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The argument that female soldiers should not be allowed to fight on the frontline is an “appalling slur”, UNSW Canberra researcher Dr James Connor says.
Dr Connor has called this attitude, perpetuated by prominent politicians this week, “an anachronistic dinosaur view”.
“Basically, the Australian Defence Force has decided women are to be in combat roles. The argument is over so there is little point for these old warriors to argue against it,” he says.
“Unfortunately, these comments just embolden the small subset of currently serving ADF members who have failed to heed former Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison’s call to adapt and accept diversity or ‘get out’.”
Dr Connor is investigating abuse culture and bullying in the military, as part of an Australian Research Council funded DIscovery Project, and he says diversity is key to addressing these issues.
“Diversity is good for the organisation and the units within it. The ADF has had a historical problem with abuse and discrimination, largely stemming from the toxic tribal masculinity that it operated within. Getting a more diverse force will reduce the likelihood of abuse and discrimination.”
Dr Connor says women in combat roles have improved the operational effectiveness of the ADF.
“Our experience in Afghanistan has categorically demonstrated the value of women on patrol,” Dr Connor says.
“There is no question that women have improved our ability to fight wars. Claiming that women will reduce the combat effectiveness of frontline units is an appalling slur on the currently serving brave women of the ADF, many of whom put their life on the line every day, just like the men.”
Dr Connor says comments, such as those made by Federal MP Andrew Hastie and Senator Cory Bernadi, are damaging.
“Having people in extremely important positions of power – members of parliament – coming out and saying that women should not be in the ADF and should not be in combat roles is very problematic,” Dr Connor says.
"It directly contradicts the stated position of the ADF and emboldens those regressive, troglodyte elements who still think women are somehow inferior and don't belong in our miltary."
“It’s wonderful that we saw Defence Minister Marise Payne come out and forcefully defend the role of women in the military, but we need to go much further than that. I'd like to see the experiences and value of women in frontline roles celebrated by the ADF publicly. Let's get that message out loud and clear - everyone is welcome to serve, regardless of gender if they have what it takes."
Image source: Defence Image Library