Defence celebrated International Womens Day in 2015 by participating in the United Nations HeForShe campaign.
Although men still make up the majority of the Defence workforce, recent years have seen improved access to flexible work arrangements within both the military and civilian workforce and the removal of gender restrictions in combat roles.
Combat role employment categories in the Australian Defence Force were opened to current serving women in 2013, with direct recruitment to commence by 2016.
This was one of the many topics discussed at the Defence International Womens Day keynote event, held in Canberra to launch Defences celebration of International Womens Day across Australia. This event centred on the UN campaign Lets not wait another 20 years for gender equality, and highlighted that gender equality is not only a womens issue: it is a human rights issue.
For this reason, a gender-balanced panel discussion took place at the Australian Defence College on 5 March 2015. The discussion was hosted by the Gender Adviser to the Chief of the Defence Force, Julie McKay, and was introduced by Steve Grzeskowiak, Deputy Secretary, Defence Support and Reform.
The panellists included key personnel from all three Services and the Australian Public Service. They were Air Commodore Catherine Roberts, Director General of Aerospace Combat Systems; Captain Mark Hill, Programme Director of New Generation Navy (Navys culture change programme); Warrant Officer David Ashley, Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army; and Ms Michelle Kelly, Head of the Defence Industry Division, Defence Materiel Organisation.
The discussion focused on the continuing barriers to women within the Defence military and civilian sectors, and what is being done to address those barriers. At the conclusion of the event, a Defence-made video supporting HeForShe was played, featuring the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, and the Secretary for Defence, Dennis Richardson. The video, which can be viewed online in the Defence media gallery, challenged the audience to spread awareness and spark action by highlighting inequalities.
While acknowledging Defence still has some way to go to achieve the deep cultural reform it seeks, Defence leaders are confident that these challenges are being addressed through the continued implementation of Defences cultural reform strategy, Status/pathwaytochange/">Pathway to Change.