ELIZABETH BRODERICK: The life cycle of a woman is effectively geared to accumulating poverty.
ELIZABETH BRODERICK: The life cycle of a woman is effectively geared to accumulating poverty. Matthew Syres

Men in power must lead on sex discrimination

CHANGE has come to the Australian military but Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick says the way in which women are treated from this point will continue to be governed by the actions of men.

Speaking at the national launch of the Review into the Treatment of Women at the Australian Defence Force Academy's audit report, Ms Broderick told reporters in Sydney that it would be up to men in positions of power to lead by example if true change was to occur.

Since a host of recommendations were tabled in Federal Parliament in 2011 - when the ADFA was embroiled in a series of sexual misconduct scandals - 30 of the 31 have been adopted and the final recommendation adopted in principle.

At the top of the list, and first to be implemented in June last year, was the establishment of a Sexual Misconduct Prevention Office.

The review had found that the majority of victims were failing to report misconduct and those who did speak up were often "retraumatised" by the process.

"The shame associated with being the victim of sexual assault along with a very strong culture of not reporting meant that these victims were often dealing with terrible trauma alone," Ms Broderick said

"SEMPO is designed to remedy these issues… to provide safe and supportive and, when necessary, confidential support for military personell to disclose sexual misconduct.

Under the new reforms, dozens of high-ranking positions have been opened up to applicants without combat experience - a previous pre-requisite for star and general promotions.

Ms Broderick said that since the review, the proportion of women in the ADF had risen from 15.6% in 2010/2011 to 18.6%.

Gender targets have also been set for sections of ADFA with less than 15% representation of women.

Already the Commission has heard of discourse in military ranks and an attitude that women were somehow being given an unfair advantage.

Ms Broderick warned that the culture of change could be derailed without the influence of male leaders and stressed the reforms were simply aimed at creating a level playing field.

She congratulated Defence Force chief General David Hurley for coming out and categorically saying that "if you don't move ahead, and respect everyone, but in particular women, there is no place for you in my army" and said it was "men taking the message of gender equality to other men…that will create change in Australia".