Defence suicide royal commission hears ADFA cadet accommodation is a ‘breeding ground’ for unacceptable behaviour
By Romy Stephens and Emily Doak
Cadet accommodation at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) has been described as a breeding ground for unacceptable behaviour, at the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.
A 2021 workplace survey, from the academy in Canberra, found 13 per cent of trainees who responded had experienced sexual misconduct and 11 per cent had experienced bullying.
Counsel assisting, Erin Longbottom, said the survey found unacceptable behaviour was predominantly carried out at residential blocks.
“Because that is where they sleep, yes,” Air Commodore Julie Adams replied.
Ms Longbottom said cadet accommodation was also identified as a “breeding ground” for unacceptable behaviour in a Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) report in 2014.
No new accommodation until 2030s
Lieutenant Colonel David Cave confirmed ADFA accommodation had not been changed since the DART report.
“It is unchanged from 1986,” he said.
Air Commodore Adams said new academy accommodation was planned but would take some time to be built.
“The completion time probably won’t be until the early 2030s. Funding is an issue,” she said.
She said it was “highly undesirable” that nothing had been done to rectify the risks associated with accommodation at the academy.
Perfect storm for mental health risks
The royal commission also heard the high-pressure environment at ADFA contributed to a higher risk of mental health issues for recruits.
It heard the average age of the cohort was between 17 and 22 and more than 70 per cent of trainees were male.
Colonel Cave accepted that a combination of young and immature trainees, a high-pressure environment, and recruits who are selected to be conscientious created a perfect storm for unacceptable behaviour and poor mental health.
“It has the potential to cause that,” he said.
“The vast majority of our trainees will do very well.”
He said the mental health risks were known but not well understood.
“The understanding of general community mental health concerns, particularly in that age group, I think, is something that probably wasn’t quite so apparent to Defence until maybe the past 10 or 15 years,” Colonel Cave said.
ADFA & RMC are the breeding grounds/swamps, where the Masons identify, recruit, teach, mentor & position themselves, to continue their nefarious influence over the ADF.