What's in It for Us? Visible Minorities in the Royal Australian Air Force.

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Jarrod PENDLEBURY, The University of Sydney, Australia
In 1988, the first two women to graduate as Pilots in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) received their ‘wings’; an event that seemed to promise a bright future for female pilots in Australia. But in the intervening 30 years, the representation of women in both the Pilot category and the broader organisation has exhibited little growth. Despite significant efforts to increase the representation of women and other visible minorities in the RAAF, a stubborn perception prevails that to do so would necessarily reduce the capability of the organisation. This paper seeks to circumnavigate this ‘capability argument’ by shifting the burden of proof onto those who oppose a more representative military. Drawing on political philosophy, (such as Hannah Pitkin’s The Concept of Representation) I argue that a compelling human rights argument exists to remove all possible barriers that act to limit minority participation (in the sense of minorities within the organization, such as women) in national defence. Moreover, as distinct from capability considerations that are frequently subject to revision and renegotiation in the armed forces, this human rights argument suggests that the representativeness of a military organisation is a fundamental condition of its legitimacy as a Government entity. At its core, this paper argues that contemporary efforts to diversify the RAAF have stalled due to a dominant preoccupation with judging the utilitarian worth of inclusiveness.