More women, Indigenous Aussies in defence

Tim Dornin
·2-min read

The number of women and Indigenous Australians in the nation's defence force is growing but still makes up just a small portion of the permanent and reserve personnel, a new report has found.

The 2019 Defence Census Public Report has been released and puts total defence numbers at 92,666, down three per cent on compared to the previous census in 2015.

Of those 58,476 were permanent ADF members, 17,328 were reservists and 16,862 were public service employees.

The census found that among the permanent force, only 18.1 per cent were women but that was up from 15 per cent four years ago.

In the reserves, only 17.2 per cent were women.

It said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accounted for just 3.7 per cent of permanent numbers, up from 2.3 per cent, while just 2.6 per cent of reservists were Indigenous.

Defence Personnel Minister Darren Chester said the census provided valuable data on the demographic profile of the defence workforce and assisted in the development of policies and conditions that keep pace with contemporary changes in defence and Australian society.

"Providing a moment-in-time snapshot of the defence workforce and their families, the census highlights trends in areas such as education, work-life-balance and family circumstances," Mr Chester said.

While relatively small, the minister welcomed increases in the number of women and indigenous personnel.

"This is great to see as it highlights that we are attracting a diverse range of people, which only makes our ADF better," he said.

In other data, the census revealed 23,050 permanent ADF members had been operationally deployed, either domestically or internationally, since the last census with 39 per cent called into action one or more times.

Only six per cent reported being called into action four or more times.

This census also quizzed personnel for the first time on whether they came to the service with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

It found 62 per cent with post-school education had some form of STEM experience, most commonly a trade or vocational certificate or a degree.

Defence People Group Deputy Secretary Justine Greig said information provided by 53,505 participants in the census contributed to the development of personnel policies and initiatives to meet the ongoing and emerging requirements across defence.

"Facts and trends in demographics, work-life balance, accommodation, relocation and housing, education, family circumstances and dependent children, have been identified and analysed in this report," she said.