Cameron Stewart | June 15, 2009 Article from: The Australian THE Australian Defence Force will target Arabs, Africans, Asians and other ethnic recruits in an ambitious attempt to overturn a century of Anglo-Celtic domination in the ranks. The far-reaching new strategy has the potential to reshape the face of the nation's military, which has lagged embarrassingly behind the rest of the country in reflecting ethnic diversity. If successful, it will pose a direct challenge to the flame-keepers of the Anzac legend, who have traditionally portrayed the Aussie Digger almost exclusively as a white, male Anglo-Saxon. Only 5 per cent of Australia's soldiers, sailors and air force personnel are from non-English-speaking backgrounds, compared with 21 per cent for the population as a whole. The new multicultural recruitment strategy, to be launched in coming months, is seen by Defence as a key to solving its endemic recruitment crisis. "This strategy aims to widen the recruiting pool and strengthen our engagement with young Australians from diverse cultural backgrounds," the new Minister for Defence Personnel, Greg Combet, told The Australian. The strategy poses a challenge for the ADF because ethnic groups have traditionally shunned the military, believing they would be seen as outsiders in an overwhelmingly white male environment. According to the 2007 Defence census, 87 per cent of all ADF personnel are Australian-born, compared with only 71 per cent of the general population. Only 1per cent of ADF personnel are from Asia, compared with 6 per cent for the broader community. To help break down these barriers, the ADF has asked its own soldiers with ethnic backgrounds to volunteer as go-betweens with ethnic communities to convince young Arabs, Asians, Africans and others of thebenefits of donning the slouch hat. "Current serving members with culturally diverse backgrounds will share their own stories to highlight the opportunities an ADF career has offered them and can for others," Mr Combet said. Defence experts are studying the size of ethnic groups and gauging attitudes towards the ADF within those communities. Defence sources said there would be no targeting of quotas from specific ethnic groups and no relaxation of English language standards for entry into the ADF. A Defence budget brief released last month by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found there was a significant "over-representation of Anglo-Celtic born individuals" in the regular ADF, as well as in the reserves and even in the civilian workforce in the Defence Department. "By relying on a limited part of the population, the Defence Force misses the opportunity to recruit some of the best and brightest in the community," the report's author, Mark Thomson, said. The ASPI report said the problem with an overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic military was a lack of language skills and also reduced "cultural empathy". "There is something unsettling about a defence force that is unrepresentative of the society it seeks to protect, especially for a country like Australia that defines its identity so closely with its military history and ethos," Mr Thomson said.