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First published Summer 1995

The Dynamics of Social Change and the Australian Defence Force


In the last two decades, as the likelihood of involvement in major military conflictappears to have diminished, the Australian Defence Force has reflected changes in Austra-lian society in a number of areas. These include (1) the ethnic composition of the ADF; (2)the institution/occupation orientation of service personnel; (3) the admission of women to awider range of roles; (4) the enactment of a law permitting selective conscientious objec-tion; and (5) the government's decision to allow homosexuals to serve in the Defence Force. This study provides a brief historical background before outlining the principalfactors that have brought about change in these areas. Some of these changes have beenpainful for the Defence Force while others have proved relatively painless. What they allhave in common, however, is a focus on the rights of individuals. This raises the questionas to their impact on military effectiveness and the limits of individual rights in the armedforces, especially at a time of diminished military threat.

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1. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 76.
2. Australian Government, Strategic Review 1993 (Canberra: Defence Centre, December 1993), 14.
3. Charles C. Moskos, "Armed Forces in a Warless Society," Forum International (Munich), 13 (1992), 4. See also Charles C. Moskos and James Burk, "The Post-Modern Military" in The Military in New Times, ed. James Burk (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1994), who examine the impact on the "post-modern" military of the diffuse nature of military threats and the growth of global social organizations in the late twentieth century.
4. For an authoritative review of this period see T. B. Millar, Australia in Peace and War, 2nd ed. (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1991).
5. The first formal indication of a major change in strategic outlook came with the White Paper issued by the Australian Government entitled Australian Defence (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1976).
6. Ian McAllister and Toni Makkai, "Changing Australian Opinion on Defence: Trends, Patterns, and Explanations," Small Wars and Insurgencies, 2, 3 (December 1991): 199-200.
7. See, for example, Graeme Cheeseman, The Search for Self-Reliance (Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1993).
8. Australian Government, The Defence of Australia 1987 (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1987).
9. McAllister and Makkai, "Changing Australian Opinion," 213.
10. Hugh Smith, ed., Peacekeeping-Challenges for the Future (Canberra: Australian Defence Studies Centre, 1993).
11. Brian Graetz and Ian McAllister, Dimensions of Australian Society (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1988), 82.
12. Anthony Bergin, Robert Hall, Roger Jones, and Ian McAllister, The Ethnic Composition of the Australian Defence Force, 2 vols. (Canberra: University of New South Wales, February 1993); Hugh Smith, "Minority Representation in the ADF-Does It Matter?" Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter (August-September, 1993).
13. Bergin et al., Ethnic Composition, chapters 11-14.
14. Charles C. Moskos, "Institutional/Occupational Trends in Armed Forces: An Up-date," Armed Forces & Society, 12, 3 (Spring 1986).
15. Graham Pratt, "The Development of Military Industrial Relations in Australia," Journal of Industrial Relations, 29, 3 (September 1987): 51.
16. For a discussion of attitudes toward "collectivism," see Graham Pratt, "Institution, Occupation, and Collectivism amongst Australian Army Officers," Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 14, 2 (Fall 1986).
17. Air Vice Marshal J.C. Jordan, "The Defence Force Ombudsman: Genesis, Expectations and Realisation," Journal of the Royal United Services Institute of Australia, 8, 2 (June 1986).
18. Department of Defence, Annual Report 1993-1994 (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1994), 260-64.
19. Hugh Smith, "The Decline of the Military Profession in Australia? " Defence Force Journal, 74 (January-February 1989): 7.
20. SOMP uses questionnaires that are completed by officer cadets in their first year of training. It was administered each year between 1987 and 1989 and again between 1992 and 1994. In addition, those surveyed in 1987-89 were followed up five years later (1992-94) whether they remained in the ADF or not. The project is run by Professor Ian McAllister and Dr. Hugh Smith of the Department of Politics, University College, Australian Defence Force Academy.
21. Commonwealth Parliament, Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Personnel-Wastage in the Australian Defence Force-Report and Recommendations (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1988), esp. chapters 2, 3.
22. Report to the Minister of Defence, Force Structure Review 1991 (Canberra: Directorate of Publications 35/91, 1991).
23. Hugh Smith, "Women in the Australian Defence Force: In Line for the Front Line?" Australian Quarterly, 62, 2 (Winter 1990): 131.
24. Department of Defence, Annual Report 1993-1994 (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1994), 274. 25. Regular Officer Development Committee Report (Canberra: Australian Army, May 1978), see esp. ch. 6.
26. For a more detailed discussion of the arguments, see Smith, "Women in the Australian Defence Force," passim. 27. Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Sexual Harassment in the Australian Defence Force (Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, August 1994).
28. The poll was conducted by a private firm, Frank Small & Associates, Sydney, 1992.
29. Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Conscientious Objection to Conscripted Military Service (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1985).
30. Defence Legislation Amendment Act 1992, Para. 9 (d).
31. See Hugh Smith, "Conscience, Law and the State: Australia's Approach to Conscientious Objection since 1901," Australian Journal of Politics and History, 35, 1 (1989).
32. Hugh Smith, "Conscientious Objection to Particular Wars: Australia's Experience during the Vietnam War, 1965-72," War& Society, 8, 1 (1990): 130-131.
33. Australian, 29 August 1990.
34. See Hugh Smith, Homosexuality and the Australian Defence Force: Individual Rights versus Organizational Realities, Working Paper no. 5 (Canberra: Australian Defence Studies Centre, August 1992).
35. "Opposition won soldiers' votes but lost the war," Melbourne Age, 27 March 1993.

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Article first published: Summer 1995
Issue published: Summer 1995

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Published online: July 1, 1995
Issue published: Summer 1995



Hugh Smith
Department of Politics, University College, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, ACT, Australia 2600. [email protected]

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