The Defence Abuse Taskforce’s recommendation of a Royal Commission into the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) is the way forward and should be established as soon as possible says a leading military compensation lawyer and victim advocate.
Slater and Gordon military compensation lawyer Brian Briggs said the Taskforce had established at least 50 cases of abuse at ADFA, most of which occurred during the 1990s, and nearly all of which involved serious sexual or physical abuse.
“What’s most concerning is the Taskforce has identified 60 alleged abusers who are either still serving or working in the public service who have never been held accountable for their actions,” he said.
“The report states that in some cases Defence’s hands are tied when it comes to disciplinary action as these offences occurred outside the five year statutory limitation of the Defence Force Disciplinary Act.
“While it may be possible to refer some allegations to police, only a Royal Commission will have the powers to thoroughly investigate and bring the perpetrators to task,” he said.
“These crimes have taken an enormous toll on the lives of victims, causing ongoing distress and psychological disorders, ruining careers and in some cases resulting in suicidal ideation.
“The victims deserve justice and the people responsible must be made accountable.
“The report makes for heartbreaking reading, even more so because allegations were swept under the carpet or victims were actively discouraged from reporting the abuse.”
Mr Briggs said the Taskforce acknowledged ADFA had taken some steps to address the overt culture of abuse, but also cites the AHRC report that notes aspects of that culture still exists.
“The reason it is so critical to eradicate all forms of harassment and discrimination is because a culture that tolerates this behaviour breeds far more serious offences.
“A Royal Commission will be able to investigate the failures of ADFA to take appropriate action and make further recommendations to stop this culture of abuse and cover up.
“And a Royal Commission will have the power to finally hold these perpetrators to account,” Mr Briggs said.