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To sustain a viable workforce, we simply cannot
ignore half of the nation's talent pool.
'' Gen David Hurley, CDF
Army March 28, 2013
Gender in the spotlight
Conference highlights progress in gender equality, identifies road ahead for continued development
Cpl Max Bree
WHEN two female clerks were
posted to 1RAR in the early '70s,
more than a few eyebrows were
raised, according to CDF Gen David
"This was unheard of," he said.
"Women served in a separate part of the
Army -- the Women's Royal Australian
Army Corps -- and they wore distinctly
"I recall a fashion parade in Victoria
Barracks in Sydney, to which I wasn't
invited, when new WRAAC uniforms
were modelled by professional models."
More than 40 years later, and
after the removal of gender restric-
tions in the ADF, women from around
Australia and the world came together
in Canberra, from March 12-13, to dis-
cuss issues facing them in the military
and law enforcement during the Gender
in Defence and Security Leadership
Defence chiefs, politicians, sen-
ior female officers from Australia
and allied countries along with civil-
ian experts discussed how to overcome
obstacles facing women in the defence
and security communities.
The CDF spoke about how the pro-
gress of women in the ADF needed to
be further recognised and celebrated.
"One of my objectives for this
conference is for us to recognise this
achievement, but not rest on our laurels,
and to determine how we inform, rein-
force and build on our achievements,"
"The changes we have made are
both necessary and valuable. To sustain
a viable workforce, we simply cannot
ignore half of the nation's talent pool."
When Defence Science and
Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon
began floating the idea of women in
combat he was anticipating a backlash.
"I started socialising it through the
community, through RSL conferences,
expecting a negative reaction. It never
came," he told the conference.
"So I wasn't surprised at the end
when the announcement was made
[and] there was hardly a trickle of
Mr Snowdon dismissed any sugges-
tion that the new employment standards
would stop women entering combat
"There are a lot of people who
might have thought at the beginning
that this is all about some way of mas-
querading, disguising that we didn't
want women to get into these jobs,"
"The fact is that with physical
employment standards, many men
won't get the job, because they won't
pass the PES test."
Defence Minister Stephen Smith
told the conference increasing the
number of women in Defence would
be essential in the coming years.
"Australia's ageing population,
combined with fewer school leavers
and an increasingly strong employ-
ment market means that in forthcoming
years there will be fewer people avail-
able to meet demand," he said.
"Competition for talent, especial-
ly school leavers, who make up the
majority of entrants to the ADF, will
"Greater inclusion of women in
Defence's core business will establish
and cement its place as a workforce
The conference also helped the
ADF benchmark its progress in creat-
ing greater opportunities for female
employees, according to the CDF.
"Defence has the will and the poli-
cies to achieve greater gender equal-
ity. The next step is to ensure our mid-
ranking officers and middle managers
have the support they need to imple-
ment those policies."
This will include flexible work
arrangements and support mechanisms
to make sure everyone in the ADF has
the same opportunity to pursue a mili-
As the ADF seeks to increase the
amount of women serving, the CDF
said the military would need to start
thinking about where it would ulti-
"What is the appropriate target?
50:50? 60:40? 40:60?," he asked.
"Is there a mix of men and women
between the combat and noncombat
elements of our force that optimises
"I think that we need to undertake
more modelling of our workforce to
inform this discussion."
The CDF also said the ADF needed
to explore ideas to develop a better
childcare model for military families'
"[Such as] allowing members to
purchase additional leave or share
leave between service couples, or by
reviewing our service residences to
offer an extra bedroom for a full-time
carer," he said.
"These particular initiatives
emerged from the CA's Women's
Workshop but apply equally across the
"We are also currently examining
part-time or remote access to key pro-
motion courses, increased flexibility
in meeting key career milestones and
greater access to part-time or flexible
The CDF also told the international
audience that diversity and inclusion
were crucial to the ADF's ability to
operate at maximum capability.
"We have made good progress
but we still have more work to do.
Exceptional women should not be the
exception," Gen Hurley said.
Twenty presenters represent-
ing five nations addressed the con-
ference over the two days, including
former Queensland Premier Anna
Bligh, US Navy RAdm Nora Tyson,
Dr Edwina Thompson formerly from
World Vision International, journal-
ist Catherine Fox formerly from the
Australian Financial Review and Boss
Magazine and Assistant Commissioner
Mandy Newton from the Australian
Equality: CDF Gen David Hurley speaks at the inaugural Gender in Defence and Security Leadership Conference in Canberra. Inset, More than
200 representatives from the ADF and the national security community attended the conference.
Photos by Lauren Black and Phillip Vavasour
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