More than 1600 Defence Force abuse complaints reported to Commonwealth Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has called for changes to the Australian Defence Force's recruit training to address abuse complaints. Picture: Department of Defence
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has called for changes to the Australian Defence Force's recruit training to address abuse complaints. Picture: Department of Defence

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has received more than 1600 reports of abuse in the Australian Defence Force in the past four years, despite an overhaul of behaviour training for recruits.

Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe released a report on Monday looking at behaviour training for ADF recruits.

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman said complaints it received fell into the three major categories of sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and serious bullying and harassment.

Up to 30 June 2020, Defence had paid out more than $31 million to 755 complainants, as recommended by the ombudsman, as reparation for abuse suffered in the defence force.

Of the 1602 complaints since 2014, the majority had been historical cases, with 81 per cent of complainants no longer serving in the defence force.

"We continue to receive some recent reports of unacceptable workplace behaviour and abuse," Mr Manthorpe said in the report.

"These recent cases do not point to systemic abuse in the manner which was apparent in Defence in earlier periods, however, the fact that incidents continue to occur reinforces the importance of continued vigilance."

Most recruits are aged between 17 and 24, with "general entry" training spanning 11 weeks.

Training would not be able to eliminate all instances of inappropriate behaviour or abuse, but was an important preventative tool and would help build a culture where incidents are reported and appropriately dealt with, the ombudsman said.

The ombudsman report found no significant concerns with the ADF's approach to recruit training, being "largely satisfied" the curriculum reflects rules on on required behaviours.

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But he made five recommendations for changes, mostly dealing with the evaluation of training and identifying current risks and issues in the ADF to improve training.

Defence collaborated with the review and accepted all of the ombudsman's recommendations.

Since 2011 there have been a series of reports, recommendations and responses relating to the ADF's culture, including the treatment of women, alcohol use, social media use, complaint handling and incident management.

With AAP

This story ADF training needs fix as abuse complaints continue: report first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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