Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
Gender in Defence and Security Leadership Conference
13 March 2013
National Convention Centre
***Check against delivery***
Thank you for that warm welcome.
I thank the Royal United Services Institute for hosting this important event in conjunction with Defence.
I acknowledge the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Dennis Richardson and the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley.
I also acknowledge the Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison and Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown.
I welcome the attendance of Ms Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner and Commissioner Responsible for Age Discrimination.
I acknowledge participants from the Australian Defence Force and the Defence organisation more generally, as well as international representatives from the Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom andUnited States.
I am very pleased to address the first Gender in Defence and Security Leadership Conference.
I congratulate General Hurley for this important initiative to highlight gender-related challenges and opportunities in the modern Australian Defence Force and in Defence more generally.
I welcome the very strong commitment of the Secretary, the Chief of the Defence Force, the Vice Chief and the Service Chiefs to building a Defence culture that the Australian people can have confidence in and which creates a workforce that genuinely reflects the modern, diverse, tolerant Australian community it serves.
The conference has an impressive range of speakers and collective experiences to work towards the conference objectives of:
- examining how gender equity and diversity builds capability in Defence;
- considering how to utilise gender diversity to enhance defence and security policy;
- benchmarking Australia’s efforts in equity and diversity in comparison to international organisations; and
- exploring where the Australian Defence Organisation generally can implement tangible improvements in gender equity and diversity.
Each country and organisation represented at this conference is at a different point on the path toward gender equity.
Collectively we represent a wide variety of views and experiences. This conference provides an opportunity to compare our experiences and learn from each other as we make decisions about future actions in our own organisations and nations.
This conference is being held shortly after International Women’s Day.
Women have a proud history in Defence.
The first women to serve in Defence were those in the New South Wales Army Nursing Service, which was established in 1899.
Army nurses subsequently served in the Boer War in 1901 and the Australian Army Nursing Reserve was created in 1902.
Since then, women have served in every major conflict Australia has been involved in.
Between 1914 and 1919, over 2130 Australian Army Nursing Service personnel served overseas, of which over 420 worked in Australian military hospitals.
During World War One, 29 nurses died on active service.
In 1939 the Australian Army Nursing Service was again placed on active duty and nurses served overseas as part of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force.
During World War Two, 71 nurses died on active service.
World War Two saw the formation of Women’s Services, where 60,000 women served in the three Services.
During World War Two, the Australian Women's Land Army was established in July 1942, in response to labour shortages in country areas. The Women's Land Army recruited women to work on farms where there were no men left to do the labour that was traditionally assigned to men.
After World War Two, 33 nurses deployed overseas during the Malayan Emergency and Australian service-women worked in British Commonwealth Occupation Force hospitals inJapanandKoreaduring the Korean War.
During the Korean War, over 150 Australian nurses with the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service and the Royal Australian Army Nursing Service served in Commonwealth hospital units.
Manpower shortages during the Korean War also led to the permanent establishment of female branches of the military.
During the Vietnam War, 43 members of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps were deployed. Australian women civilians also deployed toVietnamserving as journalists, entertainers, Red Cross support and civilian medical teams.
During the first (1990-1991) and second (2001-present) Gulf conflicts, Australian forces deployed to the Persian Gulf to enforce trade embargoes on Iraq and ground forces were assembled throughout the Middle East.
Women were and are active in service for both of these conflicts as pilots, medical and support staff on military bases from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan. Australian Service-women also deployed on ships in all roles except as naval divers.
Women in Defence today
Today, women represent 14 per cent of personnel in the Australian Defence Force.
The percentage of women serving in each service is 18.5 per cent for Navy; 10.3 per cent for Army; and 17 per cent for Air Force.
However, the percentage of women in the Australian Defence Force has increased by only two per cent over the past 20 years.
This progress is far too slow and is very much out of step with other relevant industries, where women’s representation has been steadily increasing.
The figures are more encouraging in the Defence public service workforce where women represent over 40 per cent of the workforce.
But this is still lower than the average across the wider public service of over 57 per cent.
It is critical for the future of Defence that we address this recruitment challenge.
The Australian Defence Force’s future capability will depend on our ability to attract, recruit and retain the very best from the entire population of Australian workers.
