Our Recruiting and Retention Opportunity

Lieutenant General Natasha Fox, AO, CSC

The Defence Strategic Review (DSR) highlights the need for investment in the growth, retention and integration of a highly skilled Defence workforce. We are building a new Defence people system to address these workforce challenges and bring together a number of personnel functions.

The Defence people system represents a once in a generation reform to make Defence’s workforce a stronger, more effective and integrated team. The Deputy Secretary Defence People leads people strategy and policy, the Chief of Personnel ensures ADF personnel are supported through the career lifecycle and the Vice Chief of the Defence Force is responsible for workforce design and preparedness.

The Chief of Personnel is designing and implementing a single integrated system of ADF personnel management, delivered by four Divisions:

  • Military Personnel Division, which brings together Defence Force Recruiting, Navy, Army and Air Force career management and personnel branches, and the Joint Transition Authority.
  • Joint Support Services Division, which will include the Defence Member and Family Support Branch when the conditions are right.
  • Joint Health Command/Surgeon General; and
  • Australian Defence College.

The people system works closely with the Service Chiefs and the Chief of Joint Capabilities on workforce capability requirements, training and preparedness.

The challenge to grow and retain the workforce required to meet the target of an additional 18,500 people by 2040 is well known. We also know that we need a modern and competitive ADF employment offer to attract and retain the workforce needed to deliver the Defence mission.

Much of this work is underway. In 2022, the Recruiting and Retention team undertook an extensive consultation period to understand Defence personnel challenges and identify opportunities for improvement. Feedback from our people indicated some prominent and enduring factors driving the recruiting and retention challenges including:

  • Sub-optimal APS and ADF recruiting processes and parameters
  • Sustained tempo and poor workplace experiences
  • Changing demographic needs and expectations
  • Decreasingly competitive ADF/APS remuneration package
  • A complex workforce system
  • Challenges faced by Defence families

The Recruiting and Retention team have been progressing immediate priority initiatives, with the following now implemented:

  • Development of a Defence Employee Value Proposition (EVP) Framework and Hub to explain the services and support on offer to ADF people.
  • Increases to funding and flexibility for the Defence Assisted Study Scheme to provide members with increased funding to study courses of interest to them.
  • Expansion of the ADF Family Health Program to include additional services for reimbursement, and doubling the allowance to $800 per dependent.
  • Changes to the Higher Duties Allowance policy meaning that members are better recognised financially when assuming additional responsibilities.
  • Changes to the Travel Policy to allow travellers access to their approved budget for meals and incidentals, reducing the administrative burden on individuals.
  • Increases to the Remote Locality Leave Travel benefit to include an additional trip per year to reconnect with family.

The success of these initiatives can already been seen. Between October 2022 and July 2023, DASS and Studybank received 157 more applications than the same period in 2021-2022. The total amount funded through the schemes is $1,945,771, which is a 65.4 per cent increase on the funding prior to the implementation of these improvements. Members are encouraged to use the increased funding to support study in areas of interest including vocational training and university education.

The Defence Employee Value Proposition (EVP) framework is common to both ADF and APS, and highlights the unique nature of working in Defence. The EVP elements are pay and financial benefits, purpose, workplace experience, ways of working, career and personal development, and wellbeing and family.

There are a range of in-flight initiatives occurring across the enterprise to uplift elements of the Defence EVP, including at the Service and unit level. A key point of differentiation between the Defence Employee Value Proposition and that of other organisations, is the recognition of Defence families as a critical element.

The Recruiting and Retention team are progressing a number of initiatives in consultation with Defence Member and Family Support, aimed at supporting and improving ADF members’ family benefits including enhanced family health and wellbeing, enhanced partner employment support and options for better support with childcare.

There are also two important reviews that aim to benefit members and their families – the ADF Remuneration Package Review and a review into Defence Housing Support – and the ADF Employment Offer Modernisation Program (ADF EOMP), which looks at what changes could be made to ADF pay and conditions.

The Defence Housing Support Review will examine and make recommendations on opportunities to improve housing benefits for ADF members – both subsidised housing and home ownership, including those transitioning to civilian life. The Defence Housing Support Review will consider the contemporary and future housing needs of ADF members including examining current home ownership support benefits and policies, and identifying the feasibility and cost of new opportunities to encourage and enable home ownership for ADF members.

Defence members and veterans also benefited from improvements to the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme (DHOAS). More than 3,600 ADF members and veterans have accessed the DHOAS following its expansion earlier this year. DHOAS provides ADF members and veterans with a monthly subsidy payment on the interest portion of their mortgage payments, supporting members to achieve home ownership.

