Press conference, Perth

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

17 March 2024

SUBJECTS: Air Force Recruitment Campaign, Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide 

MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE PERSONNEL, MATT KEOGH: Thanks for being here guys, tomorrow we’re launching the “Up There” campaign, advertising Air Force as part of our ADF Careers recruitment drive. The “Up There” campaign highlights the diversity of roles across our Air Force, not just in terms of flying, but the technical roles, the mechanics, the technicians, electronic warfare, cyber and also the space domain. Making sure that people see the full breadth of opportunity in our Air Force as part of growing not only our Air Force, but our entire Defence Force where we need to be growing, so many different diverse roles that people don't necessarily know exist in our Defence Force. And that's why these advertising campaigns are so important. But I'm happy to take any questions about the campaign.

JOURNALIST: How many people do the Air Force need to recruit and in what areas?

MINISTER KEOGH: So our Air Force is quite successful in its recruitment endeavours. But the areas we really need to focus on around those engineering roles, those intelligence, cyber warfare, electronic warfare roles, and also this new space domain that is so critical now to the work that we do. They're the areas we're focused on growing. And that's why we're highlighting those areas in the advertising that we're rolling out tomorrow.

JOURNALIST: Is that a reflection on, what’s that a reflection on in terms of that quite a technological focus?

MINISTER KEOGH: What we see with the focus on technological roles in our Defence Force is it reflects what we're seeing across broader society, we need people that have got good STEM skills to come into our Defence Force. And it reflects as well, the way in which technology is evolving, we are much more reliant on technology in the way that we undertake all of our work across the Defence Force, whether it's a fifth generation fighter jet, all the way through to the work of our Navy, our Army, on the ground. And of course, the new domains of cyber and space really highlight how important it is having people with technical skills and knowledge and building those technical skills and knowledge within our Defence Force as well. And I think that opportunity, it shouldn't be missed that we will pay for people to go to university, we will train you, we will provide you support in housing, and healthcare as well. So it's not just the breadth of roles, but it's the great support and value you get out of being in the Defence Force as well.

JOURNALIST: So who are the people that you're targeting, you’ve got the roles that you're targeting but the specific people… who does this campaign target?

MINISTER KEOGH: So this campaign is about growing awareness across a range of groups, those that are currently in high school thinking about what their career is going to be when they leave school, whether that's at the end of this year, or in a few years time, we're also making sure that people who might be reconsidering the career that they're in now that might be in their sort of mid 20s through to their mid-30s, looking for a career change, that they consider a role in Air Force or role in Defence for their next career. And also making sure that parents, those people that influence our young people are aware of the great opportunities available in our Defence Force as well. 

JOURNALIST: Do you have a number of how many people you need to recruit?

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, we're looking to grow our Defence Force by 1000’s each year. So there are so many opportunities and roles that we're looking to grow across our Defence Force, across Air Force, which this advertising campaign focuses on in particular, but there's nearly 300 different types of roles across our Defence Force, we need 1000’s more people to be joining our Defence Force each year. So there's plenty of opportunity for people.

JOURNALIST: Just on the numbers of recruitment, earlier in Estimates this year, I think it came out the numbers Defence is trying to recruit is lower than the attrition rate. Is this a one way of reversing that and expected to get you ahead of the attrition rate?

MINISTER KEOGH: Certainly, it's the case that we inherited a decade of neglect when it came to Defence Force recruiting. And we saw the numbers of people leaving only a few years ago was more than those people that were joining up, I'm very happy that we are now seeing a situation where that attrition rate, the rate at which people are leaving our Defence Force has fallen significantly. That's great. We're holding on to more people. But we always need to grow when it comes to recruitment. And that's really important. That's why we've got a new recruitment partner that we're working with, that we're looking at how we can remove bottlenecks in that recruitment process, make sure that people can join faster, and that we're expanding the aperture of who we can recruit from, making sure that when we think about all of these different roles that we're looking at, across Defence, we don't need everyone to meet the same physical standard, for example. Now, of course, we will always maintain strong standards in our Defence Force. But we need to look at making sure we're recruiting from the largest group possible for the different types of roles that we need in our Defence Force, and that will help us grow our Defence Force too. 

