Defence today acknowledged the findings from the Queensland Deputy State Coroner’s Inquest into the combat deaths of Lance Corporal Stjepan ‘Rick’ Milosevic, Private Robert Poate and Sapper James Martin.
The three Australian soldiers were murdered in an insider attack by former Afghan soldier Sergeant Hekmatullah at Patrol Base Wahab in Afghanistan on 29 August, 2012.
A Defence spokesman said inquests were, by their very nature, distressing for everyone concerned, particularly for the families who have lost their loved ones.
“The death of soldiers on combat operations also exacts a heavy toll on their mates and commanders,” the spokesman said.
“Defence applauds the strength and courage of the families, as well as those who have relived the incident while giving evidence during the inquest.
“Defence made every effort throughout the inquest to provide support and assistance to the families of Lance Corporal Milosevic, Private Poate and Sapper Martin, as well as the soldiers involved in this incident.
“Defence will continue to make this support available for all those affected.
“Throughout the proceedings, Defence cooperated with the Coroner and worked closely with all parties represented at the inquest to ensure that, as far as possible, the hearings were conducted in public.
“Defence thanks the Coroner for his considered views and deliberations in relation to the complex inquest.
“Defence continually reviews its training and procedures in response to lessons learnt from all incidents and inquiries into those incidents to minimise risk to combat operations, which are inherently dangerous.
“Where a review or inquiry identifies safety or security issues, Defence will take action to address these issues.
“The Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Army maintain their confidence in the leadership and actions of the members involved in this tragic incident.
“Defence will not make any further comments until the Deputy State Coroner’s findings have been fully considered.”