Australian military hit by 1,000 abuse claims
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Last Updated: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 18:32
Sydney: More than 1,000 people have made allegations of sexual and other abuse against the Australian Defence Force, lawyers assessing the complaints for the government said on Tuesday.

The review was ordered in the wake of a scandal at the elite Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra in which a teenage female cadet alleged that she was unwittingly broadcast having sex with another cadet to classmates.

DLA Piper, the law firm conducting the review on behalf of Defence Minister Stephen Smith, said more than 1,000 people had since come forward with allegations, including complaints made in the media and direct to the minister.

"The allegations range from relatively minor matters to very serious matters," DLA Piper said in a statement.

"Some of the allegations are made by victims or parents or partners of victims, some are made by witnesses and some are made by people who have no direct knowledge of the incident which they allege/report."

"We need to proceed with care because the issues involved are serious and sensitive. We are taking advice on our processes from an expert in dealing with victims of sexual abuse," the firm added.

DLA Piper said there was a surge in complaints after fresh allegations were broadcast by the media last week, and extra lawyers were drafted in to take calls.

The firm said it was now carefully considering how best to gather more detailed information, responding to criticism that the process was too formal or that the review was a "cover-up" exercise.

"The Minister expects the Review to provide our own honest assessment and recommendations, regardless of whether or not doing so may involve criticism of aspects of Defence's response to allegations," DLA said.

"The Review members would not be participating in the Review if we thought it was a sham."

The Australian Defence Force has been stung by a string of allegations, some decades old, of abusive and sexist behaviour in its ranks.

Cases aired in the media involve the hushing up of gang rape and the brutal bashing and bullying of military cadets.

Minister Smith has called the allegations "very concerning" and promised they would be "methodically and exhaustively" assessed.

Australia's top military brass have stressed that such practices are completely unacceptable, and that the defence force has improved and reformed over the years.


First Published: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 18:32

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