Key changes made to DHOAS have halved the minimum service required to access the scheme, removed the time limit to apply for members who have left the ADF, and reduced the service required for ADF members to access subsidy tiers. DHOAS is now accessible to more people earlier in their ADF career and any time after separating from the ADF.

The ADF Remuneration Package Review is also underway and will engage across relevant parts of Defence to provide opportunities for input. The Review will deliver an ADF Remuneration Package benchmarking outcomes report; including benchmarking that considers workforce segments, demographics and international military forces, and will provide advice on future pay structures.

Important changes to housing, leave and Military Salary have been achieved under the ADF Employment Offer Modernisation Program, with a raft of initiatives having come into effect in recent months.

The phase one of a new 12-tier allowance framework, called the Military Factor Framework, came into effect on 25 May 2023. Military Factor Framework incorporates the allowances that compensate ADF members for the impact associated with service in specific environments such as sea, flying, field and other types of duty into a transparent and simple framework.

In phase one, ADF members received the vast majority of benefits associated with the mature Military Factor Framework, including the increase in value of the majority of the allowances incorporated in the framework.
The introduction of new allowances, such as Training Sustainment Allowance for Army Lance Corporal to Sergeant Initial Employment Training Instructors and increases to Field Allowance and the revision of qualification periods for Field Allowance, also came into effect as part of phase one.

The increased rate of Field Allowances is an important change that acknowledges the hard working conditions faced by members when deployed within the field environment, and will see more reservists access field allowance with the qualification period reduced from 48 hours to one day (midnight to midnight).
Phase two of the Military Factor Framework, scheduled for the second half of 2024 will see all other planned changes under the mature Military Factor Framework fulfilled, including implementation of the framework rules and remaining allowances amended to the new tier rates.

Additionally, the new Categorisation Framework came into effect on 1 July 2023. It introduced new categorisation terminology and two new groups of recognised people. Changes to ADF leave and the introduction of a Location Framework were also rolled out at the same time.

Defence now recognises and provide housing benefits to Recognised Other Persons (ROP) who may need to reside with ADF personnel, for example: an elderly parent who is unable to care for themselves or a person who assists single parents to care for their children. ROP also applies to adult children aged between 21 and 25.

The new categorisation framework also introduced the ability for ADF personnel to have their partner or children who they don’t live with, recognised as Non-Resident Family (NRF). This gives members access to up to two travel benefits per year to visit their NRF, for example children from previous relationships.

Changes to ADF leave increased basic recreation leave to 25 days per year and improved flexibility in how ADF personnel can take their leave provides more opportunities for respite and for Defence families to spend time together. Additional leave improvements will be rolled out iteratively in 2024, such a dual serving couple leave transfers.

The new Location Framework may provide housing assistance to ADF personnel on an approved alternate located work agreement. It will also provide members who are transitioning from the permanent forces with access to housing and other benefits in their transition location, where approved.

Defence, through the people system and with the support of all of our people, is creating a more attractive place to work, with benefits to better support the needs of current and future APS personnel, ADF members and their families.

Defence image L-R Australian Army Captain Samuel O’Neal, RAAF Flying Officer Kristian Henderson and Royal Australian Navy Leading Seaman Medic Erika Birkefeld stand together onboard HMAS Canberra, during Talisman 2021.

Lieutenant General Natasha Fox, AO, CSC
Lieutenant General Natasha Fox entered the Australian Defence Force Academy in 1988 and graduated from the Royal Military College in 1991. Her early foundation appointments were in logistics specialising in combat supplies and logistics planning, and in training positions culminating with her being the Commanding Officer/Chief Instructor at the Australian Defence Force Academy for which she received a Conspicuous Service Cross.

Lieutenant General Fox has been employed across the Australian Defence Force in Forces Command, Joint Logistics Command, Special Operations Command, Training Command – Army, Defence People Group and Army Headquarters. She has deployed to Lebanon, Syria, and Israel and was the Chief of Staff for Joint Task Force 633 in the Middle East where she was appointed a member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her service. In 2023, Lieutenant General Fox was appointed an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia for her service as Head People Capability and Deputy Chief of Army.

Lieutenant General Fox is a graduate of the Australian Command and Staff College, and the Defence and Strategic Studies Course. She has completed numerous degrees including Masters of Business Administration, Master of Politics and Policy, and Masters of Management in Defence Studies. She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy (Singapore), The Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania), and The Said Business School (Oxford University).

Lieutenant General Fox was appointed Chief of Personnel on 5th June 2023.

Lieutenant General Fox is married to Commodore Andrew Willis, MVO, RAN and has two teenage boys that keep her busy!

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