Royal Australian Navy Discussions and Updates 2.0

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
I agree, very important that this is resolved. My two bobs worth is below
  • Step 1 is remuneration. I know retention bonuses are being considered. Civilian industry uses this mechanism frequently for at risk people. My business for instance provides a $20k bonus for staying an extra 12 months (payable on completion) for specific individuals (about 3-5% of the workforce). It provides a very effective set of golden handcuffs to those who are financially sensitive and have critical skills that are needed.
  • Step 2 is stability. Provide the ability to stay in one location for multiple postings. Moving around the country is great for single people with no connections. It's an absolute disaster for families with children, both partners working and/or elderly parents to look after.
  • Step 3 is predictability. Reduce the frequency of crash postings and other short notice activities. Like the above, it is highly disruptive to a family when a parent needs to suddenly depart without the ability to prepare, or needs to stay at sea when they were planning to be alongside.
The first point is simply money. I would hope the upcoming review includes something to this effect.

The second and third points are actually driven more by fleet size. The larger the fleet, the more postings available in a single location. Additionally the larger the fleet, the more capacity to rest ships and people, and avoid back to back deployments. So, expanding the fleet size (which appears to be part of the upcoming review) is in my opinion important to retention.

From my own perspective, I left the Navy for point 3. I remember vividly having to leave my wife sobbing at the front gate of FBE while I departed for a three month deployment on 48 hours notice. This was on top of moving to Sydney a month earlier for the first time (where my wife managed the full removal and house hunting while I was at sea), where we had no family support and my wife had no local friends. This happened several other times, and it got less emotional on subsequent events, but in the end I had to choose between my job (which I enjoyed) and my family. I chose my family.

I will add a fourth point. People do like to work with new, modern and cutting edge equipment. It goes to job satisfaction. New platforms help with this motivation.
Excellent post!
 

protoplasm

Active Member
  • Step 2 is stability. Provide the ability to stay in one location for multiple postings. Moving around the country is great for single people with no connections. It's an absolute disaster for families with children, both partners working and/or elderly parents to look after.
  • Step 3 is predictability. Reduce the frequency of crash postings and other short notice activities. Like the above, it is highly disruptive to a family when a parent needs to suddenly depart without the ability to prepare, or needs to stay at sea when they were planning to be alongside.
Step 2 is the critical one. If you don't solve this you will never impact the workforce crisis. With the cost of living it is currently not possible to support a family long term with just one wage earner, hasn't been possible for at least 20 years. This means that work for your partner becomes critical to the functioning of the family, and this isn't casual shifts at a supermarket, this is a career. Careers need geographic stability, you can't just packup and move across the country every 2-3 years and expect careers to work out. The implications of this for posting locations, service personnel movement, leadership systems are enormous, but must be considered if the RAN is going to retain people long term.
 

DDG38

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
I agree, very important that this is resolved. My two bobs worth is below
  • Step 1 is remuneration. I know retention bonuses are being considered. Civilian industry uses this mechanism frequently for at risk people. My business for instance provides a $20k bonus for staying an extra 12 months (payable on completion) for specific individuals (about 3-5% of the workforce). It provides a very effective set of golden handcuffs to those who are financially sensitive and have critical skills that are needed.
  • Step 2 is stability. Provide the ability to stay in one location for multiple postings. Moving around the country is great for single people with no connections. It's an absolute disaster for families with children, both partners working and/or elderly parents to look after.
  • Step 3 is predictability. Reduce the frequency of crash postings and other short notice activities. Like the above, it is highly disruptive to a family when a parent needs to suddenly depart without the ability to prepare, or needs to stay at sea when they were planning to be alongside.
#1 - totally agree, although retention bonuses have been around for some time now with varying degrees of success depending on which category they were offered to. When I discharged in 2007 I got a phone call 2 weeks before my final day offering me a resign bonus of basically a year's wage. Except it wasn't after tax, it was barely $12K (in 2007 dollars). I told the CMDR who rang me to call me back when the Navy was actually serious about trying to hang onto people. Never got another phone call so they lost 20 years of corporate knowledge in a niche skillset.
#2 - will always be an issue as people stay in longer while they get married and have children. Not sure how this can really be fully realised when the service has requirements for multiple fleet locations and only so many category billets to go around. The Navy is unique in that it's work place is mobile and deploys on a regular basis so separation simply comes with the job. I do think that organisations like the Defence Community Organisation and Defence Families do a much better job in providing support for spouses and children of deployed members but of course it's not the same. Maybe better expectation management for new spouses especially those who have no military background would ease the pain a bit.
#3 - predictability will only be fixed with better manning so it's a bit of a chicken before the egg scenario. Until there's some fat in critical categories (and not just technical and engineering trades) then there's going to be an ongoing problem with shuffling billets and grabbing people from shore respite postings to allow ships to deploy.
 

