An executive summary of a government-initiated review into Defence abuse was released yesterday, where more than 770 people claimed to have been assaulted or sexually assaulted whilst serving in Australia’s military.
The summary of the review conducted by law firm DLA Piper was released following a freedom of information request by the ABC.
The report states “it is certain” that many boys, young men and young women were subjected to serious physical and sexual assault while they were in the ADF from the 1950s “at least into the 21st century”.
Previous report findings and Defence files indicate very little evidence perpetrators had been called to account.
The document states that “there is a risk that those perpetrators now hold middle and senior management position within the ADF and there is a risk that those that witnessed abuse and did not report what they witnessed now hold middle and senior management positions within the ADF”.
The report includes allegations from 775 people. It suggests the overwhelming majority are “plausible allegations of abuse”.
The Government hadn’t ruled out a Royal Commission to prove it is serious about tackling the issue.
The Government launched the review following the “ADFA Skype scandal” in April 2011 when footage of a male cadet engaging in consensual sex with a female cadet was streamed via Skype without her knowledge to a group of cadets in another room.
This author served in Australian Army in the early 1970s and was subjected to minor but frequent episodes of “bastardisation” whilst engaged in basic training in 1974 at 1RTB at Kapooka, near Wagga Wagga. This behaviour was considered appropriate by NCO trainers as an effective way correct perceived breaches of behaviour, or to “encourage” slower learners to get up to speed, or to modify actions of an individual to a perceived norm. It was an established part of military culture. Complaints always fell on deaf ears, and complainants were often intimidated by those they complained to, and often the subject of further bastardisation. It was impossible to complain those who are actually carrying out the abuse, as was the case in this author’s experience.
These incidents were only revealed following a military police investigation into the simultaneous AWOL of four of the platoon members as a direct result of the bastardisation they had suffered. The subsequent investigation revealed an entrenched and systemic level of inappropriate behaviour and assault engaged in by the platoon staff. This ultimately resulted in the dismissal (disappearance) of two junior NCOs and the redeployment of the platoon commander and platoon sergeant. It is considered that this behaviour was not limited to this one platoon, but was entrenched across the entire unit.
Four decades later it appears that nothing has changed. The miltary has a clear track record of covering up serious alleagations of assualt, and indeed viewed “bastardisation” as an acceptable incentive to assist in the “correction” of young soldiers. There was a code of silence then, and it is clear that there is still a code of silence now.