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Indigenous Programs

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Department of Defence

Indigenous Australians

Key Objective: Increase representation of those who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in Defence and deliver on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agenda commitment of achieving 2.7% Indigenous representation by 2015 and beyond. Encourage and foster Indigenous participation and potential within Defence and position Defence as an employer of choice for Indigenous Australians.

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Indigenous Australians have played a significant part in our military history for more than 100 years and Defence is proud to continue this involvement with many Indigenous people serving in the Navy, Army and Air Force as full and part-time members. Defence also recognises those who contribute in the APS section of our workforce.

Defence is committed to increasing the participation rates of Indigenous Australians across the workforce including meeting the agreement of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to achieve a minimum Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation of 2.7% across the sector by 2015.

As at 31 December 2012, our data indicated that Indigenous people represented 0.97% of the permanent ADF workforce2 compared with 2.2% of the wider APS3.  For the active Reserve, Indigenous Reserve representation was the highest for Army (2.36%) followed by Navy (0.68%) and Air Force (0.50%)4.  The decision to formally self-declare Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage is personal and voluntary. Self identification assists in allocating resources, supports Indigenous employment programs and provides greater opportunities for Indigenous-specific activities5.

Defence has various initiatives already in place to encourage greater Indigenous participation in Defence with many of these initiatives encompassed in the Defence Reconciliation Action Plan 2010-2014 and the Defence Indigenous Employment Strategy 2012-2017. In addition to a diverse range of employment opportunities, Defence currently offers support programs and further education opportunities for its Indigenous personnel. The following specific actions aim to integrate these initiatives into broader strategies to realise Defence’s commitment to being truly representative of the nation we serve.



  • Build relationships with Indigenous communities across the nation.
  • Contribute to the whole of Government reconciliation plans and actions.
  • Recognise and publicly acknowledge the contribution Indigenous communities make to the defence of Australia.
  • Promote Defence as an employer of choice for Indigenous Australians.
  • Incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) culture and heritage into appropriate Defence ceremonies.


  • Implement and promote programs to support the recruitment of Indigenous Australians.
  • Increase the profile of ATSI Australians in both targeted and general recruitment marketing and public affairs.


  • Recognise and accommodate the cultural needs, responsibilities and roles of Indigenous personnel.
  • Mentor and support Indigenous personnel and networks.
  • Implement and promote programs to support the development of Indigenous Australians.
  • Ensure that Defence provides a flexible and supportive approach to workforce conditions, career management and career pathways.


  • Enable flexible work practices to accommodate balance of the cultural needs, responsibilities, and roles of Indigenous personnel.
  • Increase the knowledge and understanding of Indigenous issues across Defence.
  • Ensure ATSI culture and heritage is incorporated into appropriate Defence policies and practices.
  • Provide appropriate targeted development, leadership and career management opportunities for Indigenous Australians.


  • Maintain connections with personnel taking a career break, extended parental leave, study leave break or any other type of extended leave.
  • Employ policies and processes to enable trained previous Defence personnel to return to the organisation.
  • Actively promote and facilitate discharging ADF members transferring into the Reserve force to maintain connection and strengthen the retention of talented/trained Indigenous Australians.

  1. Comprised of ADF Permanent, CFTS and Gap year members
  2. Includes ongoing and non-ongoing employees
  3. As per Australian Public Service Commission State of the Service Report 2011-2012
  4. The mode of entry into the Reserve workforce differs between the Services.
  5. Personal information, as recorded in PMKeyS, is treated confidentially according to the Privacy Act 1988.


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