Samantha Crompvoets is a sociologist, a research fellow in the ANU Medical School and a contractor to the Department of Defence.
This week's Army sex scandal is not a reflection that cultural change and the intent behind the Defence Department's March 2012 Pathway to Change report on Defence culture hasn't worked. Rather it is a reminder that 'culture' is enduring.
Cultural reform cannot be achieved in the short term, and attempting to measure its success one year in is fraught. But we can ask whether anything has changed over the last twelve months. And if so, is this enough evidence to suggest that over the next 5-10 years a greater shift can be made?
As the video message above from Army chief Lt Gen David Morrison demonstrates, senior Defence leadership has been exemplary in their zero tolerance of this behaviour, and a concerted effort continues to be made to implement the Broderick Report's recommendations on the treatment of women in the ADF. Continuing to be invisible in the gender and defence debate, however, are the women of the ADF. What are they saying? And not just the one- and two-stars, but the corporals, sergeants, captains and majors on the ground, in the units and at bases. I'd like to hear from them.
Still, one could argue that things have changed within Defence in the last 12 months. The stark contrast in how this incident has been dealt with compared to other transgressions is evidence of changing climate. LTGEN Morrison's recent speech to the UN is further clear evidence. If the old military adage that 'my commander's interest is of great interest to me' is to be trusted, Morrison's passion for an inclusive Army should motivate and unite those aspiring to higher office behind him.
Reform that enables career progression compatible with having a family (and being the primary carer for some of that time) is another clear indicator of changing climate. Valuing and promoting a career trajectory that doesn't see part-time as part-time-committed is another pivotal shift. This isn't just an issue just for women, but also for those in categories of service seen as restricted, such as Reservists, who have historically been marginalised by the permanent force, both attitudinally and structurally.
Policy frameworks and the behaviour they dictate reflect the values of the organisation. They also reflect the level of understanding, or lack thereof, of particular issues such as the requirements for physical fitness standards post-childbirth, or maternity leave, or the complexity of issues around childcare beyond simply the availability of places.
The lack of knowledge about issues that affect women in particular is not just confined to the ADF. The Department of Veterans Affairs also has a policy framework that does not accommodate the needs of female veterans. Recent academic research funded by DVA shows that the current conditions for female veterans could lead to worsening health and wellbeing.