The Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, has responded to the independent Defence Abuse Response Taskforce report into allegations of abuse at HMAS Leeuwin, which was tabled in Parliament on 18 June 2014, saying that the events that led to the investigation should “never have occurred”.
He gave an interview to the ABC to discuss the report.
The report marks a significant step in the efforts to address past incidences of abuse in the Australian Defence Force, with the Australian Defence Force acknowledging the significant work that the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce has undertaken in assessing the matters concerning HMAS Leeuwin.
VADM Griggs said that the Navy deeply regrets that this type of unacceptable behaviour was ever able to be inflicted upon junior recruits at HMAS Leeuwin.
“No person who wears the uniform of our armed forces should ever have to endure what these boys endured. Importantly, some of those in positions of responsibility failed to intervene and consequently become part of the negative culture. To those individuals affected, I offer the reassurance that such behaviour is not tolerated and is dealt with swiftly in today's Navy.”
On 18 June VADM Griggs transmitted the following signal to all Navy people:
Dart Report on Abuse at HMAS Leeuwin
This morning a report on abuse at HMAS Leeuwin, Navy's former Junior Recruit training establishment, was tabled in Parliament.
This report is based on the accounts of former Leeuwin trainees who came forward to either the DLA Piper Review of Abuse in the ADF or direct to the Defence Abuse Response Task Force.
The report is confronting and disturbing, in its pages are stories of abuse that no person should ever have to endure, particularly when they were young boys in the care of the RAN. Lives have been destroyed, dreams smashed and careers stolen.
I want as many members of the Navy to read this report as possible. I expect all officers and senior sailors to read it and I will be ensuring it is a resource that is used on all of our promotion and leadership courses in the future.
There will be some that are tempted to dismiss this report as something referring to events of nearly 50 years ago and that lacks relevance to what is a very different Navy of today. That would be wrong because there is much to be drawn from the stories that these people have had the courage to tell. There is much in this report which reinforces why we are doing what we are in NGN.
What happened at Leeuwin came about largely because of a culture that excluded rather than included. Where diversity was not tolerated and those that did not “fit in” paid the price. That is why our approach to diversity is so important - our work in relation to the treatment of women, our achievement as the largest organisation in the country to have been accredited by White Ribbon, our work in relation to indigenous recruitment and engagement, the steps we are taking in gaining greater cultural understanding of the Muslim navies we work with, our newest cadet unit TS Australia made up of predominantly Muslim kids and our continued work on LGBTI issues. It is not about political correctness, it is about having an organisation where people are treated decently and are respected.
All of this work has a point. We cannot achieve our mission and fight and win at sea unless we fight as a team. We can’t fight effectively as a team unless there is respect for all in that team. We must have a culture that includes not excludes.
There will no doubt be negative media coverage of this issue. I will endeavour to ensure that it is balanced by what we are doing now. I am conscious we have several hundred full time or active reserve members still serving who went through Leeuwin. This report is not about diminishing the service of the eleven thousand or so that graduated but it is about recognising Navy’s failure to care for those who have come forward and told their story and for those who have chosen not to. It is a reminder about the need to care for all of those under our supervision. It is a reminder of why we take such a strong stand on unacceptable behaviour.
For those serving who went through Leeuwin and need support at this time - please come forward and seek it - it is there for you. For those who may have witnessed some of these actions, I call on you to come forward and contact me or my relief personally. We will take what you have to say with the utmost seriousness.
I believe the path of cultural change we are following is the right one, we have made significant progress, but, it is a task requiring a dedicated focus and strong leadership to ensure our Navy can never see systemic abuse like this again.
For widest possible dissemination and discussion at the next round of Divisional meetings.