The Australian Government today announced it will expand the functions of the Defence Force Ombudsman (DFO) to provide an additional independent complaints process for allegations of abuse in Defence. This function will complement the cultural change strategy being implemented by Defence.
The new functions will broaden the DFO’s existing oversight role and provide an alternative mechanism for people who have suffered abuse in Defence to access support and advice if they cannot, or do not feel comfortable, accessing Defence’s internal mechanisms for such complaints.
The DFO will be able to take appropriate action to respond to individual complaints of abuse. Individuals will be provided with supportive outcomes, including counselling and restorative engagement conferences through the DFO, to assist in addressing their abuse complaint.
Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne said Defence had recognised the need to improve its culture and had taken significant steps in implementing a cultural change strategy.
“I commend the way in which Defence has recognised the need to take a comprehensive and targeted approach to improving its culture and internal processes,” Minister Payne said.
“The Government remains committed to supporting Defence’s cultural change strategy and the expanded role of the DFO will complement these reforms.”
The announcement coincides with the cessation of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce on the expiry of its Terms of Reference on 31 August 2016. The Taskforce has completed all of its work, providing support and outcomes to eligible complainants.
Minister for Justice Michael Keenan said the personal accounts provided to the Taskforce would contribute to significant changes at Defence.
“I acknowledge the courage and commitment of complainants who came forward to the Taskforce,” Minister Keenan said.
“The work of the Taskforce has deepened the collective understanding of the impacts of abuse and will inform ongoing cultural change in Defence.”
The Government also acknowledged the work of the Taskforce, in particular its Chairs, the Hon Len Roberts-Smith RFD QC and Robert Cornall AO, its Leadership Group and Executive Directors, as well as all the officers who have worked in the Taskforce over the last three years.
The Government also today released the Taskforce’s Final Report, which is available at www.defenceabusetaskforce.gov.au
The expanded DFO functions will take effect from 1 December 2016. More information about the new function will be available on the Ombudsman’s website shortly.
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