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There are no academic studies of sexual assault incidence in the ADF, but there are international academic studies on the subject. In the USA, institution-led research has involved the issue of non-reporting of military sexual assaults (Harris and Firestone, 2010); sexual assault and racism (Hackett et al., 2011); the indicators and scope of sexual assault (Firestone, 2012); and individual and organisational factors that enable
sexual harassment in the US military (Harris et al., 2017). These studies are based upon Department of Defence data and survey instruments. A key finding is that ‘sexist environments’, often training institutions (Callahan, 2009), increase the probability of assault.

The second salient form of military abuse is the phenomenon of hazing, or what is called “bastardisation” in Australia. Studies on hazing in martial organisations have documented ritualised abuse in South Korea (Kwon et al., 2007), the Philippines (McCoy, 1994), Brazil (de Albuquerque and Paes-Machado, 2004), Norway (Østvik & Rudmin, 2001), the USA (Pershing, 2006) and Australia, (Moore, 2001; Evans, 2013). There is a much wider field of research on hazing and initiation rituals across the fields of schooling and fraternity houses and sport (Nuwer, 2004). The Australian inquiry literature outlines bastardisation and sexual assault in training institutions, arms corps environments and corps of cadets (Rumble et al., 2011). In our own pilot research, abuse (bastardisation, sexual assault and aggressive careerism) extends across ranks from private soldiers to 2-star generals. A principal difficulty in identifying and addressing hazing or bastardisation is the conflict over its purpose and effects. Many believe it contributes to esprit de corps and unit cohesion (see Connor, 2010). Pershing (2006) specifically looks at gender and hazing as an interactional practice, presuming that not all hazing is experienced as abusive. For much of its history the ADF leadership has argued that these forms of tradition bolster unit cohesion, improve camaraderie, build esprit de corps and weed out the weak.


The two target interview populations are:

1. ADF abuse survivors (40 subjects), and

2. retired senior ADF members, public servants, ministers and ministerial staff (20 subjects).

Interviews with survivors provide a picture of the circumstances of abuse.

The Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART, 2016) only collected data in capital cities; we will explicitly seek rural/regional and previously silenced voices in our data collection.

The second cohort consists of retired (or no longer working in
the area) senior policy-makers and implementers. This is required to explore how and why reviews/inquires arose and how/why the implementation of change is so difficult. We are targeting former employees to allow for an honest discussion regarding the topic.

No current members of the ADF will be interviewed.


The archival records will come primarily from the National Library of Australia (NLA), the Royal Military College Duntroon (RMC) and the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). Survivors often hold large and detailed collections of relevant documentation, reports, inquiries, memos and letters. We may also use the National Archives of Australia, Defence Archives, Australian War Memorial and Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. We will incorporate media reports of defence abuse into the analysis; this includes samples from all formats (print, radio, TV) across the sampling frame of 1969 to 2015. This will further illuminate the context of reform processes and the civil-military relationship in Australia.


In Australia in 2011, a military sex scandal described as the ‘Skype Affair’ brought extensive attention to ADF culture. The debate raised questions on the accountability of the military to wider society and the need for change. Wadham (2016a) describes how this scandal acted as a catalyst, generating ostensible cultural change in the ADF. Seven ‘cultural reviews’ (of, for example, the use of alcohol, the treatment of women, the handling of complaints) were conducted to frame this cultural change. Of particular relevance was the DLA Piper Review of allegations of sexual and other abuse in Defence (Rumble et al., 2011). These reviews provide some initial inquiry-based research on the incidence, contexts and institutional responses to abuse in the ADF. Our assessment is that the research in this field is either government-led or it analyses military-based datasets.

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