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Gender in Defence and Security Leadership Conference

AIRCDRE Kathryn Dunn addresses the Gender in Defence and Security Leadership Conference held in Canberra.
AIRCDRE Kathryn Dunn addresses the Gender in Defence and Security Leadership Conference held in Canberra.

More than 200 representatives from the Australian Defence Force and the national security community attended the inaugural Gender in Defence and Security Leadership Conference recently held in Canberra on 12 and 13 March 2013.

The conference provided an opportunity to examine how gender diversity builds capability in the defence and security arena.

The Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, said the conference invited debate and discussion about what action is required to achieve greater equality, diversity and inclusion across Defence.

“Defence is not starting from a zero base but the key to success in this endeavour will be to continue to engage with our female workforce to understand their needs and ensure that the men in our organisation are accepting and supporting as we move to address these needs,” General Hurley said.

General Hurley told the conference the ADF had a very different demographic compared to when he first joined the Army more than 40 years ago.

“When I was a junior officer in the early 1970s, more than a few eyebrows were raised in the 1st Battalion when two female clerks were posted into the Battalion Headquarters.

“Today women are deployed to all operational theatres and serve as Commanding Officers of major warships, Air Force Squadrons and Army Units and they fill executive appointments across the Defence organisation.”

General Hurley said that gender equality was only the start of a much broader cultural shift toward increased diversity and inclusion.

“I want the Australian Defence Force to be recognised as an employer of choice; a fair, just and inclusive organisation that sets the benchmark for other employers.

“Everyone at every level has an active role to play in living the Defence values and meeting this intent,” General Hurley said.

Speakers included Minister for Defence Stephen Smith who used his address to announce Brigadier Simone Wilkie’s promotion to Major General in mid 2013.

“Simone will become the second female officer to reach Major General in the Army and will take up her position as Commander Australian Defence College from July this year,” Minister Smith said.

Other speakers included the Minister for Science and Personnel, the Hon Warren Snowdon MP, former Queensland premier, Anna Bligh, civilian expert, Dr Edwina Thompson and international speakers representing the United States, the United Kingdom, Canadian and New Zealand militaries.

US Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mark E. Ferguson III, a champion for enhancing career and leadership opportunities for women in the US military, gave an overview of the US Navy’s journey of integrating women into all elements of the US Naval service. Other international speakers shared their personal stories and experiences of being a female in the military.