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Sydney - Australia's defence minister on Friday denied covering up the extent of abuse within the military after new documents revealed “horrific” child sex assaults and brutal initiation ceremonies.
Three months ago Defence Minister Stephen Smith made public extracts of a government-initiated review into abuse allegations stretching from the 1950s to the present.
But the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has obtained the full executive summary, under freedom of information laws, which goes into far more detail, highlighting nearly 850 cases.
It shows that what Smith released was censored, with the full summary revealing a culture of covering up, failing to punish perpetrators and hostility towards victims who complained.
The report details allegations of sexual and other serious physical assaults against boys as young as 13 dating back to the 1950s. The minimum joining age is now 17.
Smith, who commissioned the report last year following the so-called Skype sex scandal when footage of a male cadet having sex with a young woman was streamed to a group of cadets in another room, denied a cover-up.
“I released enough material to make the point that these were very serious allegations and very concerning matters,” he said.
“The materials released today simply serve to further underline the seriousness of the matters I've been dealing with for some considerable time.”
The report suggests paedophiles in the past joined the military to access boys and young people in the same way they sought out positions in orphanages, schools and churches.
“There is no reason to think that such people would not have targeted relevant parts of the Australian Defence Force,” the summary says.
The report confirms “there have been substantial levels of abuse” in the military and “very little evidence that perpetrators had been called to account”.
It adds that the accused may now hold middle and senior management positions.
The review says bastardisation - initiation ceremonies - was “rife” until very recently, and it was frequently “brutal” and likely to be a criminal offence in civilian society.
“The culture within parts of defence at different times has strongly discouraged victims or witnesses from reporting abuse,” it says.
“It is certain that many boys were subjected to serious sexual and physical assault and other serious abuse... from the 1950s through to the 1970s and possibly into the 1980s,” the report adds.
It says that many of those assaulted later participated in inflicting similar abuse on other children, and in later life may be suffering from mental health, or drug and alcohol problems as a result. - Sapa-AFP