Vibewire: Enter at Your Own Risk: Misogyny, Politics and the Australian Boys’ Club

Above Image Credit: 1llustr4t0r.com

July 2, 2013
By Marie Bellino

When I grow up I want to be a pop star. If a pretty young girl uttered these words, few would question her career choice, as it’s perfectly acceptable to pursue an occupation that capitalises on her physical beauty.

Conversely, if another girl proclaimed: When I grow up I want to be the Prime Minister, her statement would probably provoke looks of bemusement or mockery, considering ‘saviour’ Rudd’s return as leader of the Labor party.

It is only in recent history that an Australian woman has assumed this role of great national importance, but it is an unenviable spotlight to be in since it invites its fair share of controversy and disdain. As a journalist wryly observed in the UK Guardian, the “slaying” expected by women who dare occupy high office in Australia, is comparable to the impending doom of a “recently-deflowered teenage girl at an abandoned summer camp in a horror movie.”

There’s no escaping the unflinching criticism directed at women who take on influential positions traditionally held by members of the exclusive ‘boys’ club.’ Recent events in politics and the Australian Defence Force highlight the imbalance of power that threatens to derail women’s continued progress in Australian society.

Australia was once synonymous with Crocodile Dundee, Sunday barbies and a fiery Kiwi thespian we like to claim as our own, until that speech; an unexpected, explosive commentary on misogyny in Australian politics, delivered by none other than Prime Minister of the time, Julia Gillard.

The impassioned speech attracted thunderous applause from women around the globe, as Gillard challenged Tony Abbott and his party’s attitude towards women and disrespect for her leadership role. She recalled an interviewer’s question about the under-representation of women in institutions of power, to which Abbott replied: “what if men are by physiology or temperament, more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?” His comments suggested gender equality in leadership positions was of no consequence, and by extension, underhandedly questioned Gillard’s suitability for the top job.

Image Credit: Troy Constable Photography

Every time Abbott undermined Gillard’s authority as a woman, the nation experienced a dangerous flashback to the 1950’s, when women’s rights were suppressed by dominant patriarchal values, and work life was largely an extension of their role in the domestic sphere. Mid twentieth century mores have no place in 2013 politics, yet degrading, female archetypes are still a part of everyday vocabulary. Who can forget Gillard’s disgust when Abbott stood next to signs outside Parliament that characterised her as a “witch” and “man’s bitch?” His sentiments were bolstered by outspoken talkback host, Alan Jones, who has been given a substantial platform to espouse misogynistic ideals, once implying Gillard needed to be silenced by “putting her into a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea.” But there was no greater blow than Jones’ personal attack at a Liberal party function, when he attributed Gillard’s father’s passing to “shame” over his daughter’s questionable leadership. Abbott later played tag team with Jones, echoing his stinging remarks in Parliament.

Julia was the butt of many a Liberal party joke during her leadership; the most juvenile being an LNP donor’s unsavoury ‘mock’ menu for a party fundraiser, which crudely likened her body to a “Kentucky fried quail.” Whether or not Liberal MPs were aware of the menu, the restaurateur’s description of the incident as a “light-hearted” joke intended for him and his son reveals the inherent sexism in Australian society, which reduces intelligent, capable women to mere bodies exposed to harsh judgment and ridicule. Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the blatant objectification of women continues in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The effect on victims of this gross violation is no laughing matter.

Women in the Australian Defence Force Image Credit: MATEUS_27:24&25

The recent scandal involving the circulation of emails containing degrading, explicit images of female ADF members and others, along with offensive commentary, has rocked the foundations of the institution. According to Chief of Army Lieutenant-General David Morrison, the seriousness of the incident surpasses the 2011 ADFA “Skype scandal.” Three officers have been suspended, while more than 100 other personnel appear to have had some connection to the incident. What makes it particularly problematic besides the sheer number of people involved, including high ranking leaders, is the conniving way the details were disseminated. Lewd material was not only distributed across Defence computer systems, but also over the internet for millions of people to view and scrutinise, thereby exacerbating the humiliation. The act sends the message that women don’t belong in the army, and objectification is acceptable.

