TRANSCRIPT: PRESS CONFERENCE – LAUNCH OF SEMPRO
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 23 July 2013
TOPICS: Launch of SeMPRO.
DAVID HURLEY: Two activities will be undertaken today. First, the public release of the review into the treatment of women at the Australian Defence Force Academy implementation audit conducted by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and secondly will be the launch of the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Organisation, or SeMPRO, by the ADF.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks very much, David, to General Hurley, Chief of the Defence Force, to Elizabeth Broderick, the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, General Morrison, the Chief of Army, Mark Binskin, Vice Chief of the Defence Force, CEO of the DMO, Warren King, Secretary of the Department, Dennis Richardson, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Well, firstly, I am pleased to be here at Russell this morning together with the Chief of the Defence Force and Liz Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, to do two things, to note the tabling out of session in the Senate of Liz Broderick's audit of the implementation of her recommendations into treatment of women at ADFA and to mark the launching of SeMPRO, the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office.
These both arise as a result of the significant work which Defence has been doing in the aftermath of the so-called ADFA Skype incident back in April 2011. Since that time, we've seen a substantial response from Defence which has now culminated in the Pathways to Change document which outlines and lays out the zero tolerance approach that Defence has to inappropriate conduct.
As part of the response to the ADFA Skype incident, Defence and the Government asked Liz Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, to do two pieces of work. To look at the treatment of women at ADFA, the Australian Defence Force Academy, and also more generally to look at the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force. She has published both of those Reports but part of the monitoring of the implementation of her recommendations was for Liz to do an audit of the implementation of both of her Reports and today, her implementation report into ADFA, her first audit is made public.
That audit shows what we have said in recent times, that good progress has been done - good progress has been made but more work needs to be done. I'll let Liz go through the detail but it is quite clear that the residential support officer system which has been introduced into ADFA has been a success, that the unacceptable behaviour survey is a good initiative, but more work needs to be done, particularly on sexual ethics training.
So far as the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office is concerned or SeMPRO this is a deeply significant initiative by Defence, strongly supported by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and strongly supported by the Government. This allows reporting of allegations of sexual misconduct or inappropriate sexual behaviour to be made by Defence Force personnel outside of the chain of command. Restricted reporting, confidential reporting outside the chain of command.
And this is to ensure that every man and woman in the Australian Defence Force can feel confident, comfortable, and safe in making complaints of sexual misconduct or sexual mistreatment and most importantly, the role of SeMPRO is to be victim orientated. It is not an investigative body, it is to provide the method of reporting but also to provide counselling, support, and also to perform a preventative and educative role.
So this is a deeply significant milestone today in the work - the continuing work of the Australian Defence Force leadership, led by General Hurley and the Secretary of the Department and Vice Chief and the Service Chiefs to ensure a zero tolerance for inappropriate conduct so far as the Defence Force organisation is concerned.
We are also announcing today that Defence and the Government have asked the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to continue to play an ongoing role in terms of oversight of implementation of recommendations arising from the various reviews now culminating in the Pathway to Change document. The Attorney-General Mr Dreyfus has agreed to that ongoing role and that is an unambiguously good thing.
In the course of her work with Defence, with the Chief of the Defence Force, the Secretary and the Vice Chief and Service Chiefs, there is now a lot of consultation, swapping of ideas and monitoring of implementation as Defence implements our zero tolerance approach. So we're pleased that the Attorney-General has agreed to that ongoing approach and role.
I'll hand over to Liz to let her make some remarks on both of those significant outcomes and in the course of my remarks, I have noticed the Chief of Navy there. Can I apologise for not seeing him earlier. I now acknowledge him and call on the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner to make her remarks.
ELIZABETH BRODERICK: Thank you, Minister.
Thank you very much Chief of the Defence Force, Chief of Army, Chief of Navy, Dennis Richardson, Secretary, Mark Binskin, Vice Chief of the Defence Force, all senior Defence Force personnel. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here. I start by acknowledging we are meeting on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people and pay my respect to elders past and present.
