Flat White

Curious… The woker it gets, the greater the ADF’s PR problems

8 June 2021

1:01 PM

8 June 2021

1:01 PM

As the inimitable Sir Humphrey Appleby once opined, “Minister, two basic rules of government: Never look into anything you don’t have to.

“And never set up an inquiry unless you know in advance what its findings will be.”

It should have been the first caution given to whichever genius in the rarefied strata of the Australian Defence Force command floors in Canberra decided to employ “military sociologist” Dr Samantha Crompvoets to review ADF culture. Crompvoets’s consultancy, Rapid Context, has been awarded contracts by Defence worth nearly $6.5 million to undertake social research, organisational psychology and cultural studies.

A consultant’s first rule is to structure any report to lead naturally into another equally lucrative study.

It seems Rapid Context has been doing such research now for almost a decade and is not showing any reluctance to abandon the financial benefits such contracts attract.

Even she – gender warfare seems crucial to Crompvoets’s thinking – admits her background is academic and not military, which, she claimed, had caused some friction between her and Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell and Chief of Army Rick Burr.

Campbell, Burr and many of those who preceded them seem to lack the courage to stand up to ideological nonsense.

It seems that they feel the need to be seen to be addressing the so-called “toxic” SF culture at the expense of all else.


Issues of gender were critically important to Crompvoets, who believes what has been missing is an “underpinning theory of change”.

“Strategies and approaches that view women as a ‘problem’ to be solved are themselves deeply problematic,” Crompvoets wrote. “And the fervour with which gender became the focus had a price: a narrowed view of the cultural landscape.”

She has attempted to focus that view on special forces, with a sub-theme of gender identity experimentation.

Change is as those who drive it want it to be.

Crompvoets’s contracted tenure has coincided with some of worst public relations disasters the ADF has ever experienced.

The uniformed leadership has been consistently too timid to stamp its authority and insist while change may be inevitable, it is not an ADF role to take a lead on some of the more contentious proposals, rather to train hard to perform its core role of warfighting.

Crompvoets has simply tossed an ideological grenade into the mix as a distraction.

Miss Grenade is never your friend, particularly when her pin has been removed.

And once removed, it is almost impossible to replace.

Ross Eastgate OAM is a graduate of the Royal Military College Duntroon and military historian who writes a weekly column on defence issues and blogs at Targets DownThis piece is reproduced with permission of The Townsville Bulletin, where an earlier version appeared.

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