The Australian Defence Force (ADF) conducts inquiries principally to inform internal decision-making. The ability of ADF commanders to appoint internal administrative inquiries and obtain timely information on incidents that affect personnel, assets, training and policy, is vital for the safety and reputation of our people and the maintenance of our capability.
Without a capacity to conduct effective inquiries, the ADF’s ability to examine incidents and learn lessons from its experiences would be diminished. The outcomes of these inquiries assist in the development of procedures and policy concerning the safety of our personnel and the ADF's ability to achieve tasks assigned by government.
However, ADF inquires are not courts of law and their reports are not judicial findings. They does not preclude, and are not in any way intended to inhibit Federal, State or Territory agencies from holding their own investigations or inquiries.
Under the Defence (Inquiry) Regulations 1985 there are a number of options available to commanders so that, should an incident arise, the ADF can competently and thoroughly inquire into the matter.
The type of inquiry conducted depends on the circumstances of each case. Nevertheless, inquiries have a clear and important objective — to provide commanders with accurate and reliable information to assist them in making decisions in the proper discharge of their military duties.
The most common types of inquiry appointed to inquire into deaths or other serious matters concerning the ADF are Commissions of Inquiry, Boards of Inquiry and Inquiry Officer Inquiries.
COI are established primarily to inquire into deaths of ADF members that appear to have arisen out of, or in the course of their service. A Commission of Inquiry may also be appointed to inquire into the serious injury of ADF members or any other matter concerning the ADF.
A Commission of Inquiry can only be appointed by the Chief of the Defence Force and must be presided over by a civilian with judicial experience. They may be constituted by a President alone or by a President and additional members, and are conducted as either open or closed inquiries.
BOI have been superseded by Commissions of Inquiry for inquiries concerning the death of an ADF member. However, Boards of Inquiry may be established to inquire into other incidents, for example an accident or injury, or damage to a Defence asset.
A Board of Inquiry may be appointed jointly by the Secretary of Defence and the Chief of Defence Force, the Chief of the Defence Force, a Service Chief or authorised senior commander. Boards of Inquiry are constituted by two or more persons and may be conducted as either open or closed inquiries.
IOI may be appointed by the Chief of the Defence Force, a Service Chief, commanding officer, formation commander or other authorised senior officer to inquire into any matter concerning Defence that is under their command or control. Inquiry Officer Inquiries are conducted as closed inquiries without formal hearings.