Executive Summary

This Report presents the findings of Phase One of the Review into the Treatment of Women at ADFA and in the ADF. Phase One of the Review focuses specifically on ADFA. This report contains four chapters and 31 recommendations. These recommendations build on reform processes begun in the late 1990s and identify further, significant areas for change.

A description of ADFA, including its history, tri-Service nature, staffing and cadet demographics, is contained in Appendix A.

Our methodology

The Review undertook qualitative and quantitative research.

The qualitative work of the Review has been broad, extensive and consultative. The Review spoke to over a quarter of the cadet body, the entire leadership team, the majority of military staff, as well as academic staff, medical staff, padres, representatives of ADFA sporting clubs and associations, physical training instructors, international cadets and cadets who have recently separated from ADFA. Parents and sponsor families of cadets were consulted. The Review also met with trainees and staff of single service training colleges, including HMAS Creswell, Royal Military College, Duntroon and the Air Force Officer Training School, Sale.

The Review attended sporting activities and visited leisure establishments frequented by ADFA cadets. It received public and confidential submissions, through the Australian Human Rights Commission website and to a confidential inquiry line.

The Review used established quantitative tools, including surveys, to complement the qualitative findings.

During the course of consultations, some incidents of alleged unacceptable conduct were brought to the attention of the Review. While the Report refers to this alleged conduct, it should be noted that the scope of the Review did not extend to investigating and making findings or determinations about any specific incidents or allegations of unacceptable conduct.

Research was conducted into approaches to the treatment of women adopted by military training institutions in other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands and New Zealand. These countries have been identified as offering the closest comparison to Australia, both in terms of wider social and political contexts and in terms of the particular Defence Academy structures.

A more detailed description of the scope of the Review and the methodology utilised is contained in Appendix B.

Key findings

In 1998, there was a comprehensive review of ADFA’s Policies and Practices to Deal with Sexual Harassment and Sexual Offences (the Grey Review). At that time there was found to be a high level of unacceptable behaviour including sexual harassment and sexual offences at ADFA.

In contrast, the current Review found that the culture had improved significantly since the mid 1990s and that many of the extreme cultural concerns documented in the Grey Review were no longer apparent at ADFA. However, the Review also found that further structural and cultural reform is necessary if ADFA is to become the excellent tri-Service training and academic institution it aspires to be. Excellence requires that ADFA has a strong culture of inclusiveness, fairness, transparency and learning.

Women constitute about one-fifth of the ADFA cadet body and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Women represent a significant minority group and this has implications which must be acknowledged by ADFA and the broader ADF.

The Review found structural and cultural deficiencies which have implications for all cadets and, in the context of our Review, particularly for women. A renewed and constant reform focus is essential if there is to be continued improvement for women and the entire cadet body.

Following is a summary of the key findings and recommendations of the Review.

(a) Commitment to ADFA

There needs to be a strong reaffirmation of ADFA as the centre of excellence for tri-Service education and training for junior officers. ADFA espouses excellence, however it lacks a well-articulated purpose and a clear vision. This inhibits it from realising its potential and, significantly, from integrating equality, diversity and inclusion in a meaningful way.

The Review makes a number of recommendations to address these issues and in particular recommends that the ADF leadership clearly articulate ADFA’s purpose and the ADF’s commitment to, and vision for, ADFA.

(b) Equity and diversity

The concepts of equity and diversity applied at ADFA are generally grounded in disciplinary and punitive processes and as a response to unacceptable behaviour. They are not used as overarching, positive values that can inform and enhance everyday practice. They are not linked to enhancing ADF capability.

ADFA should develop and articulate a clear, unambiguous and widely-disseminated statement about diversity, inclusion and gender equality that recognises the fundamental importance of women to the sustainability and capability of the wider ADF.

It is critical that equity and diversity education is separated from education about reporting unacceptable behaviour and the complaints process. Principles of equity, diversity and inclusion should be embedded into all of ADFA’s policies and practices and ethical leadership instruction. A strong commitment to equity, diversity and gender equality should be actively and visibly promoted by the ADF and ADFA senior leadership teams. This should be accompanied by an unequivocal condemnation of all forms of sexism, sexual harassment and violence against women.

Induction and ongoing education programs on equity and diversity which draw on realistic scenarios should be provided to ADFA staff and cadets. These should be developed and delivered collaboratively by ADFA and an expert educator. There are many visible male role models at ADFA and in the wider ADF. Senior and successful women are not as prominent. To address this, cadets and staff would benefit from regular forums where female role models, both from within and beyond the ADF, deliver presentations on their experiences.

ADFA should fully assess the effectiveness of equity and diversity education, and the diversity network with a view to improving and strengthening it. The success of education on these issues can only be achieved through changed attitudes and behaviours. To track such changes, it is critical that the effectiveness of education and training processes be evaluated against established indicators.

