General D.J.Hurley, AC, DSC Chief of the Defence Force: An Op-Ed for the Age Newspaper
12 July 2012
The DLA Piper Review has drawn Australia's attention to allegations of abusive behaviour within the Australian Defence Force. Although the Review states that these allegations are plausible, they are yet to be tested. However the serious nature of these allegations must concern us all. Any abusive behaviour in the ADF is unacceptable and I am deeply distressed by each and every allegation of abusive behaviour.
My primary concern at this time is for the welfare and wellbeing of all those who are affected by the DLA Piper Review. Defence has put in place support arrangements to assist serving and former ADF members, the details of which can be found on the Defence website.
Given the nature of the allegations it is critical that they be addressed as soon as practicable. The Review identified a number of options which may be adopted to address the allegations and we should be guided by the recommendations of the Review. I will fully support the Government in whatever process it determines appropriate.
This report condenses 60 years into a single document. It is my strong belief that it does not define the ADF. I have served in the ADF for 40 years and I know that the ADF is not characterised by abusive behaviour. While the overwhelming majority of ADF members live up to the high standards expected of us, at times, some members have acted in a manner that has harmed people. This is not acceptable and as members of the ADF we must ask ourselves 'how could this happen?' and 'how do we ensure this does not happen again?'
In recent weeks I have delivered a number of messages to ADF personnel. Key among these is that 'the standard you walk past is the standard you set'. We should not, and cannot, turn a blind eye to instances of inappropriate behaviour. As an organisation we must take steps to eliminate as much as possible the risk factors and opportunities for inappropriate behaviour. As individuals we must also be able to demonstrate that we have the moral courage to act and the ability to respond in an appropriate and timely manner when issues arise.
I have said publicly that there is no place for inappropriate behaviour in Defence and any serving member who is proven to have engaged in abusive behaviour will be dealt with. Australians need to be assured that when they choose to enlist in the ADF they will be afforded every opportunity to pursue a rewarding military career in a safe and supportive work environment.
Where a criminal offence may have been committed the ADF is required to, and does, report these matters to the relevant authorities for investigation. In relation to sexual offences, I am very conscious that we need to focus more on the victim's needs. We are moving toward a victim support oriented model for managing sexual offences.
We are also taking steps to address the recommendations outlined in the suite of Cultural Reviews conducted in 2011. Earlier this year the Secretary, Duncan Lewis, and I released a document known as 'Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture'. This document, which is publicly available, articulates our strategy for long term cultural change to achieve a strong and positive ADF culture.
At its heart, ‘Pathway to Change’ is about behaviours – towards Defence and its institutions, and critically toward each other. It is not now and never has been acceptable for actions that affect the safety and well-being of our people, and compromise our capability, to be regarded in any way as normal. We should be surprised, angered, embarrassed and saddened any time there is a revelation about abusive behaviour by a member of the ADF.
The ‘Pathway to Change’ integrates the recommendations of six reviews into ADF culture into a cohesive plan of action with responsibility for implementation allocated to specific senior Defence leaders. Importantly, the authors of each of the Reviews have been engaged in the development of the ‘Pathway to Change’ and are supportive of the approach we are taking.
Leadership and accountability are critical. It will take strong leadership at every level to achieve change. This is closely linked to the need to get it right from the start - by making sure we instil the right values and behaviours in our people as they enter the ADF so that they understand the obligations associated with a Defence career.
Australians rate the Australian Defence Force as the most trusted organisation in the country. We are proud of this and we are proud of our international reputation for excellence. But no organisation can maintain such a place of respect if it is perceived to have failed to maintain it standards and behaviours as high as humanly possible.
I have given a personal undertaking to do everything I can to stamp out any form of abuse in the ADF and to lead our cultural change program. I do not back away from this but rather reinforce my desire to ensure a fair, just and inclusive Australian Defence Force for all those who volunteer to serve this country. The Australian Defence Force of the future will embody our cultural intent: we will be trusted to defend, proven to deliver, respectful always.