Defence provides opportunities for personnel to disclose or report sexual misconduct. Reporting is a description or a formal account that triggers further inquiry or investigation by the Joint Military Police Unit (JMPU) or state/territory police. Disclosure is an opportunity for an affected person to account their experience and ask for support or advice. Defence’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (SeMPRO) is a dedicated avenue for accessing services inside and outside Defence.
Reported sexual assault in the ADF
Australian state and territory police use the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) definitions from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In 2018, Defence adopted ANZSOC for statistical reporting on sexual assaults in Defence to ensure consistency across Government agencies.
Defence’s reports between 2013–14 and 2017–18 used the definitions in the Model Criminal Code, which classifies non-penetrative sexual offences as indecent acts. Reports from 2017–18 onwards use the broader ANZSOC definition of sexual assault, which includes penetrative and non-penetrative sexual offences.
Table 6.28: Reported Defence sexual assault incidents per year
Model Criminal Code
Figures from 2012–13 to 2016–17 cannot be directly compared to figures from 2017–18 onward, due to the use of different reporting frameworks for sexual offences.
The figure of 161 sexual assaults reported to JMPU for 2019–20 (as at 5 July 2020) comprises:
- 88 aggravated sexual assaults (penetrative acts committed without consent, threat of penetrative acts committed with aggravating circumstances, or instances where consent is proscribed)
- 73 non-aggravated sexual assaults.
The 161 aggravated and non-aggravated sexual assault complaints can be categorised as follows (noting that some complaints are in multiple categories):
- 76 cases were reported allegations where the member did not wish to make a statement of complaint or did not want the matter investigated by JMPU or state/territory police
- 53 cases were investigated by state/territory police and remain within their jurisdiction
- 35 cases were reported matters of a historical nature (meaning the incident occurred at least one year prior to reporting)
- 23 cases involved an alleged perpetrator who was either unknown to be a Defence member or known not to be a Defence member
- 11 cases were reported matters involving Cadets and/or volunteers associated with Cadets, and consequently not Defence members
- 21 cases are closed as unable to be substantiated, due to insufficient evidence and/or no identifiable perpetrator.
Approximately 47 per cent of allegations of sexual assault made to JMPU were made by members who did not wish to make a statement of complaint or did not want the matter investigated by JMPU or state/territory police. Respecting the wishes of the victim is consistent with policing principles of maintaining a victim-centric approach but it can inhibit Defence’s ability to substantiate or conclude matters.
The sexual assault figures are drawn from a live policing database and reflect JMPU’s understanding of matters as at 5 July 2020. As initial reports are investigated and/or finalised, these figures may change.
Sexual misconduct prevention and response
Defence’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office provides confidential support and case management services to Defence personnel directly affected by sexual misconduct, debriefing services for personnel exposed to difficult material at work, assistance with incident management to promote personnel wellbeing, and educational programs and resources.
The SeMPRO team developed and delivered primary prevention educational packages and support to create a workplace climate that upholds Defence and Service values. The following key milestones were achieved in 2019–20:
- Sexual misconduct incident management workshops were delivered for commanders and managers, emphasising trauma-informed application of Defence policy.
- Face-to-face briefings by SeMPRO team members and by the network of Defence members to their peers in location have been reduced due to COVID-19. Remote learning options have been refined and expanded in response.
- Virtual classroom training in sexual misconduct incident management for commanders and managers has been developed for rollout in 2020–21, and development is underway of training targeted to senior non- commissioned officers.
- Continued improvements to online delivery of the sexual misconduct general awareness course have been made to enable training to be undertaken anywhere, at any time.
Sexual misconduct prevention and response training provides a proficiency that is valid for three years. In the ADF, 53 per cent of the permanent force holds the proficiency.
SeMPRO provides a 24/7 telephone response service for those seeking aid. The office assisted 368 clients in 2019–20. It provided case management to 125 clients subjected to sexual offences, sexual harassment or sex-based discrimination in Defence. SeMPRO also provides assistance with system navigation and service coordination, resources and referrals, and education for individuals and their families. These interventions assist wellbeing, build resilience, and facilitate developing self-management strategies and skills. The demand for case management services decreased from 400 in 2018–19 to 368 in 2019–20.
SeMPRO assists commanders, managers, colleagues and friends to improve responses to disclosures and reports. Commanders and managers received assistance with applying Defence’s policy requirements while focusing on the wellbeing of those involved. Colleagues and friends received advice on aiding a person who had disclosed being subjected to sexual misconduct. The uptake of one-on-one assistance with sexual misconduct incident management and disclosures decreased slightly from 265 in 2018–19 to 235 in 2019–20 (see Table 6.29).
Table 6.29: SeMPRO new incident management advice clients, 2013–14 to 2019–20
Number of SeMPRO advice
In 2019–20 SeMPRO provided confidential debriefing to eight clients. Debriefing services are designed to prevent psychological injuries arising from workplace exposure to trauma.
Defence continues to drive best practice through sexual misconduct prevention, incident management and response.