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Thursday, 25 August 1994
Page: 329

Senator WOODLEY (10.22 a.m.) —I, too, want to commend the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade for the work it has done in this inquiry, particularly the chairman and other members of the committee. I believe the inquiry was a model for Senate inquiries, particularly in such a sensitive area.

  During my 30 years of involvement in counselling and pastoral care in the area of human relationships, I have certainly been made aware of the nature of this issue and of the sensitivity which attached to the inquiry which we undertook. In the last 10 or 15 years, particularly, the issue of sexuality has assumed larger and larger proportions in the counselling that I have done.

  We need to understand that sexuality is something which touches people at the deepest point of their lives. Human relationships very often are what make or break people's understanding of who they are. An author on counselling, Clinbel, wrote words to this effect, `To love another person is to give that person a weapon for one's greatest hurt.' I believe that to be true, for the area of sexuality is an area which really does underline such questions as: who am I? What is my future? How can I relate to another person? The agony for people of being unsure in this area of life is something that is all too obvious not only in counselling but also as we worked our way through this particular inquiry. What is trivial to one person may be of absolute significance to another person. What seems clear to the non-involved person and of little significance may be experienced by the involved person as chaos and absolute disorientation. As we worked our way through the inquiry we were certainly aware of those sensitivities.

  I want to commend the navy in particular for the way in which it undertook with absolute seriousness the conduct of this inquiry. The information which it supplied was complete at every point. I commend it for the documentation which it made available, none of which was refused at any point, for the way in which it cooperated, for the way in which senior officers were available throughout the whole inquiry, and particularly for the good working relationships project which the navy has undertaken in order to address some of the issues raised by the inquiry and by the incidents on HMAS Swan.

  I commend the officers involved in the half-day good working relationships seminar because I have been involved in many such seminars and this was as good as the best of any that I have attended. I have great confidence, therefore, in the continuation of that program. However, I do not believe that the other two services, the air force and the army, have taken this issue as seriously within their own ranks. I say to them: do not wait until it blows up in your face. Take the issue as seriously as the navy has done and begin to address the situation as well as the navy has done. I quote from one part of the report in which the culture of the ADF is described. Page 304 of the report states:

The prevailing culture in the ADF is characterised in several submissions to the Committee as male-dominated, paternalistic and ingrained with gender bias against women.

I am not so sure that that is simply a description of the ADF. I fear it may also be a description of Australian culture in general. I hope that not only the ADF but all Australians will begin, if we have not already begun, to address this issue within our own culture as a people. Australians do not communicate well, particularly Australian men. We need to work on our feelings. One of the common T-shirt slogans that I have often seen is, `Just do it'. I say to the Senate that just doing it is not enough. We need to learn to verbalise and communicate, particularly in the area of sexuality. We need to deal with the brokenness in our own human relationships in this area of life and we must help others to find wholeness in this sensitive area.

  I believe that this report is one that is a benchmark for the ADF, and also for all Australians. I trust that the ADF will take the recommendations seriously; I am sure that it will. I believe that all Australians would do well to give attention to this issue.