ACT News

AFP bodyguard to East Timor president denied compensation

A former Australian Federal Police officer who suffered depression after he acted as bodyguard to the East Timorese president has lost a bid for compensation.

A tribunal has found Andre Lenz's mental illness had been caused by the AFP's refusal to grant him a voluntary redundancy, not an incident in East Timor in 2003.

Mr Lenz was a sworn AFP member for 27 years and served in a number of roles across the region, including Arnhem Land, Christmas Island, and East Timor.

In 2003, he spent six-months as part of the United Nations-sponsored international policing effort, with duties including close personal protection of the president and first lady of East Timor and as a technical adviser on national security to the newly formed government.

He said in July 2003, he had visited a village near Balibo with the president when gunshots were heard during the night.

He rigged up trip wires with bells to warn of intruders and spent the hours until morning sitting in the corner with his gun trained on the doorway.

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Mr Lenz was also involved in a riot in Dili during the posting.

But upon his return to Australia, he reported no issues during his debriefing.

Mr Lenz told the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that this was because he feared he would be blocked from future overseas postings if he reported his mental health issues.

Upon his return, Mr Lenz was posted to the AFP Robina office where he remained until the office closed in 2012.

He requested a voluntary redundancy, as his wife was ill and did not want to commute to the Brisbane office, where he had issues with some staff, but it was refused.

During this time and subsequent shift to the Brisbane office, he said he was victimised at work and suffered depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which he attributed to events in East Timor.

He said he suffered nightmares and hallucinations in early 2013.

In March 2013, Mr Lenz lodged a workers' compensation claim.

Comcare accepted that Mr Lenz suffered mental illness at the time of his claim, and that his employment with the AFP contributed materially to that illness

But the workplace insurer denied his illness arose from his East Timor service, and instead said the closure of the AFP's Robina office had caused his health issues.

Comcare ruled these factors had been reasonable administrative action and therefore Mr Lenz did not qualify for compensation.

Mr Lenz appealed the decision to the tribunal, which this week affirmed Comcare's decision.

In a joint decision, Deputy President Gary Humphries and member Dr Peter Wilkins, found the East Timor incident did not contribute significantly to the major depressive disorder Mr Lenz was suffering during 2012.

"We consider it implausible that any long-dormant traumatic symptoms relating to his time in East Timor should suddenly emerge at this time quite independently of the issues unfolding at his workplace," the decision said.

"We find that the date of injury … was 19 November 2012, the date Mr Lenz first sought medical attention from his GP for his mental illness.

"He was, at that point, clearly affected by the AFP's refusal to provide him with a voluntary redundancy. His condition, therefore, arose out of his employment, but because the employment-related cause was also reasonable administrative action, the condition is not … an injury."