JOURNALIST: On that, I think one of the things mentioned, one of the ideas floated was being able to put non-citizens in, recruit non-citizens if they were given a pathway to citizenship through their training in the Defence Force or Air Force or wherever it might be, is that something you would support to get ahead of the attrition rate?

MINISTER KEOGH: So our key focus is recruiting Australian citizens, in Australia to our Defence Force. And we already have some programs that allow us to do lateral recruitment from country's armed forces that are that we work closely with. But we are looking at ways in which we can enhance the use of people from other countries who become Australian citizens to join our Defence Force as well. There's a few different options that we're going to look at. We're not ruling things off the table. But it's important that we work through any of those things methodically and closely to make sure that we're always working in our national interest that these advertising campaigns reflect that our key focus is recruiting Australian citizens in Australia to our Defence Force. And these ads, this “Up There” campaign for Air Force highlight the diversity of roles available to Australians.

JOURNALIST:  On that, then how have jobs changed over time? And are there misconceptions about what you can actually do in the Air Force?

MINISTER KEOGH: I think certainly, it is the case for people of my age, and certainly older that I think we can sometimes think of just the traditional roles in a Defence Force, whether it is marching with a gun, flying a fighter jet, or sailing in the Navy. And we don't appreciate that there is now electronic warfare roles, cyber roles, space roles. There's of course, the roles for mechanics, for engineers, for intelligence officers, all of these different roles, nearly 300 different roles across our Defence Force that we would never have thought about. And it's really important that we highlight those opportunities to Australians now, who might be considering a career in our Defence Force. And of course, we now have new roles and new training opportunities for people interested in our nuclear submarine program as well.

JOURNALIST:  Appreciate you don't have a specific number of people that you do want to recruit, how much of it is a concern to the ADF and to national security that you're struggling to retain staff at the moment and recruit them?

MINISTER KEOGH: Look it's certainly the case that the Defence Force like so many industries across Australia, and frankly, Defence Forces in other countries, seeing that it is difficult to recruit, we've got really low unemployment in Australia, that's a great thing for our nation. But it does mean that we need to put in extra effort into the work that we're doing to recruit into our Defence Force. That's what this advertising campaign is about. But it's not just the advertising campaign, the advertising campaign grows awareness. But it's also the work that we're doing through our ADF Career Centres where people can go to seminars, they can learn more, we have a Mobile Recruitment Centre now, a large bus that's going out through regional Australia bringing recruitment and information about our Defence Force and careers in the ADF to people out in the regions, we've got the work going on out in schools, visits to community fairs, which of course, people will appreciate, during COVID, a lot of that work we couldn't do. So now we're back out in the community, engaging with people, but also streamlining the process of engagement. 

Because when we came into Government, when someone put up their hand and said, I want to join the defence force, it was taking like 300 days before someone could enlist, we're looking at making that a lot shorter, a lot quicker. We're engaging strongly with our partners, to make sure that we can deliver those outcomes so that we're able to recruit people quicker and recruit more people. But we've got to make sure that we improve people's awareness of all these different roles, the exciting roles that exist in our Defence Force in Air Force through the “Up There” campaign that's being launched tomorrow on our TV screens. And also giving people that opportunity to see that our Defence Force does great work supporting our community here in Australia, humanitarian work overseas, peacekeeping roles as well, so that people can see all of that diversity, not just in the roles, but the sorts of work that our Defence Force do.

JOURNALIST:  You said it was taking 300 days, how long is it taking now?  

MINISTER KEOGH: So we're in the process of improving that, I don't have an exact day figure but that we're driving towards - firstly, we want to get that down towards 100 days. And then we want to get it down even more. But the critical thing is that we are working with our partner Adecco to get through those roadblocks that have existed before, making sure that we can recruit more people based on standards that fit the roles that we want people to do. And so that we can recruit more people, more people being eligible to our Defence Force. That's really important.

JOURNALIST:  Last one from me, any update on the Royal Commission?

MINISTER KEOGH: The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide is really important. And the Deputy Prime Minister and I gave evidence to the Royal Commission last week and the thing that we really wanted to underline there was, we supported this Royal Commission in Opposition because we saw how important the work of a Royal Commission looking into suicide in Defence and veterans is, and what we really want to see is the recommendations that flow from this Royal Commission and we very much look forward to seeing its final report in September and the recommendations that it makes to Government about these very important issues. 

Media note:  The advertising campaign can be accessed here:  

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