The hierarchical structure of a military organisation, along with a traditionally masculine culture, can make calling out inappropriate behaviour difficult. But a new training programme rolled out by the New Zealand Defence Force is set to make having difficult conversations easier.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) consists of three services: the Royal New Zealand Navy; New Zealand Army; and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and is commanded and headed by the Chief of Defence Force.
In June 2017 the NZDF introduced Sexual Ethics and Respectful Relating (SERR) training for all its staff. The training was introduced as a prevention activity under the Operation RESPECT programme.
Assistant Chief Defence Human Resources Colonel Karl Cummins says the overall aim of Operation RESPECT is to makes sure all members of the defence force can do their job in an environment that is free from inappropriate and harmful behaviour.
“NZDF takes seriously its positive duty of care to keep its people safe. NZDF is a reflection of society and is not immune to harmful behaviour; indeed historic cases and reviews into NZDF contributed to recognising the need to undertake prevention activity. NZDF wanted to do something practical that would make a positive difference in its members’ lives,” he says.
SERR workshops cover a range of topics, including identifying harmful sexual behaviour and its impact, seeking help, building the skills necessary to develop healthy and respectful relationships, having conversations about consent, speaking out about inappropriate or harmful behaviour, and how to respond if someone shares that harmful sexual behaviour has occurred.
“It is hoped the enduring impact of SERR training will be a safe inclusive working and living environment, a decrease in harmful sexual behaviour, and a workforce that is both empowered and prepared to address harmful sexual behaviour,” says Karl.
SERR training is delivered by sector experts on all camps and bases throughout the NZDF. Chief of the Defence Force Tim Keating has mandated that training be delivered within 12 months for everyone within the organisation.