(c) Selection, training and turnover of staff

The high turnover of Commandants and military staff has had a significant negative impact on ADFA’s leadership stability, continuity and organisational memory. This includes a detrimental impact on the implementation of policies and practices that affect all cadets, including women. Further, the Commandant has limited influence over which staff are posted to ADFA and has limited engagement with ADF Service Chiefs. The Review makes a number of recommendations which aim to address these issues.

The Review repeatedly heard that ADFA is not considered a prestigious posting for staff. This has an impact on staff commitment to ADFA and on the quality of educators and trainers. In order for ADFA to be Australia’s finest military training academy, the ADF’s three Services need to develop innovative strategies to attract and retain the best staff. Consideration should be given to separating rank and role to enable recruitment of a wider pool of quality educators and positive role models within ADFA. To raise the status of ADFA and staffing decisions, the Service Chiefs could regularly inform the CDF of each posting schedule.

Prior to being posted to ADFA, many military staff have not had experience as supervisors of mixed gender environments or supervision of young people. Induction training at ADFA does not provide staff with adequate tools to deal with the issues that may arise from managing young men and women. Further, induction training does not adequately provide for such principles as equity and diversity and gender equality to be embedded in the daily practice of staff and their interaction with cadets. The Review recommends a range of strategies to reform the induction and training processes of ADFA staff to improve their capacity in these areas. The Review also recommends that quality performance by ADFA staff should be a positive discriminator for career progression.

(d) Cadets as young people

Throughout the Report the term cadet is used to refer to both midshipmen and officer cadets at ADFA.

Cadets, apart from the midshipmen, generally come to ADFA soon after completing high school. Many have not lived away from home before and many have not had any experience in a military setting. The Navy has instituted the Navy Officer Year One Program (NOYO) for midshipmen prior to commencing at ADFA. The Review heard consistent evidence that cadets from the other services would benefit from a similar program as this would develop their maturity and commitment to their chosen profession. A one year immersion experience could support the maturation process, as midshipmen and cadets prepare to commence their undergraduate studies. The Review recommends that options for service-wide programs should be completed within 12 months of the release of this Report. The preferred option should be implemented in 2013 in readiness for the 2014 cadet intake.

Given their differing levels of maturity and the stressors cadets may experience as they embark on their military training and career, many would benefit from regular mentoring and advice. ADFA should offer cadets a mentor external to ADFA, who may be drawn from a non-military background. Female cadets should be given the option to be placed with female mentors. A number of women’s mentoring programs currently operate through Australian universities, including the University of New South Wales (UNSW). These programs may provide a useful template.

The Review heard that there is regular alcohol use among ADFA cadets. Among some groups, there is heavy alcohol use characterised by binge drinking. Early training is a formative period for ADFA cadets. It is a time when drinking behaviours can become established. Information was provided to the Review that such use is typical of a general drinking culture among young people in Australia. However, the Review also heard that since ADFA cadets, are trained to be future leaders, they should adhere to a higher standard of acceptable behaviour than the wider Australian population.

Heavy alcohol use can increase risks to individual and others’ wellbeing and safety. It can also have a serious impact on women’s safety. The cost of alcoholic drinks in the cadets’ mess is much lower than in public establishments. To minimise the risks arising from the over-consumption of alcohol, ADFA should review its pricing regimes in the mess. In addition, ADFA should ensure ongoing regular alcohol testing is undertaken, as provided byDefence Instruction (General) Personnel 15-4 Alcohol Testing in the Australian Defence Force.

(e) Residential setting and supervision

Cadets are generally housed on the ADFA campus. Complex issues arise because the campus is a place of residence and a place of study and work for young people experiencing a new level of independence. There are inadequate levels of oversight and supervision to minimise risks. Greater engagement of staff ‘after hours’, and the creation of appropriate staff accommodation to support this aim, will greatly enhance ADFA’s culture and its effectiveness to promote the development of the cadets within its care.

As a priority, ADFA should instruct an occupational health and safety specialist to conduct a risk assessment of the residential accommodation, including bathrooms, to identify the existence and level of risk to cadets arising from mixed gender living arrangements.

To address the issue of isolation and to increase supervision in the residential setting the Commandant should adopt a system based on a model of Residential Advisors for each first year Division (one male and one female) who will live in the residential block to provide after hours supervision. While they may be recent ADFA graduates engaged in postgraduate study, these Residential Advisors should be outside the cadet structure, and should have appropriate skills and attributes in leadership, and the ability to provide after hours supervision and pastoral care for cadets. They should have a direct line of report to the Commandant in the case of serious pastoral or disciplinary incidents.

