The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, within its Defence Force Ombudsman jurisdiction, is able to receive reports of serious abuse within the Australian Defence Force (Defence). This provides a confidential mechanism to report serious abuse for those who feel unable, for whatever reason, to access Defence’s internal mechanisms. Serious abuse means sexual abuse, serious physical abuse or serious bullying or harassment which occurred between two (or more) people who were employed in Defence at the time.
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
Reports of abuse can be made by serving and former members of Defence, as well as Australian Public Service employees (or contractors) deployed overseas in connection with Defence activities. There is no requirement to have reported the matter to Defence before coming to us.
Someone else can make a complaint on your behalf, but you will need to complete our Permission for another person to act on my behalf form.
You can report experiences of serious abuse while employed in the Australian Defence Force (Defence) to us by telephone, in writing, by fax, or using our online Reporting abuse form below.
When you are ready to submit your report, you may email it to us at email@example.com or you can post it to us at GPO Box 442 Canberra ACT 2601.
If you need assistance completing the form or documenting your report, please contact our Liaison team on 1300 395 776 during business hours, 9am – 5pm AEST, Monday to Friday (calls from mobile phones at mobile phone rates).
Serving and former members of Defence can report can report experiences of serious abuse to the Office without legal representation. 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.
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 will not be possible to progress an assessment of your report without certain information, including your identifying details.
If completing this online form causes you any distress, or you would like support, please call our Liaison team on 1300 395 776. Calls that cannot be answered directly will be returned as soon as possible, so please leave a message with your contact details. If you need to speak to someone outside of our business hours, or speak to someone urgently, please call these 24 hour services:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
beyondblue: 1300 224 636
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS): 1800 011 046
Each report of abuse will be assessed as quickly as possible. We can accept reports where we are satisfied:
- the report constitutes serious abuse
- the abuse is reasonably likely to have occurred
- you were, at the time of the alleged abuse, an employee of Defence
- the alleged abuser was an employee of Defence, and
- there is a connection between the alleged abuse and your employment in Defence.
We will notify you of the outcome of our assessment process and whether we have accepted your report and advise what options may be available and appropriate to respond to your report.
Further information about our trauma-informed service delivery approach can be found in our factsheet.
As part of the process, we will seek your consent to provide information about your report of abuse to Defence, so that it can provide information to assist us with the assessment process.
We will only do so with your consent, after close and informed consultation. You may withdraw your consent at any time and we will cease taking any further action.
Records of the former Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) have been transferred to the Ombudsman and are in our possession for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
Records relating to defence abuse – administrative access scheme
About the Scheme
This is an administrative access scheme for the release of documents held by the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (the Office) related to its Defence Force Ombudsman functions, and specifically those relating to reports of abuse within Defence. The scheme is designed to facilitate the release of documents, in response to a specific request, outside the formal process set out in the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).
Records of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) have been transferred to the Office and are in the possession of the Office for the purposes of the FOI Act and can also be requested under this scheme.
The purpose of this Scheme is to deal more simply and efficiently with requests that could also be made under the FOI Act.
Types of documents that may be accessed through the Scheme
A person who reported Defence abuse to the Ombudsman or DART may request access to documents held by the Office which contain the personal information of the complainant.
Access may not be given to documents or parts of those documents where access would not be required under the FOI Act, for example personal information of a third party will be deleted as will any information which would damage national security.
The Scheme's procedures
How to make a request
A request for access to documents under the Scheme should be made to:
Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman
GPO Box 442
Canberra ACT 2602
The request should:
- clearly state the documents which are requested, and
- provide your contact details (including an email address if available). If the request is made on behalf of someone else, it should also include that person’s written, signed consent.
Requests by complainants for access to their own information will be dealt with within 30 business days of receipt of the request.
Referral to FOI process in appropriate cases
A request will be initially considered to determine whether it is appropriate to be dealt with under this Scheme. If it would be more appropriate for the request to be dealt with under the FOI Act, the requestor will be notified of this and of the FOI process within 7 days of receipt of the request.
Proof of Identity
Proof of the requestor's identity will be required before access is given to any documents. A photocopy of a photographic identification document, such as a driver’s licence, will be sufficient.
Form of access
Unless otherwise requested, access to the relevant documents will be given electronically. A request can be made for access in another form, such as paper form.
There is no charge for the costs associated with providing access to documents under the Scheme.
Requests for access to documents under the FOI Act
Any person who makes a request for access under the Scheme is also entitled to make an application to the Office for access to documents under the FOI Act. A person can choose to make a FOI request rather than seek access via this Scheme.
You can get information about making a FOI request from the OCO’s website. You can lodge a request via the same contact details as above:
Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman
GPO Box 442
Canberra ACT 2602
Your rights under FOI
The FOI Act gives any person the right to:
- seek access to documents
- ask for information about them in documents to be changed or annotated if it is incomplete, out of date, incorrect or misleading, and
- seek a review of the decision not to allow access to a document or not to amend your personal record. You can ask under the FOI Act to see any DART document that is held in the Office’s record storage facilities. Access can be refused to documents, or parts of documents that are exempt. Exempt documents may include those containing personal information about someone else where disclosure would be unreasonable and contrary to the public interest, documents containing material obtained in confidence, or other matters set out in the FOI Act.
One of the responses that might be available to a person who reports serious abuse in Defence is participation in the Ombudsman’s Restorative Engagement program.
The program is designed to support you, as a reportee, to tell your personal story of abuse to a senior representative from Defence in a private, facilitated meeting – a Restorative Engagement Conference. The conference also provides the opportunity for Defence to acknowledge and respond to your personal story of abuse.
Please read our factsheet which provides an overview of the process for participating in the program, as well as answering some frequently asked questions about the conference process itself.
Counselling is available to people who report serious abuse to the Defence Force Ombudsman, following an assessment of their matter. In some circumstances, a counselling referral may occur prior to the outcome of an assessment if a reportee is in urgent need of support.
Our Liaison team will support reportees interested in accessing counselling with the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS).
Please see the Counselling factsheet for further information.
The Australian Government has introduced the ability for the Ombudsman to recommend a reparation payment in response to a report of serious abuse in some circumstances. This is limited to the most serious forms of abuse and/or sexual assaults and not all reports of abuse will meet this higher threshold. The Ombudsman may recommend to Defence that a reparation payment be made in relation to a report of serious abuse which has been accepted, if:
- the abuse occurred on or before 30 June 2014
- the report of abuse was made to the Ombudsman on or before 30 June 2021, and
- the Ombudsman is satisfied the report involves the most serious forms of abuse and/or sexual assault.
There are two possible payments which the Ombudsman may recommend:
- a payment of up to $45,000 to acknowledge the most serious forms of abuse
- a payment of up to $20,000 to acknowledge other abuse involving unlawful interference accompanied by some element of indecency.
If the Ombudsman recommends one of these payments, an additional payment of $5,000 may also be recommended where the Ombudsman is satisfied that Defence did not respond appropriately to the incident of abuse.
The above payments may be reduced if a reportee has already received a reparation payment relating to abuse in Defence, such as from the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce.
There is no requirement to have legal representation to apply for a reparation payment.
More information about reparation payments can be found in our factsheet and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).