Unacceptable Behaviour

Defence is a highly capable organisation bound by complementarities of our strong single Service and Australian Public Service (APS) cultures. Defence people are dedicated professionals who rise to challenges large and small, demonstrate high standards of professionalism, and contribute to our reputation for excellence within the Australian community.

Unacceptable behaviour in the workplace is not condoned, and neither is the mismanagement or disregard of complaints. Defence is committed to ensuring that incidents of unacceptable behaviour are dealt with appropriately.

Defence personnel who believe they are subject to unacceptable behaviour or are party to an unacceptable behaviour incident or complaint, may seek confidential advice through the Workplace Behaviour Adviser Network.

At any time in the complaint management process, or when managing an incident of unacceptable behaviour, commanders, managers and supervisors may seek advice or guidance from:

  • 1800 DEFENCE (1800 333 362).
  • a Workplace Behaviour Adviser, but not an Adviser who has, or is providing advice to either the complainant or respondent.
  • a Workplace Behaviour Network Coordinator at a base or establishment.
  • a Group HR manager or regional HR Services Team.
  • references, tools, supporting information and contacts provided on this site.

Unacceptable behaviour in the workplace is unreasonable conduct at work or in any situation that may be connected to Defence that is offensive, belittling, abusive or threatening to another person or adverse to moral, discipline or workplace cohesion. Unacceptable behaviour may result in psychological injury. Unacceptable behaviour can have a significant impact on the mental health of people involved, and is categorised under seven general headings:


Is unwanted or unwelcome behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would consider offensive, insulting, humiliating or intimidating. There does not have to be an intention to offend or harass for harassment to occur. Harassing behaviour can range from serious to less significant; one-off incidents may still constitute harassment.

Workplace Bullying

Workplace Bullying Is an aggressive form of harassment. Bullying is a persistent, unreasonable pattern of behaviour directed towards a person or group of persons, which may create a risk to health and safety, including a risk to the emotional, mental or physical health of the person(s) in the workplace. Personnel at all levels may be affected, not only those to whom the harassment is directed, for example, colleagues.

Any form of sexual misconduct

Sexual misconduct is the term used to cover the full spectrum of inappropriate behaviours of a sexual nature, from unacceptable behaviours that are visible and non-criminal, through to criminal behaviours. These behaviours can be committed by force or intimidation, or be unwelcome. Sexual misconduct includes, but is not limited to: sexual discrimination; sexual harassment; sexual offences; and the recording, photographing or transmitting of incidents of a sexual nature without the knowledge and consent of all parties.


Any distinction, exclusion or preference that has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation. Discrimination can include racial, sex, disability or age. Unlawful discrimination does not include any distinction, exclusion or preference in respect of a particular job based on the inherent requirements of the job.

Abuse of Power

Abuse of power and authority attributed to rank or position to harass, discriminate or bully a subordinate is unacceptable, unethical and in some situations can constitute criminal behaviour.

Inappropriate Workplace Relationships and Conflict of Interest

Any relationship that involves, or gives the appearance of involving partiality, preferential treatment or improper use of rank or position.

Violent behaviour

Is the intentional use of physical force, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community or property which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, or psychological harm. Violent behaviour can have far reaching affects on Defence personnel, their family, the workplace and the capability of Defence. Violent behaviour, inside or outside the workplace, is unacceptable, unless it is required as part of an individual’s duties on Operations.

ADF members can seek support for managing the mental health impacts of unacceptable behaviour via the Need Help Now? page or on the Health and Rehabilitation Services page.

Information and support for managing and reporting unacceptable behaviour can be found at the following links: