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in brief: australian defence force sets up new office to help victims of abuse report incidents confidentially

Image via ABC

Image via ABC

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has set up a new office to assist the victims of abuse confidentially, which has been labelled a “fundamental change” to the manner in which it handles sexual misconduct. This means that there is now a new body through which incidences can be reported outside of the chain of command of the force. The Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (SeMPRO) will allow victims to report such incidences confidentially.

This new body, according to Defence Force Chief General David Hurley, will take a victim-oriented approach:

‘Unlike our previous approach, the victim – not the system – will now decide if and when to report a matter for investigation.’

Such a move in the workings of the ADF is a welcome change for the better, especially when considering the recent controversy and happenings of sexual misconduct in the Australian Defence Force. In particular, anonymous, secure support and a focus on the victim rather than the system is a step in the right direction for any dealings to do with abuse.

This change has also been welcomed by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. Broderick has stated that the establishment of such an office was one of the most significant recommendations she made in her Review into the Treatment of Women in the ADF in the wake of these recent scandals.

Broderick has also praised the establishment of residential support officers at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) and has found there to be good progress as a result.

This is a positive step in the right direction towards the reformation of the ADF, particularly with regard to the culture seemingly entrenched within the system, where a significant amount of reform still needs to come.

Broderick urges the ADF to deliver a sexual ethics program:

‘Instances of sexual harassment, behaviour and attitudes which are unwelcome, inappropriate or offensive continue to be present at ADFA…Interactive expert training is an effective primary prevention tool against such behaviour and it will aid in a more mature understanding of sexual ethics.’

General Hurley has also said that the ADF was committed to such stances and reforms in order to overhaul the ugly culture which has publically emerged.

‘There’s…a great deal of work to be done right across Defence to affect cultural change…We are serious about eliminating unacceptable behaviour and resolutely committed to implementing the cultural reform outlined in the pathway to change.’

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