Radio Interview, ABC Darwin

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Matt Keogh MP

Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Media contact

Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485

Release content

20 July 2023

SUBJECTS: ADF Careers, Defence Housing

ADAM STEER: Did you ever consider joining the Defence Force? And if you did serve, would you recommend it as a career path for your kids or for your mates? It's a challenge that Defence is facing at the moment. Last year, Federal Defence Minister Richard Marles had this to say:

RICHARD MARLES, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: The reality is, Defence faces greater challenges to recruit, retain and grow its workforce than we have for decades. Urgent action is required if we are to respond to our more challenging strategic circumstances, because right now we have a defence personnel crisis.

ADAM STEER: So, following the release of the Prime Minister's strategic review earlier this year, Australia's Defence Force was sent back to the drawing board. They needed to acquire new assets, like the $368 billion committed to buying nuclear powered subs. But of course, a big strike force is nothing without personnel. Yesterday, Matt Keogh, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel, announced a rebrand of the ADF to try and attract more people to a career in Defence. Minister, good morning. Welcome to the Northern Territory. The NT is expecting a huge influx in defence personnel over the next few years. What exactly have you announced in terms of this rebrand?

MATT KEOGH, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL: Good morning and it's great to be with you. What we've announced is a rebrand, but also a reset of the work we're doing around recruitment. So, the new ADF careers website, ADF Careers Centres, the ADF Careers Mobile Recruitment Facility that will be touring around Australia, making sure that we are communicating to Australians that might be interested in a defence career all of the different opportunities before them. There's over 250 different job types and roles across Defence, across Air Force, Navy, Army, in the not just land, sea and air, but in space and cyber as well, and making sure people can see the great opportunity before them by joining the Defence Force.

ADAM STEER: As you heard, there your colleague Richard Marles saying, we are in a crisis. What's the shortfall at the moment?

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL: So, we are several thousand people short of where we anticipated we should be in terms of our growth trajectory for the Defence Force and we need to add around 20,000 additional personnel by 2040. And so we do need to grow the force as we acquire those new capabilities like nuclear propelled submarines, but across all the different services, new capability and expanded capability is going to require more people to operate that. But also a different type of defence member because we need more people that work in cyber, we need more people that are able to operate in supporting all of that equipment and capability. And that means there's lots of roles that are certainly frontline roles, but there's lots of support roles, lots of enabling roles that people don't usually think about when they're thinking about the sorts of jobs that you could get in the Defence Force.

ADAM STEER: So, when you look at this effort to recruit, particularly younger members of the Australian community, what are some of the challenges that you're facing?

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL: So, like anybody trying to recruit right now, where we've got a record low level of unemployment, which is great, it does make it more difficult to find people to join the Defence Force, just as it is difficult for any employer in the market right now. But the other thing challenge, if you like, has been traditionally, up to this point, the average recruitment time has taken about 300 days, from when someone says, I'm interested in a defence job through to when they enlist. With our new partner, Adecco coming on board to work with defence in recruitment. We're bringing that down to around 100 days so that we don't lose people who think they'd like to come to Defence and then end up taking a different career path while they're waiting to go through that process. So, that's one of the key things that we're doing to encourage people in, but also making sure they're aware of the great benefits that they may not be aware of. So, it's not just a well paid job, but you also get support with housing, and housing is very expensive for people. You get access to health care, you get access to training and development, you come out with qualifications, all of these things that people want to be able to develop themselves and set themselves up. We provide that support in a Defence career.

ADAM STEER: We've got some unique force setups here in the Northern Territory and of course, we've got a big Defence footprint, particularly in Darwin. How are you planning to attract people to the Northern Territory, particularly?

