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Source: New Zealand Defence Force

16 July 2020

The New Zealand Defence Force will enhance Operation Respect after a review was conducted by the independent review division of the Ministry of Defence.

The review made 44 recommendations to improve Operation Respect, which was introduced by the NZDF in 2016 to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour, and improve the culture of dignity and respect.

The Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Kevin Short, said he welcomed the review and the recommendations that had been made. 

“The review is critical of the progress made by Operation Respect while also acknowledging that key initiatives have been important and the intent of the programme is good,” Air Marshal Short said.

“I acknowledge the criticisms and am concerned that while we have made substantial progress since 2016, we have not made enough progress.”

“It is obvious we need to dig deeper to meet the challenges that Operation Respect was introduced to address. The Defence Force has already started to implement some of the recommendations; and we will now put priority on reviewing the others for implementation. 

“The culture of the Defence Force is incredibly important. It helps us to achieve our missions for New Zealanders. It unites our people and drives them to achieve. It is therefore essential that our culture is in tune with our mission and values. 

Air Marshal Short said some incidents referred to in the report were unacceptable, inappropriate and directly contradicted our core values.

“As we have seen around the world, harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour is a really challenging societal problem.  This report emphasises the challenge we all face, and how hard we all need to keep working to make lasting change.  This is not easy, but the NZDF is determined to make enduring improvements.

“Safe workplaces are vital to the NZDF meeting its obligations both to our uniformed personnel and civilian employees, and to the Government which requires us to carry out challenging tasks as effectively as possible.”

Air Marshal Short said the review will now guide further improvements to Operation Respect.

“I am meeting with both the Auditor-General and the Chief Ombudsman on two of the recommendations – which are for the Office of the Auditor General to carry out audits every two years on Op Respect and to consult with the Chief Ombudsman to establish processes and remedies similar to that of the Defence Ombudsman in Australia.”

The chair of the Operation Respect Steering Group, Chief of Air Force Air Vice Marshal Andrew Clark, said embedding Operation Respect further into the organisation including the three Services, was vital.

“We have to drive this deeper into camps and bases in a more coherent way, and a more organic way, with better local communication, leadership and direction. 

“Operation Respect is not broken, but it clearly needs improving.  I am committed to leading these improvements to this vital programme.”

The review was done as part of the Ministry’s statutory role under the Defence Act to assess and audit any function, duty or project in relation to the NZDF. 

Attached is a list of the 44 recommendations and NZDF commentary on them.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Defence Public Affairs: 021 487 980 or media@nzdf.mil.nz

Note: The report is available on the Ministry of Defence website: www.defence.govt.nz

MIL OSI