The dark side of machismo has long cast a shadow over the male dominated ADF. Dr Ben Wadham, a former infantry soldier, received death threats after leaking denigrating comments on the RAR buddies Facebook page, which described all women as “filthy, lying whores.” Similar pages created by members of the Australian army have emerged. Despite the obscene behaviour of the culprits, these beliefs are not formed in a vacuum. Identifying their employer and posting photos of themselves in official uniform connotes pride in their actions, alluding to the normalisation of misogynistic beliefs in army life. Wadham affirms sexism is a major characteristic of the culture, revealing details of a 1990’s book published out of the ADFA known as the Lexicon of Cadet Language, which included roughly 200 derogatory terms for women. Although initiatives have been implemented to address inequality in the Force since the publication was released, recent events demand a more systematic approach to stamp out misogynistic views entrenched in army culture.

A deep-seated patriarchal belief that women play the supporting role, rather than the protagonist in the public domain is at the heart of the gender power imbalance. According to the 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership, Australia has the lowest percentage of women in top executive positions compared to countries with a similar corporate structure like New Zealand and the United States. Dr Jennifer Whelan, Research Fellow at the Melbourne Business School, attributes the slow progress to a common view that “gender diversity and inclusion” is not a “crucial bottom line endeavour.” Women’s voices are often drowned out by the supposed authority of their male counterparts.

Destroy the Joint, an anti-sexism organisation, garnered attention for their commentary on Gillard and Morrison’s exposure of the culture of misogyny in politics and the ADF. They maintain that Gillard was “mocked and trivialised” in Australia, while Morrison was “hailed a hero.” The great divide between two leaders’ essentially congruent messages about gender inequality reiterates the rational man/emotional woman dichotomy, which attributes women’s words and actions to feeling, rather than logic and intellect, thereby questioning their validity. The dismissal of her concerns as emotional rhetoric suggests it takes a man in a leadership position to render it a legitimate issue.

Misogyny will continue to infiltrate social institutions as long as we turn a blind eye to it. As Morrison asserts, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” Despite the controversy that marred her leadership, Julia Gillard’s fierce conviction and drive as PM will facilitate the empowerment of aspiring female politicians to come. The leaders of this country have a responsibility to take a stand against misogynistic values and practices as she did, raising the level of respect for women and supporting their integral place in the public domain. On a micro level, families and educational institutions have the ability to instill confidence in young women, thereby teaching them self-worth.

Goddess Graduates is an initiative that empowers female university graduates entering the workplace. It aims to shift restrictive thought patterns and foster trust in their abilities, which its founder, Lisa Camille Robertson, identifies as a major inhibiting factor for women pursuing leadership positions. The workshop will be taught throughout 11 universities in NSW and include a mentorship program, equipping women with the resources required to achieve their career goals.

It is high time we started focusing on the quality of the contribution we make to society, rather than the combination of chromosomes that partly constitute our DNA. Equality is crucial to the prosperity and health of the nation. It is every woman’s right to aim high without fearing her safety or dignity will be jeopardised. The glass ceiling only exists if we allow it to. It is time to destroy it.

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A shameful week to be a man

brisbanetimes

Blunt Instrument

John Birmingham tells stories. Most of them true.

June 18, 2013 – 8:11AM
Mostly I dig being a man. It’s awesome. And being a middle class white man? Holy crap. I don’t need to buy a lottery ticket because I won all the things just by turning up. But sometimes … I dunno. Sometimes I am ashamed to have a dick, and I’m not talking about that time I woke up in a crowded train carriage with a gigantic travel stiffy.

This last week, it’s been a shameful dick week.

I mean, what is it with you losers? Do you genuinely hate women? Or are you just too stupid to live and breed? I mean that literally. The gene pool would be better without you. Yes, Sattler, I’m looking at you. And your mate, Akerman. And that restaurant owner with the sub-moronic sense of humour. And the misogynist fools the Chief of the Army is talking to here. And that slobbering waste of human skin married to Nigella Lawson. And seemingly 95 per cent of the commuters on YouTube. And the army of dickless wonders stinking up Xbox Live. And the celebrated rapists of rugby league. And that soccer coach with the delightful Dark Ages twist on marital relations. And and and …

Well, you get my point.

