A leading military compensation lawyer has welcomed the Minister for Defence, the Hon Stephen Smith’s announcement today of comprehensive measures to deal with allegations of sexual and other abuse in the Australian Defence Force.
Slater and Gordon lawyer Brian Briggs, who has spoken with hundreds of victims of historical sexual and other abuse in the ADF, said that the Minister has shown a great deal of courage and leadership in addressing abuse in the military that in some cases has been buried for decades.
“The apology by the Minister was an important symbol and acknowledgment for victims, and will help the process of healing and reconciliation,” Mr Briggs said.
“The apology will come as a relief for victims and will serve to reinforce that a culture that has existed in the military, which allowed the abuses to occur in the first place, will not be tolerated,” he said.
Mr Briggs also said he was pleased that the Federal Government had decided on action and said an apology, a restorative approach and a modest compensation scheme would mean much more to most victims than further review.
"The establishment of a Taskforce of highly respected eminent persons to oversee implementation of the Governments' response is also significant to ensuring that the intention of achieving restorative justice and reconciliation, as well as eliminating the potential for further cases of abuse, is delivered.
“A wide ranging Royal Commission in the case of military abuse in general would have prolonged access to justice for many, but a more confined review may be warranted.
“A public apology and compensation scheme suggests a new and welcome approach by authorities, where people can now acknowledge that a wrong has occurred and with necessary counselling and medical help, a chance of some closure to get on with their lives.
“The Government’s announcement is a balanced response to the needs of victims of abuse within the military and I commend the Defence Minister and the Federal Government for acting comprehensively on these extremely difficult issues,” he said.