The gendered battlefield: Women in the Australian Defence Force

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis seeks to understand and critically discuss gender inequalities in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as a barrier to full integration. This is achieved through an exploration of current literature, policy and legal documents, and from the point of view of a sample of ADF women. The purpose of this thesis is to determine whether constructions of gender devalue, exclude and therefore oppress women in the ADF and to determine whether constructions of gender legitimise the subordinate position of female personnel within the ADF. The study locates the ‘voices’, the experiences, and opinions of a group of female ADF personnel in order to hear from the ‘central’ players. The thesis contributes to current debates by: providing a platform for female members of the ADF to relate their experiences and opinions, thereby, giving a voluntary voice to women who are often not heard from in the debates; providing a feminist perspective -which in the Australian context is scant, as Australian feminisms have been reluctant to approach this controversial area; providing a critical perspective that is complementary to in-house research, through conducting the research from a position outside the ADF. The aims of the research are to explore the culture of the ADF, with the purpose of illustrating the underlying causes of barriers to full integration. It aims to understand where unequal treatment arises from, how inequity manifests, how this impacts on women, and how ADF resources are ultimately misused by the excluding of women from certain employments. Coming from a pacifist position I originally wanted to know why women would want to join the ADF, this question was easily answered through the beginning phases of the research. Through the research fieldwork I was led in the direction of focusing on the gendered nature of Defence culture. Government and ADF policy on combat exclusions I found to be a barrier to integration that impact upon career progression in the ADF. The research further revealed a disturbing realisation that Australian women continue to be denied full citizenship rights and responsibilities due to the inequities of restrictions on military service. The research led to the finding that women are excluded from roles in the ADF based on the mythology that women’s service is inferior to that of males. Issues presented in the arguments for cohesion, physical strength, and protectionism are military myths that seek to continue to exclude from positions of leadership, prestige and power in the ADF. Women’s current and potential roles in combat and peacekeeping are presented in the thesis as ultimate case studies revealing how women are denied equal employment rights in the ADF
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Western Sydney
  • Horsfall, Debbie, Principal Supervisor
  • Carmody, Moira, Principal Supervisor, External person
Award date01 Feb 2006
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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