Before I talk about the audit report, and that is the audit into the recommendations for the treatment of women at ADFA, I just want to say a few words about SeMPRO. The establishment of SeMPRO was one of the most significant recommendations of a review that I led. During the reviews, interviews, and focus groups last year with over 2000 members of the Australian Defence Force both here and in deployed in environments, it became apparent to me and my team that victims of sexual assault and sexual misconduct were not reporting incidents and as such, were not getting the support that they needed.
The shame associated with being a victim of a sexually related matter, together with a culture of not reporting, not complaining, meant these victims were often dealing with a terrible trauma silently and alone. As well as this, we found that some who did report incidents were not getting the support they needed and were often retraumatised by the system.
SeMPRO is designed to remedy these issues. It will provide a safe supportive and, if necessary, a confidential resource for military personnel to disclose sexual misconduct and assault. As the Minister has said, the huge shift that has happened in Defence today is that SeMPRO is victim-centric or what we call complainant-centric. That type of approach will ensure that those who disclose sexual misconduct are provided with the best possible advice and support right from the outset. It will empower those who have felt powerless, it will restore resilience, and it will give confidence to those who have suffered trauma, often alone.
So I - today, I really want to congratulate Defence, particularly General Hurley, Dennis Richardson, the Secretary, and Carmel McGregor, who is not with us today but she is the Deputy Secretary of People and Policies, for establishing SeMPRO so quickly and for ensuring that it does reflect the full intent of my report's recommendations. I also congratulate the Service Chiefs and the Vice Chief who have so openly supported the establishment of SeMPRO as has the Minister and the Australian Government.
And I also want to acknowledge Kathryn Dunn, who is the head of SeMPRO who is with us today, for her leadership of the organisation and the terrific staff, staff who understand trauma, who she has now working there at SeMPRO, for getting it up and running so quickly. So thank you.
I now wish to turn to my audit report. As a place where future leaders of Australian Defence Force are trained, what happens at ADFA has profound impact and significance for Defence and for our nation. So it's vitally important that the culture at ADFA is reflective of the values and the standards of the Defence Force and the standards that the community expects of their Defence Force leaders.
It is now more than one year since I made a series of recommendations to improve the treatment of women at ADFA. These wide ranging recommendations targeted many aspects of life at ADFA as well as addressing ADFA's place within the Australian Defence Force. I was pleased that shortly after the release of the initial report that the ADF agreed to implement all the recommendation, 30 in full and one in principle.
And I think the acceptance and the implementation of the reviews recommendations demonstrates a deep commitment that I have observed from the Chief, from the Vice Chief and Service Chiefs to build a safe and inclusive culture at ADFA where all mid-shipmen and cadets, male and female, can thrive.
So as you will know, the review's terms of reference required me and my team to come in and to look at the implementation of the recommendations 12 months on from when the initial report was released and we began that process in November 2012. Before I highlight some of the key findings, let me stress, I didn't expect that the cultural change of the scale envisioned by the recommendations would be fully achieved in 12 months. I mean, to imagine that would just be totally unrealistic. However, the first 12 months are a critical window in which real change can either commence or stall and that is why this review is important.
We sought evidence of progress in the implementation of our recommendations. The audit was comprehensive and forensic and I appreciate the efforts of all those who supported it, particularly the leadership at ADFA. We conducted an assessment of progress based on inquiry and evidence from a range of sources, rather than just a tick box approach or a compliance audit. So we drew evidence from documentation, qualitative data, quantitative data, focus groups, interviews and survey data and, where relevant, our own observations.
So what did we find? Well, overarching finding was that ADFA has made significant progress in implementing the review's recommendations. There is clear evidence that ADFA is working to improve its culture and build a more inclusive organisation for all its members, including women. The senior leaders of ADFA are committed to culture change and have worked with a view to embedding reforms in a sustainable way.
So, I just want to give you a couple of examples of that. There has been significant progress in establishing what we call the residential support officer program, which the Minister referred to, which is providing better support and supervision particularly of first year mid-shipmen and cadets. The RSOs live right in the accommodation blocks and they provide guidance and, where necessary, act to minimise risk.
