Whistleblower waits for apology

David Hartshorn is after a simple apology from the Australian Defence Force.
David Hartshorn is after a simple apology from the Australian Defence Force. Bev Lacey

AFTER 17 years searching for answers Toowoomba whistleblower David Hartshorn is hoping that the Australian Defence Force will now issue him with a simple apology.

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced last week a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of years of bullying, criminal behaviour and sexual abuse in the Australian Defence Force.

The Australian Defence Force committed to a far-reaching cultural overhaul to stamp out bad behaviour in the wake of last year's Skype sex scandal.

Publicity surrounding the scandal triggered a wave of complaints from other victims, some going back decades.

National law firm, DLA Piper, was engaged to review more than 1000 complaints of abuse in the ADF in the fallout from the scandal.

In a summary document released last Wednesday, DLA Piper found that at least 775 of the 1000 complaints fell within the terms of reference, including Mr Hartshorn's complaint.

In 1994, while serving in Egypt, Mr Hartshorn said that he was a passenger in a car that hit an Arab woman at high speed before leaving her on the side of the road.

Mr Hartshorn said that his commanding officer was the person behind the wheel.

Furthermore, Mr Hartshorn said that he was ordered to keep the matter quiet while the Australian Defence Force systematically went about covering up the incident.

After returning home the incident continued to play on Mr Hartshorn's mind and fearing retribution from within the ADF he decided to become an anonymous whistleblower.

For nearly four years the Australian Defence Force denied the incident occurred.

However, in official ADF documents provided to the Chronicle, it shows they were fully aware of the incident and decided not to investigate it further.

"I made the decision to report the matter because it was playing on my conscience," Mr Harshorn said.

"Fearing retribution I initially tipped off the ADF anonymously.

"It was a cover-up from start to finish, but, at least now they have had the decency to admit the incident occurred and that they could have handled it better.

"Somehow they found out that I was the whistleblower and it effectively ended my 20-year career in the ADF."

Still traumatised by the events, Mr Hartshorn said last week's announcement was a small win for everyone who has a grievance against the ADF.

"There is still a long way to go yet but this is certainly a start," he said.

"An apology will go along way in the healing process for many people.

"I am not after compensation; all I want is a simple apology from the ADF for putting us in this position and in my case virtually ending my career."

In its review DLA Piper recommendations for action included a possible royal commission and a national apology to victims which could lead to millions of dollars worth of compensation claims.

It is believed that the driver of the vehicle that stuck the woman and who ordered the occupants not to discuss the incident has since left the ADF.

Topics:  australian defence force compensation whistleblower

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