Allegations that 220 child sailors at an Australian navy training base were raped or brutalised in the 1980s are so serious that they will be raised in a paper to Parliament, a report said on Monday.
An Australian inquiry into abuse in the military has received 2 400 complaints, but the head of the investigation said claims of shocking treatment at HMAS Leeuwin in Western Australia in the 1980s warranted a separate report, The Australian newspaper said.
There would also be a separate report on claims that more than 70 young officer cadets at the prestigious Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra suffered sexual or other abuse.
Australia established the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce in 2012 to hear complaints after an investigation detailed hundreds of claims of sexual or other abuse in the forces from the 1950s to the present day.
The head of the taskforce, retired judge Len Roberts-Smith, has previously described some of the stories as horrific, but told The Australian he would wait for the overall investigation to be completed before deciding on whether to recommend a Royal Commission.
“We are getting a lot of people who don't want to go public and are very apprehensive about any suggestion their identity might be disclosed to defence or anyone else,” he told the newspaper.
The taskforce has received 227 individual complaints alleging abuse at HMAS Leeuwin, including plausible allegations of bullying of junior recruits perpetrated as part of a well-established unofficial hierarchy.
Early investigations suggested that about 15 and 16-year-old naval recruits suffered physical abuse, sexual harassment or sexual abuse, the paper said.
“Complaints assessed to date suggest that there was a failure by defence to address the culture of violence and bullying that existed at HMAS Leeuwin for many years of its operation,” the taskforce said in its fourth report.
In recent years the Australian military has been rocked by allegations of sexual abuse and cruel rituals, with a string of reviews sparked by the so-called Skype scandal in 2011 when footage of a young male recruit having sex with a female classmate was streamed online to other cadets without her knowledge.
Subsequent inquiries revealed a culture of covering-up, failing to punish perpetrators and hostility towards victims who complained. In their wake the government made a parliamentary apology to victims. - Sapa-AFP