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Can Defence Force abuse victims be compensated?

A major review into allegations of abuse within the Australian Defence Force could lead to compensation for victims, writes TGB’s Brianna Tapscott.


On 14 June 2012, Minister of Defence, Mr Stephen Smith, released the Executive Summary of the DLA Piper Review (Vol 1) into allegations of abuse, including sexual abuse, bullying, harassment and intimidation, within the Australian Defence Force.

The Review followed the ‘ADFA Skype’ incident in April 2011, where subsequently a number of allegations of abuse in the ADF were made.

As a result of the Review being established more than 1000 people came forward, with 775 raising matters within the scope of the Review. Many of those communications contained more than one allegation of abuse.

The earliest date of an alleged event of abuse was 1951, with the most recent being in 2011.

The Review received allegations of sexual  and other serious physical assaults relating but not limited to boys between 13 and 16 years, and young people (male and female) aged between 17 and 20 years.

The Review found as follows:-

• Many boys were subject to serious sexual and physical assault and other serious abuse in the ADF from 1950s to 1970s and possibly the 1980s.

• Many of the boys who suffered the abuse later participated in inflicting similar abuse on other children in the ADF.

• Many of the young people who endured or participated in inflicting such abuse may have suffered or are at risk of suffering mental health, alcohol and drug problems and associated physical health problems.

• Young males and females have been subjected to serious sexual and physical assault and other serious abuse while they were in the ADF from 1950s to at least the 21st century.

• The abuse suffered may exacerbate an existing condition or trigger a propensity to some mental health problem. It may also bring on conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

• It likely a number of current and former ADF personnel are suffering or may be at risk of developing mental health problems associated with their experience in the ADF. They also have an elevated suicide risk associated with their experiences as victims of abuse.

Victims of past abuse who suffer or develop mental health problems and/or ongoing physical impairments may be able to be compensated through the established military compensation scheme.

Military compensation is available to serving members, former members, cadets/reservists of the Army, Navy and Airforce.

The relevant pieces of legislation are:-

Veterans Entitlement Act, which covers defence and operational service between 7/12/72 and 30/6/04.

Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, which covers defence service up to 30/6/04 and operational service between 7/4/1994 and 30/6/04.

Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, which covers defence and operational service on or after 1/7/04.

Entitlement to compensation may come in the following forms:-

• Lost wages (ie. base wage, allowances, penalty payments etc.)

• Disability Pension payments

• Medical expenses (ie. medication, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, surgery costs, consultations with doctors, rehabilitation costs etc.)

• Lump sum payment for permanent disability (both physical and psychological)

• Household assistance costs,

• Redemption of lost wages by way of lump sum payment

The release of the Review report has brought to light the extent of unacceptable, humiliating and sometimes brutal conduct perpetrated on members of the ADF by their very own. In the past, victims have been reluctant to report acts of abuse for fear of losing their job, their rank and being ostracized by their colleagues.

The release of this report has encouraged discussion, and the recommendations to formally recognise victims and give them a voice are positive.  We now wait on the Government to use the findings from this report to implement change and cease the cycle of abuse.

Click here for the full report.

Tindall Gask Bentley Lawyers is experienced with military compensation claims and may be able to assist victims of abuse.

Register online here or for a free, confidential interview contact Brianna Tapscott on (08) 8212 1077. 

RELATED: Action must be taken for Defence Force abuse victims

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