Date: 
Wednesday 22 August 2012

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, has released the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report of the Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force, the most comprehensive review of its kind ever undertaken.

“Our over-arching finding is that, despite progress over the last two decades, I am not confident that, in all the varied workplaces that comprise the ADF today, women can and will flourish,” Commissioner Broderick said. “Having said that, we found much that is positive in the ADF for both women and men.”

“Increasing the representation of women and improving their pathways into leadership goes to the very heart of the sustainability and operational effectiveness of the ADF,” Ms Broderick said.

“To be a strong force into the future and a first class employer with a first class reputation, the ADF must address the problem of a shrinking talent pool, the significant cost of unwanted departures, the lack of diversity among leadership, and the unacceptable behaviour sometimes faced by women.”

“During the course of our Review, we found ambivalence across the ADF about the importance of increasing the number of women in defence environments,” Commissioner Broderick said. “We also found a lack of understanding about the cultural and structural impediments to female representation, as well as a certain level of acceptance of a status quo that no longer reflects the needs of a contemporary fighting force.”

The report makes 21 recommendations in relation to: diversity of leadership; the participation, recruitment and retention of women; workplace flexibility; harassment, violence and abuse; as well as, crucially, the responsibility of Defence leadership itself to deliver and ensure effective reform. Among these recommendations is the application of targets in a small number of areas.

“In selected areas, targets are crucial to ensuring that women have the same opportunities as men in all aspects of ADF life,” said Commissioner Broderick. “Without these targets, there will be no change - men and women will not be operating on a level playing field.”

“As a foundation for successful reform, we have also stressed the importance of the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chiefs of each Service, having direct responsibility, for the implementation of the recommendations laid out in the Report,” Commissioner Broderick said.

Commissioner Broderick emphasized that the Review was not simply a theoretical or desktop analysis of policy, nor an historical examination. Interviews, consultations, focus groups and discussions were held with over 2000 people from all ranks across the ADF, past and present, including personnel in Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and East Timor. In addition, the views of over 6000 ADF members were sought through surveys.

The report and summary Community guide are available at: www.humanrights.gov.au/defencereview/ADF_report/

Media contact: Brinsley Marlay (02) 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529

Up to the minute information on human rights is now available on twitter at twitter.com/AusHumanRights.