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MANAGEMENT OF SERVICE PERSONNEL UNDER THE AGE OF 18 YEARS

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The focus of the investigation was essentially those people under the age of 18 in the ADF. Training Commands, Chiefs of Service and the Chief of the Defense Forces on the results of minors in training. This inquiry highlighted the importance of the ADF making clear its duty of care to minors in its services and training facilities; and ensure consistent application of juvenile management policies and procedures where possible.

All approaches to the management of minors are expected to be clearly described in the ADF's policies and procedural documentation. In my opinion, where possible, consistency in the management of minors across all three service groups and between training institutions should be a major objective of the ADF.

Background to the Investigation

Review of complaints received by the Ombudsman's office about young people in the ADF, and consideration of comments made by parents of young members of the ADF who complained. Review of selected internal and external inquiries into the ADF's handling of incidents involving minors, and the administration of training institutions in general. It was also important during this process to ensure that one or two strongly expressed views were not allowed to over-represent the views held by the majority of minors in the ADF.

These observations have informed my views on the adequacy of care for minors in the ADF as a whole, which are contained in this report. It includes identifying risk in dealing with minors adjusting to life in the ADF and covering mechanisms to support minors and help them deal with any problems.

Minors in the defence force

This guidance also addresses the requirement that ADF fulfill Australia's obligations as a signatory to the 'Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict'. The guidelines do not refer to persons under the age of 18 as a special case, except in PERS 35–4 which states that: “Commanders and managers must ascertain whether the complainant wishes his or her parent or guardian to be notified [that they have reported a sexual offence.] Extensive child welfare legislation has been enacted in Australian States and Territories to protect minors, in accordance with international conventions covering the rights of the child.

Some states/territories recognize that an employing or training body may have a duty of care in relation to young people as employees or students. There is a common legal requirement that those responsible for children and young people in their care report any allegation of abuse to the relevant authorities, regardless of whether the employer or teacher is directly responsible or not. The following, taken from section 8 of the NSW Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998, gives an indication of the nature of obligations towards minors in such legislation:.

The object of this law is to provide: a) that children and young people receive the necessary care and protection for their safety, well-being and well-being, taking into account the rights, competences and duties of their parents or other persons responsible for them;. This probably reflects the Commonwealth's limited involvement in matters relating to children and young people. However, in my view, there is a strong societal expectation that, where appropriate, the Commonwealth should meet standards of care equivalent to those espoused by the States/Territories.

Good administrative practice suggests that the nature and extent of the duty of care for minors should therefore be clearly defined as a basis for developing procedures for their management. It would also cover the operation of relevant laws, limitations on the provision of care and the liability of the ADF when adequate care was not provided. In determining what is "reasonably foreseeable", the protections contained in legislation relating to minors, including state/territory legislation, and societal expectations have been taken into account.

Areas of Concern

The unique cultures and functions of the three services were regularly discussed as a barrier to the development of a consistent approach to minors across the ADF. They believed that dealing with minors was best handled at the operational level and when incidents occurred, as staff in educational institutions had a more immediate understanding of the day-to-day issues associated with minors in education. It is to the credit of staff in some of the companies visited that, despite the lack of formal guidance on minors, several have developed fairly detailed arrangements for their management.

Several of the staff interviewed expressed strong reservations to the investigator about the lack of guidance, and sought. There is no service level auditing of the completeness and consistency of arrangements for minors, or the efficiency with which they are delivered in training institutions. Most of the data collected relates to the quality of teaching rather than the effectiveness of the total training environment and how it can be improved.

Many of the personnel in training institutions recognized this, although army personnel were less likely to see the experiences of other services as relevant to their training of minors. Heads of Service and the CDF must be in a position to give an annual account of the number of minors in each of the services and the extent to which performance standards for their management have been met. In the Navy, care of minors is essentially an extension of the division system that cares for all personnel.

The care of minors with problems was not necessarily seen as an integral part of the institution's training function. The Equity Adviser Network—all enterprises have Equity Advisers, part of the Defense Equity Organization infrastructure that supports equity and diversity decision-making across the ADF. Failure to see some of the most publicized support structures as relevant to them.

Many interviewed minors said that they are very reluctant to talk to a man. It would be interesting to further investigate the reasons for RMC EA endorsement.

Other Issues Arising

Standard handover arrangements - the quality of handover from former COs is variable, often depending on the availability of both officers and what they consider important. Detailed advice and guidance from Training Command, supported by performance reporting—Training Command expectations of each appointed CO, and related performance measures, should be clear, including responsibility for juvenile management. Breadth of Responsibilities - the breadth of responsibilities for COs should be realistic, recognizing accountability requirements.

It seems appropriate for the ADF to develop a three-service strategy to increase the number of instructors for training purposes. ADF may wish to explore the benefits of individual case management for all enrollees. The staff at SOI suggested that in addition to the very difficult physical demands of the course, the psychological and.

In some of the institutions visited, the small number of women in training was distributed among the training groups, based on the assumption that two women in a team was sufficient regardless of the size of the team. This approach takes into account the need to avoid single women on any team, but may not adequately accommodate team dynamics. The provision of health services across the ADF and the requirements to meet health needs by 2010 was the subject of a major review in 200412.

Lack of an overarching structure for the management of health services in training institutions: responsibility is divided between health services staff and the service chains of command within institutions. This informal advice can provide a much-needed, independent barometer for the CO of the organizational health of the business. The need does not only concern minors, but it can be of particular concern in training institutions.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The current DI(G) PRESS 33–4 – Recruitment and Employment of Members Under the Age of 18 in the ADF does not provide a basis for understanding the full requirements for exercising duty of care to minors. This information should include examples of how the duty of care will be performed on a day-to-day basis, as well as the limits of the ADFs. This could include a realistic assessment of the scope of their command responsibilities and support and advice in identifying risks and monitoring the results for minors.

Directives for commanders of educational institutions could draw attention to the requirements of DI(G), but performance measures can be difficult to quantify. The current focus is on analyzing the long-term health of members of the ADF who have been operationally deployed. It is considered appropriate for ADF to investigate why minors see ADFA's events as both relevant and useful; and whether there are lessons to be learned from other companies.

The results of the feedback should be brought together across the services and form the basis of an annual report to the Commander of the Defense Forces on the effectiveness of juvenile support arrangements. Monitoring and reporting arrangements should be standardized across the ADF to facilitate trend assessment. Others have made good economic arguments about the cost to the ADF of lost training, rehabilitation and sometimes compensation for injuries.

But the availability of results from these studies may be a few years away and the ADF may want to consider revising the entry age earlier. This development supports the ADF objective of not losing an important source of young recruits in a competitive working environment. This strategy may be equally suitable for the recruitment of minors in other areas of the services.

References

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