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.