Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 5 2011 Contents 5
ChiEF OF thE DEFENCE FORCE’S COLuMN
By General David hurley
Ihave served as an infantry
commander at platoon,
company and battalion level. I
have deployed on operations as a
As a brigade commander and as
Land Commander I deployed infantry
battalions on operations. I know the
rigours of life as an infantryman.
My decision to support the opening
of combat positions to women therefore
comes from experience and knowledge,
not political correctness.
We owe all members of the ADF
the opportunity to achieve their career
aspirations. In doing so, we need to preser ve
the standards expected of each and every
member.The decision to open combat
positions to women is about opportunity –
those who meet the standards can ser ve.The
standard will be maintained to ensure that
our combat capability is not diminished.
Our people are our greatest asset. It is my
intent that every member of the ADF enjoys
an equal oppor tunity to an exciting and
equitable career.To reflect contemporary
community standards and expectations, we
must therefore accept that gender equality is
the norm and not the exception.
Not so many decades ago, a woman’s
choice to serve in more than 200 different
roles offered across the Ser vices was limited.
In addition, women only won the right to
remain in the ADF after marriage in 1969.
It was not until 1974 that we allowed
women to serve after having a baby,
and it was not until 1979 that women’s
pay equalled males’. Also in 1979, the
Army amalgamated the Women’s Royal
Australian Army Corps with mainstream
Army. These were significant changes in a
The status of women in the ADF gained
further momentum with Australia’s
ratification of the Convention on the
Elimination of all forms of Discrimination
against Women in 1983, and the enactment
of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984.
In 1985, women in the Navy began
serving in seagoing billets. In 1987, our first
female pilots graduated from Pilots Course,
and in 1988, we had our first female naval
Many of the barriers to women being
fully employed in the ADF have been
removed during the past 20 years. Women
now serve in command positions at home
and on operations. More reach senior ranks
within both officer and other rank streams.
I am not content though to maintain a
status quo. In the political and corporate
sphere, the gender barrier has been removed
and women are represented in truly senior
positions.We in the ADF are on the edge –
now is the time to cross the Rubicon.
The ADF should persue excellence and
so our challenge is to harness the impetus
from early initiatives to actively promote
and achieve gender equality. All members
should enjoy respectful, suppor tive and
In our younger members I see the tenacity
and drive to make what was once impossible
a tangible reality. Our ser vice women
will now have the option to explore all
career oppor tunities. No one has a right to
under mine this choice and we all share the
responsibility to work towards its success, as
ultimately, it is about ADF capabilities.
Equally impor tant, we are enabling
women, as we do men, to enjoy a rewarding,
valued, full-time career in the ADF without
the imposition of ar tificial barriers as existed
pre-1969. I accept not everyone who joins
the ADF wants to make the most senior
ranks; many make outstanding contributions
during decades of service, and this
oppor tunity must exist for all ADF members.
Ensuring women contend to win
promotion and hold positions of authority
is not just about finding and retaining the
right women. It is also about recognising
and accepting the talents of female
members. Listening to, and hearing, the
voices of both women and men at every
level of our decision-making is key to our
success and I plan to do this.
This extends to our international
counterpar ts. In early 2012 we will host
a visiting delegation of Canadian female
combat commanders and hear, first hand,
Opening up the remaining combat role
employment categories is just one element of
my vision for a fair, just and inclusive ADF.
The Defence review on Physical
Employment Standards for combat roles will be
completed this year. The review will determine
suitability for roles in the ADF based on physical
fitness assessments that are scientifically based,
occupationally relevant, and do not discriminate
on the basis of gender.
For your commitment to military service
you deser ve the opportunity to progress
through the ranks based on merit and skill.
A robust and agile ADF relies on every
member having the oppor tunity to contribute
fully and equally to Defence capability.We
cannot credibly claim to be a force for good,
a force to be reckoned with, a force to win, if
we do not fully use all people in our ser vice.
The Australian community should celebrate
the ADF for being an employer where
women and men are afforded viable career
advancement opportunities and innovative
professional development. Through principle-
based policies we can integrate more women
in the ranks and embed flexibility in the
management of ADF careers.
For example, there is still scope to
improve how we help ADF families find a
better balance between paid work and caring
responsibilities. This includes how we better
allow new mothers to remain connected
to the ADF and support men in sharing the
raising and caring of children – a critical
step to progressing equality.
These are not just women’s issues. We
must engage men on these priorities.
After all, gender equality is the whole
community’s responsibility. Meeting the
challenge of our shared responsibilities is
being tackled at a great rate by the three
Services, but we have more work to do.
We will not walk blindly while we have an
endpoint in our sights. I want you all to be
involved as we start this journey.
Combating gender equality
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