Australian Defence Force launches gap year program for young Australians

April 30, 2014
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Feeling a little disenchanted with uni? You can now skip the cliché mid-degree Europe trip and spend a year with the army instead, as part of a military gap year program launched by the ADF in Brisbane this week.

The Australian Defence Force’s Gap Year program was a brainchild of the Howard Government and has faced a bit of back and forth tennis since its inception. It was scrapped in 2012 as part of cost-cutting by the Gillard government, but is now being revived by the Abbott government.

The government’s new version of the program was officially launched on Monday by Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert and promises to give successful applicants a taste of the military lifestyle.

“While your mates are over doing silly things in London, spending money and coming back broke, you’re going to learn some great skills, meet some great people, save some good money and do some amazing things,” said Robert this week.

What’s that about money? Next year’s estimated 260 successful applicants will receive a $45,000 pay packet, as well as subsidised accommodation, and full medical and dental coverage.

The ADF is primarily targeting school leavers, but anybody between the ages of 17 and 24 who has finished Year 12 can register their interest once applications for the 2015 intake open in June.     

The Abbott Government is billing the program as a try before you buy initiative for young Australians that mightn’t be 100 per cent sure about guns, camouflage pants and buzzcuts.

“A gap year in the ADF is designed to give school-leavers the opportunity to experience defence force life without their having to make a longer commitment,” outlined The Coalition Policy’s for Stronger Defence in September.

“In an Australian community now relatively disengaged from its defence force, the programme is also aimed at bolstering community understanding of defence matters.”

Next year’s recruits will undergo basic training before gaining skills as up and coming riflemen, drivers, administration clerks, supply coordinators and unit quartermasters.

Unlike other defence initiatives recently hyped by the Abbott Government, including its purchase of 58 fighter jets, the gap year program has so far been received with little fuss. Some critics do say the government is going overboard on military spending.

"One wonders whether the Abbott government is really willing for Defence spending to grow so fast when it is cutting so hard everywhere else," said Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, in the Fairfax media.

The launch arrives amid a national debate regarding rising youth unemployment, and a show of support from PUP Senator Jacquie Lambie for compulsory military service for young people.

The Abbott government is spending $113 million in the Gap Year program and will increase the number of places for young Australians from 260 in 2015 to more than 1000 in future years.

Kristen Daly

Image: WikiMedia Commons