In an exchange in May 2008 about an armed forces federation for British personnel, defence minister Derek Twigg gave evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee that:
"Recently the Australian Federation has disbanded or got in trouble; I am not quite sure which."
The Armed Forces Federation of Australia was founded in 1984 and ceased operations at the end of 2006. It was surely disingenuous to suggest that it had "got into trouble". Having chosen to offer evidence on the subject, Mr Twigg should have known that the Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA - founded 1959) and Defence Reserves Association (founded 1969) both continue to represent Australian personnel and are recognized by the Chain of Command of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
DFWA's website gave an eloquent explanation of the need for representation, and why serving personnel should join the Association. From the DFWA website (2008):
WHY THE "SYSTEM" DOESN'T WORK AND WHY YOU SHOULD JOIN DFWA - NOW!
(THIS ARTICLE SHOULD BE READ BY EVERY MEMBER OF THE ADF)
With the demise of Armed Forces Federation of Australia (ArFFA), once again members of the Australian Defence Force have no formal industrial protection. Within their industrial climate this is not necessarily an issue of major concern as the ADF is, in the main, a considerate and thoughtful employer.
Nevertheless ... additional oversight of the welfare and working conditions of the members of the ADF has always been necessary... As the name implies, DFWA’s prime aim is to advocate better conditions of service for both serving and former members of the ADF. Its membership is made up of both serving and former members of the Defence Force who maintain an affinity for the Services and are willing to contribute their time on a voluntary basis.
With the disbanding of ArFFA we are now redoubling our efforts to provide an independent voice for serving members.
In addition to advocating better conditions for the ADF we also monitor veteran’s policy particularly in regard to their medical entitlements under DVA legislation as well as keep an eye on developments within DVA which affect service delivery. Why is this necessary?
The need flows, firstly, from the unpredictability of the personal outcomes of service life in general and, more specifically, combat operations. The legislation covering ADF personnel is drafted carefully, but is rarely foolproof.
Unfortunately, when something unpredicted happens all Governments tend to treat incidents as “political issues” (often) created by an earlier administration, and are reluctant to take timely and effective steps. ADF personnel therefore need independent assistance to stimulate the necessary changes, and even publicise the deficiencies to the population at large if necessary...
Roles of the various service and ex-service organisations in Australia
The Australia Defence Association (ADA) website has an interesting explanation of the respective roles of that nation's service organisations. There are parallels with the situation in the UK.
ADA say about the defunct Australian Federation that:
The Armed Forces Federation of Australia (ArFFA) was the professional group which represented serving members of the defence force concerning their conditions of employment and service. After 21 years of loyal and dedicated service to ADF personnel ArFFA ceased operations on 28 December 2006 due, in part, to ever-growing complacency by many of those it represented so effectively.
and this about the Defence Welfare Association:
The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) is the representative group primarily concerned with the welfare, individual rights and financial interests of former members of the defence force (in both peace and war). Since the demise of ArFFA in late 2006 ... it also tackles conditions-of-service issues on behalf of serving ADF personnel. The DFWA undertakes no public discussion or advocacy concerning current operational or capability development matters or on wider national security issues.