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New recruitment strategies delivering a diverse and skilled workforce

Diversity and inclusion in Defence is a critical capability issue. Attracting people who represent the Australian population in its diversity ensures that we are getting the best talent that Australia can provide, and in doing so, ensures that we can deliver and sustain Defence capability.

This year, the focus has continued on the recruitment of Indigenous Australians, women, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates.

This focus has seen the percentage of Indigenous Australian Defence Force members increase from 2 per cent to 2.3 per cent and Indigenous Australian Public Service employees increase from 1.8 per cent to 2 per cent.

The percentage of women in the Australian Defence Force and Defence Australian Public Service workforce increased from 15.5 per cent to 16.7 per cent and from 41.2 per cent to 41.8 per cent respectively.

Indigenous entry pathways

In 2016–17, Defence prepared around 200 Indigenous Australians for a job in the Navy, Army or Air Force through the Indigenous Pre-Recruit Program, the Defence Indigenous Development Program and the Army Indigenous Development Program.

The Indigenous Pre-Recruit Program is a six-week residential program held at the Kapooka Army base in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Participants from all over Australia become ADF members on day one of the program. Upon completion, members undertake recruit training with the Navy, Army or Air Force before commencing employment.

Twenty-year-old Wiradjuri man, Blake Kernan, graduated in June 2017 and described the program as ‘amazing’. ‘I was quite the shy one, but being here has helped me lift my voice. They have given me leadership and a lot of courage. I am proud to be who I am,’ Kernan said.

Defence will continue to offer entry pathways to Indigenous Australians interested in a career in 2017 and beyond, with at least 10 programs to be available each year.

A military career is not the only pathway into Defence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Indigenous Apprenticeships Program (managed and coordinated by the Department of Human Services) and the Indigenous Australian Government Development Program (managed by the Department of Employment) saw the successful engagement of 70 Indigenous Australians in 2016–17.

Trainees enter Defence at either the APS 2 or APS 3 level and complete a certificate- or diploma-level qualification before moving on to their next Australian Public Service classification.

Defence has committed to the recruitment of a further 90 trainees through the two programs in 2017–18.


While women make up half the Australian population, they remain underrepresented in Defence. Achieving a better gender balance is not just about equality or doing the right thing, it is about building our capability and ensuring our operational effectiveness.

As Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Defence, said at a Defence leadership forum in early 2017:

As the Minister for Defence, and particularly the first female Minister for Defence, I am enormously proud of the significant focus this organisation has placed on increasing gender equality. I am particularly proud of the number of initiatives Defence has in place to increase female participation and the advancement of women through the leadership pipeline. These initiatives are removing barriers and are paying dividends.

Over the past 12 months, there has been an increase in the number of women in both the Australian Defence Force and Defence’s public service workforce. In the most recent recruitment rounds for the Senior Executive Service, where 43 per cent of appointments were women, compared to around 30 per cent in the existing senior executive cohort. For the first time, there are two women at the top table in the Defence leadership ranks—Deputy Secretary Strategic Policy and Intelligence, Rebecca Skinner, and Deputy Secretary Defence People, Roxanne Kelley.

Defence will continue to sustain a dedicated focus on increasing the representation of women in Defence. This includes an ongoing investment in attraction, recruitment and retention of women, the removal of barriers to progression, and facilitating career development through mentoring and leadership opportunities.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce

Defence’s innovative efforts to attract and retain a workforce with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are also producing results.

Defence conducts entry-level engagement activities, including sponsorships, cadetships, employability workshops and ‘women in leadership’ talks for female tertiary students studying STEM disciplines. Defence also supports STEM-focused tertiary, secondary and primary school outreach activities throughtargeted programs, and via collaboration with external specialist organisations.

To support retention of women in STEM disciplines, the Defence Science and Technology Group is participating in the Science in Australia Gender Equity program of the Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network). The Science in Australia Gender Equity program is an accreditation and improvement program promoting gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine organisations.

In addition, the Defence Civilian Undergraduate Sponsorship offers aspiring university students the opportunity to study engineering or ICT through the University of New South Wales Canberra campus at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Participants receive ‘hands on’ paid work experience and get a head start for a future career within Defence.