old faithful

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
So the R.A.N has a nominal strength of 14750 personnel, with 50 ships to support, which is @295 persons to support each ship.
Now of course we have all the other units that need supporting as well, like aviation, all the trades, etc. So the question is, how many people does Navy really need? 16,000? 20,000? Surely it would be better to be looking at them, than looking for them? So ideally, Navy needs more personnel than it actually needs (I know that does not make sense) , but it does make sense if we are to grow the Navy.
 

d-ron84

Member
One major reason for that is affecting the recruitment numbers that no-one has mentioned is the constant barrage of news articles about an upcoming naval war with China, articles stating how "great" their kit is and how dilapidated ours is. I've heard it straight form the horses mouth at a DFR event, "Why would I join the Navy if they're going to War?"
 

DDG38

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
that no-one has mentioned is the constant barrage of uninformed and hyperbolic news articles about an upcoming naval war with China, articles stating how "great" their kit is and how dilapidated ours is.
There, fixed it for you. ;) Another contributing factor that no one is talking about is decades of neoliberalism that has focussed on hyper individualism, where it's all about what I can get and nothing about service to community and society. Volunteerism at record lows, the struggle to get people to comply with health orders during the pandemic etc. The hard part is making military service relatable and attractive to the current young generation.
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
Things have changed.

  • Looking at recruitment in areas like Nursing, Teaching, Policing, shows there is a general shortage of people being interested in this type of salary employment, particularly in expensive cities like the capital cities. The ADF has been called in to cover for nurses and police and SES. It may be called in to cover for teachers.
  • Regional cities make employment for partners not in the service somewhat difficult.
  • NSW Dep Education teaching is paying a $30,000 sign on bonus to work in some western Sydney schools. This is a job that pays $130k and has 11 weeks holidays and have a face to face commitment of 9-3 usually. An extra couple of bucks probably doesn't move the dial a whole lot in this market.
  • STEM positions are nearly impossible to fill. If you want a trade in engineering, or electrical or mechanical, or a someone degree qualified, forget it, they have already been offered as a high school leaving 18 year old $130k+ package. Even then, they can't fill them. We are seeing employers pay for degrees in all fields. So an ADFA or ADF education benefit is being eroded in the market. You must grow your own, earlier.
  • Some of the ADF people who are still in or are leaving have told me, that it is the male that is leaving the ADF, while their wife is staying in.
  • The idea that the man works and the female wife stays at home as a home maker is actually fairly rare these days in any capital city. Its not really about liberal ideas, its often that the house is so expensive you will need at least two incomes or more to buy or rent. Women aren't just working casual jobs or 2 days a week, they have their own careers, which are equally or more important.
  • I heard communities dominated by ADF as an employer very upset about services they are offered in the place they are forced to live in for their families. Schools, childcare, health services, etc.
  • As automation have removed some of the more cruisy and easier jobs, lean manning and crewing deficiencies is definitely wearing people out very fast. Many of the traditional perks or lifestyle advantages have been eroded.
  • People expect greater autonomy in their life than previously.
  • Obesity is at at record levels. 67% of the Australian adult population is obese or overweight. Poorer people working casually or salaried or shift work are more likely to be overweight.

Honestly something like obesity can be cured pretty quickly. For young people 3 months on semiglutide and a somewhat regular plan for food and exercise will see them make perfect weight. This should be used as a recruiting tool, not a reason to block people from service.

