De­fence Force makes move for ‘cul­ture change’

Taranaki Daily News - - National News - Col­lette Devlin

The New Zealand De­fence Force is ramp­ing up ef­forts to bring in a ‘‘cul­ture change’’ to deal with in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual be­hav­iour and harass­ment.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is also clamp­ing down on sub­stance mis­use, say­ing it is ‘‘tak­ing a stand’’ and in­tro­duc­ing a drug and al­co­hol harm min­imi­sa­tion frame­work, as well as con­se­quences. In 2016, the NZDF set up Op­er­a­tion Re­spect, to re­duce sex­ual harass­ment and harm­ful sex­ual be­hav­iour, af­ter re­search showed ‘‘per­sis­tent sex­ism’’.

But a 2018 NZDF en­gage­ment sur­vey found a num­ber of mem­bers still felt there was such be­hav­iour. There have been var­i­ous sex­ual harass­ment cases and in June Stuff re­ported per­son­nel – in­clud­ing two se­nior lead­ers – had been re­moved from com­mand af­ter com­plaints of a sex­ual na­ture at the army’s re­cruit train­ing course at Waiouru.

De­fence Force chief Air Mar­shal Kevin Short said the ‘‘in­ter­nal pulse’’ sur­vey asked spe­cific ques­tions about re­spect­ful be­hav­iours and the re­sults would be pub­lished in its an­nual re­port. The ma­jor­ity of NZDF men and women who took the sur­vey felt pro­cesses had been put in place so they could do their job free of harass­ment of any sort.

But 5 per cent still felt un­safe and the right sys­tems were not in place. ‘‘That’s why a pro­gramme needs to con­tinue and why we need to do a re­fresh and look at it, more as a cul­ture change in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, rather than what was orig­i­nally set up for the safety of in­di­vid­u­als.’’

He re­ported the sur­vey find­ings at a for­eign af­fairs, de­fence and trade se­lect com­mit­tee hear­ing yes­ter­day, where he and sec­re­tary of de­fence He­lene Quil­ter were ques­tioned dur­ing the an­nual re­views of the De­fence Force and the Min­istry of De­fence. He told the com­mit­tee about 86 per cent of re­spon­dents agreed they could per­form their du­ties free from in­ap­pro­pri­ate and harm­ful be­hav­iour.

He was pleased to see an in­crease in re­port­ing.

‘‘Giv­ing vic­tims and sur­vivors the con­fi­dence to come for­ward has been a big fo­cus.

‘‘From June 2016 to re­cently, peo­ple have been able to make dis­clo­sures to a spe­cial­ist team to seek sup­port with­out trig­ger­ing a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It’s only if they want to pro­ceed with a for­mal com­plaint that the in­for­ma­tion is passed through the com­mand chain to au­thor­i­ties.’’

So far 10,000 uni­formed and civil­ian staff have at­tended com­pul­sory three-hour mod­ules on re­spect­ful be­hav­iour and sex­ual as­sault preven­tion.

Most of NZDF would have at­tended by mid-2019, he said.

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