While travelling in Canberra, MONS had the opportunity to attend a conversation, organised by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), with the Deputy Chief of Army of the Australian Armed Forces, Major General (MajGen) Rick Burr on enhancing human capacity in the army. Two main points emerged from the conversation.
Firstly, MajGen Burr explained that the Australian armed forces function as a ‘Total Workforce Model’: “This means that we try to offer our armed forces a variety of opportunities to continue growing their skills. This includes a range of service categories staff can move across as well as secondments in other institutions such as ASPI that offer opportunities to grow outside the army.”
Secondly, MajGen Burr explained that there has been a critical review of the recruitment process as the armed forces realised that they were turning away far too many candidates. “This was primarily due to the fact that the medical standards used to select candidates had not been updated since the 60s and did not correspond to the changing demographics and lifestyles in Australia,” MajGen Burr told the audience. In response, the armed forces have implemented a number of programmes that include pre-recruitment development for anyone who might need it, as well as women fitness programmes to ensure that they have the fitness levels required to pass entry tests.
“There also used to be a significant lack of focus on creating an environment that could facilitate professional development in the armed forces,” continued MajGen Burr, “so we have initiated conversations on these needs at all rank levels and we are thriving to create an environment where people who might need help at certain moments in their career can get it and will not feel stigmatised for it.” This approach also needs to account for generational differences. To this end, the Australian armed forces are scaling change both at the vertical level, down the chain of command, and across the armed forces to help colonels understand the changes required.
“Ultimately, it was all a question of taking responsibility for a more risk-taking approach to recruitment: we realised that if you are willing to give people a chance, they will not want to let you down,” concluded MajGen Burr.