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Issue 1 2013
AS THE 2013 recipient of the Secretary of Defence’s
Fellowship, Dr Elizabeth Thomson is going to paint a
picture of Defence language and culture. However,
the finished product won’t adorn the walls of the
National Gallery – it will be a word picture on paper.
Elizabeth will spend a year researching language,
diversity and social inclusion in the Australian
Defence organisation. Her work will address the
topic nominated by the Secretary, ‘Representing
the community we serve – Diversity in the Defence
workforce: How do we make an impact now?’.
Elizabeth feels “incredibly privileged” to be given
the opportunity to do the research and hopes that
her findings will inform a language strategy of social
inclusion in Defence.
The paper, entitled ‘Understanding Australian
Defence Organisation culture, identities and patterns
of language: Respecting and growing diversity in
the workforce’ is due to be released in early 2014. It
will present Defence with a greater understanding of
its culture, identities and patterns of language. It will
also delve into how Defence respects and promotes
diversity in its workforce.
Elizabeth is taking a sociolinguistic approach to
understanding Defence culture. This approach
employs social theory and linguistic theory to
investigate the relationship between language use,
social behaviour and culture. It demonstrates how
language use is a form of social behaviour and how it
can impact on cultural and situational contexts. This
approach will complement previous organisational
studies on culture and diversity.
Formerly the Director of Studies at the Defence
Force School of Languages (DFSL) in Melbourne,
Elizabeth will spend a year as a full-time researcher
with the Defence Learning Branch (DLB) in Canberra.
DFSL and DLB are both part of the Australian
Defence College, which sits in the Vice Chief of the
Defence Force Group.
Elizabeth has spent more than four years working
in a culturally diverse workplace at DFSL. Her time
there has provided her with an insight into the
benefits of social inclusion.
She intends to focus on the language of leadership
and recruitment, and the adaptive language
strategies of long-serving members from diverse
“The language of leadership is a really important way
of imparting a shared, organisational identity. The
language of recruiting offers potential new recruits a
valuable first impression of the organisation and what
they can expect,” she says.
“Long-term serving members have a wealth of
knowledge and experience in language use for social
adaption and inclusion.
“It’s important for people who will be involved in the
research to know that it will be an approved study, all
completely confidential and anonymous.
“Being more diverse, or socially inclusive, is
understood to produce a better organisation that is
more adaptive, more innovative, more productive
and is better able to respond to globalisation, yet
also has different ways of doing things.
“For that reason, there is a desire to be more diverse
and senior leadership has known that for some time,
but changing things is a challenge.”
The work of the 2013 Secretary of Defence Fellow will be a talking point as it explores
links between language, behaviour and social inclusion.
l Looking at how Defence
tells its story. What is its
identity as an organisation?
How is this identity
expressed in the written
and spoken language of
leadership? Material will be
open-sourced from Defence
speeches, websites and
media releases that reflect
l Looking at the way people
use language to bond
with each other. This will
involve looking at places
where inclusive language is
used, such as interviews of
potential new members.
l Looking at how members
from a diverse range of
backgrounds identify and
affiliate with Defence. How
have they adapted to the
their careers. Do they
have strategies and what
language do they use to be
part of the group?
By Michael Weaver
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