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL: So, one of the great things that we're trying to highlight for people is the varied nature of roles in the ADF. So, an ADF career will give you that adventure, it will give you that opportunity to move around the country, to travel, to experience different work types, and it'll also make available flexible working conditions. And so, some people are going to be really attracted to coming to the Northern Territory for a short time or a long time, and we want to make sure people are aware of those opportunities and the sorts of challenges in a positive sense of challenges, the stretch opportunity of the work that is going to be across the whole northern part of Australia, which the Defence Strategic Review identified as something we need to focus on. And so, highlighting those opportunities, especially for people from the colder climates of Australia, that can be a real attractor, to have those opportunities to move around the country, to experience what Darwin and the Northern Territory, Tindal have to offer to people looking at an ADF career.

ADAM STEER: You're on ABC radio. Darwin. Adam Steer and Jo Laverty with you. Matt Keogh is the Federal Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel. There's still the same question, though, arises, Minister, is how do you attract young people? Society has shifted a little bit, so young people's expectations are different than they say were 30 years ago.

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL: One of the things we really see coming through powerfully is that young people looking for a job and a career are looking for a sense of purpose, how can they contribute? And an ADF career offers that ultimate sense of purpose and contribution, of contributing to our national security, working in our national interest. And of course, people see our ADF working to support people within Australia, working to support our near neighbours in the Pacific and in Asia, not just in traditional Defence roles, but also in those humanitarian effort roles as well. And that opportunity to travel, that opportunity for adventure, are all things that young people are looking for. And what we are doing with the new ADF careers approach is making sure that there is visibility that people see, oh, that is an option for me, that is something I can do. It's not just the traditional role that I thought the ADF was. And I can have that sense of purpose in my life by starting my career with the ADF and understanding that that might be a four year, a ten year, a 20 year career, but at whatever time people decide that they may wish to leave, they'll be set up so well for the rest of their life. Learning those soft skills of leadership, teamwork, working well under pressure, being agile, things that are so important in the modern workplace, in Defence, but also wherever people may end up later on in their careers as well.

ADAM STEER: Defence contributes nearly 9 per cent of the GDP for the Northern Territory and as I was outlining earlier on, it's expected to have more than an $8 billion investment in infrastructure over the next decade. Can you give me an indication of how the growth of Defence will be in the Northern Territory over the next decade or so?

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL: So, certainly across the whole top end Northern Territory, northern Western Australia, northern Queensland, we will be seeing greater investment in the Defence estate, our bases, having people stationed at those bases, being more northern looking in our national interest. Through the Defence Strategic Review, we've identified in terms of national Defence that we need to have that focus. And so, we will be seeing greater focus from the Australian Defence Force into the Northern Territory in making sure that we've got that operating capability across the north of Australia. But also, the great work that we've been doing with partners like the United States who are stationed in those rotational force elements coming through the Northern Territory, and not just in Darwin, also through Tindal as well, is a great opportunity for the Northern Territory. It's a great injection into the Northern Territory economy, but it also means people in the Territory do see the work that the Defence Force does. And that's so important in terms of recruitment that you do see that in front of you with the various bases across Darwin and the Territory much more than, say, people do if they're sitting in Melbourne or Sydney where the bases are further out. So, there is a great advantage in the Northern Territory in being able to see that. But you're absolutely correct, it's not just an investment in the infrastructure, it's the people that will coming in to use that infrastructure that is an investment in the Northern Territory.

ADAM STEER: Well, currently the Defence Housing Australia's project at Lee Point in Darwin is on hold. If that doesn't go ahead, what's your contingency plan?

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL: So, we're obviously looking to move ahead with that project. It's important that we have housing to support our Defence Force, not just in Darwin, but across the country. We also have a broader review of defence housing going on at the moment to make sure that we are presenting to our Defence Force members the best housing support available. At the moment, it's not just about housing like that, where we are providing housing to defence members, but also we provide that support in buying a house as well through various programs, including discounts on interest for a mortgage. And so there is a cross section of things that we already do and are looking to expand to support housing for our serving members across Australia. But, we're not stepping back to look at what the second option is in the Northern Territory. We're proceeding with that option, but if issues arise, we will obviously have to look at alternatives, as we would always have to do, but we need to always make sure that we've got the proper housing available to support our Defence personnel.

ADAM STEER: That's Matt Keogh, the Federal Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence.


Other related releases