On The Record – Paul Farrell
23 September 2015
I believe it is important to go on the record following the allegations made in Paul Farrell’s article ‘Revealed: senior military figures suppressed allegations of sexual misconduct at navy training base’ (The Guardian Online, 23 September 2015).
The article misrepresents the culture of one of Navy’s premier training establishments based on individual perceptions and comments taken out of context. The media inquiry made to the Department by Mr Farrell did not permit a significant timeframe to reply, thereby reducing the potential for balanced and accurate reporting.
Navy takes its duty of care responsibility for all personnel seriously. Nowhere is this more evident than in our training establishments.
Compliance with the Privacy Act (1988) restricts my ability to comment on these allegations in depth. However, in dealing with the 2013 matters Navy swiftly acted when allegations became known and all due legal process was followed; involving both Defence Force Discipline and Administrative Law procedures. Mr Farrell’s article fails to acknowledge this. Despite an inference around the secrecy of proceedings, the Court Martial that eventuated was open to the public and media to attend. Following the Court Martial, a routine inquiry undertaken by Commander Wyatt determined a number of areas for improvement (procedural, behavioural and cultural) which were all agreed. Public release of these findings has been limited by privacy considerations.
The culture and behaviours at HMAS Creswell are in line with those expected as part of Navy’s and Defence’s broader actions on cultural reform. Defence efforts in this area have been developed in consultation with Liz Broderick, the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, who has praised the progress made in regards to cultural reform.
An Australian Human Rights Commission audit in April 2015 assessed the Royal Australian Naval College (RANC) and HMAS Creswell as having an appropriately strong culture and environment across all aspects of Initial Officer Entry Training. The report stated that:
‘The culture at RANC appears to be overwhelmingly positive, both for staff and trainees’ and that ‘Command, staff and trainees are to be commended for the commitment to the cultural reform process and their role in helping to strengthen the inclusiveness of Navy’.
This month, HMAS Creswell has also undergone a routine audit by the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force. This audit found no evidence of any breach of military justice or failure to address unacceptable behaviour.
Actions taken in relation to the issues identified in the conduct of the New Entry Officers’ Course in early 2013 were in line with all expectations and standards. I remain confident in the performance of all Navy training staff and the training being delivered to New Entry Officers at HMAS Creswell.
TW Barrett, AO CSC
Vice Admiral, RAN
Chief of Navy