Defence culture reform sees sexual misconduct milestone

Early indications of successful reform at Defence’s sexual misconduct office has buoyed the organisation to consider embedding further training in initial courses.

Now two years into the Department of Defence’s five-year “Pathway to Change” cultural reform, officials have given the first indications of success at its newly established body to combat and respond to sexual harassment and misconduct.

The Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office — SeMPRO — was launched in July last year with the challenge of creating an agency from scratch, to fill in the gap between investigators, line managers, corporate leadership and established Defence culture into which victims of abuse and harassment were falling.

Defence’s director-general, cultural reviews response, Air Commodore Henrik Ehlers, says the early results, with more than 311 interactions so far, have been very positive. Ehlers told the Senate’s first hearing on the independent Defence Abuse Response Taskforce yesterday:

“They’ve been operating for just over a year now and I think they’re an unqualified success in these early days of their establishment. What we are seeing is people feeling confident to contact us. What we are seeing at SeMPRO is that many of the matters being referred to us are of historic nature — this is where victims of abuse are finally wanting to come forward, either share their story, or access support mechanisms.”

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