Officer breaks ranks to condemn ADF’s ‘neglect’ of abuse victims


Officer breaks ranks to condemn ADF’s ‘neglect’ of abuse victims

By Hayden Cooper, ABCUpdated March 8, 2013, 9:04 am



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ADF covering up abuse: psychologist

A senior military psychologist has broken ranks to accuse the Defence Force of having a culture of covering up sexual abuse allegations.

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The man responsible for the mental health of Australia’s deployed soldiers has broken ranks to condemn the Defence Force for its handling of abuse cases.

Speaking to the ABC’s 7.30, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Morgan says the top brass is neglecting abuse victims and that recent reviews have done nothing to change Defence culture.

The Army psychologist is himself a victim of abuse.

In 2010 he was targeted in a gay hate vilification campaign on Facebook and received a vicious death threat because of his homosexuality.Â

“All forms of abuse are neglected in Defence, including sexual abuse victims,” Lt Col Morgan told 7.30, in defiance of ADF policies on speaking to the media.

“I’m speaking out because I’m concerned about the wellbeing of our junior soldiers who are experiencing abuse in Defence today.

“If I as a senior officer can’t get Defence to do the right thing, they have absolutely no hope.”

Lt Col Morgan, an Army psychologist for 16 years serving in Bougainville, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Iraq and the Middle East, says his own case was mismanaged by Defence leadership.

He is angry that none of the soldiers who joined the gay hate Facebook page received a formal warning or were disciplined.

“Every officer in my chain of command, every colonel and general all the way through to the current Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, systematically failed their duty in relation to the management of my complaint,” he said.

Lt Gen Morrison was, at the time, given the responsibility for handling Lt Col Morgan’s case.

Lt Col Morgan says the Defence Force failed to comply with several response deadlines triggered by his complaint.

“The Defence instructions are legal obligations and they require certain actions in the first 24 hours after an abuse complaint is made,” he said.

“What happened in my case is the actions required in the first 24 hours took 51 days to complete.

“The actions required in the first seven days weren’t completed for 21 months.”

The ABC obtained an internal ADF briefing document which admits Defence shortcomings in handling Lt Col Morgan’s case.

The document, prepared for a senior brigadier, states: “The reporting obligations were not met in accordance with Defence policy.”

‘Nothing has changed’

Lt Col Morgan recently gave a written statement to a Senate inquiry on abuse in the Defence Force.

He says there was an immediate reaction from his bosses.

“The day my submission in the Senate was published, I was hauled in by a two-star officer for an unscheduled interview and hauled over the coals,” he said.

“I was told that they were concerned that I was too focused on abuse and should spend less time on that and more time on my work.”

Lt Col Morgan says his complaint is indicative of Defence’s handling of abuse cases.

He says there has been no change to the treatment of abuse victims despite a string of inquiries and reports after recent cases of sexual abuse.

“I can categorically say that no matter all of the cultural reviews, the establishment of the abuse tribunal and the DLA Piper report, nothing has changed about the way Defence reacts to abuse,” Lt Col Morgan said.

“From my personal experience, nothing has changed.

“I’m not really sure why not, but I suspect that our senior leadership just doesn’t care.

“My personal experience tells me that the Army’s abuse management strategies that I’ve seen – delay, deter and deceive – are still in force now.”

Lt Col Morgan says there are no positives in the way the ADF handles abuse cases.

“They say one thing in public and do another thing in private,” he said.

“What I have experienced in my personal case is complete inaction, and not just inaction but attempts to shut me down and keep me quiet.

“I don’t have anything positive to say about Defence’s handling of abuse and its mental health consequences.”

Bracing for backlash

Former ADF judge advocate General Len Roberts-Smith is heading a Defence abuse taskforce examining almost 1,000 allegations of sexual and other abuse.

Lt Col Morgan says he would prefer a different approach and he is urging abuse victims to contact him.

“We need an outside body to step in immediately and look after our current serving victims of abuse in the Army,” he said.

He acknowledges he is risking his job by speaking out.

“Every time I or a member of my family has asked for Defence to account for its inaction, there’s been a backlash,” he said.

“The issue is that there are hundreds of abuse victims currently serving in the Defence Force today, and somebody has to say something.

“If not me, then who?”

‘Approach had to change’

Chief of Defence General David Hurley told 7.30 the ADF has taken action to improve support services for abuse victims.

“I sympathise with where Colonel Morgan finds himself, but let me just say that actions speak louder than words,” he said.

“From the very day that we received the reports in after the six cultural reviews were completed… I put up in headlights in the department that our approach to victim support in the ADF had to change.

“[We established] the Sexual Misconduct Protection and Response Office… and tasked that with putting in place the mechanisms to support our people who are victims of sexual or other abuse in the ADF.”

General Hurley also gave a guarantee that Lt Col Morgan will not be sacked for speaking out.

“I think there’s a degree of insecurity in that sort of statement. I’m not about sacking people who talk out about those sorts of issues,” he said.

“He went through a difficult period in his life. His organisation is very supportive of him… I know they have put in very flexible work arrangements for him to allow him to work through his issues.

“He marched in the gay Mardi Gras parade on Saturday night.

“I think the decision I made to allow gays and lesbians to march in uniform was probably one of the most difficult and complained-about decisions I’ve made as CDF.
“But I think we’re making a clear statement about how we want the ADF to be seen as a diverse and inclusive organisation.”

One thought on “Officer breaks ranks to condemn ADF’s ‘neglect’ of abuse victims

  1. Neville

    7 March, 2013

    This has been rife in the armed services for many years.
    It is up to commanding officers to clamp down on all forms
    of abuse and “So Called” iniiiation ceremonies.
    This officer’s courage is to be admired in bringing this issue out into the open. Now hopefully it will be addressed
    and not swept under the carpet as usual.

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