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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Gabriel Fowler

Death of a Williamtown RAAF worker lands Defence in court on criminal charges

CRIMINAL CHARGES: The suicide of a RAAF worker at Williamtown base has led to the Department of Defence facing criminal charges and fines of up to $2.5million. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

THE Department of Defence is facing fines of up to $2.5 million over the mishandling of the pyschological welfare of a worker who took his own life at the Williamtown base two years ago.

The worker, a Royal Australian Air Force technician, suicided while on duty at the base on July 28, 2020.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has filed three charges alleging Defence failed in its primary duty under the federal Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to manage risks to psychological health and safety.

They related to alleged failures in the administration of workplace policies and procedures to provide safe systems of work, necessary training to workers, and information necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety.

The charges include one 'Category 2' offence, carrying a maximum penalty of $1.5 million, and two 'Category 3' offences, each carrying a maximum penalty of $500,000. They are listed for mention in Maitland Local Court on September 29.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, a spokesperson said Defence offered its sincere condolences to "the family of the Defence member".

"The Defence community remains deeply saddened by the tragic death of one of its members, and continues to provide support to their family," the statement said.

"As the matter is subject to legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate for Defence to make any further comment.

"The safety of our people is paramount in all activities undertaken by Defence, and critical to our mission of defending Australia and its national interests.

"Defence continues to work closely with the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Regulator, Comcare, in relation to all serious safety incidents."

In another statement issued by the Commonwealth, the federal government said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles had himself spoken to the Chief of the Defence Force and been reassured that Defence has and would continue to cooperate with the Comcare investigation.

"We understand the seriousness of this tragic situation which took place two years ago regarding a member of Defence, and offer condolences and support to their family," the statement said.

"The Albanese Labor Government is committed to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, and effecting cultural reform and meaningful change within the ADF."

  • If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
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