3. Women at ADFA: Measures to Promote Gender Equality and Assessment of their Adequacy

This chapter examines the strategies in place at ADFA to promote gender equality. It provides a brief overview of the meaning of the concept of gender equality and how it is understood and practised at ADFA. In addition, it describes measures currently in place at ADFA that are designed to promote gender equality. As part of this discussion, the chapter also examines the broader issue of diversity and inclusion and its practical implementation within ADFA.

The Review recognises that the concept and implementation of gender equality, diversity and inclusion in any organisation can be controversial. It can be met with misunderstanding and scepticism. Elements of this view were evident during our consultations, including among cadets – male and female – and some staff. In examining all the relevant information and proposing a series of recommendations, the Review hopes to address the negative perceptions around gender equality, diversity and inclusion and encourage ADFA to recognise these values as fundamental to the effectiveness of the organisation as a whole.

3.1 Gender equality

Gender refers to the social differences and relations between men and women, including their respective roles, responsibilities, constraints, opportunities and needs.

Gender equality does not necessarily mean treating men and women identically in all circumstances. Policies and practices which treat mean and women identically in all circumstances are examples of formal equality (gender neutral approaches). Substantive equality, however, is a gender sensitive approach that treats men and women differently in so far as they are different.

Gender equality is not a static concept; its achievement is progressive. Where two groups have different constraints, opportunities and needs, the achievement of equality occurs through phases which may overlap.

Firstly, the disadvantaged or less represented group must be offered opportunities to participate in the social or work context. In many cases, this phase will require positive actions to be taken. For example, women have not traditionally been participants in the Australian military. While women served in the Australian military during World War 2, the Air Force was the first Service to fully integrate women into operational units (1977), with the Army and Navy following in 1979 and 1985 respectively. Women were included in the first intake of women cadets at ADFA in 1986.

Once the opportunity to participate is provided, the second phase of achieving gender equality is to identify and acknowledge those areas where discrimination occurs, either because of biological differences or the social consequences of those differences. In this phase, policies and practices may be modified to accommodate biological differences between genders; for example, different fitness standards for men and women in the ADF.

The third phase of achieving gender equality is when gender is mainstreamed into policies and practices and the issue is understood not as whether women are equal to men but whether there is equality between men and women. The focus is not on accommodating women into a male environment but rather providing the environment so that it is optimal for both women and men and fully draws on their respective strengths.

Institutions, such as the military, have been traditionally developed by males to accommodate males, and are embedded in male norms (including male traits, behaviours and strengths). A holistic approach is required to transform structures and policies, rather than delivering piecemeal interventions. Recognising the concerns and experiences of women and men is an essential starting point in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating policies and programs that allow both groups to participate and benefit equally.

From the evidence examined, the Review concludes that ADFA is positioned between the second and third phases of achieving gender equality. Following is an assessment of initiatives currently in place at ADFA and their adequacy as measures to achieve gender equality, specifically:

  • implementation of the policy on Equity and Diversity
  • fraternisation rules
  • male/female gender briefings given to cadets during YOFT
  • different physical standards for men and women.

The Review believes more can be done to promote gender equality at ADFA, for example, celebrating diversity and women in leadership, promoting women as role models and mentoring for cadets and staff. The recommendations of this Review will address these.

3.2 Measures to promote Gender Equality and Assessment of their Adequacy

(a) Equity and diversity at ADFA

Equity and Diversity (commonly referred to as ‘E&D’ by cadets and staff) is taught at ADFA as part of the YOFT program as well as through annual awareness training for cadets and staff. The training implements the Defence Instruction PERS 50-1, ‘Equity and Diversity in the Australian Defence Force’, which requires all Defence personnel to comply with equity and diversity principles.[292]

The Defence Instruction states that the aim of promoting equity and diversity is to enhance ‘operational capability and effectiveness in order to achieve the Defence mission through the development of fair and inclusive workplaces’:

When everyone is valued, the ADF can expect the retention of the best people, increased effectiveness of teams and a more cohesive workforce with higher morale. Moreover by using the various skill sets of all personnel, the ADF will have greater ability to successfully defend Australia and its national interests.[293]

The Instruction sets out a number of positively framed equity and diversity principles, including:

  • treatment of others with respect and dignity
  • recognising and valuing difference
  • using different contributions to the team
  • making judgments based on fairness and merit
  • eliminating artificial, unfair and inappropriate barriers to workplace participation
  • providing appropriate means to monitor and address discrimination and harassment
  • providing opportunities for flexibility when meeting organisational requirements
  • consulting people on policies and decisions affecting them.

Significantly, the importance of valuing fairness and difference is linked to good leadership practice. Commanders, managers and supervisors are responsible and accountable for equity and diversity in relation to the wellbeing of people working under them.

The concept of ‘equity’ is linked to the notion of ‘giving everyone a fair go’. The Instruction explains this as providing appropriate access to training, employment and promotion opportunities and fair working conditions. It also emphasises that ‘equity does not mean sameness; it means fairness’. Importantly, the Instruction states that ‘equity questions the fairness of apparent equal treatment’ where there is gender, physical or cultural difference.[294]

The concept of ‘diversity’ is described as creating an inclusive environment that respects, values and utilises the contributions of people of different backgrounds, experience and perspectives. This includes difference based on gender, age, language, ethnicity, culture, religious belief, education or work experience, socio-economic background or family responsibility.

