Abuse of Defence Force Personnel – An Inconvenient Truth?

Australian soldiers silhouetted against memorial.

The ongoing revelations of sexual abuse and other similar physical and mental abuse suffered by members of the Australian Defence Force have caused an unprecedented increase in enquiries from present and former ADF personnel seeking legal advice for compensation. Recent developments have removed the time limitation previously restricting legal redress in relation to the sexual abuse of children whilst in the care of an institution, be it school, orphanage, children’s home, sporting club, cadet school or defence training facility. Senior Associate and Qld Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personnel Injury Law Jeremy Roche discusses some of the issues.

Most people in Australia have been shocked by the recent revelations of physical and sexual abuse occurring within the Australian Defence Force and its various institutions. Not only were there high profile cases of female members of the ADF suffering horrendous discrimination and actual physical sexual abuse, there were also disturbing stories of young cadets who were put through various “initiation” ceremonies. There were also revelations of the bastardisation of young recruits at our top officer training school in Royal Duntroon.

Following the infamous “skype incident” which involved the ADF Academy in April of 2011, the Australian government commissioned an independent review which led to the establishment of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART). DART was established to deal with individual cases of abuse occurring prior to 2011. In 2013 the Australian government set up a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in Australian institutions which included investigating allegations of sexual abuse of young cadets in the ADF. From the outset it was acknowledge that the sexual abuse, included “ritualised practices of bastardisation that were designed to break-in and humiliate new entrants” (from the opening address to the Royal Commission responses to child sexual abuse from Counsel assisting the Commission Angus Stewart SC). Case Study 40 dealt with two ADF training facilities: the navy junior recruit training base, HMAS Leeuwin (Freemantle WA) and the army’s apprentice school at Balcombe (Victoria).

There are many ongoing issues with current and more recent employees of the ADF which are coming to the surface as more and more of these types of allegations are being vented in modern day society. This is in large part due to the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse which has brought the issue of child sexual abuse by the Churches into the spotlight.

Similarly, it appears that ADF personnel are begrudgingly being recognised as legitimate people who have suffered at the hands of their co-defence personnel and in an environment where senior officers and other people in charge of managing the ADF appeared to turn a blind eye to these practices or simply ignore them.

Significant recent developments have provided an avenue for victims of abuse to be heard and to seek redress. In May 2016 the Attorney General, Senator Brandis, gave a direction to all Commonwealth agencies NOT to plead a defence to time barred child abuse claims based on the expiry of any time limitation applicable. Hence, it is now possible to seek compensation for sexual abuse suffered at the hands of the Defence Force while under the age of 18. Recently, the Defence Force Ombudsman’s (DFO) functions have been expanded to provide an independent mechanism to report serious abuse in Defence.

We offer a free initial consultation to any of our ADF personnel who wish to enquire concerning compensation claims. We will accept these claims on a “no win no fee” basis subject to them having reasonable prospects of success. Our specialist lawyers are experienced in these types of claims and are both discreet and empathetic.

If you require any further information about Personal Injury Claims please do not hesitate to contact Department Manager Casey Reedyk on direct line 07 5506 8220, Freecall 1800 621 071 or email:  [email protected] for a free initial consultation and discuss our ‘no win no fee’ terms. We have a dedicated team of lawyers who specialise in this area of law and practice exclusively in personal injury claims. Please CLICK HERE to access our department contact sheet.

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Jeremy Roche

Jeremy Roche

  • Senior Associate
  • Insurance Litigation
  • Direct line: 07 5506 8222
  • Mobile: 0417 731 119
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