Why dont men get it?
The Age newspaper 14 June 2013
I was appalled and saddened to learn that a number of members of the Australian Army – of varying ranks and who had been there for many years – had allegedly produced and distributed explicit emails and photos that demean and denigrate women.
I was appalled because no woman should ever have to endure behaviour that is degrading. The behaviour is alleged to have been perpetrated by men who are trained to lead, represent and honour their country. It is behaviour that is inexcusable and intolerable.
But I was saddened, too, because I know that the army has, over the past 12 months, made significant efforts to make its service a more inclusive and respectful workplace. Obviously there are some men in the army that still don’t get it.
They still don’t get that there is no place for behaviours that are offensive and are disrespectful to women. They still don’t get that a modern military needs both men and women to achieve its goals and maintain capability. They still don’t get that sexist and offensive behaviour will not be tolerated by their own senior leaders and by the broader Australian community.
Over the past 18 months I have been immersed in defence culture as part of the review I lead into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force. I have heard the voices of thousands of serving men and women, many of whom spoke of positive experiences. Others told of experiences that were deeply distressing.
Women I spoke to disclosed stories of extreme exclusion, sexual harassment, victimisation and sexual assault. For these women, service had come at an unacceptable personal sacrifice. Courageously, some of these women came with me to tell their stories to their service chiefs. From that time on, the chiefs – moved and angered by what they heard – committed to stamping out abuse and harassment in their service. The evidence of this was in the way the chiefs, as well as the Chief of the Defence Force, swiftly and unequivocally accepted the recommendations from my review. These recommendations are about creating a culture that allows both men and women to thrive, a culture where sexual and offensive misconduct has no place, and a culture worthy of a first-class military organisation.
The latest allegations the in army are a significant setback to reform.