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Australian Current Affairs

Serious abuse at Australian Defence Academy alarms government


Defence minister Stephen Smith with Defence Abuse Response Taskforce head Len Roberts-Smith

Defence minister Stephen Smith with Defence Abuse Response Taskforce head Len Roberts-Smith

Claims of serious abuse at the Australian Defence Force Academy and HMAS Leeuwin naval base are “more widespread and persistent” than previously reported, a high-level inquiry has found.

In an interim report, the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, headed by retired judge Len Roberts-Smith, found that abuse was evident at other recruit schools and training institutions as well.

The finding comes as soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, based in Townsville, were reportedly charged with defence discipline offences over Facebook postings that referred to women as “sluts”.

The Roberts-Smith taskforce was commissioned last year by Defence Minister Stephen Smith to investigate decades of abuse claims in the military – part of the government’s response to the 2011 “Skype affair” at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

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In particular, the taskforce has been asked to prioritise 24 claims of rape at ADFA and abuse of cadet sailors as young as 14 at the now-closed Western Australian naval base HMAS Leeuwin.

So far, only four of the 19 complainants from the “ADFA 24” rape cases from the 1990s have agreed to have their complaints assessed by the taskforce, Mr Smith said in a statement summarising the taskforce’s interim findings.

But a further 48 complaints alleging “physical abuse, sexual abuse, harassment or bullying” at ADFA had surfaced.

“The allegations of serious abuse at HMAS Leeuwin and ADFA are more widespread and persistent than was reported in the 1971 Rapke Report and in the 1998 Grey Review respectively,” the taskforce has reported.

“The particular issues which arose at HMAS Leeuwin and ADFA can also be seen at other ADF recruit schools and training institutions.”

The number of complaints that will be assessed by the taskforce has soared to 2410 – 1535 new claims on top of the 875 uncovered by the previous review by law firm DLA Piper.

The revelations follow the announcement last week by Chief of Army David Morrison that 17 soldiers including officers and non-commissioned officers had been involved in an internet sex ring that swapped demeaning images and text about women.

The ring, calling itself the “Jedi Council”, shared footage and naked images of women with whom some of the ring’s members had had sex. The images were accompanied by offensive commentary and in some cases included encouragement for other members of the ring to seek the women out and have sex with them as well.

On Thursday, the Townsville Bulletin reported that 3rd Brigade commander Brigadier Shane Caughey had said soldiers associated with sexist Facebook pages would be charged under the Australian Defence Force Discipline Act.

The Facebook pages labelled women “sluts” and “fat chicks”. Brigadier Caughey said the Army needed to be held to a higher account than the general community.

In his statement, Mr Smith also said that analysis from the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service showed there had been on average 80 reports of sexual assault per year over the past five years.

“One case of sexual assault is unacceptable. Eighty cases is of grave concern,” he said.

Of particular concern was the fact that research had shown about four out of five victims never reported their experiences, he said.

Source: National Times – Serious abuse at Defence Academy ‘more widespread and persistent’
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