Or you don’t, because you are a misogynist dickless wonder who thinks the last week is all just a feminazi PC plot, or even worse just a bit of fun, or just what everyone is saying anyway. That’d be you, Piers, that last one. At least Sattler had the nads and the lack of sense to front Gillard personally and destroy himself in an explosion of shameful stupidity. Your smarmy, weasel words on the ABC’s Insiders, basically gargling and spitting up Sattler’s word vomit all over again don’t even get the grudging Jackass points that his suicidal performance demanded.

Seriously. What is up with you people?

All of you.

Do you not have wives and daughters? Do you not love them and want the best for them? OK. Scratch that. In Saatchi’s case we already know the answer.

Maybe the way out of this strangely primitive cultural moment in which we find ourselves isn’t to talk to, or even consider the actions of the so-called men in question. Maybe it’s the rest of us have some ‘splaining to do.

Because the truth is the world is not solely populated by misogynists and homophobes and embittered, deeply stupid and potentially violent males. It’s also full of calmer, gentler, more intelligent and wiser men who know better than these fools and who are perfectly capable of standing them down. Men who want better for women because so many of the people they care most about in the world are women.

Where are these blokes when a man puts his hands around a woman’s neck and starts to squeeze? Where are they when some idiot demeans and disrespects a prime minister, not because of what she’s done, but because of what she is? Where are you guys? Because if you just stepped up and said no at the very moment that it’s happening, not later, but right then and there, some of this wretched dickishness might finally die out.

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Unlikely feminist hero: Army chief’s video message draws plaudits

canberratimesnationaltimes

June 14, 2013 – 11:32AM

Rachel Olding

Reporter

In full: Army chief's scathing warning
 Chief of Army David Morrison sends a stern warning to Australia's armed forces on Thursday regarding unacceptable behaviour.

His organisation is in the midst of yet another internet sex scandal but the Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison, has emerged as the unlikely poster boy for feminism.

If that does not suit you then get out

Following revelations of further “demeaning, explicit and profane” behaviour by his army members, the tough-talking army chief released a powerful video message on Thursday night telling defence members who degrade women: “We don’t want you.”

Steely stare: Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The three-minute “smack down” has earned him the tag of “feminist hero” on social media and even suggestions that he should run for prime minister.

With a steely death stare, General Morrison vowed to ruthlessly rid the army of sexist men and told defence members to “find something else to do with your life” if they couldn’t uphold the values of the organisation.

“No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honours the traditions of the Australian Army,” he says in the video posted on the Department of Defence website.

“Those who think that it is OK to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this army.”

“On all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian Army. They are vital to us maintaining our capability now and into the future.

“If that does not suit you then get out. You may find another employer where your attitude and behaviour is acceptable but I doubt it.”

The video was posted on YouTube, where it quickly amassed thousands of views and more than 300 comments.

It followed a week of accusations of misogyny, including an attack by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the Coalition’s ranks of “men in blue ties”, the emergence of a menu comparing Ms Gillard’s body to a cooked quail and the suspension of a Perth radio host who repeatedly questioned her partner’s sexuality.

In response to the General Morrison’s video and the week’s events, feminist commentator Jane Caro said: “Feminist heroes turn up in the unlikeliest places, that’s what keeps my hope alive.”

She tweeted: “Quick, can we organise a series of leadership seminars run by the ADF’s David Morrison for all our politicians before Sept 14?”

The feminist group Destroy The Joint shared the video on social media and said that General Morrison has emerged from the week as “someone who’s got their marbles”.

Others said his performance was a remarkable show of “real leadership” that is all too rare in Australian public life.

“I’d almost forgotten what a true leader sounds like,” said political commentator and author George Megalogenis, who called the general “a gun”.

TV host Marc Fennell called it the speech of 2013 to which another Twitter user replied: “I can’t stop fist pumping. That’s f–ing leadership right there”.

General Morrison finished the video with a stern warning to Defence Force members that it was up to them to make a difference.

He called on innocent members to “show moral courage” and take a stand against those who displayed degrading behaviour.

“If you’re not up to it find something else to do with your life. There is no place for you among this band of brothers and sisters.”

morrison1

morrison2

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A timely halt to the war within

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Julia Baird            June 8, 2013

Illustration: Simon Bosch

It was one of the most important speeches in Australian military history, but not a word has been written about it.