The Instruction refers to the Workplace Equity and Diversity Plan (the latest version of which is 2007-2009), which outlines actions, responsibilities and performance indicators to be implemented.[295] It also sets out the role of the Defence Equity Organisation in undertaking the following activities within Defence: awareness training; unacceptable behaviour incident reporting; management and resolution of incidents; and supporting ‘equity adviser networks’.

(i) Equity and diversity training at ADFA

New cadets are first introduced to the concept of equity and diversity at ADFA through the YOFT program. In 2011, for example, the Equity and Diversity subject involved a 1.5 hour session (including a practical discussion), followed by a further 40 minute workshop (NOYO midshipmen were given training at a separate time). It appears that other YOFT briefings, such as ‘adapting to communal living’, and briefings given by the padres also incorporate some equity and diversity elements. However, the extent of this is unclear and appears to occur on an ad hoc and informal basis.

Cadets and staff are also required to undertake an annual awareness training session or, if they are unable to attend the presentation, to complete an online training package. The online training includes a form of assessment, however cadets attending the presentation are not required to complete an assessment. Few cadets undertake the training in this format.

In 2010 and 2011, the Deputy Commandant delivered this training, with a representative from Fairness and Resolution Branch of Defence in attendance to talk about their role, and to assist in answering questions.

The ADFA Staff Equity Brief 2011 PowerPoint presentation, provided to the Review as part of the staff training materials for 2011, begins with reference to the equity and diversity principles, in the context of particular challenges arising at ADFA. These are identified as:

  • Service differences
  • differing academic workloads across degrees
  • a diverse workforce.

The staff presentation then talks about ‘roles, rights and responsibilities’ of ADF personnel, supervisors, commanders and managers, as well as expectations of both staff and cadets. The presentation also deals with issues arising in the social context at ADFA, such as the use of social networking technology and relationships, before discussing the process for managing and reporting complaints and dealing with workplace conflict.

The PowerPoint slide which appears to be the annual awareness presentation for cadets in 2011 (which was given to the Review as part of the documentation related to YOFT briefings) largely deals with unacceptable behaviour, its impact and management. It includes:

  • definitions of unacceptable behaviour
  • the impact of unacceptable behaviour on Defence capability
  • what cadets can do if they experience unacceptable behaviour
  • responsibilities of managers or supervisors
  • resources available in Defence to provide assistance in relation to unacceptable behaviour.

The notes to this presentation indicate that the presentation then deals with the value of ‘diversity’ for Defence. From the presentation slides provided, it is not clear what this part of the presentation involves. Similarly, the online training package focuses on the same topics of recognising unacceptable behaviour and its impacts, how it should be managed, advice and support and options for resolution.

This aspect of the equity and diversity training largely reflects the Defence Instruction DI(G) PERS 35-3: Management and reporting of unacceptable behaviour, which focuses on the impact of unacceptable behaviour, definitions, making a complaint and options for resolution.[296]

One point comes through clearly in both the policies and the training: ‘If at all possible resolve the complaint at the lowest appropriate level’. This has been discussed in detail in Chapter 2.

There is also an emphasis on the distinction between ‘legitimate direction and correction of behaviour or performance’ and genuine ‘equity issues’. The notes to the presentation slide as part of the training explain that:

Comments and actions from commanders, managers and supervisors that are designed to improve work performance are acceptable behaviour. However, if the comments and actions are offensive, abusive, threatening or bullying, this is unacceptable.[297]

The Defence Instruction on unacceptable behaviour discusses legitimate ‘tough training’, which is viewed as being essential ‘to expose individuals and groups to the physical and mental stresses’ of operating environments. The Instruction outlines principles for the conduct of tough training, including the provision of counselling and guidance for trainees and ‘encouragement and support to assist trainees to overcome any negative feelings associated with not achieving required outcomes’.[298]

The key measure for differentiating between tough training and bullying or harassment is stated to be whether the aim of the activity is linked to an operational training outcome and whether it is ‘conducted within the boundary of workplace health and safety’, including whether it is more than would be reasonably expected of a trainee’s abilities to meet that objective.

(ii) The role of Equity Advisers

ADFA staff, members of the cadet body and academic staff who have completed an Equity Advisers course can volunteer to serve as Equity Advisers.[299] They form part of the ADF’s ‘Equity Adviser Network’.

The role of an Equity Adviser is to help prevent and resolve harassment, discrimination and other forms of unacceptable behaviour. Commanders and managers at every level are responsible for ensuring that areas under their control are free from harassment and discrimination. Equity Advisers provide them with support in implementing equity and diversity initiatives. They also provide support to personnel with issues they face. It is important to note that an Equity Adviser does not act as an advocate or speak on behalf of a complainant.

Posters are displayed at ADFA with the names, phone numbers and photos of the 15 Equity Advisers (three of whom are female). The Review heard some concerns from staff that, given new cadets are only made aware of the role of Equity Advisers during YOFT, they might not have a sufficient understanding of who they are and what they do.

