It’s official – Army chief calls for greater diversity

Diverse ADF

Tony EastleyAM Wednesday February 29 2012

Michael Edwards 08:06:00

TONY EASTLEY: The head of Australia’s army wants to see greater recruitment of women, gays and ethnic minorities into the armed forces.

Lieutenant General David Morrison says the composition of the military should reflect Australia’s changing demographics.

He says the military must adapt or risk missing out on the necessary talent needed to fill its ranks.

Michael Edwards has this report.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: It took a sex scandal, allegedly amongst trainee officers, for politicians to speed up changes to the way the military does things.

The Defence Minister vowed to make the armed forces more tolerant and fairer.

And last night in a speech to the Sydney Institute the Chief of the Army Lieutenant General David Morrison showed he was in lock-step with his minister.

DAVID MORRISON: At the core of our identity is a strong combat culture. We must preserve this because it’s vital to our success.

But we also need to concede that this culture has tended to exclude women and some ethnic groups who are under-represented in our ranks.

This will prove unsustainable with the demographic changes that are occurring in this country over the forthcoming decade.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: At a time when many other militaries are grappling with the issue of homosexuality within their ranks, Lieutenant General Morrison also praised the role of gays and lesbians in Australia’s armed forces.

DAVID MORRISON: Twenty-five, 30 years ago the reaction to people of a different sexual orientation would have been seen as almost insurmountable. And yet now of course it isn’t an issue and nor should it be. And we have many very proud gay and lesbian soldiers, airmen, airwomen, sailors serving in our ADF.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Last year the ADFA Skype sex scandal generated damaging publicity and led to divisions in the ranks. It sparked a number of inquiries and helped the Defence Minister Stephen Smith to push for all combat roles to be made available to women.

But Lieutenant General Morrison warns a more open military won’t necessarily be a scandal free one.

DAVID MORRISON: I think that a lot of our women are impatient for this and are very appropriately pushing for it to happen. And that’s terrific and we will give them every opportunity to do that.

Will it cancel out and negate any unfortunate incidents in the future? Unlikely. Human nature is human nature, irrespective of whether it’s lived in uniform or without.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Army Chief pledged to remove any remaining barriers to women, gays and ethnic groups succeeding in the armed forces.

But those who know military culture says that’s easier said than done.

Dr Ben Wadham is an expert on the military from Flinders University in Adelaide.

BEN WADHAM: Given the fact that it is such a sort of homogenous population we still see things, you know, like the Skype affair for example, or like the gay hate crimes on Facebook in 2010/2011. So it has this ongoing tension between the existing population and, you know, trying to increase that cultural diversity.

It can only put those policies in place and attempt culture change, which is a slower process, to try and achieve that.

TONY EASTLEY: Dr Ben Wadham from Flinders University, Michael Edwards the reporter.

Source

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6 thoughts on “It’s official – Army chief calls for greater diversity

  1. How unfortunate that bisexuals and trans individuals are left out (again) from the inclusive ideals promoted by organisations. It’d be nice if the Defence force remembered that there is BTIQ after the L&G of LBGTIQ.

    Because when bisexuals and trans (let alone intersex and queer/questioning) individuals are left out of messages of acceptance, then we feel that we’re not accepted.

    • There are two aspects to organisational recognition of sexuality.

      The first is the legal requirement. Gays and lesbians in permanent relationships are treated the same as heterosexuals in de facto relationships for the purposes of welfare provisions such as housing, health care, dependents’ benefits and access to services should the serving partner be killed or injured on duty.

      In the past this was not the case. Same sex partners were not eligible for war widow/widower benefits for instance. They are now.

      We would assume that once same sex marriage is legalised that the situation would not change.

      There would be nothing we could envisage which would preclude a transgendered person from accessing these benefits.

      The second is the issue of diversity. Policies themselves are aimed at tackling racism, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny and workplace bullying. The official position of the ADF would be that a bisexual person would be entitled to be able to perform their duties free from any of these impositions and that they would have a set of procedures to deal with any offences.

      • Except that bisexuals (not bi-sexuals) enter into same sex relationships and are not gay or lesbian when they are in those relationships. They’re not half gay and half straight.

        And it’d be nice if the ADF (and other allegedly inclusive organisations) recognised that biphobia is a real experience and something that should also be combated alongside “racism, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny and workplace bullying”.

        A recent report on bisexuality, biphobia, bi invisibility, and bi erasure was recently produced in the UK (http://www.bi-alliance.org/www8.open.ac.uk/ccig/files/ccig/BisexualityReport_final.pdf).

        From that paper:
        “Common ways in which this bisexual invisibility manifests include the following:

        LGB organisations and initiatives ‘dropping the B’ so that bisexuality is included in the title and/or mission statement, but the rest of their materials default to ‘lesbian and
        gay’ or even just ‘gay’ and refer to ‘homophobia’ rather than ‘homophobia and biphobia’”

        and

        “Biphobia
        Biphobia refers to negative attitudes, behaviours and structures specifically directed
        towards anyone who is attracted to more than one gender. Biphobia is perpetuated in
        common representations of bisexual people (see above) and attitudes towards bisexual
        people are often found to be even more negative than those towards other minority groups. A related idea is ‘monosexual privilege’ which refers to the privilege experienced by all those whose (stated) attraction is to only one gender.”

        And there is a pronounceable acronym for LGBTIQ, which is QUILTBAG (Urban Dictionary has a great definition if you’re interested).

        And generally a more acceptable single umbrella term would be “queer” (despite the negative associations for some, the word has been successfully reclaimed by a majority of the QUILTBAG community in Australia).

        • Again for access to ADF benefits now it depends upon the nature and duration of the relationship, not the gender of the partner you happen to have.

          It would probably be a good idea for the ADF to take your concerns on board to be as inclusive as possible but if you wish the ADF to use a more inclusive terminology when describing non-heterosexual relationships the impetus probably has to come from the people affected by the terminology. TAB does not write the announcements for the ADF.

          The dash between “bi” and “sexual” is a function of the inbuilt spell-checker. We have now rectified this.

    • It’s kind of a shame we don’t have a broader term that’s not an acronym. For example, they can use a term like ‘ethnic minorities’ to include all of the many varied and wonderful ethnicities we have in Australia… if only there was a similarly inclusive, widely-used term for all of the LBGTIQ community. I don’t think there’s an intention to leave people out, necessarily – just a lack of succinct, easily recognised shorthand.

    • Here, here I agree it would be good if they used LGB or the full acronym. As a bisexual former Army Reservist that would be fantastic!

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