Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner to lead review on ADFA Skype Incident

Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sion­er to lead review of the Aus­tralian Defence Force Acad­e­my and the Aus­tralian Defence Force
Today I announce that Ms Eliz­a­beth Brod­er­ick, the Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sion­er, on behalf of the Aus­tralian Human Rights Com­mis­sion, will lead an exam­i­na­tion of the treat­ment of women at the Aus­tralian Defence Force Acad­e­my (ADFA).
She will also review the progress of exist­ing strate­gies iden­ti­fied by the Chief of the Defence Force’s Women’s Advi­so­ry Group, includ­ing path­ways for women into Aus­tralian Defence Force (ADF) lead­er­ship.

This will be an impor­tant step in com­menc­ing a far reach­ing cul­tur­al appraisal and ongo­ing change pro­gram for Defence. 

The Aus­tralian Human Rights Com­mis­sion, at the request of the Min­is­ter for Defence, has agreed for the Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sion­er to lead a small team of men and women with rel­e­vant exper­tise in this area to do this work.

Ms Broderick’s work is the first step in the com­pre­hen­sive review of the cul­ture both with­in ADFA and the ADF to address ongo­ing areas of con­cern in rela­tion to pro­mot­ing appro­pri­ate con­duct, includ­ing the treat­ment of women, alco­hol use and use of social media and rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al behav­iour more generally. 

These com­pre­hen­sive reviews are being ini­ti­at­ed by the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) and the Sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Defence.

These reviews will audit and assess the good work that has been done to date in these areas, see what improve­ments can be made and what lessons can be learnt from oth­er organisations.

There will be a sep­a­rate review to improve path­ways for women in the Aus­tralian Pub­lic Ser­vice (APS) in the Defence organisation.

As well, the CDF will bring for­ward for imple­men­ta­tion by the Gov­ern­ment the open­ing up of all roles in the ADF to women, includ­ing com­bat roles, on the basis that deter­mi­na­tion for suit­abil­i­ty for roles in the ADF is to be based on phys­i­cal and intel­lec­tu­al abil­i­ty, not gender.

Addi­tion­al­ly, a cul­tur­al stock­take and review of alco­hol and binge drink­ing, the use of social media and per­son­al con­duct at ADFA and in the ADF more gen­er­al­ly has been commissioned.

  • Drink­ing and inap­pro­pri­ate behav­iour often go hand in hand and we con­tin­ue to need to under­stand bet­ter how to man­age unhealthy drink­ing cultures. 
  • The impact of social media – online tech­nolo­gies enabling peo­ple to com­mu­ni­cate and share infor­ma­tion and resources via the inter­net – has cre­at­ed new chal­lenges for the ADF and the Defence organ­i­sa­tion. Things which are con­duct­ed pri­vate­ly may be appro­pri­ate, but they are not appro­pri­ate if they are con­duct­ed in pub­lic, includ­ing through the use of social media. We must ensure that the use of new tech­nolo­gies is con­sis­tent with ADF and Defence values. 
  • Each mem­ber of the ADF, from the most junior cadet to the most senior offi­cer, is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Defence and our nation. The Defence lead­er­ship and the Aus­tralian com­mu­ni­ty have a right to expect the high­est stan­dard of behav­iour and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. The cul­tur­al stock­take will assess the ADF’s codes of con­duct and behav­iours against them, includ­ing for per­son­nel serv­ing over­seas, to ensure they reflect the Defence leadership’s expec­ta­tions of the high stan­dards that those serv­ing their coun­try should demon­strate at all times.

Events over the last week have also raised pub­lic con­cerns over the ADF and Defence’s man­age­ment of com­plaints and deal­ing with alle­ga­tions of mis­con­duct and abuse.
It is essen­tial that the ADF and Defence pro­motes and enforces the high­est stan­dards of behav­iour and cre­ates an envi­ron­ment where com­plaints can be aired and appro­pri­ate­ly addressed. 

  • I have there­fore asked the inde­pen­dent Inspec­tor Gen­er­al of the Aus­tralian Defence Force to con­duct 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, which may lead to untime­ly deci­sion mak­ing processes. 
  • This will be con­sid­ered togeth­er with the sec­ond report from Roger Gyles QC in rela­tion to the HMAS Suc­cess Com­mis­sion of Inquiry, which will deal with Defence Admin­is­tra­tive Inquiry processes. 

This past week has also seen a large num­ber of pub­lic or pri­vate alle­ga­tions of sex­u­al or oth­er forms of abuse drawn to the atten­tion of my office, as well as to the atten­tion of the Depart­ment of Defence and the media. 

These alle­ga­tions are of con­cern and must be dealt with method­i­cal­ly and at arms length from Defence. The Sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Defence will engage an inde­pen­dent legal firm to review each alle­ga­tion raised to deter­mine the most appro­pri­ate way for these com­plaints to be addressed and whether fur­ther inde­pen­dent action is required to deal with any such matters.

Final­ly, Defence and ADFA will engage with a pan­el of select­ed Uni­ver­si­ty Vice Chan­cel­lors and res­i­den­tial Col­lege heads to assess increased coop­er­a­tion between ADFA and Aus­tralian Uni­ver­si­ties on the chal­lenges fac­ing high­er edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions and res­i­dences in rela­tion to stu­dent behav­iour and cultures. 

Fur­ther details of the reviews and the review teams will be pro­vid­ed in the near future. 

Sub­ject to the usu­al con­sid­er­a­tion of per­son­al, pri­va­cy and legal issues, it is pro­posed to make these reviews public.

As well, today the Vice Chief of the Defence Force will appoint an inquiry under the Defence (Inquiry) Reg­u­la­tions 1985 into the man­age­ment of the ‘Skype’ inci­dent. Mr Andrew Kirkham QC will lead the ‘Inquiry into the Man­age­ment of the Aus­tralian Defence Force Acad­e­my (ADFA) Skype Inci­dent of March 2011’ and its aftermath.

Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Depart­ment of Defence: (02) 6127 1999 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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