Reporting abuse in Defence
From 1 December 2016 the Defence Force Ombudsman’s (DFO) functions were expanded to provide an independent mechanism to report serious abuse in Defence. The DFO is external to Defence.
Reports of abuse can be made by serving and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), in relation to serious abuse which occurred between two (or more) people who were in Defence at the time. This includes ADF members and Australian Public Service employees/contractors deployed overseas in connection with Defence activities.
If you are feeling distressed and need to speak to someone urgently, please call one of the 24-hour support services listed below:
Lifeline: call 13 11 14
beyondblue: call 1300 224 636
Email (download form)
Phone: 1300 395 776 between 9am and 5pm (AEDT) Monday to Friday. (Calls from mobile phones at mobile phone rates)
You can make a report and not provide your personal details. The information in your report can assist in identifying systemic issues or areas of concern in Defence. However, it may be difficult to progress an assessment of your report without certain information, including your identifying details.
Our staff are here to support you through the process of making a report of abuse. Your report will remain confidential and will not be shared with Defence or any other agency without your consent.
We can assist you to document your report. We will assess what options may be available and appropriate to respond to your report. Available options may include referring you for counselling. We can also arrange a Restorative Engagement conference, which is a facilitated meeting where you can meet with a member of Defence to have your complaint of abuse heard and acknowledged. We can also advise on whether your matter should be referred to the police, Defence or some other agency for further consideration.
Guidelines for dealing with reports of serious abuse can be found here.
Our services are free. There is no cost for counselling services or a Restorative Engagement conference.
Records of the former Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) have been transferred to the DFO and are in our possession for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
|Reports of Abuse1 to the Defence Force Ombudsman|
|Reports received||Army||Navy||Airforce||Civilian deployees||To be determined||Total|
1 This function commenced 1 December 2016.
What is ‘serious abuse’?
‘Serious abuse’ is defined as sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and serious bullying and harassment. All reports will be assessed to determine whether the reported abuse meets this definition.
My report of abuse happened a very long time ago and there were no witnesses. Can I still make a report of abuse?
Yes. We will consider all reports of abuse, no matter how old. We also understand that current or former serving members of Defence may not have records or evidence to prove the abuse occurred. We can accept reports of abuse we consider to be reasonably likely to have occurred.
I complained to the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART). Can I also report my abuse to the DFO?
We cannot respond to a report of abuse if it was dealt with by the DART. However, if you have new information you did not report to the DART, we will consider this information. If you contacted the DART after the cut-off date for complaints (31 May 2013) you can make a report of abuse to us. You can also report abuse which occurred after 11 April 2011 to us, even if you had previously reported that abuse to DART.
Can I make a report anonymously?
Yes. You can make a report and not provide your personal details. The information in your report can assist in identifying systemic issues or areas of concern in Defence. However, it may be difficult to progress an assessment of your report without certain information, including your identifying details.
Can I make a report on behalf of someone else?
Yes. The other person will need to complete our Permission for another person to act on my behalf form.
Can the DFO investigate my report of abuse and make a finding?
No. We do not investigate the incident(s) of abuse. However, with your consent we can refer your report to Defence or another agency such as the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service or the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force. These agencies are able to investigate incidents and make findings of guilt or innocence.
I want to make a report of abuse but I also have a complaint about a related administrative matter that I want the DFO to consider investigating. Can I report both?
Yes. We will discuss with you a recommended approach to progressing both issues.