Separate to the Defence Equity Organisation and the Equity Advisers Network, UNSW also has its own equity advisers/complaints officers, one of whom is located at ADFA. The Review heard that this officer does not commonly see undergraduate student cadets, who generally ‘report up the chain of command’ rather than to ‘civilians’. Instead, they provide support to postgraduate students and staff. Although the UNSW adviser previously received training as a Defence Equity Adviser in order to be available to provide a civilian support network for undergraduate cadets, this process has been discontinued.[300]

The UNSW complaint network is described as providing a ‘more democratic environment’ compared to the Defence process, where:

... the kids are encouraged to report up the chain of command whereas in the university fraternity, society, whatever, environment, you can go sideways, you can go in any direction at all. You can complain to anybody.[301]

(iii) Perceptions of equity and diversity

Cadets appear to have good knowledge of the formal complaints processes available to them and the Review heard repeated reference in consultations and submissions to the concept of ‘E & D’. There were positive views expressed about the value of this training. As one recent female graduate said:

The equity and diversity training that I received was in line with that received by the rest of the ADF, with an additional course during Year One Familiarisation Training (YOFT) that explained the importance of the ADFs program. I feel that this training was more than adequate and equipped me with the tools that if I required them I could effectively employ them.[302]

The Review also heard that equity and diversity mean different things in the context of ADFA’s military side and its university side. On the university side it is ‘fundamentally about human rights’, where students and staff have the right to enjoy a safe and non-discriminatory environment on campus and the same employment and education opportunities. Although the same ‘in principle’, on the military side equity and diversity is seen as ‘a set of rules’.[303]

For example, equity and diversity was described by cadets as a ‘system used to raise awareness of an Equity and Diversity issue’ like an OH&S rule and a ‘complaint system if we think we’ve been unfairly treated in some way’ that both men and women could use.[304]

Reflecting the content of the training, most comments tended to focus on knowledge and awareness about ‘unacceptable behaviour’ and complaints management, rather than the positive aspects of equity and diversity.

As of June 2011, the Equity Advisers at ADFA indicated that no complaints had been brought to them since the start of the year. There may be a number of factors behind this.

A lack of knowledge among cadets about the role of the Advisers may have contributed to the lack of complaints. Although there have been Equity Advisers at ADFA for most of its history, in 2009 and 2010, they were not well publicised. In 2011, posters with the names, photos and contact details of Equity Advisers were once again distributed around campus, as had been the practice in previous years.

Most critically, however, is the overwhelming perception among cadets that ‘E&D’ is a punishment and may create stigma for the complainant. As one staff member noted:

It becomes seen as a stick, which equity and diversity is not about. It’s about creating that fair and equitable workplace area ... I’ve been fairly disillusioned with the whole practice because of outcomes that left people that had spoken up quite out there, and they weren’t looked after. And that comes back to the command. As much as they wanted to look after them, it didn’t happen. And so I’ve seen a lot of people hurt by being brave ...[305]

‘E&D’ing’ someone was a common phrase which came up in consultations with cadets. One submission noted, a person making an E&D complaint:

was seen as whinging and getting others into trouble without much reason. Events also did not remain secret for very long at ADFA because gossip was rife; and therefore a lot of “E&D” complaints were widely known.[306]

For example, one female cadet observed that if it was thought that you had made a complaint, other cadets would ‘segregate you’ saying “Oh, you’re so jack for E&D’ing this boy in the Div”.[307]

This negative perception of Equity and Diversity seems to be compounded by its perceived use as a means of revenge (‘The boys have threatened to E&D you back because you E&D’d them’)[308] and that the system was open to abuse. For example, as noted in Chapter 2 one staff member referred to a suggestion that some female cadets are using mechanisms to make spurious accusations, such as assault, to escape other disciplinary measures.[309]

Others suggested that the negative culture which had developed around equity and diversity was partly to do with the dynamic at ADFA and the fact that cadets had to continue living, studying and working with people who may have be involved in incidents of unacceptable behaviour:

We can’t separate that work and home environment ... you still have to live with that person for 24 hours for the next year if you E&D’d them, and you’re obviously going to have some conflict there because they’ve obviously had a punishment against them because of you.[310]

(iv) Delivery of equity and diversity training

Although it appears that cadets are well aware that rules around ‘E&D’ and sexual harassment exist, some problems lie in the understanding, content and delivery of training. A recurring theme in focus groups with both staff and cadets was that too much information was provided during YOFT for cadets to absorb in a short amount of time. A staff member stated that during this time, cadets receive:

... mandatory training on sexual harassment and alcohol abuse, drug abuse ... when we do all this to cadets in the first six weeks, honestly it’s just fire hose. There’s no way they’re going to remember everything. You cannot expect someone in that environment to remember every single thing they’re told and comply explicitly with those instructions.[311]

The Equity and Diversity subject was introduced as part of the YOFT curriculum following a recommendation by the Grey Review to replace the Interpersonal Relations subject.[312] Interpersonal Relations implemented training under the previous Defence Instruction (General) PERS 35-3, ‘Harassment, Discrimination, Fraternisation and Unacceptable Behaviour in the ADF’.[313]

The Grey Review reported that the equity training provided for staff and cadets in this form was ‘inadequate in both protecting individuals from unacceptable behavior and then dealing with it’.[314] This Review notes that similar themes continue to arise in the current ADFA training around equity and diversity, namely that:

  • the same equity and diversity training is delivered to each year group
  • the focus of equity and diversity training is too negative, focusing on unacceptable behaviour rather than positive relationships and valuing diversity
  • delivery and presentation of the training is not engaging and should be more innovative and interactive
  • equity and diversity principles and values need to be tied to ethical leadership, as a core component of training and instruction.

