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Defence Force silence leads to complaint

Sun 1 Dec 2013 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Corporal Dougie Hughes Despite its support for last week's Pride in Defence forum, the NZ Defence Force is refusing to engage about any measures it has put in place to ensure the safety of glbti soldiers and other staffers. Corporal Dougie Hughes took his own life while on active duty in Afghanistan in April last year after he confessed to a superior that he had feelings for a fellow male soldier. The sergeant arranged a meeting between the two men, where Hughes tearfully admitted his feelings. He was apparently brusquely rejected, and hours later took his own life. Subsequently an internal Defence report and coroner's inquiry into Hughes death were officially hushed up, ostensibly to protect Hughes' family. His mother and other relatives have, however, said they want the reports made public, to no avail. Following Hughes' death recommendations were also reportedly made for the Defence Force to institute changes to lessen the chances of such a tragedy recurring. On October 1st, the day the Solicitor General declined to re-open the coroner's inquiry, Daily News asked the NZDF, on behalf of the national glbti communities, a series of questions relating to what measures it had put in place. The Force chose to respond to our request under the terms of the Official Information Act which legally requires it to disclose any relevant documentation it holds within twenty working days. A week after the NZDF missed that deadline to provide the information a follow-up enquiry from Daily News was not responded to. We have referred the matter to the Ombudsman. Our questions are: 1. What recommendations were made to the NZDF based on either the Coroner's enquiry or the Force's own investigation into Corporal Hughes' death? 2. What changes or introductions has the Force made, or does it intend to make, following those recommendations? 3. Over-all what lesson(s) have been learned by the NZDF from Corporal Hughes' death? 4. Does the NZDF have any comment on the Solicitor General's decision as released today? 5. Does the NZDF believe all aspects of the matters regarding Hughes' sexuality, state of mind and behaviour were dealt with appropriately? 6. Can the NZAF provide assurance, as an employer required to provide a safe workplace, that any future situation as faced by Corporal Hughes will be handled in a way which does not endanger the soldier/employee concerned? 7. Is the NZDF a safe environment for glbti soldiers/employees compared to non-glbti soldiers/employees - and if not, where do the deficiencies/problems lie and how will they be addressed?    

Credit: Daily News

First published: Sunday, 1st December 2013 - 11:32am

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