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Kendrick's story

‘When I was probably about 10 years old I became interested in electronics … and when my parents took me … to have a look at some navy ships that had come in from the United States, that’s when I decided I wanted to join the navy.’

When Kendrick was 13, he joined the naval reserve cadets. In the early 1980s, he gained an apprenticeship to work on aircraft and electronics, and at 16, was sent to a training establishment for naval apprentices in New South Wales.

Kendrick told the Commissioner that at first, ‘it was quite fine … because I’d been in the naval reserve cadets, I was fairly familiar with the navy environment. I was aware of the discipline. I knew how to march … knowing ranks, all those sorts of things’.

When new recruits joined the navy, senior recruits would subject juniors to ‘a lot of intimidation. I think they call it hazing. Bastardisation. Intimidation. Humiliation’.

Kendrick recalled that ‘there was a lot of things that happened. The worst thing was the time when … they pinned us against the wall and used … threatening types of language and try and make us conform to some sort of worship … they called themselves the “God Squad” and … basically used a lot of threatening and yelling and intimidation, physical types of restraint, and making us comply with doing all sorts of stupid acts’.

There was another group who Kendrick recalls were ‘more sexual … they were the ones that stripped us and forced us to run … Once I was grabbed and stripped and taken down to the toilets and chucked in a bath and scrubbed with the sort of scrubbing brushes they used to clean the floors with. Lots of chemicals and stuff which burnt your skin’.

On several occasions, the young recruits were made to sit in a circle and masturbate. Kendrick described another time when ‘one fella held me down … and they were just poking at me with a, like a broom … sticking in between my legs and in my bum’.

Kendrick told the Commissioner, ‘At the time … I just thought it was just part of the initiations and training, and you just had to do what you were told and then it would be over … I always thought it was normal’. Kendrick now considers that what he experienced was, in fact, sexual assault.

Once Kendrick became a senior, ‘those sorts of things were actually not happening … I believe that happened … they were just starting to get the first females into the navy, so there was a lot of changes’.

Kendrick never realised the impact these assaults had on his later life. ‘Up until recently, I always thought that it had made me strong … I was extremely good as a military person. People did say things to me at the time which I never really realised, that I was, you know, detached and I had no emotions … I was a nice person … but … I wasn’t close to anyone.’

Kendrick told the Commissioner that ‘the risk-taking … and the detachment that I’ve engaged in as some sort of coping mechanism, which is really a bad coping mechanism … I’ve only come to realise all this stuff just recently, since I’ve started talking about this with the psychologist’.

Throughout his career in the navy, Kendrick ‘was a bit fearful of what could happen on a ship’, so he avoided promotions, and postings at sea. ‘I just wanted to stay … on a land base and I refused postings, or pursued postings that were guaranteed not going to sea. I did get a sea posting once and I swapped with someone else.’

Prior to joining the navy, Kendrick ‘had a happy, fun, exciting, active childhood … After that at [the naval base] … pretty much that was it. I just focussed on my work and my studies. I didn’t actually have any friends. I never really have since’.

Kendrick told the Commissioner, that he feels uncomfortable blaming his abusers because ‘I actually committed crimes myself, hence I’m in jail. I’ve always been uncomfortable actually, blaming others. I feel that I’m a perpetrator, not a victim … I just basically feel that they were just doing what was considered normal to do, not trying to break the law or anything’.

Kendrick believes that ‘I probably wouldn’t have committed any offences had I not gone through that because I wouldn’t have been … in that stupid mode. Because it’s not me. I look back on my life and I’m not that sort of person. I’m more fun-loving and … I would have made different decisions had I not been so detached, I’m sure’.

Kendrick approached the Royal Commission after he heard about sexual abuse that had occurred at another naval training base and thought, ‘Hang on, well, this happened at [my naval training base] as well and it … basically made me realise that a lot of things that had happened to me in my life were as a consequence of what happened … I realised that this is actually a traumatic thing and since I’m now really a mess because … I’ve never really dealt with it before and it’s … a lot worse than I really realised it was’.

Kendrick told the Commissioner, ‘People need to remember that the perpetrators of abuse are usually victims of abuse themselves … and that they need to be educated and realise the harm that they’re doing … It’s only now that I’ve come to jail, this time … that I’ve finally got it … With me, it was considered normal that it should happen, and that was the problem’.

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