Women's Integration into the Australian Defence Force: The Lifting of the Combat Exclusion and The Social and Cultural Legitimacy of the Feminine.

Donna Bridges, Ben Wadham, Anu Mundkur, James Connor

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation only


The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been increasing the participation of female service personnel in its ranks for decades. However, the recent decision to remove the combat exclusion is unprecedented and will see female personnel in the ADF able to participate in all areas of military capacity - including roles in the combat arms. Gender integration in all areas of military capacity has been sought by the ADF for a number of organisational reasons including: challenging recruitment environments, the changing nature of warfare, increased humanitarian and peacekeeping operational activities and to reconcile the military/civil society culture gap. This paper reports on gender integration in the ADF providing an historical assessment of the organisational culture in terms of gender integration and an analysis of the ADF response to the demands of full gender integration. We analyse how the ADF, as a culturally authoritarian and male dominated institution, has balanced military considerations with social imperatives and modern values (e.g. equal opportunity, diversity, justice and community acceptance) within a changing liberal democracy. We have conducted archival research and historical explorations of inquiries, reviews, legislation and strategic policy development in relation to gender integration in the ADF. We consider women's integration into male dominated occupations and employments and examine the past and potential (possible) experience of women who enter roles traditionally associated with male gender identity.
The right of women to serve in the combat arms is no longer of issue and the question of whether they are, as a sex, capable has been made moot by the lifting of the combat exclusion. What is now imperative is the management of the welfare and success of women who train in the combat arms and military effectiveness. We examine the concepts of cultural capital and social exclusion (Bourdieu, 1984) in order to understand how the culture of the ADF can be transformed into a socially inclusive culture able to incorporate individual women and feminine values. We consider how the ADF might envision further gender integration, not in terms of integration being a uniquely female problem, but as cultural change that is an institutional necessity. We identify and analyse how the acquisition of legitimate social and cultural capital can facilitate gender integration for all service personnel and for improved military capacity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2016
EventInternational Society for Military Ethics Conference 2016: Women Serving in the Armed Forces: Shaping Modern Values and Beyond - Loew's Annapolis Hotel, Annapolis, United States
Duration: 29 Jan 201630 Jan 2016
Conference number: 1
https://www.internationalsocietyformilitaryethics.org/2016-isme-program.html (conference program)


ConferenceInternational Society for Military Ethics Conference 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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