Defence must have a workforce that is reflective of the diversity of the modern Australian community.
Over the next few decades, Australia is likely to experience an unprecedented shortage of human resources. Australia’s ageing population, combined with fewer school leavers and an increasingly strong employment market means that in forthcoming years there will be fewer people available to meet demand.
Competition for talent, especially school-leavers, who make up the majority of entrants to the Australian Defence Force, will be fierce.
Greater inclusion of women in Defence’s core business will establish and cement its place as a workforce leader.
Having attracted women to serve in the Australian Defence Force, it is critically important to retain them.
Unlike other organisations which can hire new talent when personnel leave, the Australian Defence Force needs to “grow their own” and has no quick or easy means of replacing experienced personnel who opt to leave the Australian Defence Force at critical career or life stages.
This includes the need to promote and retain women who have built experience and skills at senior levels in the Australian Defence Force.
In this context, I am pleased to announce the promotion of Brigadier Simone Wilkie to Major General. Simone will become the first General Service female officer to reach Major General in the Army and will take up her new position as Commander Australian Defence College from July this year.
The Chief of Army also issued a Directive on 20 August 2012 called “Enhancing Capability Through Gender Diversity”, with the aim of increasing the percentage of women in fulltime service from 10 to 12 percent in Army by mid 2014.
In order to deliver the required numbers, Defence Force Recruiting has for the first time been given a specific target to enlist 570 women into Army in 2012-13.
To support this, Army has also reduced the Initial Minimum Period of Service to one year for 12 General Entry roles.
Turnover is expensive and if the Australian Defence Force cannot retain workers for longer-term careers it is a significant waste of training, resources and time invested.
A more diverse mix of backgrounds and skills will also lift performance and capability in a world where fast-paced problem solving is a significant requirement.
There are a number of initiatives underway across Defence to support the increased representation of and participation of women in Defence.
Women in combat
In April 2011, the Government announced that Defence would bring forward for implementation the opening up of all roles in the Australian Defence Force to women, including combat roles, on the basis that determination for suitability for roles in the Australian Defence Force should be based on physical and intellectual ability, not gender.
Prior to this announcement, women were eligible to serve in 93 per cent of employment categories.
Roles to be open in the future to women from which women were previously excluded are: Navy Clearance Divers and Mine Clearance Diver Officers; Air Force Airfield Defence Guards and Ground Defence Officers; Army Infantry and Armoured Corps and some Army Artillery roles; Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Combat Engineer Squadrons; and Special Forces.
In September 2011 the Government approved the Implementation Plan for the removal of gender restrictions on Australian Defence Force combat role employment opportunities.
The Plan details the steps Defence will take to enable women to meet the demands of the role and to pursue the careers they choose.
The Plan will be implemented over five years to ensure appropriate levels of support are available for all people who choose to pursue a career in combat roles.
Women are now able to serve in job categories which were previously restricted to men.
Yesterday, I was pleased to see the Chief of Navy’s announcement that Navy is poised to break new ground with its first woman clearance diver now in training.
Future selection for all positions in the Australian Defence Force will be based on ability to do the job rather than gender. It will increase the employment opportunities for women in the Australian Defence Force and it will improve Australian Defence Force capability.
There will be no reduction to any standards associated with this change.
This is not about encouraging or coercing women into non-traditional employment roles, but is about providing the opportunity for women who have an interest in these categories to pursue those careers.
In April 2011, in the aftermath of the so-called ‘ADFA Skype incident’, I announced a range of Reviews into aspects of the culture within both the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Australian Defence Force to address ongoing concern in relation to failure to meet appropriate standards of conduct.
The Reviews included the Use of Alcohol in the Australian Defence Force, Personal Conduct of Australian Defence Force Personnel, the Use of Social Media in Defence, Australian Public Service Women’s Leadership Pathways in Defence and the Management of Incidents and Complaints in Defence.
The reviews assessed the good work that had been done to date in these areas and examined what further improvements would be made.
In summary, the reviews found that while good progress had been made over the years, there were still serious areas of weakness and more work was required to ensure Defence culture is commensurate with our nation’s modern day expectations.
The reviews found that members of the Australian Defence Force and the Defence Organisation generally are dedicated professionals who contribute to a long standing reputation for operational excellence.
