As one of Canberra's most high profile alumna, Lieutenant General Fox delved into the intricacies of recruitment and the culture within the Defence Force. In her capacity as Chief of Personnel in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the first female to reach the rank of Lieutenant General, Lieutenant General Fox provided commentary on her role and the strategic initiatives underway in the ADF.

“I have a job for four years, it is massive, but I love what I do,” Lieutenant General Fox said.

“I have a moment in time to make a difference for the future of the Australian Defence Force. That moment in time for me now is all about systems thinking, having the organisation that I command held in an accountable way, through leadership but to also enable people through support and development.”

Speaking on the culture within the Defence Force and how young women are treated, Lieutenant General Fox said they are focusing on creating a safe environment for people to report sexual misconduct.

“When I joined, I think there was only just over 6,000 women in 1988. Now one in five are women in the Australian Defence Force; the more diverse workforce you have the more behaviours and therefore being accountable for your behaviours. It’s about holding one another to account,” she said.

“This is an Australian issue. We cannot ever not focus on it, we have to make sure we keep creating a safe environment, make it okay to report, put the support networks in place for people to actually get support if they are reporting, and we hold people to account for their behaviours.

“For the Australian Defence Force Academy, we are redesigning our living accommodation and there will be a substantial project in the coming years for a new designed building block. It is designed to be a psychosocial safe place.”

Recruitment numbers into the Australian Defence Force have been declining. With the recent announcement that from 1 July permanent residents already in Australia from New Zealand, then from January 2025 from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, can join the Australian Defence Force, Lieutenant General Fox said it is about widening the aperture for the population who are in Australia to serve.

“To get permanent residency, these people have already passed a health check, tested for English literacy and your character has been assessed. To then join the Australian Defence Force, we overlay those policies again because we have a fit and proper person check requirement to join,” she explained.

“The people from other countries who then join, after 90 days would apply for citizenship. Citizenship is an inherent requirement of military service, so they would become Australian citizens.”

Recruiting the modern generation is also a key priority for the Australian Defence Force, and a key decision made by Lieutenant General Fox was to go out to rural communities instead of only focusing on young people heading to their recruitment centres.

“We wanted to do things differently, we couldn’t keep doing things the same,” she said.

“We have young people in our recruiting teams who are in their mid- to late twenties, they are the face in the community, and they tell their stories and they relate to young people.

“We have a new mobile recruitment centre which is a bus, and it takes recruiting into the community. We hadn’t done that before, we usually fly in and fly out, but now the bus stays for a few days and enables more conversations with young people.”

Canberra Rector and Dean, Professor Emma Sparks said Canberra fosters future leaders and hearing from our alumni and their achievements, like Lieutenant General Fox’s journey, is inspiring.

“For the trainee officers that I see every day on campus at , I look at the cadets at the very start of their careers and I am filled with a great deal of hope and optimism that they too can inspire and reach the heights that Lieutenant General Fox has reached in the Defence Force,” Professor Sparks said.

“Lieutenant General Fox’s honesty and openness about the challenges and opportunities that she has faced during her career can only make things better for those that are starting or building their careers.”

Leadership in ACTion was moderated by Jenna Price, a regular columnist for The Canberra Times, and is an annual event for Canberra to discuss innovative leadership in various careers. 

Images from Leadership in ACTion 2024