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3.3.1 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 constrained 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 2.6

2.6 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 be wide ranging and involve matters for which public disclosure may transgress personal privacy or ADF security. Thus, not all details may be released to delegates 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 delegates. Furthermore, in addition to this 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 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 Management for correction via the Defence/ADF chain of command.