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Charges over psychosocial risks to ADF member

2 April 2024

The Department of Defence has been charged with breaches of federal work health and safety laws relating to psychosocial risks at a Queensland Army base.

Following a Comcare investigation, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has filed three charges in the Brisbane Magistrates Court alleging Defence failed to comply with its primary duty of care under section 19(1) of the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).

It is alleged Defence’s failures exposed an Australian Defence Force member to a risk of death or serious injury – including the risk of self-harm or suicide – arising from stressors or mental health issues being experienced while geographically isolated from their chain of command.

Comcare’s investigation identified alleged failures by Defence to minimise or eliminate risks to health and safety at the base in early 2022, including:

  • Not ensuring regular in-person health and welfare checks at the barracks
  • Failing to refer the soldier for a formal mental health assessment
  • Failing to ensure a mental health intake assessment was not paused or delayed, and that it was conducted in-person or via video conference.

The charges are one Category 2 and two Category 3 criminal offences under the WHS Act, each carrying maximum penalties of $1.5 million and $500,000 respectively.

The matter is listed for first mention in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on 3 May 2024.

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Page last reviewed: 04 April 2024

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Date printed 18 Jul 2024