Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 2 2011 Contents 5
ChiEF OF ThE DEFENCE FORCE’S COLuMN
When I began my tenure
as Chief of the Defence
Force almost six years ago,
I placed a high priority on
creating a more gender-
balanced workforce that
suppor ts and encourages
increased female participation
in leadership positions.
In order to achieve this goal, I launched
the Chief of the Defence Force Action Plan on
the Recruitment and Retention of Women
which introduced a new range of measures
to increase the options and attractiveness of
an Australian Defence Force career, while
creating a more flexible workplace.
This was the first time that a coordinated
gender strategy was prepared in a clear,
coherent and strategic manner with the
aim of providing a united approach in
order to transcend individual Ser vice
boundaries and restrictions.
The initial steps of this plan are already
working and we are seeing results at key
leadership levels. For example, if we do a
direct comparison, in 2005 there was one
female in the star rank.There are now eight.
There has also been a two-fold increase
in women at the 2006 level; there are
almost 50 per cent more women at the
2005 level; and the par ticipation of women
at the Warrant Officer level has increased by
more than 100 per cent.
There are also more than 100 women at
the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer level.
Of course, much remains to be done,
but I am very proud of the growth in
women’s participation in key leadership
roles we have achieved during the past
six years and what this increase will mean
for the current and next generation of
women in the ADF.
However, as I approached the end of my
tenure as CDF, there remained one final
gender barrier that I hoped to see removed.
I am therefore delighted that the
Minister recently announced that Defence
would bring forward for implementation
by the Government the opening up of
all roles in the ADF to women, including
It has long been my view – and the
view of the Ser vice Chiefs – that the issue
should not be a matter about gender, but
a matter of whether or not a person can
meet the required physical standards of
any given role in the ADF.
I am conscious that within the Defence
community there are a range of arguments
both for and against this proposal. Some
of the arguments are legitimate and raise
issues that require careful consideration.
However, other arguments lack validity and
do not reflect reality.
It should not be overlooked that women
are currently serving our nation with
distinction on operations and contributing
in a way that was inconceivable 20 or 30
In order to ensure Government was
properly informed, this issue has necessarily
been under examination within Defence for
some time. In November 2009 the Ser vice
Chiefs and I met with the CDF’s Reference
Group on Women to discuss the removal of
The decision to proceed with the
proposal was then endorsed by the Chiefs
of Service Committee and in February
2010 I directed the Defence Science and
Technology Organisation (DSTO) to
place a higher priority on their physical
employment standards study of all
employment categories with restrictions
Additionally, planning commenced so the
ADF would be ready to employ any suitably
qualified individual in any employment
category, once so directed by Government.
Of course, this decision has always been
a policy matter for Government and how
the Government decides to consider and
progress this is a matter for the Minister
Once a final approach has been decided,
I am confident that the three Ser vices,
DSTO and People Strategies and Policy
Group will be able to undertake the
necessary detailed implementation planning
to ensure that if women are to enter
previously excluded employment categories,
they are well suppor ted by updated
workplace policies, additional facilities, and
additional suppor t structures.
Though a great deal of work remains to
be done, I welcome the Minister’s direction
to bring forward for implementation by the
Government the opening up of all roles in the
ADF to women.
I am confident that the ADF will be able
to adapt accordingly to this important
direction because I firmly believe we need
to make gender a non-issue in the ADF. I
want a workforce that is sustainable, affords
equal opportunity and creates greater
opportunity for women to advance across all
specialisations in the military.
Opening up combat
roles to women
By Air Chief Marshal Angus houston
“It has long been my view – and the
view of the Service Chiefs – that the
issue should not be a matter about
gender, but a matter of whether or not
a person can meet the required physical
standards of any given role in the ADF.”
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