However, they also identified significant areas of Defence culture which needed improvement to ensure it is commensurate with the contemporary expectations of the modern Australian nation.
Three key reviews targeted the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force and in Defence generally.
The Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Elizabeth Broderick, on behalf of the Australian Human Rights Commission, conducted two reviews into the treatment of women in Defence.
Phase One of the Broderick Review, into the Treatment of Women at ADFA, was tabled in Parliament in November 2011. Implementation of the 31 recommendations of Phase One is being progressed through Pathways to Change.
Phase Two, which considered the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force generally, and pathways for women into leadership roles in the Australian Defence Force, was tabled in Parliament in August 2012.
In November 2012, I announced that Defence had accepted all 21 Recommendations from the Phase 2 report of the Broderick Review, six in-principle and 15 in full.
Key measures to be adopted to implement the recommendations include:
- the establishment of a dedicated Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office to coordinate timely responses, victim support, education, policy, practice and reporting for any misconduct of a sexual nature, including sexual harassment and abuse;
- implementation of restricted reporting outside the Line of Command, so that personnel can make confidential reports of sexual harassment, sex discrimination and sexual abuse (also recommended by the DLA Piper Review);
- the introduction of Waivers for Initial Minimum Provision of Service and Return of Service Obligations for victims of sexual assault or harassment, so they can discharge from the Australian Defence Force expeditiously and without financial penalty;
- increasing diversity on promotion boards and selection for most senior positions;
- introducing growth targets for recruiting women; and
- the production of an Annual Report ‘Women in the Australian Defence Force’ to report on implementation of the Reviews’ recommendations and related initiatives.
The Defence senior leadership also signed a statement committing Defence to implementing the Review’s recommendations. This statement commits that:
- targets are required to create an environment that is optimal for, and takes full advantage of, the strengths of both men and women.
- leaders will be held to account for the wellbeing and culture of their teams.
- every sexual offender and harasser will be held to account together with leaders who fail to appropriately address the behaviour.
- flexible working arrangements enhance capability and are an important recruitment and retention tool.
- women are essential to the sustainability and operational effectiveness of the Australian Defence Force because they contribute to a diverse workforce which strengthens the Australian Defence Force’s ability to be an effective, modern, relevant and high performing organisation.
Implementation of Phase Two of the Broderick Review will be incorporated into Pathway to Change and will be subject this year to an independent audit of the implementation of the recommendations, together with any further recommendations necessary to advance the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force.
The Broderick Review, phases one and two, have provided the Australian Defence Force with genuine opportunities to progress Australian Defence Force culture for all serving members.
Many of the review recommendations do not specifically target women; rather, they address building an inclusive, flexible organisational culture where all members can thrive, through various life and career stages.
I thank Elizabeth Broderick and her team for this outstanding contribution to Defence.
In addition to the two Broderick reviews, the then Deputy Australian Public Service Commissioner, Ms Carmel McGregor, examined the effectiveness of current strategies and proposed recommendations to increase the representation of and career pathways for Defence Public Service women.
Defence’s public service women make a considerable contribution to support Defence’s capability.
Ms McGregor has subsequently joined Defence as Deputy Secretary Defence People, where she has a critical role in the implementation of Pathway to Change and shaping Defence’s people strategies into the future.
Pathway to Change
In March last year, the then Secretary of the Department of Defence, Mr Duncan Lewis, the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, and I released the comprehensive Defence response to the Reviews: Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture.
The Pathway to Change outlines how the recommendations of the reviews will be implemented consistent with the wider Defence reform programme.
Pathway to Change also builds on the institutional and personal accountability reforms in Defence to implement the Review of the Defence Accountability Framework (the Black Review) announced in August 2011.
The Black Review was the first comprehensive review to examine personal and institutional accountability in Defence as a whole.
Implementation of the Pathway to Change covers a series of systemic changes, as well as more immediate and specific initiatives. This includes:
- Increasing diversity within leadership groups;
- Fully implementing reforms at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) to address safety and behavior issues at ADFA;
- Applying principles of the ADFA reforms to all new starter training institutes across Defence;
Pathway to Change contains 15 key actions to implement cultural change in Defence, which are being implemented.