The ADF should probably look at running its own schools for years 11 and 12. These schools can have a STEM focus, based around defence. With a ROS of a compulsory gap year or something. Selection should be by aptitude, not perhaps skill. Skill can be taught, and skills are required at every level at the ADF. Aptitude and interest and motivation are key.

The ADF will probably need to loosen up about things that are silly hold overs and that don't really matter. Tattoos, beards, haircuts, piercings. As long as its functional, who cares.

I think we have to understand why the rum ration was introduced. Because it helped morale. We got rid of it, and saw numbers crash, its not cause and effect, but I believe this is a classic example of why today it sucks more than in the past. We can manage alcohol in the work place in other areas. We can manage freedoms and liberties.

We need key gates that make people seriously reconsider leaving at 3,5,7,10,15 year periods.

People aren't aware of what is on offer currently.

We don't need just a few hundred, we need thousands, and we need to turn around declining interest and retention.
 

Volkodav

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
There, fixed it for you. ;) Another contributing factor that no one is talking about is decades of neoliberalism that has focussed on hyper individualism, where it's all about what I can get and nothing about service to community and society. Volunteerism at record lows, the struggle to get people to comply with health orders during the pandemic etc. The hard part is making military service relatable and attractive to the current young generation.
Oh boy, could you imagine trying to train an anti vax, wellness, vegan, paleo conspiracy nut?

Those peanuts make drug addled hippies look reasonable.

Personal observation, people join the navy because they want to go to sea, they want to deploy, same with people who join the army, they want to deploy.
 

spoz

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
The ADF should probably look at running its own schools for years 11 and 12. These schools can have a STEM focus, based around defence. With a ROS of a compulsory gap year or something. Selection should be by aptitude, not perhaps skill. Skill can be taught, and skills are required at every level at the ADF. Aptitude and interest and motivation are key.
Back to the future, then. We did that until the mid 70s (for officers) and early 90s for sailors. Best scholarship there was - full board and accomodation with an, admittedly small, wage from age 15. And the MOBIs and MUPPETS became senior sailors in double quick time, as well.

And we were pumping several hundred fully qualified tradespeople into the Australia economy every year, who when the left the Service had a minimum of 6-10 years experience. Doing away with Nirimba (and its Army and Air Force equivalents) may well have been the worst Defence decision of all those made in that appalling decade. And one of the worst for the whole country.
 
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Redlands18

Well-Known Member
Back to the future, then. We did that until the mid 70s (for officers) and early 90s for sailors. Best scholarship there was - full board and accomodation with an, admittedly small, wage from age 15. And the MOBIs and MUPPETS became senior sailors in double quick time, as well.
Actually, had a school classmate in 1977 leave 1/2 way through year 10 to join the Navy, under that scheme.
 

devo99

Active Member
As someone within the demographic being discussed, I believe I can pitch in a little here even if it gets a little personal and isn't as relevant to the retention side of things.
I can't really say if my reasons for wanting to join up are the norm or an outlier but I can speak for myself and run through some of them and link them to things that have been mentioned so far.

The starting point for me is awareness and inspiration which ties in a fair bit with national pride as @old faithful mentioned. I don't come from a military family but three main things boosted my awareness of the military as a child,
  • Military history documentaries and movies. Battle of Britain and the Battle 360 documentary series to name two notable ones for me.
  • Access to military museums. I was lucky enough to go to the National Maritime Museum and AWM for school excursions as well as visiting them during family trips and outings.
  • Public displays. As much as some might scoff at parades and similar pomp, I know that I'm certainly not the only Sydney kid who always had the memories of the 2013 International Fleet Review in the back of my head drawing me towards the Navy side of things.
From this we can establish that impressive events, engaging media and readily accessible military museums are all useful tools for planting the seeds of at least awareness if not interest in a military career in the younger generations. This stuff might seem like what you could call long lead time strategies but we should always remember that many of the sailors and submariners which will be crewing the future fleet we like to discuss so much are all still in school. Perhaps it would be just as wise and responsible to give attention to fostering the next generations of sailors as much as we try to attract 18-20 year olds who might well have made up their mind on another career by that point.

