Australia's defence forces have spent $50 million on sexual abuse claims in the past three years

Getty ImagesTOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 10: Australian Defence Force personnel march during the welcome home parade for Townsville troops returned home from recent operational service worldwide, at Lavarack Barracks on April 10, 2010 in Townsville, Australia. The parade included a riderless pony to represent Private Benjamin Ranaudo who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2009. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
  • In three years, Australia’s defence forces have spent a combined $50 million on settled, withdrawn and denied sexual abuse claims.
  • A Defence spokesperson said the institution is taking steps to prevent sexual misconduct in the future, and to support victims to report it and seek help.
  • For years, the ADF has responded to a string of high-profile sexual assault and misconduct cases by promising cultural change and more support for victims.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has spent nearly $50 million on payouts and legal costs for sexual abuse claims in the last three years, but the organisation says that the culture is changing.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request reveals that the ADF finalised 183 sexual abuse claims between the 2017-18 and 2019-20 for a total expenditure of $49,961,204.72, as first reported by Stephanie Barker.

Excluding claims that were withdrawn or denied, the ADF spent $40,795,750 settling 170 cases, an average of $239,950 per claim.

Over the three year period, the ADF paid $9,165,454.72 in costs associated with the 183 claims.

This included any reports where sexual abuse was part of the claim, and only those claims that were settled, withdrawn or denied during the period.

This would include any historic claims that were finalised during the three years, but may not include claims that were initiated during the period.

A Defence spokesperson said the organisation does not tolerate sexual misconduct and is committed to holding perpetrators to account, including by issuing suspensions while matters are initially investigated and by assisting victims to report matters to relevant authorities.

“Defence undertakes a range of measures to prevent, manage and respond to sexual abuse in the ADF,” they said to Business Insider Australia in a statement.

The Defence spokesperson also said that the organisation is taking steps to change the culture to prevent sexual misconduct and encourage victims to report and seek support services.

“Cultural change and reform initiatives, particularly those introduced since 2012, have focused on encouraging reporting, awareness of the issues and access to reliable investigative, support and management organisations,” they wrote.

For years, the ADF has responded to high-profile cases of sexual assault and misconduct — like a cadet secretly broadcasting footage of himself having sex with another cadet without her knowledge — in the ranks by committing to internal reviews and declaring the institution has zero tolerance for that type of behaviour.

Following the Skype sex scandal in 2013, the ADF formed a sexual misconduct prevent and response office, the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (SeMPRO).

In the ADF’s 2019-2020 annual report, 161 sexual assault incidents were listed reported that year to the defence force’s police agency, the Joint Military Police Unit, down from 166 and 170 for the past two years respectively.

The report also lists 368 people having accessed SeMPRO’s 24/7 telephone services that year for either case management for victims of sexual offences, harassment or sex-based discrimination; or for assistance navigating the system, resources, referrals or futher education for individuals and their families. This was down from 400 the year before.

The full document retrieved through FOI request can be viewed below.

ADF sexual abuse claim.pdf by Cameron Wilson

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