Does the ADA represent the professional interests of defence force personnel or the institutional interests of the Australian Defence Force?

No — we are not the ADF's representative professional body (see below). Nor do we purport to be.

First, because ensuring Australia is adequately defended and strategically secure is a universal civic responsibility of all Australians, not just serving (or former) members of our defence force.

This is why the ADA is necessarily community-based as an independent public-interest watchdog organisation, rather than being comprised solely of serving or former members of our defence force (or of our intelligence and security agencies).

Second, because our role as an independent national public-interest watchdog organisation means we cannot represent any sectional interest.

Including the profession of arms or the Australian Defence Force as an institution.


Public-interest safeguard

Our role does, however, involve public-interest monitoring and public advocacy concerning strategic security, defence and wider national security issues.

This includes public education and public debate activities about Australia needing to maintain adequate levels of budgetary resources and public support to sustain defence force capabilities, efficiency and professionalism.

During public and political debates on defence matters in particular, our advocacy of an effective defence strategy for Australia, and appropriate equipment and operational employment for the ADF, also acts as a disinterested public safeguard for the efforts of defence force personnel to some extent but that is not our prime role.


ADA membership and defence force service

As a necessarily community-based body ADA members are Australians from all walks of life who think our common defence is important.

A majority of ADA members have never served in our defence force (although many have).

The vast majority of the ADA Board of Directors have had long and predominantly civil careers. Even where they have served in the ADF at some stage this was usually a decade or more ago. In some cases it is over three decades ago. This enables a good balance of civil and military perspectives.

While many former and serving defence force personnel are members of the ADA generally this tends to reflect two factors:

  • the length and nature of their service (they tend to be of sergeant-equivalent rank and upwards and the majority would have experience of operational service overseas); and
  • they have an intellectual or professional interest in defence and related issues beyond their own professional careers.

Sticking up for ADF personnel — but only where necessary and justified

Other ADF personnel who take some interest in public debate on defence issues also often contact us to thank the ADA for our stance on a particular current issue. Or our efforts to explain the historical or professional context to contemporary discussions (often otherwise lacking them). Or our public-interest guardianship efforts concerning national security issues generally.

In particular, we frequently receive favourable feedback from defence force personnel expressing their appreciation where we have countered or refuted uninformed, untrue, exaggerated, insensitive or sensationalist comments by the media, single-issue activists or party-political sources.

Longer-serving ADF personnel also tend to remember and appreciate where we have criticised defence force practices in the national interest. Even if they disagree with our criticism in part they usually concede it is balanced and well motivated.

Finally, our executive director is invariably welcomed by personnel of all ranks when visiting defence force units in Australia and overseas or when meeting ADF personnel generally.

Our public-interest guardianship responsibilities and efforts concerning defence issues mean that defence force personnel are generally not backward about directing our attention to matters of professional concern.

They do this because they respect the ADA's record in speaking truth to power and our forceful advocacy for an adequately resourced, equipped and carefully deployed defence force.


ADF representative bodies

Our particular area of expertise and responsibility is defence capability and strategy matters.

Unless a major issue of public importance is involved, we generally leave comment on defence force personnel matters, such as employee relations, industrial relations, personnel management and conditions-of-service, to defence force representative bodies. The two principal ones are:

  • Defence Force Welfare Association  (DFWA);
  • Defence Reserves Association (DRA).

We are also a committed supporter of Defence Families of Australia (DFA), the Department of Defence consultative body set up to liaise with the families of defence force personnel.


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