How is the Australia Defence Association structured as a public-interest watchdog organisation?

The ADA is a nationally-focused, community-based, independent, public-interest watchdog organisation and 'think-tank'.



Membership is open to all Australians concerned about Australia's strategic security, our common defence and our wider national security — and especially with an effective and informed public debate on such matters.

 Being a broadly community-based organisation most of our members have never served with the Australian Defence Force or with one of our intelligence or security agencies (although many have).

As a national organisation there are two categories of individual membership: ADA Fellows and Associate Members.

Applicants choose their level of membership commitment and agree to the associated responsibilities when joining or subsequently upgrading their participation.


Organisational structure

As with all truly independent 'think-tanks' and most national-level public-interest watchdog organisations, for transparency and accountability purposes our corporate administrative structure is formally organised as a not-for-profit public company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act, 2001.

Our constitution may be found here.

The Association's guarantors are all leading ADA members and include:

  • balanced numbers of former senators and former members of parliament from both sides of politics (including former Ministers for Defence and attorneys-general from both sides);
  • balanced numbers of senior figures from the commercial world and leading trade unionists;
  • respected academics in international relations, strategic studies, defence studies, international law, history and related disciplines; and
  • former defence force members, public servants, diplomats, intelligence officers and scientists with a continuing professional or intellectual interest in their respective areas of expertise.

The guarantors also include a cross-section of Australians from all walks of life to preserve a broad national balance and appropriate geographic representation across Australia.

As with many public bodies in Australia we were originally established and organised as a federation of state and territory branches but all members now belong to the national body directly.

In most major cities and some larger towns the ADA has chartered local chapters so members (if they wish to do so) can gather together for discussions and similar public education activities.

Chapters also assist the Association to co-ordinate volunteers and action for the ADA's research, public advocacy, public education and other public-interest guardianship efforts.

Chapter meetings are generally held quarterly, and are invariably open to the public, although a nominal fee may be levied to defray venue rental, catering or other costs.


Policy-making and implementation

The broad policies and strategies of the Association are set by the membership. The programs to implement them are supervised by a board of directors elected at our annual general meeting as specified in our constitution.

Day-to-day activities to fulfil these programs are the responsibility of our national office, primarily by the executive director appointed by, and responsible to, our board of directors.

The board also appoints the editor and editorial board of our national journal, Defender, and approves all our submissions to parliamentary and official inquiries.

To ensure consistency, transparency and accountability, only the executive director of the ADA is authorised to speak (on or off the record) on behalf of the Association (with another director authorised to do so by the board of directors if the executive director is unavailable).


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