GLOSS Issue 19 DEC 2014-JAN 2015 - Page 23

Let’s step back a bit. To be frank, the Australian military has not had a reputation for gender equality and being a hugely forward thinking entity in the last hundred or so years. I can say this with equanimity as the ex-partner of an Australian military officer and (briefly) as a cadet at the Australian Defence Force Academy. This is not to say that there are not brilliant, brave, loyal, worthy, amazing leaders and personnel of both sexes within the ranks, because there sure as hell are; it’s just that the old boys’ network was firmly a part of the way the military worked. What the last decade or so has seen however, is a growing uneasiness within the ADF itself, and a rising public perception, that what may have been accepted previously as all part of the ‘just the way things are’ was in fact masking deeper and much darker issues. Then a certain Infantry officer, whose background places him firmly in said old boys’ network, decided that issues which had been swept under the carpet needed not only to be made public, but to be vacuumed up and dumped in the garbage once and for all. I first met Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, just as he came into office as Chief of Army in 2011. I am sure that our meeting was just as auspicious for him as it was for me, and that he has fond memories of the brief handshake we shared at a major Defence conference in Sydney. I know that they say hindsight is 20/20, but it was evident even then that this was a man on a mission. He wasn’t there to mess around, or to give lip service and say ‘for the next three years (it was extended to four) I will be sitting back and providing a figurehead for a branch of the ADF which is doing just fine, thanks very much’. He was there to start change, and that’s exactly what he has done. He was soon thrust into the role with a thud, when a new cadet at ADFA filmed himself having sex with a fellow female recruit and ‘Skyped’ it to other male cadets. His troubles were only just beginning however, when in 2013, the so-called ‘Jedi Council’ scandal came to light, involving several officers and senior noncommissioned personnel sending e-mails from official Army accounts which were, as he described them, “explicit, derogatory, demeaning and repugnant” towards women with whom they were serving. This brought forth the famous YouTube clip, which was first shown on the Army’s official channel. It also brought forth sackings, suspensions and wholesale enquiries into Army’s ‘exclusionist’ way of thinking - oh, and world-wide fame for a certain Chief of Army. As General Morrison said to me, “I do shake my head that a 37-year career has been crystallised into a 3 minute YouTube video – but in some ways those words did shape what needed to happen into the future of Army and defence. We must draw potential from everybody. If you can’t recognise that, you are not part of a progressive or capable Army, and you should find new ground.”