This article examines the historic and current role of ‘culture’ in Australian Defence Forces’ responses to scandals, war crimes, and illicit behaviours. It makes the case that the ADF has moved from arguing that illicit activities are the product of isolated soldiers, to arguing that illicit activities are the result of ‘rogue’ groups of soldiers. We call this a shift from the ‘bad apples’’ to the ‘bad orchard’ thesis. Drawing on the concepts of camouflage and building a theoretical understanding of military exceptionalism, we argue we argue ‘military culture’ provides covering fire and camouflage for the institution to protect it from public scrutiny and to hide systemic dysfunction. We also engage with our understanding of institutional gaslighting, to argue that strategies to dismiss and legitimize dysfunction serve to gaslight civilians raising concerns about military conduct by rendering their concerns inexpert, illegitimate, unfounded, or hostile.
- military culture