David Morrison on diversity targets and making change the hard way

A number of military officers are only able to lead by brute influence, others can be restricted to the warm and friendly figure delicately promoting synergy. David Morrison marches the complete array and gets results.

Defence service chiefs have only a number of years to produce a direct effect and by early 2013 it had become clear for the then-chief of Army what he required to accomplish. As custodian of public trust, he found it necessary to future-proof the Army labor force, make his organisation a feasible and desirable career for the most proficient young Australians, however, it wasn’t . Not for females, not for minority groups.

Morrison put into practice targets for recruiting women. It turned out controversial within the ranks and took oxygen away from concurrent efforts to compliment an inclusive culture.

Looking back now, Morrison says the most effect approach was critically examining the way Army promoted itself.

“Actions speak louder than words. If you don’t possess a target, what exactly are you aiming at?”

“By asking ourselves were the stories we had been telling about ourselves relevant to modern day Australia,” Morrison stated. “We found it necessary to modernise the image that the Army was telling itself.”


The ANZAC legacy and specifically how it’s imagined features a very real day-to-day impression for the Australian Defence Force. It influences a selection of cultural practices which are often unconscious. Including how it judges merit.

Morrison says the impact is frequently gendered, however when they can begin to see the issue of bias, a couple of tweaks can also make Army an improved employer for males too.

“We’re a hierarchical male-dominated institution,” he explained. “You are only able to arrive at point D if you’ve passed through point C, B and A. That doesn’t succeed for many people, doesn’t work for women obviously, but it additionally doesn’t work for men which wish to take some time out from the labor force to go carry out something else.”

He implemented a dedication to workforceA dedication which has been sustained by his successor. If an employee is defined as the “talent in the future” Army assures that after their duration of absence, they’re able to return and won’t lose 1 day of seniority. It turned out a global first, and consequently, women coming back from maternity leave is currently at an all-time high for Army.

Objectives also worked but were a harder sell both within the government and also to public. When these initiatives started the Army workforce was made up of 9% of women ; and by the time Morrison left, the quantity of Army cadets within the Australian Defence Force Academy were 25%. Although bruising, Morrison is satisfied with the instance he set.

“Actions speak louder than words,” he said. “If you don’t have a target, what are you aiming at?”

‘Natural’ next job

Capability, not altruism, not the fair go, was the motive and the winning argument — particularly at the start. Morrison needed to convince the very conservative Defence community that he wasn’t about to sabotage the fighting strength of the Australian Army.

For years, it seemed Morrison could only make one point, over and over until it sunk in: “A diverse workforce is a more capable workforce.”

“If we’ve got different thinking, if we’ve got talent from men and women that haven’t traditionally joined our Army, how can we not be a better organisation? And if we’re attracting them we better retain them. And to retain them, we ought to give them every chance we can to reach their potential,” he said.

“… because it’s a world that’s been largely created by men the rules have been written by men for the benefit of men.”

The universality of that logic and Morrison’s seemingly effortless effectiveness at spreading that message to government and corporate leaders, meant he found it a natural step to continue the work after leaving Army. We need to make the most of the talent that we’re got access to, he says, and that applies to all Australia, not just Army.

He joined the Diversity Council of Australia as its new chair. Because once his eyes were opened to the thwarted potential, he wasn’t going to be a bystander any longer.

Morrison isn’t immune to the irony of him taking the role: “I did say to them, do you really want a 59-year-old Anglo-Saxon man to be the chair? I felt a real privilege.”

After he was named Australian of the Year for 2016 on Monday night, others have asked if he is the best representative for a diversity champion. But Morrison says the conversations must include people who look like him.

January 28, 2016

0 responses on "David Morrison on diversity targets and making change the hard way"

Leave a Message

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Inclusion and Diversity Academy  ©  All rights reserved.