There are significant improvements in training, in information systems, the collection of data, in injury management. And there also is positive developments in a values based approach to training in equity and diversity and unacceptable behaviour. For example, ADFA has expanded its equity and diversity network and has taken the lead in implementing a sexual offence support person network.
So that's the positive side of the ledger. There are areas though that still require attention and we have been very clear about that in the report. In particular, ADFA needs to continue to develop and implement, with an expert provider, an evidence-based sexual ethics program. Instances of sexual harassment, behaviour, and attitudes which are unwelcome, inappropriate, or offensive continue to be present at ADFA. Interactive expert training is an effective primary prevention tool against such behaviour and it will aid in a more mature understanding of sexual ethics.
So I strongly urge ADFA to engage with an expert in this field to develop and deliver a robust and targeted program of sexual ethics that enhances the cadets and mid-shipmen's understanding of respectful and healthy relationships, attitudes, and behaviour.
As the Minister said, ADFA has developed a promising annual unacceptable behaviour survey and with this tool comparisons will be available over time, not just at ADFA but across all the recruit and training establishments across the Defence Force. This will provide an invaluable tool for leadership to swiftly identify trends, to address issues, and target action.
The right staff are vital in setting the tone and culture at ADFA. Staff have a direct and powerful impact on cadet and mid-shipmen's experience and the achievement of superior outcomes. And I am pleased to see that the Commandant now has an increased role in staff selection but I would urge ADFA to continue to do more in that regard to ensure that the commandant has the authority to remove underperforming staff.
Finally, ongoing valuation of the complaints mechanism which exists, its transparency, its accessibility, that is required to ensure that it is as responsive and as effective as possible.
So this report that I launched today reflects a point in time perspective and it's - the point in time is 31 March 2013. I know that ADFA has been continuing to progress some of the areas that we identified as deficient and I'm pleased that ADFA will have the opportunity to provide an update on progress later this year when I conduct the audit of the implementation of recommendations across the broader review into the ADF more generally.
I believe that ADFA will continue to make progress on implementing the review's recommendation. ADFA's senior leadership, the senior leadership of the ADF, recognises that this progress must be consistent and sustainable so that cultural change becomes embedded in the core values and operations of ADFA for the long term.
There is commitment, drive, and creativity at ADFA. I want to congratulate and thank all those who have contributed to the cultural reforms to date and I very much look forward to working with the ADF to see further reforms into the future.
DAVID HURLEY: Ladies and gentlemen, Minister, and Elizabeth. I will begin with SeMPRO. SeMPRO is not just a new support mechanism. SeMPRO represents a fundamental change in the way we approach and manage incidents of sexual misconduct in the Defence Force. By interviewing SeMPRO and the associated ability for restricted reporting or confidential disclosure of sexual misconduct, we are shifting our immediate focus from pursuing the perpetrators or the actual investigation of the incident towards caring and supporting people who have experienced sexual misconduct.
Our move towards what I have referred to as a victim-focused outlook began three years ago when the Australian Defence Force investigative service started working with Amber McKinley, a highly respected applied victimologist, to examine the way service police handled investigations into sexual offences. Ms McKinley's initial research supported the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick's observations that in many cases, the investigator's expectations didn't match the victim's expectation and highlighted the need to reconsider the way we managed and cared for victims of sexual offences.
I was convinced quite early on that Defence needed to adopt a more - a new approach with a greater emphasis on victim care. That view was reaffirmed when the Sex Discrimination Commissioner recommended that we establish SeMPRO to coordinate timely responses, victim support, education, policy, practice, and reporting for any misconduct of sexual nature.
There are two primary reasons behind our shift to a victim-focused approach. First, we know that a significant number of incidents go unreported which means there are significant number of people who have been subjected to sexual misconduct but who are not receiving any assistance. The health and welfare of our people is my highest priority and I want to establish a safe and confidential means for people who have experienced sexual misconduct to seek support and advice.
Second, I want our people to feel empowered and confident that they are in control. Unlike our previous approach, the victim, not the system, will now decide if and when to report a matter for investigation. Over time, I am optimistic that with the right support, people will build trust and confidence to take that action.
