Defence abuse payouts top $15m
There have been over 1,000 reports of abuse in Australia’s defence force since the beginning of 2017.
Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe has issued a new report on defence abuse, after being given oversight of serious abuse among military personnel in late 2016.
He has received 1,101 reports of abuse since that time. His office has assessed 707 of the abuse reports so far, and found 542 to be within its jurisdiction.
Of those, 59 per cent involved sexual abuse, 55 per cent involved serious physical abuse and 69 per cent involved serious bullying or harassment.
The office has two tiers of reparation payments - either $45,000 for the most serious forms of abuse, or $20,000 for other abuse cases involving “unlawful interference” and some element of indecency.
Since December 2017, the ombudsman has granted 370 people payments, with 68 per cent of the group receiving $45,000 and 32 per cent getting $20,000.
A total of 285 from that group of 370 also received an additional $5,000 payment to acknowledge that defence did not respond appropriately to the abuse.
“The reports have also highlighted the absence of defence policies and procedures, prior to 2014, to support or appropriately respond to abuse when it was reported,” Mr Manthorpe’s report states.
The total payout across all claims is $15.105 million.
The defence force says it has accepted many of the ombudsmen’s recommendations, though there are still some under consideration.
The recommendations include ways for defence to better explain the five principles of trauma-informed care to managers and commanders. It calls for the wide distribution of a card, fact sheet or similar method of outlining avenues for reporting abuse.
The department says it is ultimately supportive of the ombudsman's findings.
“It is valuable in terms of highlighting defence's commitment to improving our approach to abuse,” Secretary Greg Moriarty wrote.
“More importantly, it is valuable in terms of identifying some areas that are inconsistent, require rationalisation or are confusing.
“We support the intent of your proposed recommendations and we have already achieved some of them.”