NSCA Foundation

Ombudsman calls on ADF to update guidance on reports of abuse

Wednesday, 21 August, 2019

Ombudsman calls on ADF to update guidance on reports of abuse

The Australian Defence Force Ombudsman is calling on the Defence Force to update its guidance around making, receiving and responding to reports of abuse. The guidance updates form three of six recommendations made in a recent review of relevant policies and procedures to help the Defence Force maintain a prevention-based culture around abuse. While the review showed that existing policies and procedures were mostly “appropriate and supportive to the making and handling of reports of abuse”, Defence Force Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe found there was room for improvement — particularly around their consistency and coherence.

As a result, Manthorpe recommended that the Defence Force: “develop and distribute a card, fact sheet or similar product which outlines all avenues for reporting abuse and accessing advice and support”; update its policies and procedures to help equity advisers take a trauma-informed approach to helping victims; and update the Service Police Manual to include information that helps investigators determine how and when matters should be referred to the civilian police.

Manthorpe also recommended that the Defence Force connect all reporting pathways and associated materials to ensure they reference each other, are specific to reports of abuse and provide advice about referral pathways for victims making reports as well as information for people handling reports. Further recommendations include: nominating a single department to review and endorse any materials around making and handling reports of abuse to ensure consistent and up-to-date messaging, and educating managers and commanders on the five trauma-informed principles to better equip them to handle reports of abuse.

In a second review, Manthorpe looked at how the Ombudsman’s Office has administered its Defence abuse reporting functions and statistics around reports of abuse. While the Office continues to receive reports of serious physical or sexual abuse in the Defence Force, most relate to historic abuse, with only 12% of abuse reports alleging incidents occurring in 2010 or later. Current data suggests that abuse hot spots or systemic issues of abuse do not exist in the same way they did in earlier decades. Manthorpe said the review’s results reinforced the importance of the Defence Force remaining vigilant in this area.

“I am pleased that my Office has been able to assist some hundreds of Defence abuse survivors to have their voices heard, and receive financial or other acknowledgement for their experiences. The work is not completed. We continue to seek to provide a trauma-informed, professional service to those who contact us,” Manthorpe said.

Image credit: © stock.adobe.com/au/Bumble Dee

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