Support if you were abused
DVA provides services and support to individuals who experienced sexual or physical abuse in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
On this page
Are you struggling to cope as a result of abuse experienced in the Australian Defence Force?
Help, including treatment, is now available.
For many, the compensation process is now simpler.Back to top
Open Arms 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, Open Arms 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 Open Arms for immediate support.Back to top
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 treatment is available under Non-Liability Health Care (NLHC). This is separate to any compensation claim process and does not require that the condition be service related.
Reservists with any period of full-time service may also be eligible for mental health treatment under NLHC arrangements. This may be through prior service in the permanent forces of the ADF, or if they have been deployed on continuous full-time service, or if they have undertaken a continuous full-time service contract.
Reservists without continuous full-time service may still be eligible for mental health treatment under NLHC, provided they rendered Reserve Service Days with any of the following:
- Disaster Relief Service (e.g. Operation Vic Fire Assist)
- Border Protection Service (e.g. Operation RESOLUTE)
- involvement in a serious service-related training accident.
To access mental health support call 1800 VETERAN (1800 838 372), email NLHC [at] dva.gov.au, or complete the paper form or visit the online form.
If you have automatically received a Veteran White Card after transitioning from the ADF, you may be eligible to receive NLHC mental health treatment immediately. There is no need to apply for NLHC mental health treatment if you have received a White Card for this reason.Back to top
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.
Compensation payments made by DVA are not the same as reparation or redress payments. Compensation relates to a legal obligation to compensate a person or persons. It is a payment made to make up for a specified loss and will vary in line with factors such as the degree and nature of loss experienced, its permanence and its effect on the life of the affected person.
By contrast, redress relates to a payment in recognition of abuse, in the sense of a moral, not legal, obligation. Similarly, reparation payments are made to recognise harm but are not compensation. Before it closed in August 2016, the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce made reparation payments to those who had experienced abuse in the ADF.
The Defence Force Ombudsman currently makes reparation payments for those who experienced abuse in the ADF. Further information on the Ombudsman’s reparation program is available on the Commonwealth Ombudsman's web site.
The National Redress Scheme for those who experienced institutional childhood sexual abuse commenced on 1 July 2018. Read further information on the redress scheme.
It should be noted that the redress schemes have operated a different standard of proof to that required by DVA legislation. Receiving a redress payment therefore does not necessarily mean that DVA compensation will be granted.
What evidence is needed?
For an abuse compensation claim to be successful, DVA must be satisfied that:
- the abuse occurred
- it was linked to service and
- it caused or contributed to a diagnosed medical condition.
DVA recognises that it can be difficult to prove that an incident of abuse occurred. There may be no witnesses, records may be incomplete or non-existent, and reporting the incident may have been difficult or discouraged. Under those circumstances, claimants may submit a statutory declaration to help establish that an incident of physical or sexual abuse occurred.
DVA will always accept a credible statutory declaration as sufficient evidence of abuse, after considering all the circumstances of the case and all the available evidence, and in the absence of contradictory information. Claimants should provide as much evidence as they can to support their statutory declaration.Back to top
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:
- HMAS Leeuwin in the period 1960 to 1980.
- The Army Apprentice School Balcombe in the period 1970 to 1980.
- 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. No‐one 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.Back to top
- Royal Commission website into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
- Department of Defence: Pathways to Change – Evolving Defence Culture
- Open Arms
Treatment for mental health conditions
- Free mental health care for veterans
- Cover for cancer and tuberculosis care
- Application form (PDF 158 KB)