The Podger Review made similar observations in relation to staff training on equity and diversity in ADF training institutions. It noted that in many cases, staff induction was:

... very short, somewhat ad hoc and is process oriented. It informs incoming staff of the rules regarding equity and diversity (E&D), occupational health and safety (OH&S), complaints management, and discipline, with little time to explain and discuss the intended culture and strategies of the CO in a way that builds shared ownership of the approach or promotes understanding of contemporary challenges.[315]

(b) Fraternisation and room policies

The Grey Review recommended that a policy of no touching in the workplace be implemented at all Service establishments, including training institutions. This included prohibiting sexual relations between staff and students at training establishments. The Grey Review recommended that breaches of the no touching policy be dealt with administratively where possible and appropriate, with action under the Defence Force Discipline Act to be taken as a last resort.[316]

ADFA has implemented rules around inappropriate relationships and ‘fraternisation’. These rules aim to ensure ‘a professional environment for all living at the Academy’.[317]

The Academy Standing Orders (ASOs) apply standard ADF policy on inappropriate relationships (or fraternisation) according to the Defence Instruction DI(G) PERS 35-3: Management and reporting of unacceptable behaviour.[318]

This Instruction provides that relationships which involve sexual relationships or private intimacy, where a superior and subordinate command or management relationship exists, are considered to be inappropriate in the workplace.[319] The policy also states that sexual behaviour or sexual acts are never appropriate in the workplace.[320]

Inappropriate relationships in the ADFA context may include ‘relationships where a difference in power exists or is perceived to exist between staff, between staff and students or between students’.[321] For example, Annex E to an ADFA Joining Instruction for 2011 states:

22. Whilst intimate relationships between individuals are a normal part of life, they can pose unique problems in the military and training environments. In ADFA such relationships are forbidden:

  1. between a midshipman or officer cadet and an ADFA staff member;
  2. between third and first year midshipmen and officer cadets;
  3. between advanced students and first-to-third year midshipmen and officer cadets; and
  4. when midshipmen and officer cadets are on duty, including when receiving academic education, when on duty travel, or when attending Academy activities or social functions.[322]

Relationships between cadets are not allowed during the first three months of training. Chapter 1 of the ASOs provides that:

[a]lthough it is reasonable to expect that relationships will both be established and dissolved within the cadet body at ADFA, such relationships can have a deleterious impact upon initial training. For that reason, and in order to facilitate a smooth transition into the ADF for new trainees, a total prohibition on fraternisation is imposed upon new trainees, including those joining ADFA through the NOYO scheme.[323]

After this time, relationships are permitted, provided a professional work manner is maintained and cadets do not engage in ‘displays of affection’ or intimate behaviour in uniform within ADFA precincts or when on duty.[324] Staff are prohibited from forming new personal relationships with students, and must declare any pre-existing personal relationship with students before training starts.[325]

The ASO also provides clear direction for ADFA staff:

Whilst there is not a formal ban or separation of Staff and Cadet Body local leave areas, Staff should be aware of the example and professionalism they display, and are strongly encouraged not to be drinking with the Cadet Body in Shooters, Illusions, Mooseheads, or other establishments, except for official functions, after 2130h. Regardless, ADFA staff should always be in control of their actions.[326]

Further, the ASOs explain the rules regarding cadets’ accommodation. The DO must approve any non-ADFA military or civilian visitors coming to the accommodation blocks. Visitors are not allowed to remain within ADFA precincts overnight.[327] Where there is more than one person in a cadet’s room, the door must be wide open. Section 2.34 also provides that the Squadron OC must give permission for a cadet to study with an ‘advanced student’ in the accommodation blocks and that, while studying, the door to the room must be open. There is also a policy prohibiting entry by a cadet into another cadet’s room.[328]

In identifying fraternisation as a gender issue, the Podger Review referred to the ‘realistic’ approach of the ADFA policy.[329] The Report suggested that the ADFA policy served to ‘clarify when fraternisation is entirely acceptable and when it is inappropriate, and where it is acceptable how the partners should behave’, relating the rules back to values such as professionalism, teamwork and loyalty.

This ‘realistic approach’ was seen to promote honesty and allow open discussion of issues, such as risks of sexual activity or relationships within a work and training environment, rather than applying ‘rigid rules to ban fraternisation’.

In our consultations, however, the Review heard from cadets the view that some staff turn a ‘blind eye’ in relation to enforcement of the ‘frat rule’. For example, one cadet in a focus group observed that:

Most of the staff are pretty good like in relation to the frat rules where they will turn a blind eye unless you’re doing something obscenely obvious ... They’re kind of like, “Don’t do anything dumb and get caught.” ... they understand that ... there are, what, a thousand cadets who are aged between 17 and 25 who are all living in the same area who, during lockdown periods, aren’t allowed to leave this area. So, they do understand that relationships will occur, there will be random sexual encounters; it’s just part of life.[330]

The Review also heard in focus groups that the fraternisation rules at ADFA are inconsistently applied at best and, at worst, ignored. This indicates that the rules are far from ‘clear’ or ‘realistic’. It suggests that after hours cadets are largely self-regulated and highlights a lack of appropriate on site supervision.

