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Plan to put women in combat roles

March 02, 2008 12:00am

Article from: The Sunday Telegraph

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WOMEN should be allowed to fight in direct combat roles and rise through the ranks to become the chief of the army or navy.

The current rules prevent women from fighting in direct combat but the Rudd Government is looking at relaxing these restrictions.

"It's not the only way. You can become a chief of service, but a combat role certainly assists," a spokesman for Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said.

Currently, women cannot be employed in jobs that have the potential to expose them to direct combat, including field artillery, infantry, clearance divers and defence guards.

But female employees are permitted to serve on military operations supporting ADF combat elements.

The spokesman ruled out women serving in the infantry: "You're not going to have women in the infantry - that's foot soldiers".

But other combat roles such as ground defence officers, combat engineers and airfield defence guards were a possibility.

"A combat role would assist women to move up the chain and become chief of service," he said.

In 2001, an ADF report to Federal Cabinet recommended that women be admitted to combat roles, if their fitness and medical standards were the equivalent of male employees. The move has surfaced now as part of a plan to increase the number of women holding senior positions in the defence force.

Mr Fitzgibbon has ordered his department to generate ideas to boost female recruitment, saying he is determined to facilitate cultural change in the defence force.

Other proposals to attract young women to army or navy careers include assigning a female mentor to each new recruit and implementing flexible working arrangements.

"I've asked the chief of the defence force to come forward with proposals which might elevate women within the ADF," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

The number of women officers has risen by 20 per cent over eight years.

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