On an ear-bitingly cold day in New York this year, Australia’s Army Chief, Lieutenant -General David Morrison, stood in front of several hundred people in an auditorium at the United Nations headquarters, in full uniform, with polished badges pinned to his chest. It was March 5, International Women’s Day; outside women were marching in the snow, hats jammed on heads as winds whistled across the East River.

Inside, the crowd stared at the military man who had come to talk to the UN women’s council. Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, who was also speaking there, said they were ”astonished, taken aback”. First, that a military chief was there, and second, that he was so passionate about gender equality.

He started off by acknowledging his own limitations: ”Foremost, I can never fully imagine, much less experience, the issues faced by any woman. I was born male in an advanced Western nation to comfortably well-off parents. I have never routinely experienced discrimination in my career, nor the apprehension of violence in my personal life. Most benefits of masculinity and patriarchy have accrued to me. Nonetheless, I hope those considerable limitations in my perspective can in part be offset by my sincere intent to support women in my organisation to thrive in the absence of both.”

Morrison, who has led the Australian Army since 2011, then recounted why he was there.

A year earlier, Broderick had taken three army women who had been sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers to talk with Morrison, and sat with them for hours as they told their stories. They sobbed as a stricken Morrison assured them this should never have happened to anyone, and that he was deeply sorry. He said it was his ”Road to Damascus” moment. Broderick believes this is how you effect change: ”When you engage people’s hearts, that’s when transformational things happen”.

And so a crusade began.

It was important to remember how change can happen this week, while watching the seven women on the US Senate Defence Committee forcing the military, and the Congress, to take violence against women in the American armed forces seriously. They grilled military chiefs about sexual assault, and debated seven pieces of legislation designed to deal with what is now being called a ”crisis” and ”cancer”.

The Pentagon found 26,000 members of the armed forces experienced unwanted sexual contact last year. Women in the defence force are more likely to be assaulted by fellow soldiers than killed in combat.

Just recently, a West Point sergeant was charged with covertly filming female cadets in the shower and the head of the air force sexual assault convention program was arrested for grabbing a woman’s breasts in a car park. As Barack Obama said so well: ”Honour, like character, is what you do when nobody is looking”. Which is also what you hope showering might be.

In Australia, a recent report found one in four women in the Australian Defence Force had been sexually harassed, though few reported it. It is a systemic, cultural, destructive and ongoing problem. But unlike America, criminal courts weigh charges of assault in armed forces, not military tribunals. And here, our Sex Discrimination Commissioner has worked closely with an army chief who has become one of her ”male champions of change”. It remains to be seen what he can achieve, but he is determined to make a start.

Morrison told the UN council the story of the women he met, who ”had endured appalling physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their fellow soldiers”. They had been let down by leaders and comrades, ”robbed of that irreplaceable component of their individual human personal identity – their dignity and self-respect. This was not the army that I had loved and thought I knew”.

Even the Anzac legend, he said, had become ”something of a double-edged sword”. It was misleading and damaging: ”Many Australians have an idealised image of the Australian soldier as a rough-hewn country lad – invariably white – a larrikin who fights best with a hangover and who never salutes officers, especially the Poms. This is a pantomime caricature. Every soldier is Mel Gibson in Gallipoli and frankly it undermines our recruitment from some segments of society and breeds a dangerous complacency about how professional and sophisticated soldiering really is.”

The 57-year-old soldier and father of three sons was angry that in a crisis, these women ”had not been able to rely on their mates: in other words the very thing that we claim as our defining ethos had been used to exclude and humiliate others. I am resolved to make improvements to our culture one of the fundamental elements of the legacy that I hope to leave the Australian Army”.

Morrison then recounted some of his specific goals, including increasing the number of women in the army from 3000 to 3600 by the middle of next year. He has set specific recruiting targets, provided pre-enlistment fitness programs for women, allowed for shared leave between couples and launched an investigation into childcare. In September 2011, it was announced women would be allowed into combat roles by 2016. In January this year, the army implemented ”trade specific physical standards based on capability, not age or gender”.

To get women into more senior ranks, Morrison has told the hierarchy to rethink recognition of merit. When I asked for an example, he said we should value the ”skills that come with having and looking after children”. He has begun promoting women when they return from maternity leave in order to retain them.

After the speech, Broderick says she sent Morrison a text: ”There are four women wanting to join the army and three offering marriage proposals.”

