Indigenous support programs

Defence is committed to supporting and developing its Indigenous members from when they first join the organisation right throughout their careers. Defence offers a range of support programs, Indigenous specific training opportunities, formal and informal networking and special provisions for its Indigenous employees.

Defence acknowledges that undertaking full-time employment can be challenging for some Indigenous Australians, particularly when they are isolated from their family and community. Defence acknowledges this separation, and its impact on Indigenous members and employees, through positive and supporting actions.

Additional support mechanisms to retain Indigenous ADF members and APS employees include formalising networking arrangements and developing a greater awareness of the effects of full-time employment on Indigenous Australian cultures. Support can also include career development pathways and opportunities, and supportive conditions that recognise cultural requirements. Cultural integration is also key to enabling both Indigenous and non-Indigenous ADF members and APS employees to recognise their common organisational culture and commitment to Defence.

For more information on Defence support programs, please email

Defence Enterprise Agreement

The Defence Enterprise Agreement (DEA) includes explicit provisions enabling Indigenous members to participate in cultural activities during NAIDOC week and other ceremonial events.

Defence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Network

Defence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Network (DATSIN) is a body comprising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders employed in Defence. The network is a communication vehicle that provides informal support to its members for its members and by its members.

The DATSIN participates in increasing Indigenous representation within the ADF and acts as advocates for Defence at public activities and within Defence on Indigenous matters as they relate to Indigenous Australians.

The support provided by DATSIN members includes:

  • Representation at local community events, including conducting presentations, assisting in the conduct of activities and being available to discuss Indigenous matters and Defence’s contribution to Indigenous Australians;
  • Assist in various programs run by Defence which can include assisting with the planning, coordination and delivery of training programs and information sessions;
  • Provide mentoring and support to Indigenous members and employees, particularly new entrants;
  • Participate in interview panels as an Indigenous Defence representative; and
  • Attend public events as an Indigenous Defence representative to engage with the local community and promote the extensive career paths available to Indigenous people wanting careers in the Department of Defence.

There is an annual DATSIN Conference. The Conference, attended by indigenous and non-indigenous ADF members and APS employees, provides an opportunity to network with fellow DATSIN members, be updated on current programs and contribute to the development of Indigenous initiatives in Defence. The 2015 conference program is currently being developed. More information will follow shortly.

As the DATSIN comprises members located all over Australia, localised 'chapters' of the network are being established. This will ensure that interested members have the opportunity to meet more regularly on an informal basis to network, discuss issues and support one another.

Certificate IV in Indigenous Leadership

This course is designed to develop the capacity of Indigenous people in order to take on leadership and senior roles in communities, workplaces, organisations and within the family unit. 25 Indigenous Defence employees commenced the program in May 2015.

Induction program

The induction program assists supervisors in their role in developing and supporting Indigenous staff and provides trainees with a better insight into APS and ADF employment in Defence.

Graduate and trainee social network

The network provides support for all APS graduates who have recently arrived in Canberra and under Defence leadership is now open to all APS Indigenous trainees.

Host Family Program

A program for Defence Indigenous employees who may be dislocated from their communities in order to work in Defence. The Host Family Program links Indigenous staff that may have had to move from their homes and families to a 'host' family in the new location.

Cultural Awareness Indigenous training

The Cultural Awareness Indigenous (CA(I)) Learning Framework is focused on increasing Defence’s capability by ensuring all employees have a better understanding of the culture, history and traditions of Indigenous Australians. The framework provides a five-tiered approach to CA(I) training. As an individual progresses through their ADF or APS career, they will undertake various tiers of training. For example, when ADFA students learn about historical military figures, an indigenous member will be one option. The exception is the specialist level, which will require more tailored training and learning for those Defence members working in Indigenous policy and programs.

Implementation will be through embedding cultural content into existing training packages. Defence’s training institutions are required to review their training material and where possible incorporate Indigenous history and culture. This approach will ensure the Indigenous cultural awareness training becomes integrated into existing training and becomes business as usual.

As a starting point, Defence currently has an online e-learning package which provides a base-level introduction to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture; with a particular focus on members in Defence. To date, over 8,300 defence members have completed this training.


Due to the diverse and unique nature of the Defence environment and operations, there is no one-size fits all approach to mentoring. Many successful mentoring relationships are already taking place across Defence, formally and informally.

While some Defence Groups and Services have specific programs and initiatives, mentoring in Defence is seen as a natural avenue to facilitate relationships so that employees with a broad range of skills, technical expertise and personal attributes, can share advice and knowledge to support and guide less experienced employees in a mutually beneficial way.

DIA is currently undergoing work within each of the Defence Groups and Services mentoring programs to ensure they are culturally appropriate for Indigenous men and women from the ADF and the APS.


Jawun is an external organisation that provides exciting opportunities for professionals, including Defence APS Executive Level officers (EL1 or EL2) and ADF members ((LTCOL/COL(e)), to apply their skills and knowledge to projects in Indigenous communities and organisations.

These placements (typically for six weeks) provide a way for Defence to contribute to the reconciliation process within Australia.

Defence participants will have the opportunity to make a direct contribution to an Indigenous organisation. Most participants come away with a richer and deeper understanding of the challenges faced by Indigenous people, Indigenous culture, and broader networks among Indigenous communities and organisations.