I am aware that some may interpret this approach to mean that the perpetrators will not be held accountable for their actions, far from it. This view does not take into account SeMPRO's role in prevention. By acting as a central data point and encouraging more people to report sexual offences or misconduct, SeMPRO will be able to analyse prevalence, identify specific trends or risk factors that will enable us to implement targeted prevention and education strategies across Defence.
I would also like to congratulate Air Commodore Kathryn Dunn and her team for the work they have done in bringing SeMPRO into operation. I know Kathryn in particular is a passionate advocate for victim care. Like Kathryn, I am committed to ensuring we do more to help our people who experience sexual misconduct.
I would also like to thank the Sex Discrimination Commissioner for her work and her team's work on the implementation audit of the Australian Defence Force Academy review. To date, we have implemented 13 of the 21 recommendations arising from the review into the treatment of women at ADFA and I am pleased to hear that Ms Broderick views the introduction of the residential support officers as being a positive and valuable addition to ADFA. This not by itself indicates progress, but as she has said, we have moved forward on many fronts. We do, however, share her view more work needs to be done and I look forward to our continued engagement with her and the audit team as we move into the next phase.
When the Pathways to Change strategy was released, I acknowledged it wouldn't be a quick fix, that the type of deep, far-reaching reform we are seeking will take a sustained effort over many years. What you have seen through this report and the creation of ADFA - of SeMPRO - I'm sorry - is a thorough example of cultural reform in action. Our strong and visible stance against unacceptable behaviour is one part of the story. There is also a great deal of work to be done right across defence to effect cultural change. We are serious about eliminating unacceptable behaviour and resolutely committed to implementing the cultural reform outlined in the Pathway to Change.
Thank you. I'm now happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: What kind of penalties can people expect if they are found guilty of sexual misconduct?
DAVID HURLEY: I think each of those cases will have to be determined on the circumstances. I mean, we're not into mandatory sentencing and so forth. So as you look across the nature of the offences, each will draw both - could draw on either Defence Force discipline action or administrative action in terms of suspension and so forth. So each would be taken on its merits but there are severe penalties.
JOURNALIST: Can you give us an idea of exactly what will happen when someone comes into contact with this service? Who will they be in contact with first, and at what point will they be urged to look at things like reporting and investigating?
DAVID HURLEY: So, SeMPRO has a mixture of uniform and APS, public servant and professional counsellors. It provides a number of support mechanisms for a person who comes in. So it is looking at trauma informed principles from the Australian practice guidelines about how to handle people who have been in traumatic situations such as sexual offence.
So they are brought in first of all, and the first issue is to deal with the trauma, get the person righted, you know centred on themselves, and be able to cope with the incident that has occurred to them. We don't ask at that time to give us any detail about who, when, why or what. The idea is to comfort them, get them into a safe position, let them think through what might be the next step. That's the restricted reporting side of the house, i.e. we keep that issue to ourselves until we are comfortable that the person is on the right - in the right condition and then might want to make a decision about taking the incident further.
JOURNALIST: I have a question for either Minister Smith or for General Hurley. What sort of comfort is it for women in the armed forces that neither of you would have even known about Jedi Council scandal had New South Wales police not pushed the issue?
DAVID HURLEY: Well, I don't think that is a correct interpretation of the facts. The issue was raised in September '10 when the first incident occurred. It was deemed at the time by ADFIS to be a civil offence, it was handed over to civil police, and was then handled by three police forces, Victorian, AFP and New South Wales, as would be the norm under those police investigations, we would not be informed. And it wasn't until March this year when the New South Wales Police came forward and informed us of the situation that we took action, that we were able to take action.
STEPHEN SMITH: Firstly, I am absolutely satisfied with the conduct and the actions taken by the Defence leadership in this matter. General Morrison is in the audience, he drew this to the Chief of the Defence Force's attention in April, it was drawn to my attention in May, and we have seen the very strong response from General Morrison, strongly supported by the Chief of the Defence Force, the Secretary and the other Service Chiefs and me as Minister, outlining a zero tolerance approach for inappropriate conduct.
