…………….Cultural reform

The Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture strategy was launched in March 2012, with an initial implementation period of five years. The cultural reform program included 175 key actions and recommendations and advice from seven reviews into aspects of Defence culture and other reform directions. All key actions and review recommendations were finalised as at December 2016.


Results from the Defence 2017 YourSay survey support the organisation’s commitment to cultural reform, with approximately two-thirds of respondents reporting that they, and their supervisors, were committed to Pathway to Change. In addition, over 80 per cent of respondents felt that their supervisor’s leadership and behaviour was in accordance with Defence values.

Although much has been done since 2012 to strengthen the best in Defence culture, workforce and survey data shows that there is more work to be done. The next evolution of cultural reform has been informed by a deliberate and significant Defence-wide consultation effort held in 2016. Staff at all levels agreed on the importance of building on the Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture strategy.

A refreshed statement of cultural intent was seen as important, encompassing the principles of Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture, but also giving weight to the progress made since 2012 and providing a platform to sustain a more positive culture. The 2016 consultation showed that a more positive and inclusive culture is understood by many to be a key part of Defence capability. Across the workforce, leadership accountability for delivering reform was also seen as critical, as was working more collaboratively as One Defence.

Based on feedback from the Defence-wide consultation, a refreshed statement of cultural intent, including six priorities for future cultural reform focus, was developed, and is being incorporated into Defence business planning and reporting frameworks. The priorities being worked on across Defence are:

  • leadership accountability
  • capability through inclusion
  • ethics and workplace behaviours
  • health, wellness and safety
  • workplace agility and flexibility
  • leading and developing integrated teams.

During 2016–17, Defence also completed its third year of collaboration with the Australian Human Rights Commission. This collaboration has included visits by the commission to 18 Defence establishments to examine particular aspects of culture and how effective particular strategies have been, and to provide input into more specific reform initiatives. The findings from these visits informed wider reform efforts and are being implemented by the respective Services, with oversight provided by Defence’s Gender Equality Advisory Board.

Removal of gender restrictions on ADF combat role employment categories

The removal of gender restrictions on ADF combat role employment categories has been instrumental in a significant and ongoing shift in the ADF culture. Defence is creating an environment that supports the aspiration of all members to contribute fully to ADF capability.

Since January 2016, all ADF employment categories have been open to women currently serving in the ADF, as well as those applying to join the ADF for the first time. The decision to remove gender restrictions was about maximising capability by opening up a wider recruitment pool of talent for combat roles. This decision provides equal opportunity for both men and women wanting to apply for these roles and provides an avenue for ability, not gender, to be the deciding factor when determining which roles ADF members can serve in.

In 2017, Defence supported the withdrawal of Australia’s reservation to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the repeal of section 43 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. Defence’s support for these actions reflects the removal of gender restrictions on ADF combat roles, which has played an important role in enabling a more diverse and inclusive culture.

Defence continues to assess and refine its training and combat-specific processes, policies and systems to ensure that the environments in which members are trained and undertake combat roles provide the opportunity for all members to contribute fully to ADF capability.

Complaint handling and resolution

Defence personnel have the right to complain if they are aggrieved by matters relating to their employment. ADF members may apply for redress of grievance under the Defence Regulation 2016. APS employees may seek a review of actions under the Public Service Act 1999.

APS review of actions

Section 33 of the Public Service Act 1999 establishes a ‘review of actions’ scheme and allows non-Senior Executive Service APS employees to seek review where they have a complaint about an action or a decision relating to their employment. Defence received 67 applications for review of actions in 2016–17, which is a small reduction from the previous year (Figure 7.4). In 2016–17, 74 applications were finalised, including several received in the previous year. The following areas continue to feature most regularly in the applications for review:

  • performance management, assessment and reporting
  • management of unacceptable behaviour complaints by line management
  • security clearance decisions
  • staff selection and the allocation of duties
  • access to leave or other employment conditions.

Figure 7.4: APS review of actions applications received and finalised, 2012–13 to 2016–17

Figure 7.4: APS review of actions applications received and finalised, 2012–13 to 2016–17

Unacceptable behaviour

Defence personnel can make a complaint about any incident of unacceptable behaviour that they have experienced or witnessed in the workplace. Complaints of unacceptable behaviour are reported and recorded in a central database. Guidance and support is available to ensure that complaints are managed and resolved appropriately.

All Defence personnel are required to undertake annual workplace behaviour training, which includes information about expected behaviours and guidance on making and managing complaints.

In 2016–17, 668 complaints of unacceptable behaviour were recorded in the Defence complaints management, tracking and reporting system (Figure 7.5). This continues a trend of decreasing complaint numbers and reflects ongoing efforts across Defence to reduce the incidence of unacceptable behaviour.

In 2016–17, 714 complaints were finalised, including those received in previous years. While the majority of complaints are expected to be finalised within three months, some complaints remain open for extended periods, such as when the matter is subject to an inquiry or investigation. In the past two years, the higher number of complaints finalised compared to the number received reflects efforts to finalise longstanding open complaints, as well as improvements made to the self-service functionality of the Defence complaints management, tracking and reporting system.

On average, between 80 and 90 per cent of unacceptable behaviour incidents are of a level where local management is the most appropriate course of action. However, between 10 and 20 per cent are of a seriousness that results in a formal disciplinary or administrative outcome. Defence encourages the use of alternative dispute resolution, and the majority of complaints continue to be resolved at the lowest practical level. The number of complaints of alleged unacceptable behaviour represents complaints from less than 1 per cent of the Defence workforce.