The blurred lines around fraternisation policies and harassment or other unacceptable behaviour has also been criticised for allowing confusion between consensual and non-consensual sexual relationships or activities.

A concerning example was provided in a confidential submission to the Review. There was described an incident in which a female cadet advised ‘she thought she had been sexually assaulted’ by an advanced student,[331] with whom she had a relationship, when she had been intoxicated. An AFP investigation found there was insufficient evidence to establish that a criminal assault had occurred. The submission stated:

The male midshipman was subsequently charged with having a guest in his room overnight without the prior consent of the Mess President. No administrative or disciplinary action was taken against either of the female officer cadets. It turned out that the midshipman believed the sex to be consensual and a part of their burgeoning relationship and at no time did the female officer cadet say no to his advances. Interestingly, the young female officer cadet agreed with this line when put to her. What concerned me was the protection and support provided to the young female officer cadet was not reciprocated to the male midshipmen during the ensuing investigations ... I subsequently spoke informally with both female officer cadets about their part in the whole sorry story, the implications of inciting false allegations on all three parties. At no time was the female officer cadet disciplined for her part in remaining overnight in the Officer’s Mess. In fact, this was expressly forbidden.[332]

(c) Gender briefings

As part of their initial training at ADFA, new recruits are provided with ‘gender briefings’. The gender briefings appear to be the only formal sessions at which gender issues are specifically discussed, although they are supplemented by informal presentations at the divisional level.[333]

The content of these briefings, and particularly the content dealing with ‘reputation management’, informs much of what cadets understand is expected of them at ADFA in regards to gender issues. For this reason, the concept of ‘reputation management’ is seen as a measure to promote equitable gender relations at ADFA. This understanding was conveyed to the Review by cadets and staff throughout the consultation period. For example, in a discussion about what was working well about the treatment of women at ADFA at the World Cafè, a cadet noted that ‘perception and reputation management is provided’. The usefulness of this concept was also noted in several other instances.[334]

The gender briefings are invested with an arguably disproportionate level of secrecy and importance by cadets based on the way in which they are conducted. They are the only instance in training where cadets are separated along gender lines to attend separate sessions and are regarded as ‘secret women’s/men’s business’.[335] Cadets and staff have suggested to the Review that the behavioural component of the women’s briefing focuses on the consequences to ‘reputation’ of sexual behaviour, while the men’s briefing is more focused on warnings about alcohol and general misbehaviour.[336]

The Review believes that the emphasis placed on ‘reputation management’, particularly as it applies to women, is not conducive to the development of a gender-equitable environment. An approach which seeks to advance the cause of gender equality at ADFA must focus more on the development of respectful relationships and less on the policing of ‘reputations’.

(i) The Female Briefing

The formal female briefing materials provided to the Review note the ‘confronting’ nature of some of the information included. However, it also informs cadets that they ‘must be aware of the standards expected and what life is really like as a military female.’[337] Female cadets at ADFA take this message on board. One cadet told the Review that ‘as much as it may seem ... sexist that we get the brief, you need it, because it’s what happens.’[338]

The briefing is structured in several parts. It gives a short history of women in the Australian military then deals with dress requirements (hair requirements, uniform specifics, and civilian dress requirements), menstrual issues (the communal environment, the fact that women will be expected to maintain their training, ‘including swimming [and] going bush/field’, and how this can be managed), and ‘life in the div’.

‘Life in the div’ is the section of the brief that deals with ‘reputation management’. It notes that cadets will be in a ‘communal living’ environment and should ‘wear appropriate attire.’ It also notes that the women will be living with a lot of young men, warns them about maturity levels and encourages them to ‘speak up if [they] find something offensive/inappropriate.’ It then lists a series of ‘expectations’, which revolve around ‘reputation’, ‘inappropriate behaviour and relationships’, ‘performance and work ethic’, ‘female peer support’, ‘diet and fitness’ and ‘alcohol consumption’. Each section is examined below.

The message about ‘reputation’ is repeated several times throughout the materials, with the emphatic claim that ‘It will follow you for the rest of your career!’

The section on ‘relationships’ tells women that ‘you will receive attention – be sensible’. It also cautions them to maintain their ‘professionalism’ as ‘the forming and more importantly, the breaking and reforming of relationships will affect the divisional/squadron cohesion’. Elsewhere in the materials there is a warning to be aware of ‘names given to divisions with loose females (eg. ‘little fyshwick’)’.

The section on ‘performance and work ethic’ informs cadets that ‘what you do effects ALL females’. Cadets are warned not to exhibit ‘serial sick parade performance’, not to be ‘the crier/sobber’ and to avoid ‘“batting your eyelashes” at male instructors’.

The section dealing with ‘female peers’ encourages support rather than competition; the section on ‘diet and fitness’ encourages maintaining a healthy diet, playing sport and passing fitness tests; and the section on alcohol consumption encourages cadets to ‘be careful, stay in pairs, and look after your friends.’

The materials also tell the cadets that they ‘are a member of the ADF who happens to be female. You are not just a female in uniform.’

