WORK CULTURE BEHIND VETERAN’S MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Mentally damaged ADF veterans and suicides stemmed less from battlefield trauma experiences than from Defence’s “weaponised” workplace culture in dealing with its troops, a study has found.
And the agency to “fix” military injustice and address perceived Defence maladministration – the Inspector General of the ADF (IGADF) – has been labelled as so tied to senior command its been rendered ineffective.
“(It) is said to be so corrupted and beholden to the senior command that it merely serves to exacerbate the abuse and allow the senior ADF leadership to hide behind a facade of ‘independent’ oversight and review,” report author and researcher Dr Kay Danes has concluded.
Her study, an addendum to a lengthier appraisal to be submitted to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide and based on first-hand interviews, aims squarely at Defence.
Dr Danes said the “failings” in the processes and administration of Veterans Affairs has long been recognised but the problems begin before ADF personnel leave the military.
“It is maladministration,” Dr Danes said in her scathing appraisal.
She said it was notable Defence Legal was quick to pursue personnel but even if individuals were exonerated, rarely were their superiors brought to account.
Rank rivalries see some actively seek to derail the careers of others and though exonerated, their careers are derailed and do not recover. They eventually leave the services with mental scars.
She cites the issue with a bar in Afghanistan the Fat Lady’s Arms almost a decade ago where several ADF personnel drank alcohol which resulted in administrative action against them now even though approval was sought and granted by the commanders of Joint Task Force 633 to consume alcohol.
“This has plunged these guys into despair and impacted them in a way that can never be underdone … some have lost key appointments on other allegations which were not investigations of fact,” Dr Danes said.
So many defence personnel still serving, but looking to pull the pin, they can’t take it any more, there is just no justice.”
Due process and procedural fairness exist in civil society but the same standards do not apply in Defence which had a weaponised administration against its own people she concluded.
In a briefing note to the royal commission which begins in Brisbane next month, Defence said it was recognised there were issues and steps taken to address them.
Anticipating likely recommendations from the royal commission, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Andrew Gee this week announced the appointment of more independent consultants to overhaul the department’s claims processing system.
Consultants McKinsey & Company will work with families who have lost loved ones to suicide to formulate recommendations that will overhaul the system to better serve veterans.
Mr Gee said the backlog of claims is unacceptably high and “this is not another review” but rather immediate change would be implemented.
“We can’t wait for the Royal Commission to get cracking on this crucial reform,” he said.