The next point I would mention is social and individual attitudes. This ties in both with what @DDG38 said and also again a little with what @old faithful said. Apologies but I will be going full resume level horn tooting of my personal attributes for a moment as I consider them to be relevant. I grew up in a family that instilled in me the value of service for others, optimism and problem solving. I believe it's thanks to these that once I was old enough to encounter the regular media ADF bashing and cynicism I was not put off by it but just saw it as things that I could hopefully someday contribute to improving. I have occasionally found myself taking in views of my neighbourhood and city and asking myself if it was all worth giving my life in service to it and although it's perhaps easier said than done I've always concluded that it was. I'm not sure how exactly we would go about spreading these attributes but it's something I believe should be encouraged at every opportunity.

With the self praise over I can say that despite all that, there are some things which have discouraged me in my intentions for a Navy career and the most significant of those is probably considering how I could fit in starting and fathering a family alongside serving in the RAN. I've decided that I will leave thinking about that until I actually have either a family or a Navy career but it's something which I could see potentially putting a lot of people off. Other factors would be, as @StingrayOZ mentioned, a focus by DFR on finding applicants who tick all the physical and educational boxes off the bat instead of finding people who are willing to develop to meet them. I personally would be looking to do NEOC if it weren't for my admitted lack of effort or interest into analysing cinematography and poetic techniques to pass grade 12 English disqualifying me.
 

Volkodav

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
Back to the future, then. We did that until the mid 70s (for officers) and early 90s for sailors. Best scholarship there was - full board and accomodation with an, admittedly small, wage from age 15. And the MOBIs and MUPPETS became senior sailors in double quick time, as well.

And we were pumping several hundred fully qualified tradespeople into the Australia economy every year, who when the left the Service had a minimum of 6-10 years experience. Doing away with Nirimba (and its Army and Air Force equivalents) may well have been the worst Defence decision of all those made in that appalling decade. And one of the worst for the whole country.
DSTO, as it was then, GAF,(later ASTA) and other government owned businesses used to train and employ thousands of trades, technicians and engineers.

There were not just apprenticeships, but cadetships and pupilage, producing many more highly capable people than we do today.

Today such training is perceived as a privilege when the truth is it's an investment in the future.
 

hauritz

Well-Known Member
One major reason for that is affecting the recruitment numbers that no-one has mentioned is the constant barrage of news articles about an upcoming naval war with China, articles stating how "great" their kit is and how dilapidated ours is. I've heard it straight form the horses mouth at a DFR event, "Why would I join the Navy if they're going to War?"
Really that part isn’t an invention of the media. A lot of the older equipment is worn out and becoming rapidly obsolete. Frankly I wouldn’t want to have to fight in a thirty year old frigate or submarine either.

While patching up some older equipment is a necessity it isn’t the priority. The priority is to get new hulls in the water ASAP. Hopefully powerful new platforms such as the Virginias and Hunters will attract more people into the service.
 

DDG38

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
For those interested, Defence is fronting Senate Estimates today (14/2/24) starting at 0900 EDST with the following topics listed :
Program 2.1: Strategy, Policy and Industry.
Program 2.2: Defence Executive Support.
Program 2.3: Defence Finance.
Program 2.4: Joint Capabilities.
Program 2.5: Navy Capabilities.
Program 2.6: Army Capabilities.
Program 2.7: Air Force Capabilities.
Program 2.8: Australian Defence Force Headquarters.
Program 2.9: Capability Acquisition and Sustainment.
Program 2.10: Security and Estate.
Program 2.11: Chief Information Officer.
Program 2.12: Defence People.
Program 2.13: Defence Science and Technology.
Program 2.14: Defence Intelligence.
Program 2.15: Naval Shipbuilding and Sustainment.
Program 2.16: Nuclear-Powered Submarines.

Program 2.19: Defence Trusts and Joint Accounts.
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
You can watch the live stream here : APH Watch Read Listen
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
Back to the future, then. We did that until the mid 70s (for officers) and early 90s for sailors. Best scholarship there was - full board and accomodation with an, admittedly small, wage from age 15. And the MOBIs and MUPPETS became senior sailors in double quick time, as well.
Is it surprising that the solution may have been a good idea we had implemented before.