(ii) The Male Briefing

A male briefing is conducted in parallel to the female briefing. The Review also received a copy of the PowerPoint presentation given as part of this briefing. It is significantly shorter that the female version and lacks its strong emphasis on ‘reputation management’.[339] Cadets are conscious of this difference and described the female briefing as being ‘much more full on’.[340] Another cadet suggested that the concept of substantive equality was touched on and they were told about ‘understanding females and the whole differences. So it was emphasising that as we might have different fitness standards, it doesn’t mean that they’re not capable at their job at all’.[341]

(iii) Cadets’ interpretations of the gender briefings and reputation management

Flood commented on societal sexual discrimination in 2008, saying that:

[a] sexual double standard, centred on the policing of female sexual reputation, is pervasive among young men and women in contemporary Western cultures, including Australia.[342]

This is reflected in ADFA’s concept of ‘reputation management’ and the expectations and consequences of gendered and sexual behaviour understood by cadets.

One cadet summarised the expectations of male cadets as ‘your position here at the div is to look after it ... and if anything was to be said about any of the girls in the div, you should jump in and stand up for them.’[343] This ‘brother/sister’ dynamic was noted approvingly by some cadets, but with unease by others.[344] One cadet noted that:

... the guys think they’re your protective brothers, maybe that’s what they’re thinking and then they just get really angry at you and lose respect cause you haven’t done the right thing but you live your life here, so you can’t really just be like an angel the entire time or whatever, an innocent little sister.[345]

By comparison, female cadets’ understood that the most important aspect of their briefing was the protection of their sexual ‘reputation’. One cadet noted that it was constantly explained to women that ‘this is how boys at ADFA are. You need to be careful of your reputation.’[346] Another stated that ‘they always grab the females in and pretty much tell you that whatever you do, everyone will find out.’[347] These beliefs were reflected in female cadets’ experiences at ADFA, with one cadet noting that ‘once you’ve got a slight reputation it’s never going to go ... they’ll still be your mate, but behind your back they’ll always say “she’s the slut” kind of thing.’[348]

(iv) Staff responses to gender briefings

Military and support staff expressed a variety of perspectives about the reputation management training that cadets are given. Many believe it is necessary to convey the importance of ‘reputation management’, with its disproportionate emphasis on female sexuality, due to the potential consequences for cadets at the Academy and in their future careers. One staff member claimed that:

... it’s incredibly unfair. It’s just a totally sexist thing. It does affect the guys too but not in the negative way that it affects the girls ... [but] I would say you need to understand before you go to ADFA there will be tremendous pressure on you from the opposite sex because you are a small minority.[349]

However, some staff expressed disappointment that cadets were divided for their gender briefings. This opinion is represented in a public submission by a current staff member:

Men need to know about “girl stuff” and vice versa. Practicalities regarding contraception, menstrual cycles, puberty, how to avoid a reputation and the responsibilities of each sex towards the other should be a shared experience. I believe they are separate now to allow sensitive questions to be asked but that is the point! Male officers need to know what their female troops are going through and vice versa, we need to get these young men and women to grow up as soon as possible.[350]

(v) Impact of gender briefings

The gender norms presented in the only formal gender briefings appear to be very conservative and ‘traditional’. Men are encouraged to be chivalrous and protective, while women are warned about guarding their sexual ‘reputations’. Having this as a conceptual basis for gender relations is an inequitable starting point and hinders the development of gender equality.

The Review believes that the concept of ‘reputation management’ promoted through the gender briefings does not acknowledge women as empowered individuals in their own right. It also discourages attempts to address the gender discrimination that does exist, both at ADFA and in the wider society of which ADFA is a part.

The difficulties that women face in the military should be acknowledged. However, this should be done by placing a greater emphasis on dealing with sexist double standards and developing a concept of respectful relationships and mutual responsibilities, rather than accepting existing problems as issues to be ‘managed’. The Review’s Recommendation 22, which deals with sexual ethics and respectful relationships, should be the basis for reforming training in this area.

(d) Physical standards

One strategy described as promoting gender equality at ADFA is the different physical fitness standards which apply to men and women. However, rather than being seen as a positive measure, cadets referred to it in negative terms as an example of differential treatment and inequality.

Applicants for ADFA are required to meet certain physical fitness standards as a requirement for entry. The ability to meet these standards is seen as ‘necessary for ADF members to effectively carry out the operational tasks to which they are assigned’.[351]

On entry to ADFA, cadets undergo an initial fitness assessment during YOFT. As part of their ongoing training, they are required to take part in a physical training program and complete several fitness tests each year. The requirements are slightly different for each Service and are slightly lower for women than men. Adjustments are also made on the basis of age.[352]

The differing fitness standards are intended to recognise the different physiologies of men and women. In some cases this was acknowledged as an appropriate measure:

Females are just ... not as fit as the guys or as strong ... the pace kind of gets set by the guys and the girls get left trying to keep up at the back. ... now we’re doing ability based running so you stick with your ability and you run at your pace ... It’s keep going until a time is up and if you’re struggling you do something slightly easier, so it’s working out better but it still shows that the females struggle a bit but that’s just a natural, that the females are not quite as physically capable as the guys.[353]

However, the Review heard significant resentment expressed towards the different physical standards, which were variously seen as ‘special treatment for women’, representing a lowering of standards in the military and the only example where women were not treated equally to men. There were suggestions that the Review should make a recommendation to ‘just get rid of the male/female standards’:[354]

