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Australian commission calls for special sexual misconduct unit for ADF


Rebecca Rogers
WVoN co-editor 

A review into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has recommended a dedicated unit to deal with sexual misconduct in the army, navy and airforce.

The second part of a report produced by the Human Rights Commission found that the numbers of women in uniform had not increased much in 10 years.

Sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick commented: “If we want the most operationally effective performing defence force in this country, then we need to recognise that the talent exists in both men and women.

“A lot of the jobs and occupations I looked at required really high problem solving skills, they were highly complex jobs and they were jobs which could be equally done by men or women.

“So I do absolutely think that there will be a day when women will flourish like men in all parts of the ADF. Are we there today? The answer would have to be no.”

The first part of report, released in November last year, found that a staggering three-quarters of the women at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra had experienced sexual harassment or unacceptable gender-based treatment.

In addition, most of the incidents went unreported.

Ms Broderick said: “We found that members frequently did not report these incidents. Why?

“Because they feared that they’d be victimised, that their career would be jeopardised, that they’d not be believed or that they would be subjected to a sometimes unresponsive chain of command investigation.”

Hence the recommendation for a Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (SMPRO). The unit would be led by a senior Defence Force member and allow people to lodge confidential complaints regarding abuse or misconduct.

Whilst abuse has been a problem for some, Ms Broderick had some encouraging words, saying: “In fact, many members said that they had never been subjected to discrimination or harassment and they described the ADF as a supportive and inclusive employer.”

Other findings from the report include:

  • In the Army, only four women make up 71 generalist star ranked officers’ positions (5.6%)
  • In the last five years 25.9% of women and 10.5% of men in the ADF have experienced sexual harassment in an ADF workplace
  • Only 22.2% of women in the senior positions have children, compared to 88.9% of men in the same positions

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