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Workplace Equity and Diversity


The Defence Workplace Equity and Diversity Plan 2003-2005 was published in May 2003. The plan is aimed at ensuring that equity and diversity principles are integrated with the way Defence operates. Other publications produced and promoted in 2002-03 included the Guide to Equity and Diversity in Defence booklet and the Equity and Diversity in Defence brochure. The Defence Equity Organisation also revised and released the booklet entitled A Guide to Fair Leadership and Discipline in the Australian Defence Force, Defence instructions relating to the Defence equity adviser network and policy on religious practices of the ADF.

During 2002-03, the number of Defence staff trained as equity advisers increased from 2,800 to approximately 4,000. To complement the equity adviser network, Defence continued to maintain the toll-free and confidential Defence Equity Advice Lines, which were available to Defence personnel and their families.

Each year, Defence celebrates its diverse workforce by participating in broader community activities. One example is Harmony Day, celebrated in March 2003, which focused on religious harmony, acknowledging the range of religions represented in Defence. Together with the Religious Advisory Council to the Services, the Defence Equity Organisation developed a Declaration of Religious Harmony in Defence. The declaration was signed by representatives from the Buddhist, Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths at a ceremony held at Russell Offices in Canberra. In July 2002, as its contribution to National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee Week, Defence conducted a memorial service at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Memorial in Canberra to honour Australia's indigenous servicemen and servicewomen. The International Day of People with a DisAbility was observed in December 2002, through the dissemination of information, display of posters and invitation of guest speakers.

Education and Training

Equity and diversity awareness training is a mandatory requirement for all Defence personnel. Awareness training is available as a PowerPoint presentation and as an on-line course. During 2002-03, approximately 80 per cent of Defence personnel undertook this training. Although this is a good result for Defence, strategies are being developed to ensure a higher level of participation in 2003-04.

In October 2002, an awareness session entitled Defence: Fair, Inclusive and Bully-free was launched. These information sessions, conducted in 2003, were aimed at informing and providing direction to staff on identifying and dealing with this type of behaviour.

Equity adviser workshops and refresher courses were conducted in all regions. In addition, the Defence Equity Organisation conducted six 'Fair Go' courses throughout the year, generating awareness of discriminatory practices to 113 staff members of career management agencies. In 2002-03, the Defence Equity Organisation established a cultural awareness training fund. During the year, approval for funding was granted to five units to undertake cultural awareness training at a total cost of $28,462.


The commitment to a diverse workforce is articulated in the Defence Multicultural Policy. The diversity profile of the workforce is obtained through the analysis of voluntary information provided by staff on joining Defence. The profile is based on data related to people with a disability, people from a non-English speaking background and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The table below demonstrates that there was little change in the Defence diversity profile in 2002-03.

Table 5.17: Diversity of all Defence Personnel as at 30 June 2002 and 2003(1)
Male Female Non-English speaking background(2) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders People with a disability(3)
% % % % %
01-02 02-03 01-02 02-03 01-02 02-03 01-02 02-03 01-02 02-03
Navy 83.6 83.2 16.4 16.8 0.7 1.5 0.05 0.1 0 0
Army 90.0 90.0 10.0 10.0 Not known 4.6 Not known 0.27 0 0
Air Force 85.2 85.1 14.8 14.9 4.1 5.2 0.15 0.16 0 0
APS 65.4 65.2 34.1 34.8 13.3 14.0 0.53 0.52 2.8 2.5
  1. Figures for the Navy, the Army and the Air Force include full-time personnel and Reservists on continuous full-time service. |
  2. A non-English speaking background includes any person who indicated that either one or both parents was from a non-English speaking background or spoke English and another language at home. |
  3. People with a disability includes people with an identified physical or mental disability (including chronic ailments or conditions such as diabetes).

Indigenous Australians

In 2002-03, Defence launched a pilot mentoring and peer support program to assist participants of the national indigenous cadetship project. Defence sponsored four new cadetships under the project. Six cadets continued their cadetships during the year and three graduated.

