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In 2005, the Senate review into the effectiveness of Australia’s military justice system - constituted by 44 senators - recommended the establishment of the Australian Defence Force Administrative Review Board (ADFARB). This agency would sit outside of the chain of command; it would provide Defence victims of all military abuse a means of confidence to redress their grievances.

Millions of dollars, numerous incidents of disrepute, and nearly a decade later it has taken the Sex Discrimination Commissioner with the help of Defence minister Stephen Smith to break that circuit of insularity, albeit in a limited form.

Perhaps it is the right time historically and internationally. The ADF continues to experience recruitment challenges and it must derive its members from an increasingly culturally diverse national population. Other nations, for example, Canada and Israel, have led the way having already established agencies of authority outside of the chain of command. Only recently the United States Congress brought every military chief in the nation before its benches. The establishment of a similar sexual abuse agency is one of the key points of discussion.

The ADF deserves credit for recent responses. Chief of Army Lieutenant-General David Morrison’s “line in the sand” video address where he states: “those who think it is OK to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this army…if that does not suit you then get out” is a particularly clear example, and has received a global commendation.

That the ADF is beginning to look outside its own ranks for direction and expertise on matters it has been manifestly incapable of addressing on its own is key to its future. Insular organisations, of which all militaries are predisposed to, require external mechanisms of scrutiny, yet they are also profoundly threatened by them.

The initiatives of the HREOC intervention have been a guiding light. While progress has been visible it remains to be seen if we are only tinkering with tribalism or refashioning the military mould. 

Ben Wadham, Senior Lecturer, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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