A group of sailors is launching legal action against the navy, claiming they enlisted on the promise of training which they never received.
The navy is facing legal action from a group of sailors who say they enlisted on the promise of engineer training, which the navy failed to deliver.
Lawyer Stewart Levitt said 320 men and a few women joined the navy to receive on the job education and practical training for the certificate IV engineering trade qualification, with 200 now joining the class action.
"The entire intake from 2010 to 2012 were effectively conned into enlistment," he told AAP.
Mr Levitt said they received very little engineering training.
"They were effectively misled and strung along and left in a position where they were asked to do either other duties or no duties at all," he said.
Some spent their days sitting around reading newspapers and playing cards. With no training in sight, others chose to deploy aboard warships.
Mr Levitt said one group was placed in a room and told they couldn't leave until they signed a waiver of their initial agreement to be provided the engineering training.
After three years, they were told they could receive the lesser Certificate III if they enlisted for another term in the navy.
"Overwhelmingly they don't want to remain in the navy because the navy has done the wrong thing by them," he said.
The navy program to train its own engineers followed long-running shortages of skilled personnel.
Mr Levitt said the navy had the ability to deliver the training but never allocated the resources, a conclusion backed by a 2014 report by the Australian National Audit Office.
"We had this mining boom going on and the navy perceived they might be short of engineers. So they signed them all up and then they saw the boom starting to recede and they thought `We don't want all these engineers'," he said.
Mr Levitt said the plaintiffs were seeking unspecified financial compensation, based on individual circumstances. It's expected the case will be settled by negotiation without going to trial.