Service honours will no longer be stripped from thousands of Special Forces personnel who served in Afghanistan.
Late Last year, Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, revealed that the ADF would consider revoking Meritorious Unit Citations for all Special Forces units with personnel involved in alleged war crimes identified in Inspector-General of the ADF (IGADF) Paul Brereton’s Afghanistan Inquiry report.
GEN Campbell’s announcement received fierce backlash from the community, prompting policymakers to call for the decision to be overturned.
Newly appointed Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has now stepped in, confirming that only personnel either convicted or administratively identified by Defence as implicated in alleged war crimes will have their honours stripped.
“Australians support our ADF personnel and so do we. Serious allegations are being investigated against some, but 99 per cent of our ADF personnel serve and have served our country with distinction,” he said in a statement.
“This Anzac Day we will remember the originals, but my focus will be on those who have returned from recent conflicts. We honour these young men and women and they will be wearing their unit citation medal with pride.”
Minister Dutton added: “Almost 40,000 honoured our country with their service in Afghanistan and Iraq and I couldn’t be more proud of their sacrifice.
“We honour them and their loved ones this Anzac Day.”
Following the release of IGADF Brereton’s report in November, administrative action notices were sent to 13 Special Forces soldiers identified in the inquiry.
Such individuals were given the opportunity to plead their case by providing a written response within 14 days of receipt of the notice.
An administrator will consider their written response before determining whether to dismiss the individual, with each matter considered on a case-by-case basis.
ADF members and their families can contact the Defence All-hours Support Line, a confidential telephone service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 1800 628 036. Defence families can also contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.
Safe Zone Support (1800 142 072) is also available as a free and anonymous counselling line for current and former ADF personnel and their families. The service is available 24/7 and provides access to specialised counsellors with an understanding of military culture and experience.
Defence personnel, veterans and their families can also access free and confidential counselling 24/7 through Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling Service (1800 011 046) or online at www.openarms.gov.au.