Conflict & Justice

Australia apologizes for abuse in the military dating back to the 1950s


Australian Defense Force soldiers line Robertson Barracks grounds during a parade to farewell 450 Australian troops before their deployment to Iraq May 10, 2007 in Darwin, Australia.


Terry Trewin

Australia's government and defense force commander apologized to hundreds of victims of abuse within the military on Monday, opening the door for victims to receive compensation.

Defense Minister Stephen Smith addressed the parliament and acknowledged that soldiers, sailors and members of the air force had suffered abuse since the early 1950s, often by superiors, who said they were toughening up younger recruits, reported Reuters. An independent report into the abuse earlier this year found 775 plausible allegations of sexual, physical and mental abuse within the armed forces since 1951.

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"To those men and women in the Australian Defense Force (ADF) or the Department of Defense who have suffered sexual or other forms of abuse, on behalf of the government, I say sorry," Smith told parliament. "You should never have experienced this abuse."

According to BBC News, the investigation was conducted for the government by law firm DLA Piper. More than 1000 men and women submitted allegations, with 775 falling within its terms of reference. They include 24 rape claims in the late 1990s and allegations that young teenage boys were abused at a naval training base in Western Australia in the 1960s and 1970s.

The review was prompted by numerous Australian military scandals, reported The Telegraph. In 2011, an 18-year-old female officer cadet was secretly filmed having consensual sex with a colleague while other cadets watched via Skype.

Smith said an independent task force is now looking into specific allegations of abuse and will rule on compensation of up to A$50,000 ($52,200) for victims, according to Reuters. It will also refer any evidence of a crime to police or the military justice system.