Australian government apologises to abuse victims in military
Agence France-Presse in Sydney
The Australian government has made a parliamentary apology to victims of abuse in the military and set up a compensation fund after hundreds of claims of rape and sexual assault.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith also established an independent task force to individually assess each allegation uncovered by a report commissioned by the government last year.
The task force will be able to refer appropriate matters to police for criminal investigation.
"Young men and women have endured sexual, physical or mental abuse from their colleagues, which is not acceptable and does not reflect the values of a modern, diverse, tolerant Australian society," Smith told parliament yesterday.
He blasted senior military figures who occupied positions of trust and who "abused that trust … including through the turning of a blind eye".
He said: "To today's men and women of the Australian Defence Force or the Department of Defence who have suffered sexual or other abuse, on behalf of the government I say sorry. You should never have experienced this abuse. Again, I say sorry."
A compensation fund was set up with the task force to determine who qualifies for payouts of up to A$50,000 (HK$405,000).
The move follows an independent report sparked by the so-called Skype scandal last year, when footage of a young male recruit having sex with a female classmate was streamed online to cadets in another room without her knowledge.
The report detailed 24 allegations of rape that never went to trial, among more than 1,000 claims of sexual or other abuse from the 1950s to the present day, involving both men and women.