Report reveals Navy s Leeuwin abuse horror
Report reveals Navy's Leeuwin abuse horror

Fremantle’s HMAS Leeuwin barracks was the scene of brutal abuse of hundreds junior recruits in the 1960s and 1970s, a major inquiry has found.

And while the report has rejected demands for a Royal Commission into abuse at the training base, it suggests the already running Royal Commission into abuse in institutions could now be widened to look into the worst cases at Leeuwin.

Former defence minister Stephen Smith commissioned the inquiry into HMAS Leeuwin in 2012 after a wider inquiry into abuse and bastardisation in the Defence identified a huge number of cases specific to the former Fremantle training base.

HMAS Leeuwin was a junior recruit training establishment run by the Navy from 1960 to 1984.

Most of the recruits were aged between 15 to 17 at the time they entered Leeuwin.

The inquiry said it had received almost 240 complaints of abuse from former recruits.

One in 10 of all abuse complaints the taskforce has received are about treatment at HMAS Leeuwin.

Among the worst testimonies were tales of rape and sexual assault perpetrated by senior officers and staff at HMAS Leeuwin on cadets.

Abuse included brutal physical assaults, painful and humiliating initiation practices and serious sexual abuse perpetrated by both staff members and other junior recruits, the taskforce heard.

Former junior recruits told of being scrubbed daily with sandsoap until their skin bled, being held down while boot polish was smeared onto their genitals or an object such as a mop handle was forced into their anus, or having a vacuum cleaner forcibly applied to their genitals.

Much of the abuse went unreported or unpunished.

The report also found there was a more general culture of bastardisation and bullying rife at the training station condoned by senior officers.

Former recruits have told how they were sexually abused by older recruits as part of a violent cycle of initiation and hazing.

The report blasts the Defence Department, finding that such was the pattern of abuse senior figures in the military must have known something was wrong, but nothing was done.

"By sharing their stories with the taskforce, former junior recruits have broken a long and painful silence about the abuse they suffered while at HMAS Leeuwin," taskforce chief Len Roberts-Smith said.

"I commend their courage in coming forward to shine a light on the dark history of HMAS Leeuwin and to show the serious and lasting impact that abuse has had on their lives."

The taskforce said three cases involving three alleged abusers still serving in the military were under consideration to be referred to the Defence Department to consider action.

Two cases have been referred to police and another two are under consideration to be handed to police.

The report also reveals the Government has already made 117 compensation payments to HMAS Leeuwin complainants, worth over $5 million

The taxpayer will also pick up the bill for 37 former recruits to be referred to counselling services.

Defence Force chief General David Hurley said the matters reported were abhorrent.

"It goes without saying that abuses, such as those recorded, should not have occurred and have no place in the Australian Defence Force," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Such behaviour didn't reflect the values and standards of behaviour expected of all ADF members today.

"No person who wears the uniform of our armed forces should ever have to endure what these boys endured," Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Ray Griggs said.

General Hurley and Vice Admiral Griggs were confident the abusive environment of HMAS Leeuwin didn't exist in the modern defence force.

However, the report on the abuse will help Defence to continue working towards cultural change.

with AAP

The West Australian

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