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Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Page: 5192


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:07): Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate an answer to a question Senator Ludlam asked me yesterday in my responsibility as representing the Minister for Defence.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

Stephen Smith MP

Minister for Defence

Senator Scott Ludlam

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Scott Ludlam

I refer to your questions to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Chris Evans, on 22 August 2011 in relation to Australian Defence Force casualties in Afghanistan.

Senator Evans took two questions on notice. This letter provides a response to these questions.

You asked whether the Government would provide a detailed breakdown of the types of wounds and the types of injuries sustained by soldiers in Afghanistan who have received compensation through the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the types of treatment and support offered to wounded and injured soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

I can advise that, as at 30 June 2011, the Department of Veterans' Affairs has accepted approximately 2,200 compensation claims from 920 individuals which are partially or wholly attributable to service in the Middle East Area of Operations which includes Afghanistan.

The list of conditions for which claims have been accepted includes conditions affecting hearing and sight, musculo-skeletal conditions (including amputations and fractures), mental health conditions, skin conditions and a number of non-specified health conditions.

Information about military compensation claims that have been lodged and accepted are published in the Department of Veterans' Affairs Annual Report and updated each year. This data relates to all types of service including peacetime and training.

The Annual Report includes figures of the top 15 most frequently claimed conditions.

During 2009-2010 the top three of these conditions in relation to service since 2004 (claimed under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004) were acute sprains and strains, fracture and hearing loss.

The Minister for Veterans' Affairs is currently considering how to make more detailed information in relation to claims more publicly available, noting that there are a number of issues to work through including the protection of the privacy of individuals.

You also noted that it was recently revealed that two of the 184 wounded Australian Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan were women. You asked whether the Government would alter the current Department of Defence practice of concealing the gender of wounded and injured soldiers and provide gender disaggregated data.

I can advise that two female soldiers serving in Afghanistan suffered superficial wounds during an insurgent rocket attack on Kandahar Airfield on 16 March 2007. The Department of Defence disclosed the fact of this incident via media release on 17 March 2007 (copy attached).

Defence publicly announces all battle casualties but for privacy reasons does not disclose personal or identifying details of personnel. The media release on 17 March was consistent with that practice.

It is not appropriate or relevant to release such details, including the gender of personnel who are wounded in the course of their duty.

There is currently no intent to change this policy.

Defence's first priority is the health and privacy of personnel who have been wounded in action.

Personnel deployed on operations remain concerned about media and public intrusion on them and their families.

The current policy manages the need to inform the Australian public of casualties but also retain a high degree of privacy for those involved.

Individuals who have sustained wounds in an incident may choose to make their personal details public if they wish to do so.

Neither of the two soldiers that were involved in the 16 March 2007 incident have chosen to make a public statement about their experience.

I hope this information is useful to you.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Smith

 

Australian Government

Department of Defence

DEFENCE MEDIA RELEASE

CPA 067/07

Saturday, 17 March 2007

THREE AUSTRALIANS SLIGHTLY WOUNDED IN KANDAHAR ROCKET ATTACK

Three Australian soldiers were slightly wounded during an overnight rocket attack at Kandahar Airfield in Southern Afghanistan.

The soldiers suffered minor blast-effect injuries when the single rocket struck their accommodation area.

The three soldiers were provided with immediate first-aid and medical monitoring by Australian medics working at the base.

Some accommodation buildings suffered minor damage from the impact but most fragmentation and blast damage was absorbed by a purpose-built barrier system designed to limit the effectiveness of such an attack.

All three soldiers have contacted their next of kin and will return to duty.

The names of the soldiers wounded in the rocket strike will not be released for privacy reasons.

Media contact: Defence Media Liaison (02) 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664

For a free subscription to Defence Direct, the Minister for Defence's monthly e-newsletter,

please follow this link:

http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/defencedirectiot/subscribe.html

Issued by Coordination and Public Affairs, Department of Defence, Canberra, ACT

Phone: 02 6265 3343, Fax: 02 6265 6946

Media Releases are available via e-mail if you register at the Media Centre at www.defence.gov.au/media