These standards should be set at a level that does not diminish the core role of the military, which is to fight wars for the Government. Combat units should be able to set appropriate fitness standards for their role and not have to retreat from those standards because they haven’t got a quota of a certain gender in the unit.[355]

Of greatest concern is that, in an environment where male physical standards are set as the ‘norm’, the existence of different standards for women is used, as one author has put it, as ‘evidence that “women can’t cut it” in the military’[356] or to imply that women are not the equal of men. For example, one confidential submission observed:

When concessions needed to be made for the different physical standards between men and women (such as during physical fitness testing), the participating women were often made fun of and talked down to because of the different standard they had to meet.[357]

A submission by a senior military staff member also commented that ‘proportionally more women than men undertake remedial physical training at ADFA’, despite the allowance for differences in the fitness standards:

It is not clear why physical fitness is a problematic issue, but it is a matter of active consideration at ADFA. Notwithstanding, the problem becomes less significant as women progress through training, and by the time of graduation, all cadets – men and women – have met the necessary fitness requirements for their Service ... More generally, I have never known a woman to ask for gender based special consideration in training.[358]

The Review considers that physical standards that recognise and take into account the physiological differences between men and women are appropriate. They represent a sensible approach which takes into consideration risks to safety and the physical requirements of tasks as part of a person’s role as a member of the Defence Force.

At the same time, it is acknowledged that the current requirements and policy need not be the final say about what the standards themselves should be. As recent changes at ADFA to the fitness tests and remedial training processes demonstrate, the appropriate measures for training and assessment of cadets’ physical development within a safe environment are ongoing matters for consideration. This is recognised by ADFA.

As noted earlier in this chapter, broader ADF policy on creating an equitable and diverse environment refers to providing everyone with an equal opportunity to make the most of their talents and abilities: ‘Equity does not mean sameness; it means fairness’.[359]

The strong opposition to different physical standards conveyed to the Review must be considered in the context of a culture and environment which demands conformity, rather than one which is moving towards greater gender diversity by becoming more inclusive and accommodating the needs and interests of women. It is unlikely that establishing uniform physical standards would have a dramatic impact on the integration of women, in the absence of broader cultural and attitudinal change. However, it does risk introducing further barriers to participation of women within ADFA.


[292] A separate Instruction which applies to APS Department of Defence employees, correlates with the policy in relation to ADF members: see Department of Defence, Departmental Personnel Instruction No 1/2001: ‘Equity and Diversity in the Department of Defence’, 22 January 2001. Atwww.defence.gov.au/fr/policy/dpi01_01.pdf (viewed 6 September 2011).

[293] Department of Defence, Defence Instruction (General) PERS 50-1: ‘Equity and Diversity in the Australian Defence Force’, 18 October 2001, para 4. At www.defence.gov.au/fr/policy/gp50_1.PDF (viewed 6 September 2011).

[294] Department of Defence, Defence Instruction (General) PERS 50-1: ‘Equity and Diversity in the Australian Defence Force’, 18 October 2001, para 8. At www.defence.gov.au/fr/policy/gp50_1.PDF (viewed 6 September 2011).

[295] See Department of Defence, Defence Workplace Equity and Diversity Plan 2007-2009 (2007). Atwww.defence.gov.au/fr/Reports/Combined_WEDP_20070707.pdf (viewed 25 August 2011).

[296] Department of Defence, Defence Instructions (General) PERS 35-3, ‘Management and Reporting of Unacceptable Behaviour’, 28 June 2009. Atwww.defence.gov.au/fr/policy/GP35_03.pdf (viewed 23 August 2011).

[297] Australian Defence Force Academy, ‘Equity and Diversity in Defence, Annual Awareness – 2011, Back to Basics’ PowerPoint presentation, Year One Familiarisation Training Materials (2011) provided to the Review, 9 August 2011.

[298] Department of Defence, Defence Instruction (General) PERS 35-3, ‘Management and Reporting of Unacceptable Behaviour’, 28 June 2009. Atwww.defence.gov.au/fr/policy/GP35_03.pdf (viewed 23 August 2011).

[299] Australian Defence Force Academy, Academy Standard Operating Procedures (2011) chapter 2, para 2.92.

[300] Confidential interview.

[301] Confidential interview.

[302] Public submission White.

[303] Confidential interview.

[304] Cadet focus group.

[305] Confidential interview.

[306] Public submission Burnham.

[307] Cadet focus group.

[308] Cadet focus group.

[309] Confidential interview.

[310] Staff focus group.

[311] Staff focus group.

[312] Australian Defence Force Academy, Report of the review into the policies and practices to deal with sexual harassment and sexual offenses,Department of Defence (1998), Recommendation 7.6.

[313] Australian Defence Force Academy, above, Recommendation 7.6, para 7.49.

[314] Australian Defence Force Academy, above, Recommendation 7.6, para 7.53.

[315] A Podger, C Harris and R Powell, Final Report of the Learning Culture Inquiry: Inquiry into the Learning Culture in ADF Schools and Training Establishments, Department of Defence (2006), p 17.

[316] Australian Defence Force Academy, note 21, Recommendation 7.6, Recommendation 4.8.

