15 March 2016
The New Zealand Defence Force today launched Operation RESPECT, the culmination of two years of work to tackle inappropriate and harmful sexual behaviours in the New Zealand Defence Force.
Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General (LTGEN) Tim Keating, said the Action Plan has been driven by two imperatives – looking after the Defence Force’s people and recruiting and retaining more military women.
“Two years ago the Ministry of Defence produced a ground-breaking report Maximising Opportunities for Military Women, which challenged us to lift our game on a number of fronts,” says LTGEN Keating.
“As a Defence Force we responded with new approaches to recruiting, retaining and supporting our women in uniform. But we knew that work wouldn’t be complete until we had also confronted our underlying culture and its implication for women’s success and safety.
“New research we’ve commissioned shows that being a woman in our Defence Force is still harder than it should be. There continues to be pockets of people that think it acceptable to belittle, ridicule and at its worst, harass and even assault their colleagues.
“That’s unacceptable. We have a Defence Force we can be proud of. Any actions like this diminish us both in the eyes of our personnel and in the eyes of the public, who rightly demand we have the highest standards.
“Operation RESPECT systematically responds, and accelerates changes we need to make to be a better Defence Force.”
The Operation RESPECT Action Plan results from three reviews and a significant work programme: the Ministry of Defence’s Maximising Opportunities for Military Women in the NZDF review (2014), the Ministry’s Recruit Training review (2015), a review of Air Force culture, and the ongoing work of the NZDF’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Management governance group.
“The intent of the Operation RESPECT Action Plan is that it will assist the NZDF to improve its culture of dignity and respect for all personnel.”
The Action Plan contains six key action areas:
- Establishing a strategy to change the NZDF’s culture and behaviours to challenge persistent sexism and better integrate women into our Defence Force;
- Increasing training including a sexual ethics and healthy relationships training package, and holding ‘town halls’ across camps and bases to discuss inappropriate sexual behaviour;
- Implementing a restricted disclosure system by 30 June, 2016, to offer an alternative way to report sexual assault;
- Introducing a dedicated, professional sexual assault response team; and,
- Addressing issues associated with specific risk factors including facilities and alcohol.
- Increasing the percentage of women in our armed forces, and the representation of women in senior leadership roles;
LTGEN Keating said the NZDF is today releasing the Operation RESPECT Action Plan, and the documentation informing the Action Plan -- the already-public Ministry of Defence’s reports, and the Air Force Culture Review.
“The Air Force review involved the interview of 23 people in the Air Force but the conclusions are relevant to the whole NZDF. This review is another piece of evidence that confirms the path we were already on as an organisation responding to these issues.
“Our people’s responses point to behaviours persisting by some that are not acceptable, and I am pleased that this Action Plan is being implemented as quickly as possible to address these issues across the NZDF.
“Our Defence Force’s response to this issue will be similar to the ‘Broken Windows’ response to crime where even minor violations will be dealt with, so that we build a community where it is abundantly clear to everyone what we expect, and what we don’t.
“We all have a part to play to stop such unwarranted and unwanted actions. That’s consistent with living our values of courage, commitment and comradeship.
“My message internally is a simple one: we will be taking a zero tolerance approach to those who cannot live by our values,” says the LTGEN Keating.
For further information contact the Defence Public Affairs: 021 487 980
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