DART MISSES THE TARGET - DEFENCE ABUSE WHITEWASH
• The Defence Abuse Response Taskforce’s (DART) final report – released late Friday, five months after it was delivered to Government is a whitewash that ignores the previous DART Chair’s call for a Royal Commission
• Hundreds of victims of Defence abuse have been left without redress while there are many serving members of the ADF – including very senior Officers – who have been accused of abuse – including 22 accused of rape
There are renewed calls for a Royal Commission into Defence Abuse after the Federal Government quietly released the final report of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) last Friday afternoon – despite the report being prepared on the 31st of March 2016.
DART was established by the former Gillard government in November 2012, following the report by DLA Piper into Defence Abuse (also known as the Rumble Review, named after the lead author of the investigation and report, Dr. Gary Rumble) into allegations of widespread abuse in Defence.
The DLA Piper review, which commenced in April 2011, heard from over 700 victims of abuse in Defence, with a review concluding that all but a handful of allegations were plausible.
The DART heard from some 4000 victims, and in November 2014 the former head of DART, Major General (ret’d) Len Roberts-Smith recommended that there be a Royal Commission into abuse at ADFA and Defence’s mismanagement of the issue. The allegations included the notorious ADFA.
24 case highlighted by the Rumble review which involved allegations of 24 perpetrators at ADFA, being involved in the sexual assault of at least 26 female victims, in the period of 1996 to 1998.
There are allegations that during this period, 30% of female recruits were sexually assaulted at ADFA, and that many senior serving Officers in Defence were directly involved, including those who have stayed silent to this day.
The new head of DART Robert Cornall (who took over after the retirement of Mr. Len Roberts-Smith) has walked away from the recommendation of the Royal Commission investigation – even though he was deputy to Roberts-Smith when the recommendation was made.
DART has now been wound up with its function being subsumed into the offices of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, after paying out $66 million to 1723 complainants of abuse.
Unlike DART, the Commonwealth Ombudsman won’t be able to make payments for compensation, only recommendations, and will lack the resources and focus on Defence abuse that DART had.
Senator Xenophon who instigated two Senate Enquiries into Defence abuse, said:
“This final DART report is a whitewash, and the fact that the Government sat on it before releasing it for five months is a disgrace. Sweeping this level of abuse under the carpet won’t make it go away. Only a Royal Commission can get to the truth of what occurred, and deal with any systemic issues. It could also address the fact that there are senior Officers serving in our Defence Force today who were either accused of abuse, or stood by and did nothing – the very people that are meant to be the agents of cultural change in Defence.”
Senator Kakoschke-Moore, who prior to being elected to the Senate has worked extensively on the issue, including advocating for victims of abuse, said:
“The fact that hundreds of people who have service in Defence have made allegations of abuse and can no longer have their claims processed because of an arbitrary cut-off date of 31st May 2013 is unacceptable. There needs to be a permanent DART to deal with the serious issues of the past, and to ensure that it does not happen again in the future.”
Also at the media conference today will be well known Veterans Advocates Barry Heffernan and Ken Parnell, who have been inundated with complaints about DART being wound up, and are concerned there are many victims who are not getting the support and redress they deserve.