Army responds to word ban reports
THE Australian Defence Force has denied reports that an army document suggests banning soldiers from addressing each other as "he" or "she" in an effort to reduce bullying.
It all stems from a 2017 "LGBTI Guide" for the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) which attempts to ensure staff are "better informed when making decisions regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or intersex (LGBTI) community".
"To meet the challenge of leadership and military professionalism the learning environment and culture at ADFA must be inclusive and diverse," the document reads. "It is my intent to ensure that all ADFA staff are provided with the knowledge and skills required to manage, train and support an increasingly diverse workforce."
It then breaks down terms associated with a range of sexual and gender identities, and even provides a diagram to help staff understand the differing terms.
However, under the guidance section, a topic labelled "Language and Behaviour" has sparked reports that gender-specific terms have been "banned" within the framework of the organisation - which employs 80,000 Australians.
"It is important to be mindful of respectful and disrespectful behaviours or language in relation to LGBTI members," it reads. "In the event that you make a mistake, the best course of action is to apologise, listen to anything the member's wishes to say in response, and then move on with the conversation.
"Considerations for staff include: Avoiding stereotyping, using the correct pronouns and preferred name of sex or gender diverse members wherever possible, and using the gender neutral language when referring to relationships or gender identities.
"All ADFA personnel need to appreciate that the deliberate use of non-inclusive language, exclusion and bullying due to gender diversity are some of the behaviours which can affect LGBTI members."
But the ADF has denied this means that using "he" or "she" would be considered "bullying".
The document appears to suggest rather that the gendered pronouns shouldn't be used by a staff member, only if the person they are referring to specifically asks them not to.
"Misgendering can have a significant effect on transgender individuals as it is often an expression of a lack of understanding of acceptance of that person's identity," the guide says.
This morning, the ADF released a statement saying it had not issued a "directive" on gender-neutral language.
"ADFA Cadets are not being told that they should not use terms like him or her. The Department has not, and is not intending, to issue a directive on the use of gender-neutral language," the statement said.
The ADF states there are examples of its 80,000 employees using gender-specific language every day.
"For example, every day ADFA cadets address their seniors as Sir and Ma'am. This has not, and is not, changing," he said.
"There are around 80,000 personnel in the Australian Defence Force. Supervisors and commanders are required to lead teams from all walks of life, who often work, eat and sleep in proximity for extended periods.
"Commanders must be skilled in harnessing these diverse backgrounds and experiences in their teams to deliver what is required.
"Effective teamwork is at the centre of ADF capability and it is built on respect and cohesion.
Members of the Australian Defence Force are required to work with each other, and address each other, in a respectful manner.
"This includes members addressing each other by rank and using the customary military compliments."