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Defence recruitment must reflect diverse Australia, says Matt Keogh

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel, the Honourable Matt Keogh MP, chats with a graduating Recruit at RAAF Base Wagga. Photo: FSGT Craig Sharp

The Australian federal government is undertaking a number of employment measures to improve the rate of recruitment for the Australian Defence Force, according to comments made by the Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans’ Affairs.

The Australian federal government is undertaking a number of employment measures to improve the rate of recruitment for the Australian Defence Force, according to comments made by the Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans’ Affairs.

“We are growing our Defence Force as we need, making sure that we’re improving the flow through in our recruitment,” Minister Keogh said during an interview with 2GB on 13 February.

“We inherited a situation where, for somebody who said, ‘Hey, I want to put their hand up to join the Defence Force’, it was taking 300 days for us to actually get them enlisted.

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“That was ridiculous. People find other jobs, they move, they find a partner and don’t want to join the Defence Force anymore or something else.

“We’re now targeting bringing that down to 100 days or even shorter if we can; we have a new recruitment partner to do that, Adecco (Swiss-French recruitment company), they’ve only just come on board.”

In early 2023, the Defence Strategic Review, unveiled by the Australian federal government, revealed that Defence recruitment was considered a reoccurring issue across ADF, APS, and defence industry.

In addition, the document outlined that recruitment was likely to continue to deteriorate without creative and flexible responses, and recommended an increase in recruitment speed from application to enlistment to recruitment and the process of recruitment should be achieved in days, not months.

“Certainly, we’ve had a few teething issues with them (Adecco) coming on board … and we’re working very closely with them to get through those issues,” Minister Keogh said during the recent radio interview.

“We’re also opening up the sort of the cohorts we can recruit from.

“There’re over 200 different sorts of roles in the Defence Force and we’ve traditionally said, ‘You’ve got to meet fitness and health levels on the basis that we’re going to send you on to the frontline overseas’.

“But a lot of those roles never even leave Australia, some of them you’re more likely to be wearing a hoodie in a basement doing cyber ops (operations) than holding a rifle on the frontline.

“Making sure we’ve got sort of fit-for-purpose standards, we can accept people with different medical conditions, if they’re doing roles that are only ever going to be Australian-based, for example. Broadening that cohort of people, we can recruit from (is) really important.”

Minister Keogh also outlined an increased focus on increasing the proportion of female and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recruits into the ADF.

“We do want to make sure we have a Defence Force that looks more like the Australian community. That’s really important,” he said.

“We’re trying to encourage more people to join, so that we can grow the size of our Defence Force. And doing that means appealing to people that have not traditionally been people that have joined the Defence Force in great numbers so that we can grow that pie of people that are joining.

“Celebrating the diversity of our country, whether you’re in the public service, in BHP or you’re in the Defence Force, is a good thing.

“This is the country people are signing up to defend. It’s our national security and I think it’s important that our Defence Force is part of our community in that way as well.

“People shouldn’t feel in any way because they are from a diverse background, that they’re not welcome in our Defence Force.

“The number one thing that our Defence Force does is act in our national interest in protecting our national security, and that’s what they’re always doing, regardless of their background. We always support our personnel in doing that.”

Minister Keogh said that recruitment must also maintain the high standard of behaviour and Defence values expected by the public.

“We expect people to behave well, when they’re in our Defence Force and to comply with Defence values. That’s incredibly important,” he said.

“That’s all consistent with our national security and making sure that you can trust the person standing next to you on the frontline.

“If people want to join our Defence Force, if they’re interested in protecting our national security; the place to do that is in our Defence Force.”

Robert Dougherty

Robert Dougherty

Robert is a senior journalist who has previously worked for Seven West Media in Western Australia, as well as Fairfax Media and Australian Community Media in New South Wales. He has produced national headlines, photography and videography of emergency services, business, community, defence and government news across Australia. Robert graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, Majoring in Public Relations and Journalism at Curtin University, attended student exchange program with Fudan University and holds Tier 1 General Advice certification for Kaplan Professional. Reach out via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via LinkedIn.
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