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

Who can make a report of abuse?

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.

How can I make a report of abuse?

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 defenceforce.ombudsman@ombudsman.gov.au 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

What happens if I make a report of abuse?

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.

What does it cost?

Our services are free.

What happens to the information I provide in my report of abuse?

All information is treated confidentially in accordance with the Ombudsman’s Privacy Policy. We will not share any information with Defence or any other agency without your consent except when we are required to disclose information under law or to protect the safety of an individual or others.

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.

Restorative Engagement Program

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

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.

Reparation payments

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. 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.

An additional payment of $5,000 may also be recommended where the Ombudsman is satisfied that Defence mismanaged 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).

Mechanisms within Defence to report abuse

Reports of abuse can also be made internally within Defence. An overview of the various Defence internal mechanisms is at: www.defence.gov.au/ReportAbuse.

Statistics

Reports of Abuse1 to the Defence Force Ombudsman
Reports receivedArmyNavyAirforceCivilian deployeesTo be determinedTotal
ServingFormerServingFormerServingFormerAPS Contractor
2016 - 1714495394130039163
July 201715244400424
August 201702041300212
September 201716220100315
October 201705210100514
November 201715130100516
December 201705080400623
January 20183203112700955
Total 2017 - 18 (to date)64810337210031159
Cumulative total2097157211340073322

1 This function commenced 1 December 2016.

Need more information?

Please see our factsheet and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for more information about reporting abuse in Defence.

Feedback

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