Is national service the answer to disaffected youths? 553



View Profile

Prince Harry recently thanked the army for keeping him out of trouble and called for a return to national service in Britain, which raises the question: is there a place for compulsory army training in Australia? Especially in light of recent events?

For a country whose national identity holds soldiers in great esteem, you’d think we’d be all for a stint of military training for young men. But since federation, we’ve collectively rejected the idea.

The hstory of national service in Australia has revolved around wars that were too close to home (or our allies) to ignore.

From 1911, all Australian males between 12 and 26 were required to complete some compulsory military training, and around 175,000 did so before the first Great War.

During WWI, however, the issue of conscription split both the public and parliament. In 1916, Australians were asked by referendum: “Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military services, for the term of this War, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?”

The results were 49 per cent for and 51 per cent against.

After a second failed referendum, Prime Minister Billy Hughes crossed the floor and formed the National Labor Party. Out in the streets, anti-conscriptionists were arrested, their publications destroyed. There were mass demonstrations and stop-work meetings organised by unions who feared for their workers being sent to war and replaced by foreigners.

Despite the failure of compulsory service, 416,809 Australian men voluntarily joined the armed forces throughout the WWI, representing almost 40 per cent of the eligible male population.

At start of World War II, the Government decided all unmarried men aged 21 were to be called up for three months training but could only serve in Australian or its territories. The National Services Act was then amended in 1942, and all men aged 18 to 35 were to join the Citizens’ Military Forces. These men were known as chockos (chocolate soldiers) by the army because it was believed they would melt in the heat of battle. The chockos, however, proved them wrong by holding back the Japanese on the Kokoda track.

During the Korean War in the 1950s, all males aged 18 had to register for 99 days full-time training, and two years service in the CMF, this policy ended in 1959, but the issue would rise again just a few years later with the American war in Vietnam.

From 1964, Australia implemented compulsory national service for 20-year-old males who were chosen by birth-date lottery and required to give two years service, plus three years on active reserve. In 1966, the Government sent National Servicemen overseas to Vietnam; around 20,000 “nashos” did a tour to the south-east Asian country.

In light of growing opposition to the war, the anti-conscription movement rose again, only this time it was more radical and took place under the spotlight of television. Gough Whitlam eventually ended conscription in 1972.

Since then, Australia has relied on recruitment for the army and its volunteer counterpart, the army reserve. The Australian Army Reserve currently has around 17,ooo recruit in active reserve, and 13,000 in standby. In recent years, the AAR has been deployed to East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The idea of conscription is clearly not one that’s ever going to fly with the Australian public for fear of sending “our boys” unwillingly off to fight yet another country’s war. But in light of shocking revelations that young boys are taking up arms, be it playing stupid games with their friends, like the boy fighting for his life after a game of Russian roulette, or joining militant groups and turning against us, is it time to start a conversation about channelling the energy, drive and need to be “part of something” that plagues young men, in particular, into something productive like national service?

Germany phased out conscription in 2011, but in the 50 years prior to that young men were required to complete six months military service or civilian service if they objected to the army. In Israel, all young men over 18 are required to serve three years in the military, two years for young women. In practice, only half of all young people end up serving in the military due to exemptions.

Reflecting on the role the army had on his life after 10 years’ service, Prince Harry told the Sunday Times, “Definitely, without a doubt, it does keep you out of trouble. I dread to think where I’d be without the army.”

What do you think? Would you welcome compulsory national service in Australia?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Mmmm, not sure if putting a gun into a nutters hand is such a great idea, Julian knight proved that

    2 REPLY
    • They don’t carry weapons around with them.

      1 REPLY
      • Wanda,
        The Australian g’ment wants to allow jihadists who have slaughtered and decapitated – murdered – innocent humans, back into Australia. Here, in Australia, we are now at great risk as never before. There is no denying it. We have been for a long time. It is just coming to the fore.
        One scholar agrees that they should be allowed back into the country so he can study them! (And of course secure funding – taxpayers’ money -to do so).
        The reality is, whether you like it or not:
        1. The Australian g’ment disarmed a nation.
        2. A nation that is now at great risk, should they (not we) allow these people back into the country.
        3. Islamists are not ‘lured’ into going overseas to ‘fight’. It is an inherent component of [their] age-old religious belief system. Mark my words well. I know.

  2. The discipline of the Army is very strict. I think it us a good idea. It would really instil discipline, respect, comradeship, and pride. They would hate it to begin with but after their 4 mth training period I think you would find them quite different. My son enlisted voluntarily. Very hard but he went in a boy and became a self assured respectful young man.

    11 REPLY
    • Susan, I would like to thank your son for his service. You are right to be proud.

    • I think that would give them another perspective but the services won’t just take anyone will they? Remember learning about the Press Gangs when we were at school? I think so many of them would fare much better in Nasho than they do in their own homes, 3 meals a day, free dental, health and housing.

    • So now the Army will baby sit these kids? Does the Army even want these kids? It is a mind set that has to change and that is very hard to do.

