SYDNEY — Australian Defence Force chief General David Hurley Friday vowed to stamp out abuse in the military following a damning report detailing allegations of rape and sexual assault.
The report, released Tuesday, was commissioned by the government last year following the so-called Skype scandal, when footage of a young male recruit having sex with an unwitting female classmate was streamed online to cadets in another room.
It detailed 24 allegations of rape that never went to trial among 847 claims of sexual or other abuse dating back to the 1950s.
"Any abusive behaviour in the defence force is unacceptable and I am deeply distressed by each and every allegation," Hurley wrote in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.
"I have given a personal undertaking to do everything I can to stamp out any form of abuse in the ADF and to lead our cultural change programme."
The review, conducted by law firm DLA Piper, recommended a number of options to address the allegations including an apology and compensation to victims, and a public inquiry.
Hurley said it was critical the claims be addressed as soon as practicable.
"I will fully support the government in whatever process it determines appropriate," said Hurley. "We should not, and cannot, turn a blind eye to instances of inappropriate behaviour."
"As individuals we must also be able to demonstrate that we have the moral courage to act and the ability to respond in an appropriate and timely manner when issues arise."
But Hurley also stressed that while the allegations were serious, he strongly believed they did not define the military, which he said enjoyed a proud national and international reputation for excellence.
"I have served in the ADF for 40 years and I know that the force is not characterised by abusive behaviour," he said.
As well as the rapes, the report documents "horrific" child sex assaults and brutal initiation ceremonies and paints a culture of cover-up, failure to punish perpetrators and hostility towards victims who complained.
It said some of the accused may now hold positions in the top ranks, adding that many alleged victims never reported the abuse because of concerns they would not be believed.