SYDNEY • Teenage recruits into the Australian military were forced to rape one another, often as part of brutal initiation practices, a public inquiry into child sex abuse has heard.
The spotlight is on two former training establishments used from the 1960s to 1980s - the HMAS Leeuwin in Western Australia where junior naval recruits were trained, and an army apprentice school at Balcombe in Victoria state.
A top-level government inquiry, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, has already examined churches, sports bodies and the entertainment industry and is now focusing on the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
It was told yesterday that 111 people have come forward about incidents of child sexual abuse within the ADF - and 50 of these involved either Leeuwin or Balcombe. Survivors are expected to tell of how they were sexually abused during their first six months at Leeuwin, when they were 15 or 16 years old.
"The Royal Commission will hear that most of the abuse was perpetrated by older recruits as part of an informal hierarchy, in which older recruits physically and sexually abused more junior recruits as part of ritualised practices designed to 'break in' and humiliate new entrants to the navy," said the inquiry's senior counsel, Mr Angus Stewart.
This bullying included "blackballing" or "nuggeting", when boot polish or toothpaste was smeared on a recruit's genitals, sometimes with a harsh brush. Another practice was the "royal flush", in which junior recruits held the head of one of their number in a used toilet bowl and flushed.
"The survivors will give evidence that they were subjected to serious forms of sexual abuse, including fondling of the genitals, masturbation, oral sex and anal penetration by a penis or other object," Mr Stewart said.