Hundreds of Child Navy Recruits Raped and Abused in West Australian Base

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The Australian Navy ship HMAS Success (front) performs a Replenishment at Sea evolution with the Royal Malaysian Navy ship KD Lekiu
The Australian Navy ship HMAS Success (front) performs a Replenishment at Sea evolution with the Royal Malaysian Navy ship KD Lekiu, providing it with more fuel during the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, in the southern Indian Ocean in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force on April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Australian Defence Force/Handout

An Australian Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) parliamentary report has been described as "harrowing" as it contained detailed accounts of the alleged rape of hundreds of child sailors at a West Australian naval base.

According to the report, more than 210 navy junior recruits between 15 and 18 years old were victims of rape or sexual assault at the HMAS Leeuwin base in Fremantle. The rape of the young navy recruits happened at the base between 1960 and 1980. It has been alleged that naval staff or fellow recruits initiated the crime. The base functioned as a junior recruit training facility from 1960 t0 1984.

In a report by Guardian Australia, taskforce chairman Len Roberts-Smith QC said the public may find the details of the report "quite harrowing". The report is expected to be presented to Australia's Defence Minister David Johnston and Attorney General George Brandis.

According to Mr Roberts-Smith, DART received over 230 complaints related to accusations of "serious and disturbing patterns of abuse and mismanagement" in the years in question. Out of 230 complaints, 210 cases were found to be within the scope of DART's terms of reference.

The report said most of the allegations were sexual abuses by staff or fellow recruits in the context of initiation or hazing.

In a separate report to be presented, 70 officer cadets in the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra were allegedly abused or assaulted.

Roberts-Smith said the taskforce has found it appropriate to release detailed reports about alleged abuse in the naval base and defence force academy.

DART was formed after cadets in the academy unknowingly filmed a young woman while she was having sex with a fellow cadet. The case paved the way for more reports of abuse. The current number stands at 2400. It has also led to criticism and calls for a royal commission to be established to investigate the abuse claims.

Australian Defence Force Chief General David Hurley dismissed the calls for a commission and said it would only be harmful for victims.

The task force main report is expected to categorise the allegations it received to different types of abuse, dates and timelines.

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