Here are some particularly poignant quotes from Insight’s look at the sex scandal that rocked the Australian Defence Force Academy, and their treatment of women:
“… We are recruiting from a society that may put great emphasis on masculinity, blokey behaviour, these young men coming into ADFA, their heroes are footballers who are getting slaps over the wrists for sexual misbehaviour and alcohol. You have to realise that we are bringing those sorts of people in…”
This is very true of Australian “blokey” culture, but is it similar inside the defence force?:
“The cases that we have been looking at are very sad and certainly not accepted in defence but they are in a minority and it is disappointing that I think the culture is not the negative culture that we are trying to portray in some of these stories. As bad as they are it’s a strong culture based on values and values based leadership. Yes, there are some bad eggs out there and bad incidents. But that’s not the culture of defence. The defence culture is a positive one based on really strong values.”
Is it really about just a few “bad eggs” amongst a lot of standup officers (as the below anecdote will illustrate) that happen to get their stories of “misbehaviour” in the news? Is “defence culture” a reflection of Aussie society that, indeed, slaps footballers on the wrist for major indiscretions and blames the victim? Or are “these attitudes… coming from within defence”, and somehow perpetuating the above cultural perceptions? Really, how can we trust the ADFA to act within the best interests of Australia and to keep us safe when they can’t even act within the best interests of their female cadets; to keep them safe?
“I had a private soldier come to me who said, ‘Sir, I’m really upset. The sergeant has given me some papers and I’m to be discharged and I don’t know anything about this.’ I asked him to sit down and tell me his story. He was being discharged because his fitness had decreased and reason his fitness had decreased was because he was upset because he had just lost his twins, his twin babies. Both his twins had just died. Of course he was beside himself with grief and wasn’t exercising and wasn’t able to pass his fitness assessment.
“So I said to the sergeant, ‘Leave this with me.’ I went off home, the sergeant had gone into my office and taken the papers out, gone back to the private and told him he was being discharged and that this was what defence was doing with him because he couldn’t pass his fitness assessment. I took that sort of complaint to my Commanding Officer and I was referred for psychological assessment. When I complained about that I was charged with insubordination, when I complained about being charged with insubordination for following the redress of grievance system I was threatened with court martial, a full on court martial for writing letters to people complaining about their behaviour.”
Elsewhere: [SBS] Under Fire: SBS Insight Transcript.
Images via SBS, The Daily Telegraph.