In addition, the ADF should explore the creation of residential accommodation on the ADFA site suitable for couples or families, for Divisional staff in association with their training and supervisory roles. Further, the culture at ADFA would benefit from the greater engagement of military, academic and pastoral staff ‘after hours’ and in the residential setting, and the ADF should explore the creation of appropriate spaces to enhance engagement in this setting from all three groups.

(f) Gender relations

Gender relations are not well understood among cadets and the messages cadets receive about unacceptable behaviour can be inconsistent. Similarly, the impact of sexualised activities and sexual behaviour is not well understood or grounded in an appropriate ethical framework for the cadet body.

Education on sexual ethics and respectful and healthy relationships should be provided to all cadets, including on issues such as:

  • the meaning, inappropriateness and impact of sexist language and sexual harassment
  • the meaning of consent
  • the appropriate use of technology
  • stalking, controlling and threatening behaviours.

(g) Complaints process

Training on making complaints of unacceptable behaviour – including sexual harassment, abuse and sex discrimination – should be reviewed to ensure the training is targeted and appropriate to each year group and to staff. It should also reflect an individual’s different responsibilities in relation to incident reporting, response and management.

Reporting a complaint can be difficult for cadets who fear victimisation, lack of confidentiality or that it will undermine their opportunities for career progression. The Review saw merit in the Army’s Fair Go Hotline, which allows Army personnel to raise previously unreported incidents of unacceptable behaviour, including bullying, harassment, victimisation, verbal abuse or assault. Callers can remain anonymous and are not required to disclose that they have used the Hotline. Issues reported to the Fair Go Hotline are investigated and necessary actions are taken.

To encourage reporting of complaints by cadets and to provide staff with a useful tool to find the best referral mechanism for a cadet who has come to them with a complaint, ADFA should establish and promote a dedicated ADFA-specific, seven-day per week, toll-free hotline for all cadets, staff and families. The expert operators will provide advice and referral about the most appropriate mechanism or service (ADFA, ADF or external) to deal with the complaint.

ADFA’s incidents and complaints data is patchy and incomplete. ADFA should develop and maintain, through the ADF information system, a comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date online database, which includes all relevant information about complaints and incidents. The Commandant of ADFA and the Commander of the Australian Defence College should be given monthly reports on incidents and trend data. The database should also undergo annual quality assurance testing to ensure that the standards in the relevant Defence Instructions are being met.

(h) Sexual harassment and abuse

Widespread, low-level sexual harassment exists at ADFA. Women disproportionately experience gender and sex-related harassment, as well as general harassment and discrimination. Qualitative and quantitative information also shows there have been isolated incidents of serious sexual misconduct in recent years, including sexual assault. These results were of concern to the Review.

ADFA should take a leadership role by developing and administering an annual survey to measure the level of sexual harassment and sexual abuse. The results from this survey should inform an organisational response. The Review acknowledges that ADFA is not alone in facing these challenges. Other tertiary institutions and residential colleges have similar concerns. Therefore, ADFA should develop its unacceptable behaviour survey in collaboration with the residential colleges and halls of the Group of Eight universities’ colleges and halls, in order to provide meaningful comparisons. It would also demonstrate ADFA’s commitment to lead in this area. Consideration should also be given to including Single Service Training establishments in the development of this survey.

(i) Women’s health and wellbeing

The different health needs and physical capacities of women are not well understood. Proportionally, female cadets experience a higher level of injury than male cadets. ADFA should examine women’s injury rates and develop strategies to improve health and wellbeing management. Injured cadets who are disproportionately women are often stigmatised on account of their medical status. ADFA should develop a strategy to address this.

In addition, there is insufficient support for a range of health and wellbeing issues, including sexual and personal abuse and violence at ADFA. ADFA should provide information on key internal and external support services to cadets to be able to respond to cadets’ health and wellbeing needs in a holistic fashion.

(j) A strong future for ADFA

ADFA is not unique in dealing with the issue of the treatment of women. The learning from comparable international military educational and training establishments demonstrates that the greater the presence of women, both in terms of the breadth of the roles they occupy, as well as their presence in leadership positions, the more likely women will be viewed as equal participants. The international research also demonstrates:

  • that strong leadership is the single most important factor in building inclusive organisations
  • the importance of clear policies and effective training to underpin cultural change
  • any initiatives must be positioned in a cultural and organisational context where equity and diversity are key components of success – a context that acknowledges women are critical to the ADF’s core capability not just an “add-on”.

The implementation of the recommendations contained in this Report will provide a firm basis from which to realise the considerable potential of ADFA.

Our Terms of Reference require an independent evaluation of the implementation of the Review’s recommendations 12 months following delivery of the report. They also require that any further recommendations necessary to advance the treatment of women in the ADF and ADFA be made.