Morrison has a huge job: there will be more rot uncovered, more scandals, more frustration. He ended a phone interview by stressing he is acutely conscious of how much remains to be done. ”Change is bloody hard and it takes generations but you have to take steps. The sign of success is when the momentum does not rely on the leader. I have implicit faith this will carry forward.”

Morrison’s term ends in July next year. We can only hope his successor won’t make the road to Damascus a dead end, but a highway.

@bairdjulia on Twitter

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The Speech

This speech should never have had to be written

ABC 7.30: Facebook group reveals ugly side of Defence Force culture

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

7.30

7.30 presenters
Broadcast: 29/02/2012

Reporters: Hayden Cooper and Nikki Tugwell

While the Australian Defence Force tries to clean up its image following recent sex scandals, a private social media group of former and current soldiers shows some sections of military culture are still deeply offensive.

Transcript
CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: Sexist, racist and abusive: that’s the tone of hundreds of offensive messages posted on an internet chat site used by current and former Australian soldiers. The site and its confronting contents, uncovered by 7.30, suggest a campaign by the top brass to clean up the culture of the Australian military has a long way to go.

Last year it was the Skype sex scandal; before that, sexual misconduct by sailors. Now, a private Facebook group of more than 1,000 former and serving Defence force members provides another disturbing insight into the soldier’s world.

This report from Hayden Cooper.

HAYDEN COOPER, REPORTER: Over six decades of war and peace the Royal Australian Regiment has built a proud history. It’s a professional fighting force, seven battalions of soldiers, the backbone of the nation’s Army. But the culture in the RAR is at times misogynistic, racist and homophobic.

DAVID MORRISON, CHIEF OF ARMY (Last night): 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.

HAYDEN COOPER: In the online world, Australian soldiers stick together. This is a closed Facebook group. Gatekeepers ensure only current or former RAR soldiers are let in. The content shows why. This is a world in which Muslims are “rag heads” who should be shot, Australia is no place for immigrants, and, “All women,” as the post says, “are filthy, lying whores”.

LAUREL PAPWORTH, SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIST: There’s an element of a gentleman’s club to the closed group, except they’re not acting very gentlemanly.

HAYDEN COOPER: There are more than 1,000 current or former soldiers in this group. The site is extremely busy and acts as an online meeting place. 7.30’s been given access by one concerned member who wants to remain anonymous.

LAUREL PAPWORTH: They seem to be doing a one-upmanship here where one puts in a negative comment and the next person comes in and has to say something even worse.

HAYDEN COOPER: Laurel Papworth has advised defence forces overseas on social media strategy.

LAUREL PAPWORTH: It’s actually pretty gutless of them because they would not be putting up those kind of jokes if their mum could see it and their sister and their wives and boss and their maiden aunt. So they know that they’re not doing the right thing and they’re joining a closed group so they can misbehave.

HAYDEN COOPER: Putting aside the pornography and racist material, the comments by the group’s members are perhaps more telling.

STEPHEN SMITH, DEFENCE MINISTER: Your role in the Defence force will be determined on your ability, not on the basis of your sex.

HAYDEN COOPER: When the minister announced last year that more women would go into combat, the Facebook group went into overdrive as soldiers responded.

(Excerpts from postings on the Facebook group)

(male voiceover): “Well if you had a nice, soft, warm put f*** buddy in the shape of a woman you could have got rid of all that stress. LOL”

(male voiceover): “f*** fodder for the enemy, new break contact drill, leave female soldier behind wearing bikini lol”

(male voiceover): “Don’t worry about what the enemy will do to them. After a few weeks in the bush, most blokes’d f*** a black snake with a festered arse!!”

(male voiceover): “your right about that if she’s half good looking with big tits give’s ya something to keep you awake on piquet duty, just hope she’s not a noisy f*** or the enemy will know where you are.”

(male voiceover): “Let’s face it, the RAAF get the best looking ones, the Navy get second dibs and the Army as usual get what’s left.”

(male voiceover): “Vote 1, ugly chicks in every diggers gunpit!!”

(male voiceover): “If your on Ops and get rubbish, who carries the tampon and sanitary napkins bag?”

(End of excerpts).

HAYDEN COOPER: So is this a surprise to members who have experienced Defence force life?

NAOMI BROOKES, FORMER ADFA CADET: I’ve heard it before. And if I was shocked – no, it’s pretty commonplace.

