Australia makes public apology to military abuse victims

Last Updated: Mon, Nov 26, 2012 10:30 hrs

The Australian Government has made a parliamentary apology to victims of abuse in the country's military and set up a compensation fund for them.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith made the apology in the parliament and established an independent task force to individually assess each allegation uncovered by a report commissioned by the government last year.

According to the Telegraph, the task force will be able to refer appropriate matters to police for formal criminal investigation, while offering victims help in accessing counseling, health, and other services, the report said.

"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.

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

In his statement, Smith also criticized senior military heads who occupied positions of trust and who 'abused that trust through their behaviour, including through the turning of a blind eye'.

"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," he said.

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

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.

According to the report, Smith said the Defence Force would bear the financial burden of any compensation, with military and government officials 'committed to zero tolerance in the future'.

"Acknowledging the past and taking responsibility for it is only the first step," he said, adding: "We must ensure that such abuse can never be tolerated again."

"The Australian Defence Force, Department of Defence and their leadership are committed to change and to taking action to protect the young men and women in their care," he said. (ANI)

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