Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged the Australian Defence Force to maintain its strong effort to recruit more women into key positions, saying that visible female leaders are crucial to addressing gender imbalance in the military.
Addressing the ADF’s International Women’s Day Morning Tea in Canberra, Turnbull said young women needed to actually see female role models “coming up through the ranks” that are leading by example.
“If you can’t see it you can’t be it. You’re being it, you’re being seen and others will follow in your footsteps,” Turnbull told ADF members.
“There are so many young girls that will look at you and say: ‘I can do that’. And that is important.”
The Prime Minister said women made up more than 20% of ADF recruits this year, while the Navy now had a female recruitment level of 29% and Australian Defence Force Academy
“There are now 266 women serving on current overseas ADF operations, representing more than 13 per cent of the total deployed force. Australian service women now comprise 16 per cent of the permanent full-time ADF,” Turnbull said.
“There are currently 82 women in senior officer positions compared to 48 in February 2012.”
The ADF took a major step to open up its ranks to women last year, with all combat roles made open to female recruits from 1st January 2016.
More than a uniform
However the PM stressed that the contribution that female participation in the military made to Australia went well beyond combat capability.
“We should also reflect on the fact that women and children are disproportionately affected by war, conflict, instability and natural disasters,” Turnbull said.
“The ADF is helping implement the United Nations Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security through the whole-of-government National Action Plan.
“The plan sets out the framework by which Australia is encouraging women’s participation in conflict prevention, management and resolution. It ensures our peacekeeping and humanitarian operations take gender into account in their response,” he said.
The PM citied recent aid and disaster response efforts from both the ADF and DFAT to Cyclone Winston in Fiji where Australian “personnel delivered more effective, targeted help because they were able to connect with local women and target their needs.”
Gender equality was “the responsibility of all Australians” and not just an issue for women, Turnbull stressed.
“When you empower a woman, you empower a family, you empower a nation – the whole economy and the whole community benefits.