ACT & SE NSW DEFENCE RESERVES SUPPORT COUNCIL
EMPLOYER SUPPORT AWARDS
THURSDAY 16 JUNE 2011
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
I would like to welcome to these Employer Support Awards His Excellency Michael Bryce; my Parliamentary colleague Senator Gary Humphries; Mr Jeremy Hanson, Member for Molonglo in the ACT; MAJGEN Paul Brereton, Head Cadet Reserve and Employer Support Division; Mr Jack Smorgon Chair of the National Defence Reserves Support Council; senior military and civilian dignitaries; members of the Defence Reserves Support Council, and other distinguished guests.
I would especially like to extend a warm welcome to the employers of Reservists who are here this evening and our Reservists themselves.
Tonight is both a celebration and recognition of Reserve service and recognition of those who contribute significantly to our Reservists ability to serve, their employers.
Throughout its history Australia has relied on its citizen forces to provide the mainstay of its defence capability.
The bulk of the 1st and 2nd AIFs came from the ranks of serving militia and volunteers direct from civilian life.
However, much has changed in how we structure our military forces and the contemporary ADF is now recognised as one of the most professional, capable and effective Defence forces in the world.
This level of capability and effectiveness cannot be achieved and maintained through traditional methods of employment and human resource management.
The ADF has long recognised that its overall capability comes through the planned utilisation of its Reserve and Permanent members as an integrated force.
Our Reserve forces, which number over 46,000 personnel, contribute across the whole of the capability spectrum.
Every ship that sails has Reserve members in the crew.
Every RAAF Squadron that deploys or exercises relies in some part on the Reserve.
Every Army unit or deployment has Reservists as an integral part of how it does business.
Indeed, some ADF capabilities are largely provided by the Reserve.
As an example, we have few medical specialists in our Permanent Force.
That essential capability is resident in our civilian community and provided by our Reserve.
The capability is built and maintained jointly by the civilian and military environments.
Reserves have been deployed on every major operation since 1999.
Today, we have Reserves in the Solomon Islands and East Timor, contributing to regional security by keeping the peace and building the capacity of local institutions.
We have Reserves in Afghanistan in front line roles, helping to defeat the threat of international terrorism.
We have Reserves protecting our borders, and contributing to a range of other operations in the Middle East and Africa.
And of course, Reservists make a major contribution to domestic operations.
During the recent terrible flooding in Queensland, 550 Reservists were deployed at different times on Operation Queensland Flood Assist and were amongst the first to hit the ground.
I am acutely aware that releasing Reservists for any Defence service is not always easy for a business, especially for a small business, or where an employee has a skill-set which is in high demand.
Yet most employers, indeed all of you here tonight, recognise the valuable contribution your employees make to the safety and security of our community and our nation.
That is why all of you are Supportive Employers.
You are patriots, because you understand that the community and business in particular has a key role in the security and safety of our nation.
As many of you can attest, your Reservists come back to the workplace with additional skills and experience.
Often Employers tell me that when their employee returns from Defence Service – either a deployment or training period – they come back focussed, confident and ready and willing to meet any challenge thrown at them.
It is clear that performing Defence service increases the professional satisfaction of an employee, and brings tangible benefits to both the ADF and civilian workplace.
In addition to the valuable development and training of each Reservist, Defence has a number of initiatives which assist Employers when their Reservist employee is released for Defence service.
These initiatives include the Employer Support Payment Scheme.
However, employers do not necessarily want money in return for releasing their Reservists.
They want a skilled employee who can help them achieve their business goals.
I know many employers who would be more than happy to provide an opportunity for an individual seeking to learn new skills and contribute to the economy.
We want to support this, so in my time as Parliamentary Secretary for Defence I want to develop and implement a comprehensive Employer Support Program.
This program will be founded on the principle that Reservists are a valuable shared workforce, and Defence and civilian employers are partners in managing that workforce.
The Cadet, Reserve and Employer Support Division and the Defence Reserve Support Council are currently investigating a range of initiatives to achieve this goal.
We are examining initiatives to have the current ESPS target particular critical skill sets, and we are looking at ways we can support employers when their Reservist employee goes on Defence Service – potentially through access to employee databases or other special programs.
I also extend an invitation to all present here tonight to contribute to this important discussion.
I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the families of Reservists.
Without the support of their families, Reservists would simply be unable to be Reservists.
I believe that the DRSC has an important role to play in assisting and supporting the families of deployed Reservists.
I would like to see this support and co-operation increase. I know that the ACT Chair, Mr Phillip Moss, has a particular interest in this area, and will take this issue forward. I look forward to seeing how the ACT Council meets this challenge and shares its experience with other states and territories.
Tonight, we will acknowledge the result of outstanding cooperation and support between Defence, the DRSC, the Reservist and the civilian employer.
All parties should be justifiably proud of this cooperation as it is this spirit of co-operation which is the foundation of an effective partnership.
And, as we all know success is achieved when partnerships are strong and supportive.
I would like to extend my appreciation and thanks to all the Employers here tonight for creating a successful partnership with their Reservists.
In doing so, Employers not only make a positive difference to the lives of their employees and their immediate families, they also make a valuable contribution to the safety and security of our community and country.