MORE THAN 1100 ABUSERS STILL IN DEFENCE FORCE REPORT CLAIMS
Well over 1100 Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) members accused of sexual and other abuse are still serving in the Australian military, a task force headed by a veteran judge has revealed. In reports tabled in Parliament, the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce recommends that a royal commission be established to investigate “shocking” accounts of sexual abuse and other violence at the nation’s main academy for training military officers. The taskforce has urged the government to create the royal commission into abuse at the ADFA from its inception to the present day. The reports reveal that 70 alleged abusers from ADFA are still serving in the permanent Australian Defence Force (ADF) or in the reserves.
Alleged abusers in the ADF include 594 in the permanent forces and the public service, 204 in the active reserve and 341 in the inactive reserve. Task force chair Len Roberts-Smith said the reports on abuse in the ADF generally and at ADFA were based on more than 1600 complaints and presented a disturbing picture of the nature and extent of that abuse. “The Taskforce has concluded that the only way of ensuring confidence that the allegations of abuse at ADFA can be completely investigated and dealt with — is by way of a Royal Commission,” said Mr Roberts-Smith. “Both of the reports tabled in Parliament by the Minister for Defence contain shocking accounts of abuse suffered by people who have served in Defence.
These accounts include complaints of abuse at ADFA from its inception and complaints about abuse in Defence more generally across all services in every decade since the 1940s” he said. Mr Roberts-Smith said many complainants had never spoken of the abuse they suffered before, even to their close friends and family. he said. “Complaints of abuse received by the taskforce recount repeated acts of physical violence, as well as disturbing instances of sexual abuse carried out by more senior members of Defence in positions of trust and power over complainants.” Mr Roberts-Smith said many complainants described relentless and degrading harassment and bullying.
Individuals were particularly targeted for abuse as a result of their gender, age, race, workplace performance, sexuality or perceived sexuality, physical limitations and illness and injury.” The reports also contain serious accounts of Defence mismanagement of complaints of abuse. “It is impossible to read or listen to the harrowing personal accounts included in these reports without being affected,” said Mr Roberts-Smith. “It is the Taskforce’s hope that the reports will assist Defence in its ongoing efforts to prevent, stop and respond to abuse as well as providing a sense of acknowledgment to people who suffered abuse and their families.”
Under an extensive restorative engagement program; the task force has provided victims of abuse with free counselling; reparation payments of up to $50 000 each, a meeting with a senior ADF officer and referral of complaints to civilian police or to the Chief of the Defence Force for administrative or disciplinary action. “The feedback that we have received from complainants indicates that outcomes provided by the Taskforce are having a significant positive impact on people’s lives,” Mr Roberts-Smith said. “Despite the concerning accounts of abuse contained in the reports, the Taskforce acknowledges that Defence has demonstrated an institutional commitment to achieving cultural change in recent years.”
The statistics for 2013 relating to Marriage and Divorce for our nation were recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The number of marriages in 2013 decreased by 3.5% from the year before. That is 118,962 marriages in 2013 against 123,244 in 2012. This gives a fall in the marriage rate from 5.4% to 5.1% per 1000 estimated population. The statistics also revealed that 91,123 or 76.6%, who were married in 2013 cohabited prior to marriage as against 95,673, or 77.6% of couples in 2012. Sadly, for the church, the proportion of marriages performed by civil celebrants has increased now standing at a figure of 72.5% which is a far cry from 20 years ago when the share of civil celebrants was only 42.1%.
In 2013 81.3% of brides (in 2012 80.8%) and 79.7% of grooms (in 2012 79.2%) had not previously married. Also there was a negligible increase in the median age at marriage of 0.1 years for both male (now 31.5 years) and females (now 28.5 years). Whilst it can be said that people are still choosing to be married there is that rate of cohabitation hiding behind the figures. Turning to divorce, there is a decrease in numbers 47,638 against 49,917 and with the previously mentioned estimated increase in population this has meant a fall in the crude rate of divorce from 2.2 to 2.1. These divorces affecting some 41,747 children under the age of 18 years.
In commenting on the statistics, Marriage Week Coordinator Dennis Outred said, “It is time to start rebuilding marriage, yes there is still the need to defend marriage but there is probably a greater need to rebuild marriage! From what we see in the media and what we hear people speaking it seems many hold a distorted view of marriage. This is probably strongest in young adults and is reflected in the levels of cohabitation before marriage – a ‘beta testing’ of marriage. The view could be summed up as being “a romanticised vision and understanding of marriage…an affirmation of romantic love between two willing people and some sort of commitment”.”
“With this view spilling over into parts of the church, how do we counter it. How do we start rebuilding marriage? Well a good starting point is to increase the level of teaching on what love and marriage means in the context of God’s word and society. This should be done in all parts of the local church and across all age groups. Then we should also look at how to be pro-active with practical and relevant ministry for those who are married. We should start the re-building of marriage now and then celebrate and honour marriage and marriages during the celebration of marriage during Marriage Week, 13 – 19 September 2015.
LIBERALS SET TO DECIDE ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE CONSCIENCE VOTE
The Coalition will be forced to consider changing its position on gay marriage and allow a conscience vote after Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm introduced a bill putting the issue squarely on the national agenda. The bill means the Liberal party room will soon decide whether to allow their members a conscience vote, fulfilling an election promise of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s to leave it up to the party room. Advocates have seen Senator Leyonhjelm’s Freedom to Marry Bill as a turning point in the marriage debate by paving the way for a coalition conscience vote on the reform. The bill amends the words the authorised celebrant speaks, inserting “two people” to replace “a husband and wife”.
The Australian Christian Lobby has called on the Liberal Party room to uphold marriage between a man and a woman. “The real conscience issue here is whether or not a child has a right to their biological mother and father,” ACL managing director Lyle Shelton said. “The Liberal party room must as a matter of conscience preserve the definition of marriage, which provides for the best interests of children, as a matter of party policy. “Libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm’s bill to redefine marriage abolishes a child’s most basic freedom – to be loved, known and raised by her or his biological parents,” Mr Shelton said.