‘ADF member’ is a dirty word – apparently

The editor of CONTACT doesn’t get a lot of fan mail or – I’m sure he’s grateful – much in the way of complaint either.

So when a disgruntled subscriber takes time out to quote the Defence Force Discipline Act at the editor of a civilian newsletter, one must assume the offence is grave…


Hi Brian,

Please note for your consideration.

The term ADF Member should not be used, only use Defence Member as per the Defence Act and Defence Discipline Act. The term ADF Member is deprecated and colloquial slang.

Term:  Defence member  

Definition:  As defined in section 3 of the Defence Force Discipline Act (DFDA) 1982, is a person who is:

1 a member of the Permanent Navy (PN), the Regular Army or the Permanent Air Force; or
2 a member of the Reserves who:

(1) is rendering continuous full-time service; or
(2) is on duty or in uniform.

Term:  Defence employee  

Definition:  A person employed in the Australian Government Department of Defence under section 22 of the Public Service Act 1999

Term:  Defence personnel  

Definition:  All Defence APS employees, Defence employees engaged locally overseas, Defence civilians, Defence members and the equivalents from other Defence organisations on exchange to Defence.

Kind Regards,

Hi S,

I presume the story on ‘Transition Services’ prompted your email?

Can I also presume you will be passing on your advice to the author of the piece, who seems to be quite keen on the terminology – Minister for Veterans Affairs Dan Tehan (though, to be honest, I’m pretty sure all his colleagues are partial to the same terminology).

For that matter, a search of the Defence web site for the term “ADF members” (including quote marks) yields 4360 results where “ADF members” is used, obviously liberally and without hint of deprecation, in official Defence text and headlines and document titles.

So, can I assume you will also be sending out an urgent ‘all-staff memo’ to educate recalcitrants inside the wire too?

Or is ‘self-deprecation’ allowed in official Defence communications and on the official Defence web site, but not by anyone else?

Is that why (I assume) you only pick on civilian publications (who did little more than transcribe an official Defence press release)?

Here in civvie street, plain talking, Queen’s English, logic, and established and accepted norms including ‘colloquialisms’ are often used – and required – so that the lay man can understand and navigate often ridiculous and confusing Defence jargon, acronyms, abbreviations (often capped for no good reason), overuse of capital letters etc etc (classic example, calling the Royal Australian Navy the ‘Permanent Navy’ with a capital P as if it were a proper noun! You won’t find that ludicrousness in CONTACT).

As editor of CONTACT I am, of course, a civilian.
But, you may or may not be aware that I have been, and still am, a proud ADF member for the past 27 years – and this is the first (and probably last/only) time I’ve ever heard that the term ‘ADF member’ was deprecated and so frowned upon as to cause a hard-working Defence ****** to take time out of his busy day to quote the DFDA at a civilian.

All that said, and after nano-second consideration, I won’t be following your advice in this matter – at least not until I see ADF members and their ministers lead by example.


I do hope you realise (but I will point it out here, because sarcasm and nuance is often lost in emails) I am only yanking your chain with all of the above) – but am grateful for the opportunity to unleash Sir Jeffrey Armiger in my defence 🙂



Brian Hartigan
Managing Editor
Contact Publishing Pty Ltd
Mobile – 0408 496 664
Fax – (02) 4293 1010PO Box 3091
NSW 2533

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sir_jeffrey_blog_logoAnother comment from resident crankyman Sir Jeffrey Armiger – a retired Public Servant with a pet hate for BE – bovine excrement.

Sir Jeffrey Armiger is dedicated to the eradication of BE. Follow Sir Jeffrey on Facebook here.





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Posted by Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

10 thoughts on “‘ADF member’ is a dirty word – apparently

  • 03/04/2017 at 1:23 pm

    Reader “S” needs to get a life!
    Maybe he has lived in Canberra too long, like all great people from that city.

    Brian, keep up the good work.

  • 28/03/2017 at 12:23 am

    I thought I would use the Defence Web site, http://www.defence.gov.au/ as reference.
    Throughout the Web site it uses the phrase “ADF Member”. As this web site is for legal purposes the official web site used by the Defence Force all articles/publications/and other documentation has to be scrutinised by Defence Legal before publication therefore it can be taken on more than face value that ADF Member is an acceptable terminology to use. Regrettably reader “S” has also taken the DFDA Act out of context as well. If your readers refer to the DFDA it refers to Australian Legislation and therefore refers only to Australia or Australian members – Hence there is no A (Australian) when referring to Defence Members. But what do I know – I am a veteran with over 20 years training and experience in various forms of enforcing and applying State and Commonwealth Legislation.

  • 27/03/2017 at 12:32 pm

    Always known it as ADF member, even when I was working in Recruiting. Mater of fact we went to great lengths to ‘civilianise’ our speech when talking to civies. Such as in the Reserve we had training nights and not parades, rounds were described as bullets and APCs were armoured tacked vehicles. My biggest gripe is when people talk about the Army Reserves – There is only one so it should be Army Reserve. However, because I am not precious, I can live with it. Great mag by the way.

    • 27/03/2017 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks John. I appreciate your support.
      Sad I never got any from Defence Recruiting 🙁 but that’s not your doing.
      Not arguing, but, I have no problem with ‘Army Reserves’ on the grounds there are more than one individual people in it – and also that there are several types… Ready Reserve, Active Reserve, Inactive Reserve etc – though I suspect they’ve actually changed the names of these things without telling me 🙂

  • 26/03/2017 at 11:49 pm

    The DFDA is only a discipline act and it doesn’t apply to civilians (yeah, yeah, yeah; except in certain circumstances). Presumably S is one of those regimental vegetables who learnt a definition and in so doing forgot that that rest of the English speaking world speaks English generally as it should be. Heaven forbid something important confronts us.

  • 26/03/2017 at 9:09 pm

    Somebody else on his trip to the left.

  • 15/03/2017 at 2:44 am

    The ADF IS THE AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE FORCE. it is all three services and reserves in one title.You cannot call a sailor a soldier or vice versa. We are or were ADF members. A point to remember is no one can take away something we have earnt. So there is no ex soldier or ex navy. Once a soldier always a soldiet and the same for the Navy and the Raaf. We stand tall in uniform we stand tall out of uniform and our service is finished. However brothers in arms for life. We choose to stand up and do the job. We need to stop the us and them we need to stand together and hold DVA and the goverment accountable so we dont loose any more to suicide. We are the ADF and proud to say we wore the uniform. We now need to change the thinking of others to respect who we are what we do or have done.
    Over to you

  • 15/03/2017 at 1:48 am

    I can’t see the problem. Everyone I know uses ADF whether they are ex forces or still current. I am ex-army and I will continue to use ADF when speaking or writing when needs be.

  • 14/03/2017 at 7:02 pm

    Nice article. Whatvis the problem. None here. However, I’m not a “civi” I’m an Ex-Service.

    Andrew Dixon

  • 14/03/2017 at 5:32 pm

    Matilda Poppy also uses ADF Service Member…are there thoughts on this???

    FYI: would you consider Matilda Poppy in your next Magazine please?


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