NZDF to publish annually Operation Respect progress

Results of the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) programme to tackle inappropriate and harmful sexual behaviours will be published annually, the Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short has told Parliament.

Speaking today to Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, Air Marshal Short reiterated the NZDF’s commitment to the programme the Defence Force launched in 2016 — known as Operation Respect.

“There is no place for discrimination, harassment, bullying or sexual violence in the New Zealand Defence Force,” he said.

Air Marshal Short told the Select Committee that the NZDF had added this year a series of questions about respectful behaviour to the NZDF’s annual internal staff engagement survey, to help monitor the progress of Operation Respect.

Key results from 2018 included:

  • The majority of respondents (86%) “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they can perform their duties free from inappropriate and harmful behaviour, with 5 per cent of respondents disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with this statement. (The remaining 9 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed)
  • Most respondents (68 per cent) “agreed” or “strongly agreed” a complaint about inappropriate behaviour would be handled effectively by the NZDF, while 11 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed. (The remainder neither agreed nor disagreed)

“I think we’ve made a really good start. This data suggests we’ve got more work to do to convince our people that the system will respond to their needs in an effective and empathetic way. But we recognised from the outset that these things would take time,” Air Marshal Short told the Committee.

“Going forward we will publish these results and other related information in our Annual Report. We are committed to staying the course.”

Air Marshal Short told the Select Committee the Operation Respect programme was going through an important period of evaluation and adjustment, as it moved from being seen as a safety issue driven primarily out of the Human Resources area to being a much broader longer-term culture programme to make the NZDF more diverse and inclusive.

The Chief of Defence Force said he was expecting his executive leadership team to land the bolder vision of Operation Respect by early 2019, with new initiatives under the four programme pillars — Understand, Respond, Support and Prevent.

Notes:

Since starting Operation Respect to eliminate harmful and inappropriate behaviour, including sexual violence, the NZDF has:

  • Put more than 10,000 uniformed and civilian staff (as at June 2018) through a compulsory three-hour Sexual Ethics and Respectful Relationships (SERR) training module. These are ongoing and the remaining NZDF personnel will attend in 2018. This activity recently won the Emerging Diversity and Inclusion category, and then the overall award, at the 2018 Diversity Awards NZ. Diversity Works New Zealand chief executive Rachel Hopkins said the NZDF initiative focused on one of the most topical issues facing workplaces today, creating genuine social change with a simple training strategy delivered to a large workforce in a very short timeframe. A SERR training module for all new recruits and new civilians has been developed and is being rolled out.
  • Created a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) — there is a National Prevention and Response Manager and five regional Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Advisors (SAPRA) working across all NZDF camps and bases.
  • Introduced a restricted disclosure mechanism, allowing victims of inappropriate behaviour to receive support without the need to lodge a formal complaint. To date, about a third of all victims are choosing to make a restricted disclosure. It should be noted that this includes those who wish to receive support for sexual violence that occurred prior to joining the NZDF. About 20 per cent of all those currently receiving assistance are doing so for events that occurred outside the NZDF.
  • Instigated communications from the Chief of Defence Force, Service Chiefs, and senior leaders, running an initial compulsory “town hall” meeting with everyone in the Defence Force.
  • Issued a Commanders Guide to responding to sexual violence.
  • Employed a dedicated social worker for every camp and base to improve access to support services for NZDF members and their families.
  • Developed a substance (drugs and alcohol) harm minimisation framework.
  • Established an Operation Respect Steering Group made of up of external/non-NZDF members, which meets quarterly and is chaired by the Chief of Air Force — a two-star NZDF leader.
  • In 2017, the NZDF became one of only three organisations in New Zealand accredited by White Ribbon, the campaign to end men’s violence against women.