Australian military hit by 1,000 abuse claims

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.

PTI



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

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