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Chief of the Defence Force Column

by Chief of Defence Force General David Hurley

MUCH has been said in recent weeks about the release of the Executive Summary of Volume 1 of the DLA Piper Review. DLA Piper was engaged to conduct an external legal review of the management of allegations of sexual and other abuse in Defence.

The review team was asked to assess whether the allegations were appropriately managed and to identify any systemic issues that may require further investigation. Importantly, the Review has been conducted at arm’s length from the ADF.

As the Chief of the Defence Force I am responsible for the welfare of the men and women in the ADF.

From the outset, let me say my primary concern in this matter is the welfare of our serving members and of all the people who are affected by the DLA Piper Review. This includes the complainants and the alleged offenders, both current and former Defence members.

Clearly there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to these circumstances. We need to consider how we can best support each individual through Phase 2 of the Review process and beyond.

If you need support I encourage you to contact the counselling services outlined on page 7.

DLA Piper determined that 775 allegations of the allegations the review team received were plausible. Some of the allegations date back to the 1950s but others are as recent as last year.

It would be easy to dismiss the contents of the executive summary and blame it on a few bad apples, but we must acknowledge that this is a significant document that highlights some serious issues which must be addressed.

While it cannot describe the organisation completely, it does point out that at times in the past, some people in Defence and the ADF may have acted in a manner that has harmed people. This is not acceptable and the Service Chiefs and I are deeply distressed and disappointed by any allegation of inappropriate behaviour.

That said, it is important to note the allegations raised in the Executive Summary have not been tested and they must be examined further in Phase 2 of the DLA Piper Review.

This will take some time to ensure each allegation is considered carefully and methodically.

The Minister for Defence is currently considering the DLA Piper Review Team’s final report which he received in April.

The Review identified a number of options which may be adopted to address these allegations.

The Minister is in discussion with his Cabinet colleagues and will advise us of the Government’s response.

The Service Chiefs and I will fully support this process. We cannot, however, sit back and do nothing while we await the Government’s decision on how the individual allegations will be addressed.

In simple terms this issue is about a lack of respect for one another and in some cases it is alleged that people have taken advantage of positions of authority.

We need to look at these issues critically and understand the lessons so that as an organisation we can address them in today’s context and continue to improve.

While the overwhelming majority of Defence members live up to the high standards expected of us we must ask ourselves ‘how could this happen?’ and ‘how do we ensure this does not happen again?’.

We should view this as an opportunity to make amends for the past and to reinforce our desire for a safe, equitable workplace for all Defence members.

The answers to these questions will complement work underway to implement the Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture.

I encourage you all to read this document so you are familiar with its contents and our cultural intent.

The Pathway to Change is our strategy for achieving long term cultural change. As an organisation we must take steps to eliminate as much as possible the risk factors and opportunities for inappropriate behaviour.

As individuals we must also be able to demonstrate we have the moral courage to act and the ability to respond in an appropriate and timely manner when issues arise.

The standard you walk past is the standard you set and we simply cannot turn a blind eye to instances of inappropriate behaviour.

It will require strong leadership at every level of the ADF and Defence to achieve these goals and to build a better organisation for everyone who serves.