Yes, I have seen the suggestion that back in September 2010 the conduct of an employee of a defence contractor was drawn to our attention. As General Hurley has said, that was dealt with by the civilian police authorities. New South Wales Police came to the Defence Force in March of this year with the results of their investigation and the response by the Defence leadership, and leadership since that time, has been absolutely faultless and not only has that brought great credit to the zero tolerance approach that we have seen from General Morrison and General Hurley, that has been acclaimed not just in Australia but internationally as it should be. Because that set the benchmark for a zero-tolerance response, it set the benchmark that if you engage in inappropriate conduct, you will be suspended, you will be punted, and the Chief of the Army and the Chief of the Defence Force have my absolutely strong support for the conduct and the action that they have taken.
JOURNALIST: So you're completely satisfied with the way that the matter has been handled?
STEPHEN SMITH: Absolutely. And I have seen references overnight to suggestions of concern from the New South Wales Police. I have had advice this morning from the Chief of the Defence Force, he has spoken to the New South Wales Police Commissioner who likewise is satisfied with the cooperation between the Defence Force and the New South Wales Police.
JOURNALIST: General, just back to SeMPRO, will they be collecting evidence for storage and safeguarding in the event that the victim wants to take some sort of action further down the track?
DAVID HURLEY: Yes, they will. And that is part of the entry into it. We - there will always be attention in this, and one of the big discussions we have had over the last six to eight months as we took Ms Broderick's recommendation on this, is what risk does the organisation take on when you are doing this, and you need to work your way through that. But certainly we would be collecting evidence that will assist us further down the track if the victim come - survivor of that sexual misconduct wishes to take action. But it is done in an environment which is far more sensitive to the person than we might have done, you know, fronting up with a policeman, or a military policeman and going straight into an investigative process.
JOURNALIST: What is your response to Ms Broderick's observations that ADFA has more work to do on the question of sexual ethics, teaching and that sort of thing?
DAVID HURLEY: Again, let me be very clear on that. We're thoroughly supportive of the requirement to get sexual ethics into the program both not in ADFA, but broadly in the ADF. The issue became about the approach to doing it, the scalability of delivering the type of education and training courses. So - we have approached a number of professionals in this area. I think we had a false start in trying to address issues about how to grow it, but we have had further discussion on that and we are now in a much more comfortable position to introduce those programs into both ADFA, specifically, and ADF more broadly.
JOURNALIST: Why has it taken so long to have a training-based program like this?
DAVID HURLEY: When we first looked at the providers, frankly, there was a misunderstanding of what was being offered, ownership of IP, how would you use that IP to grow it in the country - in the ADF sorry? We stepped back and had a fresh look at it, and taken some other advice and we're in a much better position now.
JOURNALIST: So it was in the pipelines for a while, it was just how to implement it?
DAVID HURLEY: Yeah how to implement it, rather than not wanting to. It was more about - you know, when you're dealing with an organisation 50 odd thousand, that you need specific specialists to sit down with small groups of 20 or 30 people, you've really got to put that in industrial scale and then how do you do that in this organisation?
ELIZABETH BRODERICK: Can I just make one comment on that General? I think the other thing is the recommendation was to actually engage with an external expert, because the - sexual ethics is a moving game, just in terms of Instagram, Snapchat, the way people use technology, the meaning of consent, those things, and I was very clear that it needs to be evidence-based, research-based with a subject matter expert to help Defence craft what I think would be a leading edge sexual ethics program and that has taken some time as well.
JOURNALIST: How much has this office cost to set up, and what is this ongoing funding?
DAVID HURLEY: Look I can't give you a dollar term right now because that hasn't really been the concentration of it. There are 14 people, four uniform, 10 APS. So there is just the ongoing cost for that. We have set up a 24-7 call capability, 1800 SMPRO. So there are minor costs really for the benefit we will get out of this organisation.
JOURNALIST: Minister, this could be your last formal engagement as Defence Minister before the caretaker period kicks into effect, if the election is called at the weekend. How do you reflect on your role in all of this and what would be your advice to your successor?
STEPHEN SMITH: I thought you were about to say this might be my la