Tragic Teri abandoned after horror Navy abuse
Teri Bailey joined the Australian Navy in 2014, but what was meant to be a lifelong career became a shattered dream.
The Navy recruit took her own life on her 25th birthday in December last year following a traumatic experience in which she says she was subjected to an attempted sexual assault and was then abused by the Navy when she reported the incident.
Her distraught father Alan, sister Alexandra and brother Jack are now trying to pick up the pieces and investigate just how Ms Bailey was let down by the organisation she gave up her life for.
Ms Bailey joined the Navy at the age of 18, before dislocating her knee three times during her service. In 2015 she received surgery in Sydney and was placed in a mental health ward to recover.
It was when she was recovering in Sydney from the injury that Ms Bailey alleges she was abused.
"She reported waking up to an older female patient trying to sexually assault her in her sleep while in the ward," Mr Bailey said.
Ms Bailey, who served on HMAS Cairns, said she was threatened when she tried to report the incident.
"After her surgery she was severely bullied by her peers and called a 'sea dodger', to say she only received surgery for her injury so that she could avoid doing her training out at sea. She also told me she had her hair pulled, was spat on and groped (during her service).
"She also was threatened by another patient in the ward who had managed to get hold of a syringe."
Her father also said his daughter suffered sleep deprivation due to being woken up every hour by a "torch being shone in her face".
Fearing for her safety, Ms Bailey felt no longer able to report anything "without being threatened".
"Teri applied to spend her recovery time at home with me as she was placed on light duties and was mentally broken due to the sleep deprivation torture from the ward," Mr Bailey said.
"Due to Teri's PTSD and high anxiety of returning to the Navy she then attempted to commit suicide in 2015, but was forced to return to the Navy and put back in a mental health facility on base in Sydney."
The young veteran fled the Navy hospital in early June 2015 and went back home to the Gold Coast, before she was threatened to be court martialed, dishonourably discharged and having her payments cease.
On June 12, email correspondence between Ms Bailey and the Navy (seen by The Daily Telegraph) show how the young sailor said their handling of her case contributed to the "rapid decline" of her mental health.
Ms Bailey's family is trying to access documents from the Navy about their daughter and her time in the Defence Force.
She was formally discharged on October 23, 2015 with the Navy citing the reason as "extended absence".
Ms Bailey took her life on her 25th birthday on December 8 last year. A note was left naming her perpetrators. There have been more than 15 defence suicides in the past three months, including a Navy clearance diver on Friday, prompting renewed calls for a Royal Commission.
Labor's spokesman for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel Shayne Neumann said the allegations are "very disturbing".
"Sexual assault, harassment, bullying and victimisation in any workforce should not be tolerated," he said.
"When a Defence Force member raises these types of allegations, they need to be dealt with properly. It's just not good enough.
"One suicide is one too many and this was an absolute tragedy."
Since 2016, the Defence Force Ombudsman - who handles Defence abuse allegations - have received more than 2100 reports of abuse across the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Of the 904 reports considered by Defence as of January 31 2021, 882 payments worth $37,060,000 million have been made to the victims by Defence.
The allegations come as General Angus Campbell was widely criticised last week after warning a class of cadets against being out after midnight while consuming alcohol, and presenting themselves as "attractive".
Military academic Deborah Morris said: "Much like the case of parliamentary staffers who have few employment rights, ADF members have little rights as well.
"This includes the ADF being exempt from the Fair Work Commission. This creates no external avenue for ADF employees to turn to when the ADF completes its incompetent self-investigations by unqualified people.
"It silences an already silenced population who feel they have no avenues available to them for justice, self-determination, or to be heard."
In a statement, a Defence spokesperson offered "deepest condolences to the family, friends and work mates of Teri Bailey".
"We will reach out to her family to offer Defence's support."
Lifeline Australia 13 11 14
Originally published as Tragic Teri abandoned after horror Navy abuse