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Support for individuals who experienced sexual or physical abuse in ADF

DVA provides services and support to individuals who experienced sexual or physical abuse in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

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Immediate support

The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) is a specialist service that provides free, confidential counselling, case management and group programs to around 20,000 current and former ADF members and their families each year.

Importantly, VVCS is available Australia-wide and accessible 24/7 on 1800 011 046.

Current and former ADF members who may be distressed by issues relating to abuse in the ADF are encouraged to contact VVCS for immediate support.

Treatment for mental health conditions

DVA can pay for the treatment of any mental health condition, irrespective of whether the conditions were caused by ADF service. Anyone who has ever served in the full-time ADF, even for as little as one day, may receive treatment for these conditions, regardless of when they served or the nature of their service. This is separate to any compensation claim process and does not require that the condition be service related.

To access mental health support call 133 254 (or 1800 555 254 for regional callers), email NLHC@dva.gov.au, or complete the paper form (PDF 158 KB) or visit the online form.

More information about this treatment is available here.

Compensation

DVA takes the issue of abuse, especially child abuse, very seriously and has put in place arrangements to make sure such claims are managed with sensitivity.

DVA has a dedicated team that manages all new claims relating to sexual and other forms of abuse.  Members of this team have been trained by Phoenix Australia - Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health.

A social worker provides advice and can act as a single point of contact between clients and claims assessors, where this is the client’s preference.

What evidence is needed?

When it comes to making a compensation claim, DVA recognises that it can be difficult to find evidence to prove that an incident of abuse occurred.  There may be no witnesses to the abuse, records may be incomplete or may not exist, and reporting the incident may have been difficult or discouraged.

As such, DVA may now accept a statutory declaration to help establish that an incident of physical or sexual abuse occurred.

DVA will consider all the available evidence and, depending on the particular circumstances of the case, can determine that an incident of abuse occurred based solely on a statutory declaration.

The policy states:

  • In all claims relating to sexual and physical abuse, it is open to delegates to accept a credible statutory declaration as sufficient to establish the fact of abuse, taking account of all the particular circumstances of the case and all the available evidence.
  • However, in the absence of contradictory evidence, delegates will always accept a credible statutory declaration as sufficient to establish the fact of abuse in claims related to incidents of physical or sexual abuse of children under 18 at the time of the abuse, where the abuse occurred before 11 April 2011.

This policy helps with establishing that an incident of abuse occurred.  For a claim to be successful, DVA must also be satisfied that the instance of abuse (or another aspect of a person’s ADF service) caused or contributed to a diagnosed medical condition.  To apply for compensation, call 133254 (or 1800 555 254 for regional callers), or fill out an online claim form.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held a public hearing in June 2016 to examine the experiences of men and women who were sexually abused as children in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Specifically, the Royal Commission inquired into the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse at the following institutions operated by the ADF:

  1. HMAS Leeuwin in the period 1960 to 1980.
  2. The Army Apprentice School Balcombe in the period 1970 to 1980.
  3. ADF Cadets in the period 2000 to present.

At the hearing, the Vice Chief of the ADF made the following statement:

Thank you for the opportunity for me to acknowledge the courage and the strength of the survivors who have come forward and told their story, not only those who have come forward to this Commission but those who have come forward to the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce and to Defence more generally.

Your stories are changing the ADF and they have strengthened the resolve of the senior leadership of the ADF to stamp out abuse in all its forms and, in particular, child sexual abuse.

People and systems have failed you and they have put others at risk and that is simply not good enough. I am deeply sorry for what has happened to you. Noone who pulls on the uniform of this country and no child who is under our care should ever have had happen to them what has happened to you. I would particularly like to acknowledge the partners, the families and the carers of survivors and those who carry the memory of survivors who have passed away. I know you are as impacted by the consequence of abuse as much as the survivor themselves. I know you carry this for many decades and in many cases for your life. I also know that there are many survivors who have told their stories who simply would not be here today without you, and I think your role is not recognised anywhere near enough.

We have made some significant changes to our culture. We needed to. We are trying to move away from the culture that excludes and allows what has happened in the past to a culture that includes. Strangely, the senior leadership has been very publicly criticised for this approach. I want to reassure you that, to a person, we will not be bowed by this criticism and we will continue vigorously to pursue a path where we have a culture that is diverse and inclusive. We will strive to make children's interactions in Defence safe. We will try and build on the thousands of volunteers and Defence members who are committed to that today and are working towards that reality. Your stories are tragic, but they are transformational, and I thank you again for your courage in bringing forward these stories.

In response to the hearing, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) undertook to examine the matters raised. As a consequence, the Repatriation Commission and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission agreed to changes to policies and procedures for handling claims relating to sexual and physical abuse of minors, including the use of survivor statutory declarations as evidence to establish that an incident of sexual and/or physical abuse occurred.

The changes to the policies and procedures for handling claims can be found at the Claims related to sexual and physical abuse page.

Useful links

Treatment for mental health conditions

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