The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has a proud history of immediate and responsive military service, protecting the nation from the sky.
With over 18,000 cadets and 18 RAAF bases Australia-wide, the Air Force consider themselves swift, decisive, resilient and respected.
However, there’s a dark culture of bullying, harassment and sexual abuse plaguing the Australian Defence Force. The Air Force is part of the problem.
A “non-fraternisation” policy was placed to prevent cadets and Air Force personnel from interacting with each other in an unprofessional manner. The Royal Commission heard the policy wasn’t taken seriously and considered a “joke” to cadets – encouraging off-limits sexual activities and institutional abuse to occur.
A witness known as CJF told the Royal Commission cadets weren’t allowed to touch each other and had to keep a “blue book” distance.
“We had to maintain blue book distance. We would hit each other with a book because that was maintaining blue book distance,” she said.
CJF joined the Air Force in 1999 when she was just 13-years-old. She told the Commission her adult superiors didn’t follow the non-fraternisation policy and when she was 17-years-old, she had a sexual relationship with one of her navy cadet instructors.
Later, CJF reported the cadet instructor but he wasn’t spoken to and he continued to have sexual relationships with underage victims.
The non-fraternisation policy wasn’t strictly enforced by the Australian Air Force Cadets (AAFC). However, the rule was used on multiple occasions to humiliate and manipulate young cadets.
In the case of Eleanore Tibble, the impact of non-fraternisation policy caused her to commit suicide.
Eleanore was 15-years-old when she entered an inappropriate relationship with an instructor. The Royal Commission heard that in the events leading up to her death, Eleanore was questioned by superiors about the relationship and told Eleanore the relationship was “improper” while threatening to tell her mother.
The Royal Air Force told her to resign or she would be dishonourably discharged.
Eleanore wasn’t told the Air Force had abandoned the plan to discharge her before she committed suicide. She died feeling shamed, humiliated, and alone.
In 2017, Eleanore’s mother achieved justice for her daughter. The Royal Commission concluded that “at no point should blame be placed on a cadet when an adult instructor or officer engages in a relationship with the cadet.”
There has never been a better time to seek compensation for the lifetime of suffering caused by abuse in the Australian Defence Force. The Royal Commission made great progress in protecting children from institutional abuse and from their hard work, we can now help further.
Read through our essential guide to reparation payments for victims of abuse in the Australian Defence Force, or download our ADF Guide To Compensation eBook, and discover how you could achieve justice.
The time to reach out is now.
*These were the allegations submitted to consultants DLA Piper for the independent review of sexual abuse within the defence force after the 2011 Skype Incident.
Bishop Christopher Saunders has chosen to stand down while WA Police and the Vatican investigate allegations of historical child sexual abuse against him. WA Police