And we were pumping several hundred fully qualified tradespeople into the Australia economy every year, who when the left the Service had a minimum of 6-10 years experience. Doing away with Nirimba (and its Army and Air Force equivalents) may well have been the worst Defence decision of all those made in that appalling decade. And one of the worst for the whole country.
Agreed.

The site is still there, but all the education facilities (NSW TAFE, Western Sydney University, a NSW DET high school and a catholic education office high school) are going to move out and turn it into housing.

But that's the problem, instead of one voice running the place, its carved up between four+ massive entities, with their own priorities and their own issues. TAFE NSW was gutted and kicked to the kerb for 10+ years, the two schools are competing systems, that despise them each other and most of their own staff, and the WSU left the site, put in a pathway college, and pays for most of the upkeep. They all want off.

There are a lot of rotten building and facilities on the site, the pool, which was a community pool for schools in the local area, has had holes drilled into it, but still fills with water and is a mosquito breeding ground spreading ross river. TAFE has some buildings that are condemned and abandoned, with smashed windows, railings falling off, covered in graffitti.. There are some new buildings, but is an uncoordinated mess, and funny enough none of the entities can share.

The Irony was that Richmond airbase staff were desperately wanting a technical or selective or STEM school nearby the airbase. A school that could run maths and physics at least. Particularly for the kids of service members in the Airforce. You know because those who maintain aircraft might want their children to do at least as well as they did.

But then they killed that plan. Which was a whole bunch of money to rename Richmond High, Hurlstone High.

It would be nice if education providers focused on education rather than property development.

If the ADF training pipeline is a national priority, then its a national priority. Run, controlled coordinated and prioritised, nationally. Heck, contract out the work to state government or other entities if you must, but run the shop.

And you must actually run it.

If you think TAFE is prioritising maritime qualifications or aircraft maintenance, you are kidding yourself. TAFE is run like a business, so only courses that make money get attention. Which is why STEM is dying generally, internationally. Manufacturing, sovereign commercial shipping, etc are not big employers any more. If the ADF wants this, ADF have to make this.

Maybe in doing this you fix other social problems too..
 

Armchair

Active Member
Really that part isn’t an invention of the media. A lot of the older equipment is worn out and becoming rapidly obsolete. Frankly I wouldn’t want to have to fight in a thirty year old frigate or submarine either.

While patching up some older equipment is a necessity it isn’t the priority. The priority is to get new hulls in the water ASAP. Hopefully powerful new platforms such as the Virginias and Hunters will attract more people into the service.
i will grant you “worn out” for ANZACs but I don’t think RAN MFUs are especially old compared to those in other good navies. They are too few in number (especially DDGs) and being replaced too slowly.
 

Volkodav

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
H
i will grant you “worn out” for ANZACs but I don’t think RAN MFUs are especially old compared to those in other good navies. They are too few in number (especially DDGs) and being replaced too slowly.
Hobarts are few in number, the Canberra's are just short of mid career and the Anzacs are close to three quarters of the total number of major combatants.

In terms of what the average person looks at and says, wow, I want to do that, the Hobart's are the only shiny new exciting thing they see.
 

StevoJH

The Bunker Group
With regards to operating and maintaining MFU's, maybe there are better options.

Are there any numbers out there for the difference in cost (and capability) between running individual units for 30-40 years with multiple expensive upgrade cycles (and increasing maintenance requirements of aging platforms) versus doing minimal upgrades and replacing the units after 15-20 years in service? Especially once you've got the industrial base up and running and turning out new units more frequently.

3 Hobart class ships cost $9 billion to build (say $3 Billion each), they are now about to start going through over $5 billion in upgrades, which reduces availability, training opportunities etc.

9 Hunter class are (or were) going to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $45 Billion, which works out as $5 billion per unit, which doesn't seem so bad when you work out what inflation has been in the meantime and how long its going to be until the last one is completed.

So in terms of capability, cost and availability (not to mention the benefit to industry) what option is best?
 
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