Shocking Hazing Rituals In The Australian Armed Forces

Australian Navy Cadets

Shocking Hazing Rituals In The Australian Armed Forces

Hazing rituals or ‘bastardisation’ have been a feature in many institutions for generations. This is the practice of initiating young recruits by established members. This used to be a standard experience in boys’ high schools (State and private) and in the workplace, such as banks, insurance companies, the trades, emergency services and, of course, the army, navy and air force.

I remember initiations at Meadowbank Boys’ High School in 1969. I was a twelve year old in first year. There was the day the school bus pulled up to the school gates only to be boarded by a shouting angry mob of eighteen year old students, some with beards, grabbing every first year’s tie and ripping off the label. Then being herded into the playground to be doused with white flour and sprayed with perfumed water.

Each one of us was drenched over the head with a garbage bin full of water. Some were singled out, lead down to the toilet block to be shown the ‘Royal Flush’, that is, head held down the toilet bowl and flushed. I was terrified.

And I wasn’t the only one.

Then there were my early days in the head office of the Rural Bank of NSW in Martin Place, Sydney. New recruits were sent all around the building on pointless errands, such as being told to ‘turn the overdraft off’ or asking a whole string of clerks in different departments for something that didn’t exist, like a ‘verbal agreement form’.

This doesn’t sound like much now, but when you’re a nervous young office-worker straight from high school it’s humiliating to have a floor of sixty grown men and women laughing at you. Young women sometimes broke down and headed for the bathroom in tears.

Initiations of all kinds have been considered a part of growing up for a long, long time. The problems begin when it goes beyond light hearted fun and games, and develops into bullying, harassment, humiliation and physical and sexual assault.

In fact, many people reading this today will be wondering what all the fuss is about. Those are the people who think the punishment was deserved by those unfit for service. Often those people were among the abusers themselves. They now fear the change in culture. They fear that their time is up and the law will be catching up with them soon. They have much to be worried about.

Until the last decade hazing was considered a rite of passage into the military. All hazing involved humiliation, discomfort, inconvenience and embarrassment. Some involved pain, drenching, forced nudity, sexual touching and even penetration. By today’s standards many of these practices are criminal offences.

Some people were singled out for extra treatment. They were the ones considered weak and unworthy; passive-natured, odd, physically under-developed and non-assertive. Those who didn’t smoke and swear were common targets. Good-natured Christians were identified early on for special attention. They were beaten, raped and humiliated on a regular basis. It was relentless. Soul-destroying. Many of those who were singled out are still tormented in their minds today. Their abusers have occupied their thought-life and won’t go away. They are a shadow of the men and women they ought to be.

The Child Abuse Royal Commission identified these forms of hazing of under-aged cadets:-

Nugetting- having boot polish smeared onto their genitals and rubbed with a hard brush- people reported being left bleeding with black shoe polish all over their penis and scrotum;

Running the gauntlet- being attacked with sacks full of irons, boots and other heavy items;

Repeated rapes, and being forced to rape other members by older recruits;

These are other forms of hazing experienced by some of my ADF clients:-

‘Soggy SAO’- being forced to masturbate onto a biscuit with a group of men, the last person to ejaculate had to eat the whole SAO biscuit;

Forced to participate in bare knuckle fights, with seniors crowding around while people were pushed unwillingly into the middle of the circle and forced to fight;

‘Rumblings’, where seniors would come in, wake you up, turn your mattress upside down in the middle of the night and proceed to beat you repeatedly;

Being tied up and having a fire hydrant sprayed all over you;

Being hung up high on a crane, or in the showers via a broomstick, or on other machinery and left for long periods;

Being tied up and dumped into storm water drains, in the showers or in public and pelted with rotten fruit, having oil and foul-smelling substances poured all over.

If this is you, contact Kelso Lawyers. We have significant experience conducting ADF claims in Australia. We know the Defence Force. We know what went on.

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