HMAS Ballarat sailors facing the sack over sexual hazing rituals

HMAS Ballarat. Photo: Phil Oakley
HMAS Ballarat. Photo: Phil Oakley

Defence is investigating fresh claims of sexual hazing rituals aboard a Navy warship even as it grapples with how to punish perpetrators in the most recent public hazing episode.

In a statement released late on Wednesday, Defence announced that an “instance from several years ago was brought to light” recently and is being investigated by military police.

Separately, eight sailors who took part in hazing rituals aboard the HMAS Ballarat last year face penalties including sacking, Defence has announced.

The assaults were understood to include anal penetration of victims with objects such as pens. Fairfax Media further understands that one of the eight sailors is of a senior rank, though the others are junior. Under the rituals, victims were often targetted on their birthdays.

Though they have escaped court-martial, the eight sailors face “administrative action”, ranging from termination to formal warnings. They will now have several weeks to show cause why the planned punishments shouldn’t be applied.

After the HMAS Ballarat incidents came to light late last year, Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, urged all Navy members to come forward with any other allegations of such rituals.

It is understood that a whistleblower responded with the fresh allegations about the incident that happened several years ago. No details were given by Defence, which says the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service is probing the claims.

Admiral Griggs said the decision to take administrative action against the eight sailors showed Navy’s determination to stamp out such behaviour.

“We have worked to clearly articulate what behaviour is appropriate in our workplace,” he said. “Accountability is a feature of our cultural change program.  All personnel are aware that Navy will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour.”

The internal administrative inquiry concluded there was “no clear evidence of a pattern of systemic unacceptable behaviour or a deep-seated culture of hazing ceremonies or rituals” on the HMAS Ballarat, the statement said.

In March it emerged that the Director of Military Prosecutions had already decided that there was not enough evidence to go ahead with courts-martial over the HMAS Ballarat incidents.