Section 2
Health and effectiveness of the Military Justice System

2.6 Right to Complain

At grass roots level, it is readily apparent that there is a more mature approach to the complaint submission and handling process than has previously existed. This can be largely attributed to a changing culture within the ADF where members are more aware of their rights, of what constitutes procedural fairness and place greater trust in the chain of command that they will be treated fairly. ADF members acknowledge that if they do make a complaint the chain of command will not tolerate improprieties of any kind and will act fairly, promptly and objectively even if the chain of command is the cause of the issue about which the complaint has been made.

The ADF response to the 2004 Joint Report by the Department of Defence and the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman Review of the ADF Redress of Grievance System (ROG Review) assigns to IGADF and the later established Fairness and Resolution Branch responsibility for the implementation of six recommendations germane to this sub-section of the report:

As outlined in Chapter Five, Defence has continued to implement the agreed recommendations of the ROG Review. In doing so, better advice is being provided to members submitting complaints and to their commanders, resulting in more satisfactory outcomes – often through the use of more appropriate informal means of resolution and reduced complaint handling times.

IGADF’s JADHE is discussed elsewhere in this report. Fairness and Resolution Branch, with IGADF support, is implementing a Complaint Management, Tracking and Reporting System (ComTrack). A contract was let in June 2007. Portions of the system have already been delivered and the complete system is expected to become operational later this year. Once fully completed later in 2008, the JADHE-ComTrack combination will satisfy the above six recommendations.

ComTrack’s main features include:

Since Fairness and Resolution Branch is in the process of transitioning from legacy systems to ComTrack, available data, and in particular trend data, is not as complete as it will be for next year’s and subsequent reports. Sufficient data is however available to present a clear picture of ADF complaints during the past 12 months. Trend data is included where available.

Redress of Grievance

At the beginning of the financial year 156 grievances were on hand at unit level and a further 92 with Fairness and Resolution Branch for staffing to Service Chiefs or CDF. 270 new grievances were submitted over the reporting period; 72 Navy, 118 Army and 80 Air Force. The main subjects of complaint are career (112), financial entitlement (79) and termination (42) related. Five new applications for redress of grievance relate to unacceptable behaviour issues.

A total of 103 grievances remain open at unit level and a further 76 at Fairness and Resolution Branch at the end of the reporting period.

A total of 248 grievances were finalised, averaging 3.5 months at unit level and 7.6 months at Service Chief and CDF levels. This is viewed as a most significant and positive achievement. It indicates that the ADF is responding assiduously and vigorously to the 2004 Senate inquiry report and that the creation of Fairness and Resolution Branch was the correct decision.

Unacceptable behaviour complaints

Of the 766 unacceptable behaviour complaints received during the reporting period, 581 or 76 per cent identify an ADF member as the respondent. This is slightly below the percentage of the total Defence workforce made up by ADF members.

Resolution times indicate significant signs of improvement. Of the 425 substantiated complaints resolved over the reporting period, 41 per cent were resolved in less than one month and 71 per cent in less than three months.

Charts 19 through 22 indicate recent trends in reported complaints. Over all, there has been a significant reduction in the number of complaints compared with last year. This achievement would indicate that CDF and Service Chief initiatives through the military justice implementation process are producing the desired and expected results.

Chart 19: Line chart showing number of complaints incrementing each month for the last four financial years. Trends for 2004-05 to 2007-08 are similar, but 2007-08 is at least 100 lower by the end of the financial year compared to 2006/07, and slightly higher than 2005-06 and 2004-05.
Chart 19 – Unacceptable behaviour complaint trends
(all forms of unacceptable behaviour)

Chart 20: Line chart showing number of complaints per quarter for Navy, Army, Air Force and APS in the last two financial years.
Chart 20 – Sexual harassment complaint trends

Chart 21: Line chart showing number of complaints per quarter for Navy, Army, Air Force and APS in the last two financial years.
Chart 21 – Harassment complaint trends

Chart 22: Line chart showing number of complaints per quarter for Navy, Army, Air Force and APS in the last two financial years.
Chart 22 – Workplace bullying complaint trends

Incidents of unacceptable behaviour complaints as illustrated above, when compared to individual Service strengths, strongly supports IGADF military justice audit observations and focus group responses that gender equality and equity and the prevention of workplace bullying and harassment are generally well managed and that occurrences are very low. Specific observations and focus group responses are summarised below.