Saturday, July 31, 2021

US marines accused of sexually assaulting Australian women while stationed in the Northern Territory, & Australian Defence Force alleged to close one-eye


US marines accused of sexually assaulting women while stationed in the Northern Territory

Source: SBS News/AAP

EXCLUSIVE: Documents obtained by SBS News have revealed several allegations of sexual assault made against US marines serving in Australia, with investigations into them being shifted overseas or dropped. Some survivors also say they felt discouraged by the Australian Defence Force from following through on their complaints.

One woman woke to find a US marine assaulting her in her bed, another was taken to hospital after having her drink spiked at a military barracks, and a third believed a US marine grabbed her and tried to sexually assault her at a bar. All the incidents took place in Australia’s Northern Territory, but the investigations into them were either handed over to US authorities, stalled, or dropped.

SBS News has obtained a series of reports between 2015 and 2021 from the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service (ADFIS) under freedom of information laws. They detail six alleged assaults or indecent acts involving US military personnel whilst on rotation in Australia, including members of the Marine Rotational Force - Darwin, a contingent of up to 2,200 personnel regularly based in the Northern Territory since 2011.

Assault case handed over to the US

In one incident, a female member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) said she woke to find a male US marine sexually assaulting her in her bed. She had been socialising at her home in Darwin that evening with two marines she had met through work.

The woman “had gone to bed alone, but was awoken to one of the marines indecently assaulting her in her bed,” the ADFIS report states.

She called a friend in the ADF to remove the men from her home.

SBS News

The incident was reported to the ADFIS, which alerted NT Police, but the woman told SBS News she was verbally discouraged from pursuing it by senior officers within the ADF. She also said she felt betrayed by what she felt was an inadequate punishment for the marine.

“It was a really serious incident and something like that absolutely destroys your trust, it has a massive impact,” she said.

As part of a pre-trial agreement, the marine was not convicted of sexual assault, and instead pleaded guilty to assault and disorderly conduct at a US marine corp trial. He was demoted, sentenced to three months of hard labour and was restricted to a US military base for two months.

The ADF has welcomed US marines for years.

In the case file, a handwritten note by a senior Australian military officer states the woman involved was “comfortable” that the investigation concluded. But SBS News has seen message trails detailing the immediate aftermath of the incident between colleagues of the woman who had knowledge of what happened. They express concern about how it was handled.

“It's hard to come back from something like this … trust has been wrecked,” one of the messages states.

"That sort of betrayal of trust affects your mental health, it has lasting effects. And it was not handled well, which adds to that stress and anguish,” reads another.

“Theres (sic) lots of anger about how this went down, its (sic) wrong,” a third states.

Members of the Marine Rotational Force are regularly based in the Northern Territory.

The documents indicate no further action was taken by the Australian military investigators or the NT Police and the incident was handled through the US Marine Corps trial. NT Police released jurisdiction to the Australian military which then released jurisdiction to the US authorities despite the crime happening in the Northern Territory and not on a military site.

An Australian officer with knowledge of the case said: “We should have had [the woman’s] back from the get-go, but we didn’t”.

“Sure they [the US military] are our allies, brothers in arms, but that doesn’t mean they should be given a different standard. This was one of our own.”

No update on drink spike case two years on

In a second case, a civilian woman visiting a friend in the ADF at Robertson Barracks in Darwin had to be taken to hospital after having her drink spiked by what was later identified as a substance commonly used in sexual assault cases in the US.

The woman was leaving the base and waiting for a lift when she “went downhill really quickly,” the ADFIS report states.

SBS News

“To a point that when her lift arrived … She had to be assisted into the car. During the drive home, the driver became increasingly worried for her welfare … so he took her straight to Palmerston Hospital.”

Her condition was so serious that she was then transferred to the larger Royal Darwin Hospital.

“The hospital had informed her that the symptoms experienced were as a result of having her drink spiked and most probably with a powerful antihistamine, mixed with an unknown substance, which is alleged to be a growing trend within the United States,” the report states.

The case was passed on to NT Police, which took charge of the investigation, to consider whether it warranted a criminal investigation “due to jurisdictional concerns”.

US marines have been welcomed to Robertson Barracks since 2011.

The woman said she was left shaken by the incident but “it was made clear that the likelihood of getting some sort of concrete outcome was very low” by both police and the ADF.

“It felt like it would be difficult to pursue a matter where the perpetrator could have already left Australia,” she said.

After close to two years, there is no update on the case according to the documents obtained by SBS News. The woman also said she has not received any new information.

Bar assault case dropped

In a third case, a woman serving in the Australian military said a man she believed was a US marine grabbed her by the neck and tried to kiss her in a Darwin bar, and also put his hand up her skirt.

“It was reported an unknown male, thought to be an American serviceman, had placed his hand up [the woman’s] skirt without her consent,” the ADFIS report states.

“Earlier that evening the male had grabbed her around her neck and attempted to kiss her, however [the woman] rejected his advances.”

The documents state the ADF’s deputy director of military prosecutions closed the case because the complainant was “unable to identify the offender and does not wish further action taken”. They state that after the woman had discussed the matter with ADFIS, “she did not wish to make a formal complaint … and does not want it to be investigated”.

SBS News

Lisa Flynn, national practice leader at Shine Lawyers in Brisbane, has dealt with hundreds of sexual assault cases, including recent ones involving the Australian military. She said the fact the first case, which happened in the woman’s home, was dealt with by US authorities and not local police was “concerning”.

“To have that crime treated differently because of who the perpetrator is rather than what happened to them and where it happened and so for that reason, I find it surprising and concerning,” she said.

“That sort of approach risks re-traumatising the victim, especially if they feel justice has been denied or stymied,” she said.

