Cadets stripped of uniforms amid ‘public confusion’
Army cadets as young as 13 have been ordered to no longer wear their uniforms in public or while travelling to and from school to avoid "confusion" with COVID-19 deployed forces, and potentially face the wrath of virus deniers.
The last time Australian Army Cadets (AAC) nationally were ordered to cover up their distinctive camouflage uniforms was in 2014 amid fears they could become terror targets for lone wolf extremists.
But it seems COVID-19 has placed even greater restrictions on the school-based activities in most states, first shutting down camps, parades and marches and now uniform use in public.
Some private schools with cadet programs have gone as far as banning the wearing of uniforms altogether until further notice, since returning in July to the program, with unit parades held in regular school uniforms.
A Defence Department spokesman said yesterday the AAC program nationally remained in line with "Defence security requirements to exercise common sense and judgment" on when to wear uniforms but COVID had created further directions particularly in NSW.
"Defence is committed to upholding the highest COVID-19 Safe standards and as a result, there have been additional considerations introduced for the wearing of uniforms," the spokesman said.
"Some schools across Australia that conduct the AAC program allow cadets to wear Disruptive Pattern Camouflage Uniform outside of school grounds, while others do not."
He added in consultation with schools, some regional commanders, notably in NSW, wanted to "avoid public confusion over cadets and Defence members supporting the COVID-19 response".
"Not all schools have recommenced their AAC program. Those that have are limited to parading activities within school grounds. It is likely to be some time before cadets are able to support community activities in public due to state/territory COVID-19 restrictions and consideration of Defence and schools' duty of care."
Similar restrictions have been placed on Australian Air Force Cadets (AAFC) and their use of uniforms "for the personal safety and privacy of cadets".
Cadets in most states restarted training in July.
There are more than 14,000 Army cadets based in 224 units around Australia, including more than 70 in NSW, and 50 in Victoria and Queensland respectively.