[317] ADFA, Joining Instruction, Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) – January 2011 Intake of Officer Cadets, ADFA/OUT/2010/617, 2010/1105646/1(1), Annex F, para 23, provided to the Review.

[318] Department of Defence, Defence Instructions (General) PERS 35-3, ‘Management and Reporting of Unacceptable Behaviour’, 28 June 2009. Atwww.defence.gov.au/fr/policy/GP35_03.pdf (viewed 23 August 2011).

[319] Department of Defence, Defence Instructions (General) PERS 35-3, ‘Management and Reporting of Unacceptable Behaviour’, 28 June 2009. Atwww.defence.gov.au/fr/policy/GP35_03.pdf (viewed 23 August 2011) Annex B, para 32.

[320] Department of Defence, Defence Instructions (General) PERS 35-3, ‘Management and Reporting of Unacceptable Behaviour’, 28 June 2009. Atwww.defence.gov.au/fr/policy/GP35_03.pdf (viewed 23 August 2011) Annex B, para 33.

[321] Australian Defence Force Academy, Academy Standing Orders (2011) chapter 1, para 1.43.

[322] ADFA, Joining Instruction, Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) – 2011 Intake of Naval Officer Year One (NOYO) Midshipmen,ADFA/OUT/2010/11396 – 2008/1105646/1(4), Annex E, para 22, provided to the Review.

[323] Australian Defence Force Academy, Academy Standing Orders (2011) chapter 1, para 1.44.

[324] ADFA, Joining Instruction, Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) – January 2011 Intake of Officer Cadets, ADFA/OUT/2010/617, 2010/1105646/1(1), Annex F, para 23, provided to the Review; Australian Defence Force Academy, Academy Standing Orders (2011) chapter 1, para 1.43.

[325] Australian Defence Force Academy, Academy Standing Orders (2011) chapter 1, para 1.46.

[326] Australian Defence Force Academy, Academy Standing Orders (2011) chapter 1, para 1.47.

[327] Australian Defence Force Academy, Academy Standing Orders (2011) chapter 2, section 2.33.

[328] Australian Defence Force Academy, Academy Standing Orders (2011) chapter 2.

[329] A Podger, C Harris and R Powell, note 24, para 223.

[330] Cadet focus group.

[331] ‘Advanced students’ are midshipmen and officer cadet graduates of the Academy undertaking honours studies or fourth year engineering, and Officers, SNCOs, and Senior Sailors undertaking undergraduate or post graduate studies.

[332] Confidential submission 8.

[333] Explained by cadets in World Cafè; Cadet focus group.

[334] World Cafè, Cadet focus groups.

[335] Explained by cadets in World Cafè; Cadet focus group.

[336] Cadet focus group; Staff focus groups.

[337] Australian Defence Force Academy, ‘Female Briefing 2011’, Year One Familiarisation Training Materials (2011) provided to the Review, 9 August 2011.

[338] Cadet focus group.

[339] The PowerPoint presentation accompanying the female briefing consists of 35 slides whereas the male version consists of 11 slides.

[340] Cadet focus group.

[341] Cadet focus group.

[342] M Flood, ‘Men, Sex and Homosociality: How Bonds Between Men Shape Their Sexual Relations with Women’ (2008) 10(3) Men and Masculinities 339, p 347.

[343] Cadet focus group.

[344] World Cafè.

[345] Cadet focus group.

[346] Cadet focus group.

[347] Cadet focus group.

[348] Cadet focus group.

[349] Confidential interview.

[350] Public submission Bannerman.

[351] Defence Force Recruiting, Important Information for Full Time General Entry and Officer Entry Candidates, DFR-RECREF050 (revised 21 February 2011). At www.defencejobs.gov.au/content/pdf/triservice/DFR-RECREF050.ImportantInformationForGeneralEntryandOfficerEntryCandidates.pdf (viewed 6 September 2011).

[352] See Appendix H: ADFA conducts an Initial Fitness Assessment of cadets during YOFT, based on the fitness assessment conducted on entry into the Army (an Initial Fitness Assessment involving a shuttle run, push-ups and sit-ups) which allows for some gender differences. Cadets also undergo the ‘ADFA Fit Test’ (introduced last year) 3 times a year in conjunction with the Single Service Fitness Test (SSFT) which must be passed as a prerequisite for graduation in third year. The ADFA Fit Test is intended to be a standard test for all 1st and 2nd year cadets ‘which is fair and equitable’ and provides a mixture of all three different Service SSFT standards. Those who fail to achieve the required standards will be placed onto remedial PT and will not be allowed to participate in sport.

[353] Cadet focus group.

[354] Cadet focus group.

[355] Public submission Bannerman.

[356] C Cohn, ‘“How can she claim equal rights when she doesn’t have to do as many push ups as I do?”: The Framing of Men’s Opposition to Women’s Equality in the Military’ (2000) 3(2) Men and Masculinities 131. At www.genderandsecurity.umb.edu/Pushups.pdf (viewed 23 August 2011).

[357] Confidential submission 13.

[358] Public submission COL Petersen.

[359] Department of Defence, Defence Instruction (General) PERS 50-1: ‘Equity and Diversity in the Australian Defence Force’, 18 October 2001. Atwww.defence.gov.au/fr/policy/gp50_1.PDF (viewed 6 September 2011).