the near future to these reports, and will consider Mr Robert-Smith’s recommendations, including that of a Royal Commission, very carefully.

The DART will continue to provide support to those who have contacted it.

Media contacts:

Scott Bolitho (Attorney-General’s office) 0477 722 189

Rebecca Horton (Minister Johnston’s office) 0477 389 554

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