This Profession of Arms Seminar on the subject of Australian civil–military relations is intended to revive interest in a neglected but important field of study. For four decades, the field of Australian civil–military relations has been an outlier in defence scholarship, a situation which has hampered a better understanding of how policy, strategy and operations are formulated by Australian politicians, military professionals and public servants.

Little research has been conducted by Australian scholars on comparative Western democratic civil–military models to inform measurements of Australia’s own civil–military model based on a diarchy. Moreover, the very term ‘civil–military
relations’ in Australia is often narrowly employed to explain the nexus that exists in the Defence organisation between the public service bureaucracy and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with limited focus on political dynamics.

The notion of Defence as a ‘bureaucratic-military’ organisation tends to encourage the pursuit of organisational techniques that are drawn from civilian management analysis – as reflected in the many reviews of Defence performance since the 1970s. In the twenty-first century, an improved and modern focus on the theory and practice of civil–military relations is required to assist Australia’s policy makers, military practitioners and public servants to make more insightful and informed assessments of the ADF’s sociopolitical role and of the Defence Department’s organisational effectiveness.

Professor Michael Evans
General Sir Francis Hassett Chair of Military Studies
Australian Defence College
October 2021