The Australian Defence Force Cadets have come under the spotlight of the sex abuse royal commission. Photo: Phil Carrick The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse is set to probe claims of widespread assault in the Australian military, including against young defence force cadets in recent years.The commission, which has been running since 2013, has called on victims of abuse in the military to apply to be witnesses in a public hearing starting next month.In a statement, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said the hearing would “inquire into the experiences of men and women who were sexually abused as children” within Defence.The commission will focus on Australian Defence Force cadets since 2000. It will also investigate the experiences young sailors at Fremantle naval base HMAS Leeuwin during the notorious period of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Army Apprentice School Balcombe in Victoria in the 1970s.
The hearing will likely reignite what has been a bruising period of self-reflection for the ADF as it tackled decades’ worth of abuse claims, flowing in particular from the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce set up by the former Gillard government.The commission will also examine how the ADF has dealt with child sexual abuse claims. There are currently about 25,000 ADF cadets.Australians can now join the ADF at age 17 but can become cadets from the age of 12 years, six months for the Navy and 13 years for the Army and Air Force.The modern ADF cadet program was established in 1976. It is unknown why the hearing is focusing on cadets’ abuse allegations from 2000.Defence said in a statement that it was helping the commission and “fully supports its objectives to safeguard children”.”The safety and wellbeing of children involved with, or working in, Defence is paramount,” it said.”Defence’s senior leaders have clearly and publicly stated that unacceptable behaviour, including sexual misconduct, is not tolerated in any form.”In February, the commission’s CEO, Philip Reed called on defence child abuse victims to come forward. “If you were sexually abused as a member of the Australian Defence Force Cadets when you were a child, the Royal Commission would like to hear