HAYDEN COOPER: Naomi Brookes spent a year at the Defence Force Academy before deciding it wasn’t the place for her. The trigger for leaving was the way a friend was treated by her peers after being raped.

NAOMI BROOKES: And they would say things – oh, I think one of the ones that really made me angry was about a week after it had happened and someone in my div said, “Oh, she should get over it already,” and calling her words that I don’t like to repeat.

HAYDEN COOPER: And then when the Skype sex scandal was revealed, similar attacks took place on various social media sites.

NAOMI BROOKES: They would say things like, “Oh, she’s such a slut; she deserved it. She was asking for it,” that sort of mentality where the blame is really placed on the woman. Comments like the ones on the Facebook groups aren’t all that unusual and because they’re not all that unusual as time goes on they seem less and less obscene, and so it feeds back into itself. And throughout the year that I was there, those sort of comments became more commonplace because it wasn’t seen as unacceptable.

LAUREL PAPWORTH: There is probably systemic ignoring of this kind of behaviour. It’s, you know, “Guys will be guys. Just ignore it, as long as they get the job done,” and I’m not sure that that’s a – an appropriate response to this kind of bad behaviour online.

HAYDEN COOPER: Lieutenant General David Morrison has been the Army Chief for eight months. He’s pushing ahead with efforts to bring more women and more minorities into the services.

DAVID MORRISON (Last night): 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.

HAYDEN COOPER: In this case, the Defence hierarchy was alerted to the Facebook group and its contents eight months ago. A member of the group wrote to the Chief of Defence and the Department Secretary. He also took his concerns to the minister’s office more than once. It raises questions: why has nothing changed and what should be done? Catherine Lumby advised the NRL when it first set out to overcome abusive attitudes.

CATHERINE LUMBY, UNIVERSITY OF NSW: The Australian Defence Force is really I think just started the process of cultural change and they’ve got Elizabeth Broderick, who’s a terrific person, to head that up. And I think that this shows that these attitudes are there, there are problems and they’re going to have to commit to really long-term change. And I think we shouldn’t be caning them for that. I think we should be supporting them in that process.

LAUREL PAPWORTH: We make a lot of demands on our military. On one level we want them to be big, strong, rugged men that can go in and be adversarial with an enemy. And on the other hand, they have to be big, soft gentlemen that don’t ever say the wrong thing. And I think that that’s a very teenage girl approach to bad boys. It’s unrealistic.

HAYDEN COOPER: The online group does serve a decent purpose like fundraising for serving soldiers and the administrators have warned members repeatedly to avoid overtly racist or sexist material. Finding the right balance, though, seems difficult, both for the soldiers involved and for the entire military.

NAOMI BROOKES: Everyone still has a right to their private lives and if that’s how they choose to conduct themselves in their private lives it’s difficult for Defence to intervene in social media. But I think in terms of the attitudes that they have and their own sense of dignity, one should hope that Defence would have the capacity to engage in training and to make it clear that there are standards of behaviour for members in Defence and hopefully that should have run-on effects for mediums like Twitter and Facebook.

HAYDEN COOPER: Naomi Brookes is embarking on a new life after her previous career fell short of expectations, but she hopes that for others the experience can be better, despite these very clear signs that true cultural change is elusive.

NAOMI BROOKES: It’s come to the point where it needs external pressure from greater Australian society in order to make that change, because if Defence is left to deal with it, again, I don’t believe that the necessary cultural shift will happen.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Hayden Cooper with that report, produced by Nikki Tugwell. 7.30 approached the Chief of Army, the Defence Minister and the Opposition Defence spokesman for an interview. They all declined.

Late this afternoon we received a lengthy response to our questions from the Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison. He thanked the ABC for, “highlighting these serious issues in a bid for them to be dealt with”. He said his staff in Army headquarters are already taking steps to determine if any serving members are linked to the offensive comments. Where they have been, he said, “I intend to take action to deal with them to the extent that our policies and the laws allow”.

Read the responses to this story from the Department of Defence and the Minister for Defence.

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All media © ABC News

Elsewhere

Military analyst reflects on ADF issues

Racist Facebook page with more than 1000 members probed by Defence

UPDATE

Angry outburst after ADF posts made public

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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