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7.14.2 ADF Accident/Incident Investigations

Where a member dies whilst on duty there will be at the very least an assessment inquiry by the CO of the unit, and almost certainly a person appointed to investigate and report on the circumstances surrounding, or leading to, that death.  Furthermore, there may well be a more formal Defence Board of Inquiry under the auspices of the Defence (Inquiry) Regulations.  The CO of the unit is also directed by instructions under ADFP202 to inform ADF 'higher authority', the civilian police and the coroner, and all of those organisations may, at their discretion, conduct their own investigations.

The Administrative Inquiries Manual (ADFP202) at Chapter 2 - relating to 'quick assessments' - says:

Accidental death of Australian Defence Force members

An accident involving the death of one or more ADF members involved in ADF activities is to be reported to higher authority immediately.  The Chief of the Defence Force or Service Chief, as appropriate, will refer the matter to the Minister to determine whether the appointment of a General Court of Inquiry or a Board of Inquiry is warranted.  The deaths of ADF members on duty are also to be reported immediately to civilian police and the relevant State or Territory coroner.  A liaison officer is to be appointed to assist the coroner.

Inquiries conducted by the ADF may raise wide ranging issues and involve matters for which public disclosure may transgress personal privacy or ADF security.   Thus, not all details may be released to the Department of Veterans' Affairs in all cases.  Nevertheless, it is reasonable to expect that the conclusions of that inquiry or at least those portions impacting on the Commonwealth's compensation liability be communicated to the delegate.   The reports of a formal Board of Inquiry or the proceedings of a Court-Martial, however, are public documents and it is expected that these complete documents should be released to the Department.   Furthermore, in addition to this, and reasonable access to Defence's investigations about the death, it would be expected that the liaison officer appointed by the Unit CO in accordance with ADFP202 would also assist the MRCA delegate (i.e. in addition to that officer's duty to assist the coroner).

Failure of the unit to offer reasonable cooperation or information should be referred to National Manager, Rehabilitation and Entitlements Policy Group, for follow-up with Defence/ADF chain of command.

However, it is not acceptable for a determination to be delayed purely on the grounds of these documents not being available.  Proper consideration of the need for access to these documents must be conducted when a claim is assessed.  They should not be requested when a determination can be made on the available evidence.