Defence's Commitment to Closing the Gap

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Darren Chester MP

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Minister for Defence Personnel

Release content

17 June 2021

DEFENCE has reached a key milestone in its commitment to reconciliation, achieving the Australian Government’s Indigenous participation target of three per cent across the Australian Defence Force and Australian Public Service.

Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Defence was committed to Closing the Gap and enhancing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities and had now set an ambitious target of 5 per cent Indigenous participation by 2025.

“Defence has a long history of Indigenous service and is extremely proud of the contributions and achievements of past and present Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women in defending Australia’s national interests,” Mr Chester said.

“Part of Defence’s vision for Australia is understanding and learning from our history, and this includes providing meaningful opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in supporting Defence capability into the future.

“As one of the largest employers in Australia, Defence is in a unique position to significantly contribute to the Commonwealth’s National Agreement on Closing the Gap and I am proud of the achievements to-date and am confident this success will continue into the future.”

The Defence Reconciliation Action Plan 2019-2022 (D-RAP) contains 61 actions targeted at supporting Indigenous businesses, community engagement, recruitment and retention.

Mr Chester said Defence’s commitments to Closing the Gap had been outlined through successive Reconciliation Action Plans since 2007.

“Through these actions, Defence is focused on building genuine and meaningful relationships built upon trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including local communities wherever Defence interacts with the land, air and sea,” Mr Chester said.

“Under the D-RAP, Defence has awarded $1.86 billion in contract value to more than 550 Indigenous businesses, since the Indigenous Procurement Policy commenced in July 2015.”

Defence Indigenous Cultural Advisor, Norman Laing said Defence was committed to building a culturally intelligent organisation where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander personnel and their cultures are respected and reflected.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander personnel bring unique perspectives and experiences into the workplace,” Mr Laing said.

“Defence should be congratulated for the opportunities it has provided, and continues to offer Indigenous Australians through collaborative engagement, employment as well as economic development opportunities.”

Defence is also leading the way in employment and development programs, including the management and delivery of the Australian Public Service Indigenous Graduate Pathway Program.

Additionally, Defence provides Indigenous communities with health and infrastructure assistance via the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program and Exercise Kummundoo. Both programs support Target One of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which aims to improve the health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Other key programs include:

  • The Navy and Army Indigenous development programs designed to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants to improve their education, health, resilience and leadership with a view to expanding employment opportunities.
  • The Air Force Flexible Indigenous development program provides flexible recruitment pathways, including education and mentoring programs supported by TAFE courses, tertiary bridging initiatives and undergraduate study programs.
  • The Army Regional Force Surveillance Group, which recruits, trains and employs Indigenous soldiers on Country to provide a surveillance and reconnaissance capability in Australia’s north, in support of the Government’s efforts to maintain national sovereignty and border security.

Other related releases