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Australian women destined for front-line combat roles

12 april 2011, 12:43
Photo courtesy of www.asianetindia.com
Photo courtesy of www.asianetindia.com
A ban on Australian women serving in front-line combat positions could soon be lifted, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said Tuesday, AFP reports.

Women are allowed to fill many military roles but are excluded from the most dangerous and demanding, including in the special forces and rifle companies.

Smith said this could change after the defence force announced a series of reviews into the treatment of women sparked by a sex scandal involving a young female cadet at Australia's elite military academy.

"It's very realistic (women will serve on the front line)," Smith told reporters, saying positions should be determined on physical and mental capacity, not gender, in a bid to change the male-dominated military culture.

"What you do in the forces should be determined by your physical and intellectual capability or capacity, not simply on the basis of sex or gender.

"It opens up all of the leadership roles for women in defence -- and that's an unambiguously good thing."

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, who has been tasked with reviewing how women are treated at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), said women fighting alongside men would be "very symbolic".

"It will send a strong message that men and women will have equality in terms of opportunity for jobs," she told reporters.

A series of inquiries into the role of women was launched after a male student filmed himself having sex with a female colleague at the ADFA and allegedly secretly broadcast it to his friends.

The woman went to the media and it triggered a series of fresh complaints about sexual misconduct within the military stretching back decades.

ADFA head Bruce Kafer has been asked to take leave from the academy while Smith was Tuesday forced to deny reports that Defence Force chief Angus Houston had threatened to resign over the scandal.

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