Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

We Suffered from Moment We Turned Up

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

We Suffered from Moment We Turned Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Natalie Brown The West Australian

A FORMER West Australian seaman now retired to the Coffs Coast has told the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce how the actions of a predator sailor shattered his dreams of a happy life.

Graeme Pilley was just 15 when in March 1968 he boarded a train bound for Perth filled with excitement for the adventure ahead.

His 12 months training at HMAS Leeuwin base in Fremantle were to be his first steps into a Defence Force role, but within weeks of unpacking his bags any hopes of a high-flying navy career were dashed by, he claims, the sailors tasked with taking care of him.

In evidence he has given to the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, Mr Pilley alleges a sailor inappropriately touched him at the base, with a suggestion of a promotion if he stayed silent.

Terrified, he claims he tried to run away, only to be found the next morning, asleep on the football oval, by the sailor he alleges abused him and another man.

What would follow, he says, would lead to him living in a "world of fear" into his 60s and decades of mental illness.

Mr Pilley said the men kicked him repeatedly until he fell into the grass, unconscious, and woke to discover he was not only unable to stand but had also been raped.

"Face again in the grass, hot flushing, I cannot feel the cold but I can feel my blood running. I lay sobbing, demolished," he wrote in evidence to the task force.

Mr Pilley said the abuse was the most traumatic of his time at Leeuwin, when he says he witnessed abuse from both sailors and fellow recruits including the "scrubbing" of young boys with toilet cleaner and steel wool and after-dark beatings at the hands of senior recruits.

"It was worse than anything you've ever seen in the movies about boot camps and that, everyone yelled at us and ordered us around and beat us up. …

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