These are supported through the implementation of 160 recommendations and advice from the culture reviews and other reforms in Pathway to Change including the recommendations from Broderick Phase 2 Report.
All of these recommendations were agreed or agreed?in?principle.
Most of the key actions and review recommendations are far-reaching actions that will take two years to fully implement and several more years for their impacts to be institutionalised.
The approach being taken to implement Pathway to Change includes the delivery of a five-year program of cultural reform and reinforcement in Defence. The program includes a detailed implementation strategy, a formal reporting regime and an evaluation framework to measure change.
At the first anniversary of the release of Pathway to Change, 48 of the recommendations have been completed.
- Plain language ‘fact’ sheets on the redress of grievance process have been produced (Earley – Recommendation 2);
- The Director of Military Prosecutions has considered changes to policy to require consultation with a victim prior to any relevant prosecution decision (Earley – Recommendation 31);
- ADFA has developed and articulated a clear statement about diversity, inclusion and gender equality (Broderick Phase 1 – Recommendation 6);
- ADFA is now teaching equity and diversity separately from complaints procedures and as core values underpinning ethical leadership (Broderick Phase 1 – Recommendations 7 and 8);
- ADFA has strengthened the capacity of its Equity Advisers’ Network and embedded Equity and Diversity in all policies and practices (Broderick Phase 1 – Recommendations 9 and 10);
- Residential Support Officers have been appointed to each first year Division who live in the residential block to provide after hours supervision (Broderick Phase 1 – Recommendation 20);
- ADFA has established a 24 hour, seven day, hotline for all cadets, staff, families and sponsor families (Broderick Phase 1 –Recommendation 24);
- ADFA has developed a database relating to individual complaints and this is regularly reviewed by the Commandant (Broderick Phase 1 – Recommendations 27 and 28);
- ADFA Midshipmen and Cadets have been provided details of a range of support options regarding health and wellbeing, sexual or personal abuse and violence and ADFA has developed links with external support services (Broderick Phase 1 – Recommendation 31);
- The Secretary and CDF have issued a Diversity Statement and appointed a Diversity Champion (McGregor – Recommendation 1.2);
- Women are now members of all of Defence's most senior committees (McGregor – Recommendation 1.5);
- The Chiefs of Services Committee (COSC) has issued a Foundation Statement underpinning its support for the implementation of the Broderick Phase 2 Report (Broderick Phase 2 – Recommendation 1);
- A Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (SeMPRO) is substantially established (Broderick Phase 2 – Recommendation 18);
- Amendments to Defence Personnel Regulations for the inclusion of fit and proper person or good character consideration aligning the termination reasons for officers and enlisted members (Broderick Phase 2 – Recommendation 20); and
- Amendment to Defence Instruction was made to include the reasons for a delegate to waiver Initial Military Period of Service or a Return of Service Obligation for members who reported sexual assault, sexual harassment or other significant workplace harassment (Broderick Phase 2 – Recommendation 21).
The remaining recommendations are being actively implemented, with Defence on track to implement the five year program of cultural reform.
Ongoing implementation of all of the Pathway to Change reforms is critical to ensuring that Defence’s culture meets modern day standards.
As the Pathway to Change document states, the suite of Reviews remind us that “we need to ensure our people demonstrate exemplary behaviour commensurate with the nation’s expectations, in and out of uniform, on and off duty”.
To ensure that ongoing implementation of these essential reforms receives the highest levels of oversight, Defence will provide, through the Minister for Defence, an Annual Report to the Parliament on Defence’s implementation of the reform program.
As the Pathway to Change states, Defence must be ‘trusted to defend, proven to deliver and respectful always’.
A robust and agile Defence organisation will depend on every person in it having the opportunity to contribute fully.
A key strength of Australian Defence Organisation of the future will be the quality, the calibre and the diversity of the people leading it and working in it.
This is why Defence Institutional Reform and Culture will be a key theme of the 2013 Defence White Paper to be released in the second quarter of this year.
It will embed the ongoing reform program in Defence policy to ensure that Defence culture is in line with modern Australian community expectations and standards.
But institutionalising this reform will take more than setting down policy in the White Paper.
Cultural reform in Defence will require ongoing individual and organisational commitment and effort into the future.
I thank you for your contribution to this by your attendance here today.