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Workforce Summary

Defence continues to pursue a capable, agile and resilient workforce that will deliver Defence outcomes in a highly dynamic strategic environment. The development of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and accompanying 2020 Force Structure Plan throughout 2019–20 provides further impetus to pursue reform, rebalancing and reshaping of Defence’s workforce.

Defence is in the fourth year of implementing the Defence Strategic Workforce Plan 2016–2026. The actions in the plan are designed to best enable the workforce and provide an integrated, enterprise approach to recruitment, career and talent management; workforce mobility; education and professionalisation; transition and re-engagement; and partnerships with other Government departments, industry and academia. The actions are supported by Defence White Paper People Initiatives valued at $384.3 million over the decade to financial year 2024–25, along with initiatives to implement a more contemporary Australian Defence Force (ADF) employment model and remuneration framework. An updated workforce plan will be released late 2021, to support the workforce growth needed for the complex capabilities outlined in the 2020 Force Structure Plan and to respond to changes in Australia’s strategic, social and economic circumstances.

Defence is leading workforce transformation to support the $270 billion Integrated Investment Program and position the Defence workforce to meet rapidly evolving national security challenges. Defence is building its skill base through training and education, targeted recruitment and balancing our integrated workforce to effectively deliver capability requirements.

In 2019–20, efforts continued with the recruitment and retention of the shipbuilding; cyber; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); intelligence; and information and communications technology workforces.

Defence now has a more versatile approach to managing its ADF total workforce to provide greater flexibility and agility, through its Total Workforce System. This enables Defence to utilise its workforce more effectively and offers opportunities for employment in key growth areas, including by leveraging offers to provide more work to part-time and standby components of the ADF workforce.

Retention of our workforce and their skills and experience is critical to the effective delivery of Defence capability. The Pathway to Change strategy, evolving a workforce culture, embedding the right Defence leadership behaviours and developing a safety culture are critical to our operational effectiveness and to both attraction and retention of a potent Defence workforce.

The Defence workforce rose to the challenges presented by COVID-19. We delivered outcomes in support of the Australian community and also focused on ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our people and their families. By exemplifying the One Defence Leadership Behaviours and focusing on teamwork and innovation, our workforce successfully supported of whole-of-government COVID-19 response efforts.

  • More than 2,000 ADF personnel took part in Operation COVID-19 ASSIST in a variety of roles including repatriation of Australian citizens from overseas; planning support and liaison; ensuring quarantine compliance with local law enforcement agencies; frontline medical assistance; support to the defence industry; and assisting Australia’s partners in the Indo-Pacific.
  • More than 240 Australian Public Service (APS) personnel were redeployed to Services Australia and other Government departments to assist in the delivery of critical government functions.

​A summary of key initiatives is below.

Recruiting of ADF personnel

In 2019–20 Defence recruited more than 7,500 personnel to permanent and Reserve roles in the ADF, resulting in 93 percent of permanent force targets being filled. Defence recruited 526 Indigenous Australians, representing 72 per cent of the target for Indigenous recruitment. Challenges remain in recruiting Army Reserves, officer entry submariners and women in STEM roles. In the fourth quarter of the year, the implementation of online testing and the enhancement of telephony systems broadened our ability to identify the right talent and progress candidates more quickly through the recruitment process.

Families and transition support

In 2019–20 Defence continued reform of its transition programs to provide tailored support to transitioning members and their families using a needs-based approach, including targeted support for at-risk members to achieve civilian employment or meaningful engagement. Defence delivered more support for families, including expanding eligibility for the Partner Employment Assistance Program and surge support to families of members deployed to Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 2019–2020.

Transition support was successfully delivered to 3,611 members participating in Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 2019–2020 and affected by COVID-19 circumstances. This included 3,297 Reservists on continuous full-time service (Service Option C) and 314 full-time service members (Service Category 6 and 7).

Work health and safety

The Defence Work Health and Safety Strategy 2017–2022 sets out Defence’s work health and safety priorities. The strategy and its implementation continue to embed work health and safety into the thinking and behaviours of personnel and in all Defence business and management systems.

Defence 2022 reforms

In 2019–20 Defence built on the First Principles Review and Defence 2022 reforms in respect of leadership capability. Our leadership programs maintained a focus on One Defence Leadership Behaviours, ensuring that our current and future leaders are equipped to lead integrated teams in times of change. Accessibility and quality of learning experiences has been enhanced through the development of Defence’s online academy.

Defence Values

Our employees conduct their duties in accordance with the Australian Public Service (APS) Code of Conduct, the APS Values, and the Defence and Service-specific values. The purpose of the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 is to maintain and enforce military discipline necessary for Australian Defence Force (ADF) capability.

The APS and ADF values and rules are the foundation for our work and govern the way we relate to our stakeholders and to each other. Without diminishing the ADF and APS values, specific Defence values have been established to provide a common and unifying thread for all people working in Defence.

Defence has undertaken work on a new single set of unifying Values underpinned by an updated set of Defence Behaviours. This work will culminate in the next reporting period with an updated set of values and behaviours for the Defence organisation.

Cultural reform

Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture 2017–2022 underpins Defence’s ongoing commitment to driving authentic, sustainable organisational change and creating an environment where all individuals are accountable for a more positive and inclusive culture. In 2019–20, Defence continued to progress its work on the six key cultural reform priorities: leadership accountability, capability through inclusion, ethics and workplace behaviours, health, wellness and safety, workplace agility and flexibility, and leading and developing integrated teams.

Sexual misconduct prevention and response

During 2019–20, 19,994 Defence personnel completed Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office education sessions through a mix of face-to-face and online delivery. This represents a notable increase on the previous year’s total of 13,355. The Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office was focused on maximising access to Defence’s values and expected behaviours messages and developed e-learning packages to support distributed learning opportunities.