Figure 7.5: Unacceptable behaviour complaints received and finalised, 2012–13 to 2016–17

Figure 7.5: Unacceptable behaviour complaints received and finalised, 2012–13 to 2016–17


Reporting on sexual misconduct

Defence’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (SeMPRO) provides personnel with victim support, case management services, including assistance through formal reporting, investigation and legal processes, and educational programs and resources.

Victim services encompass a 24/7 telephone response service for Defence personnel seeking help with their experiences of sexual offences and sexual harassment. The service also offers assistance for commanders, managers and colleagues managing sexual misconduct incidents. In 2016–17, 488 clients were assisted with support and case management; incident management advice and information; debriefing and other mental health support; and information on available services, civilian assaults, and other behaviour management systems in Defence. SeMPRO is also a primary data collection point for sexual misconduct incidents formally reported to Defence.

The Sexual Ethics Education in Defence learning strategy was developed as a primary prevention program that aims to ensure all military personnel have the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to make sound ethical decisions in their sexual relationships. The learning strategy elements are designed to target different audiences to engender a zero tolerance culture towards sexual misconduct and create a Defence workplace that is respectful of the sexual safety of all.

There is increased awareness and understanding of the services of the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office. Education programs have been implemented, including the rollout of bystander awareness training. During 2016–17, SeMPRO provided awareness briefings to over 29,000 Defence personnel.

The SeMPRO Supplementary Report 2016–17 [PDF-307KB] contains detailed information on client service provision and formally reported incidents in Defence during 2016–17.

Diversity in Defence

The Defence Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2012–2017 outlines the commitment to creating an inclusive and progressive organisation that maximises capability through capitalising on a diverse and inclusive workforce. This aim is further supported through the recently endorsed statement of cultural intent and the key priority ‘capability through inclusion’.

Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce continued to be a key priority for Defence in 2016–17, with achievements made against the five strategic goals within the Defence Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2012–2017, which is available at

Defence implemented a range of initiatives to increase the number of women in both the ADF and the APS workforce. This includes attracting, recruiting and retaining women, removing the barriers to career progression, and facilitating career development through mentoring and leadership opportunities.

Women in the Defence APS workforce

Defence developed an action plan to support implementation of Balancing the Future: The Australian Public Service Gender Equality Strategy 2016–19, which sets out actions for addressing the gender imbalance across the APS.

Initiatives implemented to support women in achieving their full potential included:

  • increased representation of women in Executive Levels 1 and 2 talent management programs
  • partnerships with industry and academia aimed at attracting and retaining women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  • developing an unconscious bias awareness package, which includes specific modules for recruitment and selection, and commanders and managers who have supervisory responsibilities
  • implementing a flexible work education campaign to identify and challenge potential barriers to implementing a mainstream, Defence-wide approach to flexible work
  • developing a range of interventions to address domestic and family violence.

There has been an increase in the representation of women at all levels within the Defence APS workforce. Since 30 June 2016, the representation of women in the Defence APS ongoing workforce increased from 41.2 per cent to 41.8 per cent over the last 12 months (Table 7.15). A particular increase has been seen at the Senior Executive Service level, with women now representing 32.6 per cent of the Defence Senior Executive Service, an increase of 2.8 per cent. While the representation of women at the APS 1 to 6 levels and Executive Levels 1 and 2 showed a slight improvement, there is more to be done. Gender representation recruitment targets have been established for the graduate program and for executive and senior executive levels. This is reinforced through the action plan under the Defence Gender Equality Strategy.

Women in the ADF

Defence is conducting a range of activities to increase the number of women in the ADF, including by setting female workforce participation targets for each Service. The ADF is also implementing options for greater flexibility in the Services’ career models to ensure women’s advancement is supported—and not impacted adversely—when taking career breaks or seeking location stability.

The Women in the ADF report is published as an online supplement to the Defence annual report. The report is a mechanism for the Services to report against achievements that address elements of the recommendations from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Review into the treatment of women in the Australian DefenceForce—Phase 2 report (2012). This includes recommendation 3—women’s participation, women’s experience and access to flexible work; recommendation 6—promotional gateways; recommendation 9—recruitment targets; and recommendation 13—flexible work arrangement targets.

The report presents a range of workforce and attitudinal data and compares the current year’s data with that of the previous year to gain an indication of the progress Defence has achieved. This is the fifth year of the Women in the ADF report and, in addition to comparing the current and previous year, this year’s report also conducts a five-year comparison to 2012–13 to provide an overview of long-term progress. Over the last five years, the scope of the report has evolved and expanded to provide a view of gender inclusion across the Defence people system.

The Women in the ADF Report 2016–17 shows that, since the commencement of the Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture strategy and the implementation of the recommendations from the Phase 2 report, the ADF has put considerable effort into growing and advancing the female ADF workforce. As at 30 June 2017, the participation rate of women in the ADF reached 16.7 per cent, an increase of 1.2 per cent from 15.5 per cent as at 30 June 2016 (Table 7.16). The number of women serving in the ADF is 709 more than at the same time last year. As at 30 June 2017, there were also 79 women in senior officer positions in the ADF, seven more than at the same time last year.

The report also highlights areas that require more comprehensive analysis, allowing Defence to prioritise further research on gender diversity.


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