Two indigenous liaison officer positions were established in Woomera and Darwin to develop and maintain links with local indigenous communities. As part of the ADF Cadet Indigenous Participation Strategic Plan, two additional indigenous liaison officers were appointed to manage pilot projects to enhance indigenous participation in the ADF cadet scheme.

Defence continued its participation in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Army Community Assistance Program. The program utilises the expertise of the Army to provide vital infrastructure assistance to remote indigenous communities. One project, incorporating seven indigenous communities, was

completed during 2002-03 and is currently under a 12-month 'defects liability' period. Another project is currently under construction at Palm Island.


Based on research into gender diversity in Defence, undertaken in 2002 by a project team from the Australian Graduate School of Management, the Defence Equity Organisation developed a draft Gender Diversity Strategy in 2002-03. Stakeholders have agreed to the overall themes and principles of the draft strategy. A working group has been identified to develop future actions and responsibilities.

Men and women have equal access to employment in the ADF with the exception of certain functions involving direct combat duties. Following a direction from the then Chiefs of Staff Committee in November 2001, planning commenced on a proposal to enable physical employment standards to be developed for the Army's combat arms employment categories and the Air Force's airfield defence guards. The project will result in data being collected to enable improved understanding of the physical characteristics and performance capacity of Defence personnel and to develop a trade selection and barrier testing regime that will optimise an individual's likely success in each employment category. The project will begin in the second half of 2003.


The Commonwealth Disability Strategy 1994 requires all departments and agencies to develop a Disability Action Plan and lodge it with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Defence complied with this requirement and produced the Disability Action Plan 1999-2003, aimed at ensuring that people with a disability were not disadvantaged in being employed at Defence. With the cessation of the Disability Action Plan 1999-2003 on 30 April 2003, actions to ensure fair treatment of disabled people have been included in the Defence Workplace Equity and Diversity Plan 2003-2005.

Under the Technical Equipment for Disabled Commonwealth Employees Program, Defence continued to provide equipment for APS employees with disabilities. The equipment included voice recognition software, monitors for the visually impaired, wheel chair hoists and hearing aids. In 2002-03, $38,000 was expended on this initiative.

Unacceptable Behaviour

Defence maintains a strong stance on all personnel having the basic right to work in an environment free from harassment, discrimination and other unacceptable behaviour. Initiatives in place to address unacceptable behaviour include:

In August and September 2002, a representative sample of 5,160 ADF members and a sample of 1,500 Defence APS employees were selected to participate in the 2002 ADF and Defence APS unacceptable behaviour surveys. In line with survey findings and the need to make equity and diversity a mainstream element of people management, the theme for the 2004 equity and diversity awareness presentation will be 'Making and Managing a Complaint of Unacceptable Behaviour'. A training program, 'Equity and Diversity Responsibilities of Managers and Supervisors', was launched in July 2003.

The Defence Equity Organisation maintains a database of reported incidents of unacceptable behaviour. Current statistics show an overall increase in incident reporting from all Services, with the exception of the Army, whose reporting has decreased slightly. The overall upward trend in reporting may indicate that there is an increasing awareness of equity and diversity policies and processes, resulting in people taking appropriate action as part of their rights. The relatively high number of complaints in the Navy may be attributed to the confidence in the chain of command to deal with these issues. The increase in reported complaints by Defence APS employees and contracted staff may be attributed to the stronger awareness of reporting requirements.

Chart 5.4 shows the total number of unacceptable behaviour incidents reported for each of the last four years. Prescribed unacceptable behaviour includes sexual offences, sexual harassment, general harassment, fraternisation, workplace bullying and abuse of power.

Chart 5.4: Comparison of Reported Unacceptable Behaviour Incidents 1999-2003

Bar chart showing number of reports of unacceptable behaviour incidents per Service for the period 1999-2003

Chart 5.5 indicates the number of complaints of unacceptable behaviour per head of the Defence population for 2002-03. The figures are derived from a straight percentage calculation using the number of personnel in each Service and the number of complaints reported for each Service.

Chart 5.5: Percentage of Reported Unacceptable Behaviour Incidents by Service for 2001-02 and 2002-03

Bar chart showing reported unacceptable behaviour incidents as a percentage of personnel by Service for the last two years