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Friday, 12 June 1970

Mr PEACOCK (Kooyong) (Minister for the Army) - by leave - J present the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Honourable members will recall that on 25th September last my predecessor made a statement in this House relating to allegations of i lt- treatment of the junior class al the Royal Military College, Duntroon. At the conclusion of the statement he informed the House that, because of the facts then established and other considerations, he had appointed a Committee of Inquiry to examine the whole philosophy underlying the training of the junior class at Duntroon.

In order to ensure the most searching and objective study my predecessor decided that the Committee should be headed by an independent external authority. As was announced at the time, Mr Justice Fox, a Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, agreed to undertake the inquiry. The members of the Committee were most carefully selected. They were: Dr A. J, M. Sinclair, Consulting Psychiatrist; Professor L. C. F. Turner, then Chairman of the Faculty of Military Studies, University of New South Wales; Brigadier G. D. Solomon, the Director of Military Training at Army Headquarters Canberra; and Brigadier C. M. I. Pearson - now Major-General Pearson - who had been Commander of the Australian Task Force in Vietnam, later Commander of the First Division based in Sydney, New South Wales, and who is now Commandant of the Royal Military College.

The terms of reference of the Committee were deliberately framed in the widest possible terms and indeed the Committee's investigations covered a wide range of matters well beyond the basic subject upon which it was set up to report.

On 24th December 1969, 1 issued a Press release giving a summary of an interim report I had received from the Committee. This was done because the House was not then sitting and it was the judgment of the Committee that some of the findings - as had been requested by the then Minister - should be applied to cadets first entering Duntroon at the beginning of 1970. It was obviously desirable that all cadets then about to enter the College, and their parents and friends, should know not only that changes at the College were imminent but also the details of those changes.

Accordingly, and following discussion with the Military Board, I announced that approval had been given for the following changes at Duntroon: '

First year cadets would arrive at the College on 20th January - 3 days earlier than the originally planned date. This would enable them to see something of the Royal Military College and Canberra, in an informal way, before settling down to normal training.

Academic staff and First Class (senior year) cadets would visit the junior cadets in their orientation camp at Point Hut.

Under-officers and non-commissioned officers of the Corps of Staff Cadets would remain responsible for the management of the day-to-day affairs of the Corps, but the Commanding Officer and his staff would exercise a close, though so far as possible, unobtrusive, supervision of its activities.

The previous system, in which new cadets were required to learn some matters in their own time and under the direction of other cadets, would be replaced by formal instruction and explanation. These matters include the history and tradition of the Army and the College; behaviour and attitude of the cadets inside and outside the College; and the care of rooms, uniforms and equipment.

The Committee, by this time, had received most of the evidence likely to be available to it and was then proceeding to the preparation of its final report. It should be mentioned that the Committee, in discharging its duties, met both in Canberra and in Sydney. It interviewed 91 witnesses in person and considered 10 written submissions from people who were not personally interviewed but who had responded to newspaper advertisements to place views before the Committee.

The witnesses and written statements were drawn from widely differing ranks within the Australian Army, and other armies, and included some still on the Active List and others who had retired. Additionally, evidence was received from members of the clergy, academics, under-graduate educationists, those skilled in psychology and related disciplines as well as others. I have taken the view that the evidence was tendered in confidence and therefore Annexures I - 'Transcript of Interviews by the Committee' - and J - 'Copies of writer submissions considered by the Committee' - have not been included.

I pause here, Mr Speaker, to record my own appreciation and that of the Fox Committee of those who went to the trouble to make known their views on the matters under consideration by the Committee. Their respective contributions were most valuable.

Under date 24th April 1970, the Committee tendered its full report to me. As 1 mentioned previously, its conclusions and recommendations are comprehensive and cover not only matters coming specifically within its charter but also a range of matters which affect, directly or indirectly, all members of the Corps 'of Staff Cadets and not just those in first year.

The Committee re-affirmed the view expressed in its interim report that the practices which have become known as 'bastardisation' should be banned. This issue was dealt with in detail in the statement made to the House by my predecessor on 25th September and which I have already mentioned. I agree with the views he then expressed and the positive steps which were authorised to prevent a recurrence of these unfortunate breaches of official instructions.

As regards the Corps of Staff Cadets generally the Committee recommended that:

The Regulations dealing with resignation and discharge should be liberalised. There should be no requirement to enter into any bond on joining the College.

The living and working conditions of the cadets should be relaxed and improved. Specific recommendations were made in relation to daily routine, local leave, alcohol, pay, marriage, church parades, cars, dress, the entertainment of visitors and summary punishments.

The Committee also commented upon such mutters as the relationship between the Royal Military College and the University of New South Wales, diversification of the academic curriculum, post-graduate work, the period of appointment of military officers to Duntroon, the revision of College regulations and of the Standing Orders of the Corps of Staff Cadets.

Apart from those recommendations of the Committee which deal directly with the question of ill-treatment of the junior class at Duntroon and which have already been implemented, as announced last December, the wide range of matters which the Committee has covered requires detailed examination and consideration not only by the College authorities, the Interim Council of the Royal Military College and the Military Board, but also in relation to some aspects on an inter-departmental basis. 1 have directed that urgent steps be taken to have all matters considered by the appropriate bodies and brought to finality as early as practicable.

I believe it will be clear to the House that all concerned with the administration of the Army have made every endeavour to take positive action in relation to events at Duntroon which commenced with the allegation of the ill-treatment of junior cadets. The findings of the Fox Committee are concerned with the future, and in concluding I. wish to stress the importance of the Royal Military College to the Army and through it to the nation. It remains for me to record further my appreciation for the workmanlike manner and dispatch with which the Fox Committee discharged its charter. I am most grateful to members of the Committee, both individually and as a group.

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