Australia apology for abuse in the military

Stephen Smith formally apologised in parliament

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Australia's government has apologised to victims of abuse in the military, after a probe that saw hundreds of claims of mistreatment made.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith told parliament steps would be taken to ensure the sexual, physical and mental abuse would not be repeated.

The investigation received more than 1,000 claims of abuse dating from the 1950s to the present day.

It was commissioned following a sex scandal at a military academy in 2011.

'Not acceptable'

The investigation, conducted for the government by law firm DLA Piper, set out allegations of abuse from both male and female personnel serving in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) over the past six decades.

Australia's special forces exercise during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne March 2, 2011 Australia's defence forces have been hit by several scandals, prompting wide-ranging reviews

More than 1,000 people submitted allegations to the investigation. Claims from 775 people fell within its terms of reference - "the overwhelming majority of which are said to be plausible allegations of abuse", a Defence Ministry statement said.

The allegations include 24 rape claims in the late 1990s and allegations young teenage boys were abused at a naval training base in Western Australia in the 1960s and 1970s.

"Young men and women have endured sexual, physical or mental abuse from their colleagues which is not acceptable," Mr Smith told parliament.

In some cases officers had failed personnel "through their behaviour, including through the turning of a blind eye".

"Such experiences have had a lasting, serious, traumatic and adverse impact on the people who have experienced them," he said.

"You should never have experienced this abuse. Again, I say sorry."

A judge has been named to lead a taskforce that will investigate each individual abuse claim. Mr Smith said compensation of up to A$50,000 ($52,200, £32,600) would be made available where appropriate.

"Belittling or predatory"

In a statement Defence Force chief General David Hurley said the military was committed to "deep cultural reform".

"The number, nature, and range of allegations demonstrates that some members of the ADF have failed to understand the responsibility that rank imposes, that rank is a privilege and not a licence for domineering, belittling or predatory behaviour," he said.

The military would work to ensure that all members could serve "in an environment free from abusive behaviour of any kind".

Australia began a series of enquiries into its military after an incident in April 2011 in which two cadets from the Australian Defence Force Academy were accused of secretly filming a female cadet having sex and broadcasting it on the internet.

A separate review by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick warned that women were failing to thrive in the Australian military and were under-represented in it.

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