Australia apologises for abuse in military going back to 1950s

CANBERRA Mon Nov 26, 2012 10:48am IST

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith speaks during a news conference at the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations in Perth November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Matt Rourke/Pool

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith speaks during a news conference at the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations in Perth November 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Matt Rourke/Pool

Related Topics

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia's government and defence force commander apologised to hundreds of victims of abuse within the military on Monday, clearing the way for victims to receive compensation.

In an address to parliament, Defence Minister Stephen Smith acknowledged that soldiers, sailors and member of the air force had suffered abuse, often by superiors under the excuse of toughening up younger recruits, since the early 1950s.

An independent report into abuse within the military earlier this year found 775 plausible allegations of sexual, physical and mental abuse within the armed forces since 1951.

"To those men and women in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) or the Department of Defence 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."

Smith said senior military leaders were committed to changing a defence force culture which has often turned a blind eye to abuse and was often hostile to women or those who spoke out or complained about their treatment.

The issue flared in 2011 when a female defence academy cadet was unknowingly filmed having consensual sex with a male colleague, with the incident broadcast over the internet to other cadets without her knowledge.

While action was taken against the male cadets, defence authorities also proceeded with disciplinary action against the woman over an unrelated incident, angering Smith and raising questions over the treatment of victims of abuse.

Australia's military commander, General David Hurley, said hundreds of thousands of people had served in Australia's military and most had no experience of abuse, although he acknowledged the suffering of those who were affected.

"On behalf of the ADF (Australian Defence Force), I say that I am sorry to those who have suffered sexual, physical or mental abuse while serving in the ADF," he said.

Smith said an independent task force would now examine specific allegations and rule on compensation of up to A$50,000 for victims. It will also refer matters to police or the military justice system if there is evidence of a crime.

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Nick Macfie)

FILED UNDER:

REUTERS SHOWCASE

SpiceJet Bail-Out

SpiceJet Bail-Out

Co-founder of SpiceJet seeks time to finalise rescue  Full Article 

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity

Internet outage seen in N. Korea amid U.S. hacking dispute.  Full Article 

Tunisia Vote

Tunisia Vote

Veteran Essebsi wins Tunisia's first free presidential vote.  Full Article 

Singer Dies

Singer Dies

Joe Cocker, raspy-voiced British singer, dies at 70.  Full Article 

Cricket Update

Cricket Update

Shane Watson forced to leave Australia training by bouncer blow.  Full Article 

Jaycee Charged

Jaycee Charged

China charges Jackie Chan's son over drug offence.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device   Full Coverage