Australia’s defence chiefs have ducked questions on the importance of inclusion in the military after introducing a ban on “woke” events.
Defence held morning teas earlier in 2021, where staff wore rainbow clothing to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia.
Employees were encouraged to show support for LGBTI people by standing against prejudice and discrimination and demonstrating inclusion.
Defence deputy secretary Justine Greig could not say how many morning teas went ahead.
“We are a very large organisation and clearly it’s hard to know what activities are going on in any given place on any given day,” she told a Senate hearing on Wednesday.
“I don’t have particularly information about what events proceeded or didn’t.”
Even still, Defence Minister Peter Dutton issued a stern directive days afterward, ordering his department and serving military personnel to stop pursuing a “woke agenda”.
Mr Dutton demanded an end to events where personnel were encouraged to wear “particular clothes” in celebration, claiming they did nothing to build morale.
Defence secretary Greg Moriarty was the first to receive the ministerial direction.
“He let me know he wanted the department to concentrate on only acknowledging events that were directly related to government and defence objectives,” Mr Moriarty told the committee.
“We are in the process of developing policy to implement the minister’s direction.”
He and Chief of Defence Angus Campbell have since issued a note to all staff.
General Campbell struggled to define what constituted a “woke agenda”.
“The use of the word ‘woke’ varies with its user,” he said.
“I am focused on encouraging and seeking to model and ask others to model the values that drive a high performing organisation.”
General Campbell acknowledged it was important to show support.
“I’m a very strong believer defence should be an organisation that lives, acts and behaves based on its values of service, courage, respect, integrity and excellence,” he said.
“It’s about our values, and every time our values aren’t being lived, we are not being the most effective organisation we can be.”
Mr Moriarty also accepted inclusion was an important aim.
“It is important for us to remove barriers so defence can benefit from the contribution of all of our people regardless of gender, background or sexual orientation,” he said.
“We’re an organisation that is focused on inclusion, building people’s potential to best advance defence interests.
“I believe the department shows support for people through our values and behaviours.”
Mr Moriarty confirmed the Australian Defence Force would continue to participate in Mardi Gras parades, where participating personnel wear their standard military uniforms.