President's Opening Address

Meeting the Challenges for Reservists to Serve” was the theme of the 2018 Defence Reserves Association (DRA) National Conference held on Saturday 25 August 2018 at the Vibe Hotel Canberra Airport. The aim of the Conference was to discuss crucial issues associated with meeting the challenges facing Reservists in rendering ADF service and the actions required by Government, Department of Defence and employers to enhance the availability of Reservists to serve.

The DRA prides itself on being an apolitical organisation. It was disappointing therefore, that due to issues surrounding the leadership of the Government, for the first time at a DRA Conference, there was no Government representative to articulate the Government’s position on Reservists.

The Hon Gai Brodtmann MP, Shadow Assistant Minister for Cyber Security and Defence and a strong supporter of the DRA detailed internal and external barriers that impacted on the ability of Reservist to serve and the valuable contribution that issues raised at the Conference would make to the development of the Opposition’s policy on Reservists.

Commander 2nd Division, MAJGEN Stephen Porter, provided an update on the implementation of the Army Reserve Transformation, including strengthening the training linkages between the enabling brigades and the combat brigades, the development of 8 Bde as a centre of excellence for training delivery and the need to assist the Defence Reserves Support Council in articulating the benefits of part-time service to employers. Importantly, MAJGEN Porter posed the question whether the term “Reservists” was divisive to the part-time force being considered as an integral component of the full-time force.

COL Jenny Cotton conducted a focus group of current ADF Reservists who spoke candidly about issues and challenges that they face in rendering ADF service. Interestingly, the problems experienced by these Reservists in obtaining time off for Reserve service was similar, regardless of whether they were employed by a small organisation or a large organisation, such as  the Department of Defence.

The National Chair of the Defence Reserve Support Council (DRSC), Ms Jane McAloon, addressed the Conference on work being undertaken by the DRSC in identifying and understanding the issues in the relationship triangle between Reservists, employers and the ADF.

RADM Bruce Kafer, Head, Reserve and Youth Division (RYD), outlined how RYD achieves its mission of ‘enhancing the capacity of ADF Reservists to contribute to ADF capability’ by acting as an ‘enabler’ in supporting development and implementation of policies affecting Reservists. He also posed the question whether the term “Reserves” should be deleted from our lexicon.  RADM Kafer provided an update on legislative changes affecting protection of Reservists, employer support payments and international engagement, including the NATO National Reserve Forces Committee, the International Conference on Employer Support for Reserves, Tasman Scheme and Prince of Wales Awards.  

BRIG Simon Gould provided an update on implementation of the ADF’s Total Workforce Management (TWM) strategy and that funds have been allocated to develop a broader understanding of the opportunities that the TWM will provide to individuals over the course of their careers and to develop confidence with leaders on how the TWM delivers capability.

MAJGEN Neil Wilson reviewed the activities of the DRA over then last 10 years to assess the impact of those activities on significant policy changes relating to the employment of Reservists over that time. Allied to this review, Dr Pamela Schulz provided an interesting examination of Reservists globally and their strategic importance.

GPCAPT Tony Hindmarsh briefed the participants on the Joint Reserve Working Group review of the current employment package for active Reservists and the future work to investigate options for employment package alternatives.

BRIG Mike Annett spoke about the increase in the strength of the Army Reserve due to lower separation rates and increased recruiting, and implementation of initiatives on fatigue management of Reservists after arduous activities.

CDRE Mark Hill provided an update on the Naval Reserve, including that 40 recommendations of Project Bass have been implemented with 5 recommendations to be delivered by Navy PERS Branch. Navy is also positioning its Reserve for full participation in emerging capability.

GPCAPT Tony Hindmarsh outlined the work being undertaken in best exploiting the Air Force Reserves to optimise delivery of a 5th Generation Air Force.

MAJGEN Greg Melick provided a detailed update of the Commemoration of the Centenary of Anzac Activities both in Australia and overseas until the end of 2019.

Neil James from the Australia Defence Association ably chaired the four Open Forums that provided ample opportunity for Conference participants to raise a wide range of issues affecting the Reserves with the speakers at the Conference.

Most of the presentations delivered at the Conference have been published in this edition of the Australian Reservist and are on the DRA website. The remainder of the presentations will be published in the next edition of the Australian Reservist.

A special thank you goes to WO1 Warren Barnes for assisting in organising the Conference. Finally, I would like to thank RADM Kafer for his assistance and advice on the conduct of the Conference. Planning for the 2019 DRA National Conference is well underway and we intend to hold it on Saturday 17 August 2019 in Brisbane, so please put this date in your diary now.

An increasingly important function of the DRA is to provide support to veterans so I would like to bring to your attention Defence’s website Engage ‘Supporting Those Who Serve’, that is designed to benefit current and former ADF members, their families and those involved in their support. Engage connects users with free support from 45 not-for-profit service providers, charities, Government agencies and other service providers offering services across over 770 locations throughout Australia. Engage enables users to search for support and services based on a broad range of criteria including their needs, geographical location (local, regional and national), and the support or services required. Individuals do not need to register to access Engage, and individual use of the website is not tracked. For more information, please visit; or contact

With my best wishes

Paul Irving

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