    • ‘The discipline of the Army is very strict’.
      You speak from first-hand experience?
      Yes, the army, per se is a disciplined force.
      Yes, the army has strict protocols for training.
      However, the one thing that you forget or ignore is that:
      Governments use armies to do their dirty work.
      All forces (police, army, navy, airforce) are instruments of State, puppets that ‘do as I can’t do’ to protect the king in his castle who attaches no value to human life other than his / her own. Fact.
      Army=trained killers.
      So don’t worry about ‘killers wandering the street’ because they are everywhere. Driving your highways in their trucks. Eating at your tables.
      Look at the effects of war on the lives of billions of humans. But why should you or anyone worry – unless it happens to you?
      If you think killing is the answer then the world will never be restored.
      Rethink your values and your moral platform or join the army.

  3. They would learn and earn a lot more respect as it did back in the60s

    1 REPLY
    • Stephen,
      The REAL fault is that of the parents who either are not equipped to raise their children with a set of established values or can’t or don’t want to.
      No prison, no effect of law, no rule on the planet, no entry into any force on earth including the army per se can or will change that.
      Armies teach people how to conceal their real attitudes. They are not healers of erroneous ways.
      The ONLY person who can change an attitude or way of life is the person, the individual themselves.
      If you don’t know that then you never will.

  4. Is this to do with the MOSLIM problem in Australia ( youth ) if so NO I DON’T THINK IT’S A GOOD IDEA AT ALL

    4 REPLY
    • Get real & thimk about it. Its also not MOSLIM.

      1 REPLY
      • Musselmano (male)
        Muslimah (female)

        As one Musselmano said,
        “Do/say anything to get passed them (non-muslims) – wear jeans, if you have to…”
        You will never know or understand why Muslims do what the do unless you first understand their psyche, their deep religious beliefs (and there are many variations although all share one thing!)

    • Strange. I don’t see many other religions wanting to go overseas and behead people?

      1 REPLY
      • Agreed. Point taken, Pepper.
        Nor do we see anyone else beheading or threatening to behead innocent humans in the streets in public.
        This is our reward for saying,
        ‘Welcome to our country’

    • It is not THE only reason but still a consideration. Too many kids with no direction, no skills, no respect so this can only have a win/win really. They may not like it initially but it won’t kill them to co-operate with people who do NOT take no for an answer..

  5. ADF is for defence, not a child-minding service for disaffected youth. National Service is expensive and not an efficient way to train ADF

    11 REPLY
    • No Defense Force in the World tolerates insubordination. They will soon come right and see the light. Been there done that.

    • The expense is not so much their wages but the cost of the hard and soft infrastructure, eg the bases, equipment, consumables, clothing and the cost of the trainers and just when they are reaching the stage where they are trained, it’s almost time to release them from NS

    • Norbert
      They DO get paid a wage. They are paid the same as any other serving personnel.
      We are no longer living in the 1800’s where you give someone a shilling a week, 2 meals of gruel a day and a tot of rum.
      They are paid for the job they do.

    • I agree with you to some extent Ray – but a good percentage of them would turn out to be suitable recruits. They do NS in lots of Europe with good results

    • Couldn’t agree more. why should the ADF members have to instill right and wrong into these people, it is up to parents to do that. we do have Gap Year at the moment, they do 12 months and then can stay longer if they wish. But it is something they want to do. If you make kids do something like join ADF, they will rebel more.

    • The members of the ADF did not join to act as babysitters for those that have no motivation to get off their arse and improve their own lives. If they want to change and do better they would sign up themselves. Those are the ones that do well.

    • get real HOW MUC DOES DOLE COURT COSTS JAIL VICTOM COMPENSATION DRUG REHABILITATION COST a lot more than national service for sure .done in so many overseas countries without any problems DO IT HERE

    • No argument there, that is true. In the most recent NS scheme many volunteered to serve in Vietnam, and quite a few Nashos did stay on after their two years. NS was introduced at that time to meet a need, ie to increase the size of the Services in expectation of unrest in our region, not as a social engineering experiment.

    • Thanks, Ray. And this is exactly how it should stay. My family were lost to wars and I am proud of them. Without which we would have no life, no freedoms – the freedoms of which we have today. That are being abused by scum.

  6. I know it’s a good. I’ve seen at first hand several young men and women who couldn’t hold down jobs were useless at home and their future was very bleak. One of the young woman joined the navy on one of their youth training experiences in NZ that went over several months. She learnt to look after herself keeping herself clean and her shoes shiny and her clothes pressed. She learnt how to present herself and finally had respect for not only herself but other people . She was so proud of herself and what she had achieved. When she got out and started applying for jobs companies couldn’t wait to get her. She also ended up with a really nice young man. The Navy turned her life around in a great way.

  7. I think its a great Idea, bring it on, to many of our young are doing drugs, this would give them discipline , and respect for themselves, both of which seems to be lacking at the moment

    1 REPLY
    • Drug-detecting dogs, etc. would be required as well, to keep drugs out, as a totally drug-free unit is a MUST!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *