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HMAS Leeuwin Abuse Update

HMAS Leeuwin was a naval land base in Fremantle, Western Australia where Junior Recruits were sent for basic training when they joined the Royal Australian Navy.  The Junior Recruits were aged 15 or 16 at the time, and spent twelve months in basic training at that base.

Tragically, many Junior Recruits were the victims of atrocious physical or sexual assaults, bullying and bastardisation between the 1960s and 1980s. Some were victimised by staff at HMAS Leeuwin, and many were the victims of abuse by Junior Recruits in earlier intakes than them.

The culture of abuse and lack of effective supervision and management at HMAS Leeuwin has been examined at various times in history; including in 1971 by Judge Rapke, by DLA Piper in 2012, by the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce in 2014 and now by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse in 2016.

Abuse at multiple levels of command

The experiences described by victims suggest that abuse was rife within the base. Officers were involved as well as abusive behaviour amongst the Junior Recruits (JRs) themselves in an informal hierarchical system.

More senior JRs were often responsible for the hazing or initiation rituals and bastardisation, which involved both physical and sexual abuse.

Most boys felt too scared or ashamed to report what was happening to them. Others tried to report it but were discouraged from doing so, for fear of being discharged over allegations of homosexual activity. It is likely that many have still not come forward even decades later.

The pattern of abuse continued further up the chain of command, with officers and senior sailors either complicit or actively taking part in the abuse themselves.

With the number of cases which have now been described and reported in the various inquiries, there can be no doubt that HMAS Leeuwin was an establishment at which Junior Recruits were at significant risk of suffering lifelong harm from serious physical or sexual abuse.

Aftermath of abuse

The victims have been living with the effects of childhood abuse for many decades now, and many still haven’t been able to tell anyone.

It is common to hear of them experiencing severe health problems, including alcohol dependency, substance addiction and psychological issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many suffer nightmares and problems associated with sleep, as the violence at HMAS Leeuwin often occurred after lights out.

The damaging effects of this abuse does not stop at the individual. Family members have been deeply affected too – parents who do not know or understand what happened to change their son when he joined the Navy, wives and children who have lived with men unable to fully engage emotionally and physically in relationships.

If you or someone you know has been affected by these issues, call Lifeline on 131 114 for help or information.

Child Sex Abuse Royal Commission ADF Case Study

Shine Lawyers represented many survivors of abuse at HMAS Leeuwin in getting reparation payments from the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce whilst it was operational. We also wrote a submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse urging them to include HMAS Leeuwin in the scope of their investigations.

In June 2016 the Royal Commission held a public hearing Case Study looking at child sex abuse at HMAS Leeuwin as well as two other areas of interest in the ADF. Shine Lawyers is involved in representing two of the survivors giving evidence at the hearing, and assisting the Commission with evidence concerning the process we have successfully created to manage claims for Defence abuse survivors.

For some years now the Shine Lawyers’ Survivor Litigation team has been leading the attempts to get the HMAS Leeuwin survivors stories heard and to seek justice for them for the harm they’ve suffered. We have already achieved that for a large number of HMAS Leeuwin survivors.

Evidence is now being heard in the Royal Commission, and in due course they will make findings. We expect this will further strengthen the position of HMAS Leeuwin survivors in the recognition of their claims.

Written by Shine Lawyers on . Last modified: September 27, 2017.

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  • jackie lenard wrote:

    hi my name is jackie lenard and i have had problems from DVA with a claim for sexual abuse while at hmas leeuwin , i was part of the dart royal commission and recieved 50,000, as a payment off them , my case is a bit different to most as i was sexualy abused and 2 years later kicked out of the navy for being homosexual , i was put in holsworty prison for 28 days segrigated from other prisoners all because of my lengthy abuse at leeuwin , my medical records has a written notation of this happening and DVA does not want to look it up , if you work on my behalf i will approve shine lawyer,s accessing my medical records , i was accepted by DVA because of the DART, but i feel the only way i will get any sort of compensation for what i suffered is with your help .

    • Shine Lawyers wrote:

      Hi Jackie

      Thanks for getting in contact. I’m sorry to hear about your experiences. In order to determine if we are able to assist, please use one of the contact options available on this page.

      Kind regards, Aaron.

  • peter wrote:

    Being forced to play grid iron and rugby against the USA military at 16 and having a broken ankle ? Plus the long term affects from hard physical training under 18 yrs and bunny hops up hills and holding rifles overhead till one or more drops . Is this physical abuse ?? I suffered this and more and medical reports are there for ankle injury . DVA just tell us to drop dead when we ask for help . I tried for 20 odd years after my injuries That made it necessary to leave the military to get some help and told to (non Rude) get lost. Istill suffer today from that and more and DVA just tells me to get lost or ignore my request for help . GREAT but then what does one expect from such a closed organisation??? Now i cannot afford to even live in the country i went to war for .

  • peter wrote:

    It appears we have to be in Australia before we can do anything . WE do not even get a response if we live overseas . I assume as they cannot thieve off us as well ?

  • Ian Kennett wrote:

    Can I still make a claim re HMAS LEEUWIN

    • Aaron Burke wrote:

      Hi Ian, if you experienced abuse at HMAS Leeuwin, it is possible you may have a claim for compensation. You can find more information here, or contact one of our friendly consultants here.

  • peter wrote:

    yes I forgot to mention i was at HMAS Leeuwin in 1967-8 . And Physical abuse was ripe and i can find no other on line or world wide from the 19 intake . So am i the last one ? My military injuries are bad and DVA just fob us off or use SRCA or VEA and MRCA to confuse us or make us give up . BUT I AM X LEEUWIN AND GIVE UP I WILL NOT

    • Shine Lawyers wrote:

      Hi Peter, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. If you wanted to see if we can help with your situation, get in touch with our New Client Team. They will be able to gather more details, talk through the services we offer and let you know if we can help. You can find the contact details here: http://bit.ly/Shine-contact

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