Fellow lawyer and former ADF officer Glenn Kolomeitz, who is based in New South Wales, has dealt with more than a dozen cases of mishandling of assault matters involving the ADF in the past 18 months. He said the documents uncovered by SBS News raised serious questions.

The US military says sexual assault crimes committed by its personnel is a serious concern.

“Defence has failed to properly apply its own policies in investigating or pursuing enquiries or looking after the complainant,” he said.

With regards to the second case, Mr Kolomeitz said if drink spiking had been identified on barracks it should warrant a military investigation.

“Such jurisdictional concerns do not relieve the ADF of its duty of care to its members and its duty to provide a safe working environment.”

“This is, on its face, an abrogation of the ADF's duty of care … and that abrogation is aggravated by the fact the chain of command is clearly aware of this growing trend.”

On the third case, the alleged incident at the bar, Mr Kolomeitz said an investigation into the matter should have gone ahead.

“ADF policy is that this is a notifiable incident such that it must be reported to a Defence Investigative Authority. It appears the chain of command complied with this obligation but somewhere along the way any potential investigation was stopped.”

“Just because the complainant did not know the offender does not mean the offender could not be identified. That is why we have investigative mechanisms.”

“This is, on its face, a breach of the ADF's own policies.”

‘Offenders will be held accountable’

NT Police and the Minister for Defence Peter Dutton did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Defence said it is “committed to supporting those affected and to holding perpetrators to account,” and the ADF “expected US military personnel to not break Australian laws while serving on Australian soil”.

“In accordance with treaty-level agreements, if US service personnel commit criminal offences in Australia, this can fall under the jurisdiction of state or territory police or, where the police elect not to exercise jurisdiction, the US military authorities. Defence does not have any jurisdiction in such cases,” the spokesperson said.

They did not comment on the individual cases or the allegations some women felt discouraged from following through on their complaints by the ADF.

A US Marine Corps spokesperson said allegations of inappropriate behaviour committed by US military forces are “taken seriously and investigated by appropriate authorities”, including incidents overseas.

“The United States and Australia have robust bilateral mechanisms for the reporting, investigation and disposition of allegations of criminal misconduct by US military personnel assigned in Australia. Those that are alleged to have committed an offence will be held accountable in accordance with applicable law,” they said.

Professor Richard Tanter of US-based think tank The Nautilus Institute, who has written extensively on Australian defence policy, said he was “stunned” at the legal argument provided by the Department of Defence to not previously publicly disclose the details of the cases uncovered by SBS News because of the public interest considerations in cases involving foreign military personnel.

“Frankly, such serious matters should be fully disclosed if and when they occur. Both the Australian and American military authorities have in the past committed to trust-building in the community, but from what I can see this hasn’t happened here,” he said.

“The buck stops at the top of the Australian military.”

US marines have been based at Robertson Barracks since 2011 when the then US president Barack Obama announced a pivot to the Asia-Pacific region in order to bolster military alliances.

The US military has previously identified sexual assault crimes by personnel as a serious concern, including by US forces serving on overseas deployments.

A 2020 US Department of Defense report documented 888 reports of sexual assaults against non-service members, including 35 foreign nationals, and a further 6,290 sexual assaults within US military ranks. The report estimates as many as 20,500 sexual assault cases happened that year due to under-reporting by survivors.


  1. SBS news on Xinjiang

    Australian Uighurs call for meeting after 'bizarre' Chinese Ambassador news conference | SBS News

    1. There r equally many western demoNcratic propagandas about Xinjiang under China is a hell on earth!

      Take yr picks & digest.

      But WOULD u do them reasonably & logically?

    2. Showing to you SBS is an independent and largely objective news organisation that equally takes on alleged Yankee crimes as well as accusations of China Crimes against its Humanity.

      Of course, to China fanboys , all allegations regarding Xinjiang are automatically lies, no need to consider the evidence.

    3. SBS was one of the early news organisations that reported on the Repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang - long before the Yanks got excited about the issue

    4. Wakakakakaka…

      When have but England 'improved' to such a level that u can only read what u want to read?

      SBS is a Oz govt owned public broadcasting station. From the original ethnic languages broadcasting format catering to the minorities within the kangkarooland Frazer had turned it into the clone of VOA.

      Thus, no surprises about what its media attitudes towards countries that the WASP considered hostile!

      Before u get too excited about SBS vis-a-vis "Yanks got excited about the issue (Uyghurs in Xinjiang)" u should dig deeper into the past records of VOA.

      But as usual with yr kind of fart-before-thinking, u have erred!

      Then, of course, to China bashing mfers, all allegations regarding Xinjiang are automatically Gospels from heaven, no need to consider the truth!

    5. "..... no need to consider the evidence."

      Wakakaka, so where are pictures of concentration camps, pictures of torture, picture of forced labours in the cotton fields (yes we can find forced black African slaves working in American cotton fields but not Xinjiang), demolition of the mosques?

      Genocide? How do you explain the increase in Uyghurs population and the general improvement in their life expectancy?

      How do you explain there are, presently, currently, now in existence more mosques or places of worship for the muslims in Xinjiang than the whole of America, probably plus whole of UK!!!

      All your allegations were just he said she said yet because of your hardened hatred for China you accept them all as sacred truth on face value without using your brain and listen to no proof and evidences of rebuttals as you deem them automatically lies. Proof of this in the case of Tiananmen Square debate :

      Reporter at the site as 1st hand eye witness first reported there was no massacre

      20 years later reporter revised his report based on he said she said that there was maybe no massacre in the Tiananmen Square but maybe, could be, possibly, there is a chance that massacre was near Beijing.

      No prize for guessing, you accept, believe, trusted the allegation, there was massacre!!!