Defence Reserves

Defence Reservists are a fundamental part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). 

Reservists join the Navy, Army or Air Force as part-time members of the ADF and there are currently about 45,000 Active and Standby Reservists, representing about 45% of the total Force.

Defence Reserves

These men and women bring with them their civilian experience to their military employment and in return they gain new skills as part of their Reserve training and employment in Australia and on operations overseas.

Major General Paul Brereton, Head Cadet, Reserve and Employer Support Division, highlighted that Reservists can join either as new recruits or can transfer from the full-time Defence Force once they have decided to move onto life as a civilian.

“These are motivated individuals who are prepared to take on the challenge of rigorous training and, through their dedication and time, show a strong commitment to serve in the defence and protection of Australia,” Major General Brereton said.

“The support of their employers and families, as well as the community, is vital. The ADF is increasingly drawing on the skills and expertise of these part-time military personnel to maintain the ADF’s operational capability in its operations overseas.”

Defence Reserves Support (DRS) provides a link between the ADF, employers and the community from which the Reserve force is drawn.

Major General Brereton said that DRS aims to enhance the availability of the Reserve component of the ADF by promoting the benefits of employing members of the Reserve.

“DRS also aims to establish a flexible partnership with the community and employers so they are encouraged to support those in the Reserve,” he said.

“DRS specialists in each State and Territory can assist both employers and employees with enquires concerning reserve matters and in developing supportive leave policies.  They also enhance employers’ awareness of the Reserves and what they do through facilitating participation in the Employer Engagement Program which highlights the unique skills and qualities that only a Defence Reservist can bring to their workplace or business.”

The contribution of our Reservists is well demonstrated through the range of support they have provided in recent history.  Our Reservists have provided humanitarian relief to communities in Pakistan, Thailand, Rwanda and Somalia.  They are also deployed on operations in Afghanistan, the Solomon Islands and East Timor, and have deployed to Malaysia as part of Australia's commitment to the Five Power Defence Arrangement.

Defence Reserves “Reservists make a valuable contribution to the community, providing assistance in times of natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, droughts and fires and in emergency rescue operations,” Major General Brereton added.

“During the recent floods in Queensland, there were approximately 650 Defence Reservists helping their fellow Australians and there will be Reservists involved in the clean-up following Cyclone Yasi in North Queensland.”

There are a range of schemes which support employers in releasing Reservists from their employment, when they are needed by their country.  For example, the Employer Support Payment (ESP) Schemeprovides some financial assistance to eligible employers to help offset the costs of releasing employees for most categories of Australian Defence Force service.

The primary Employer Engagement Activitiesthat are undertaken include Employer Challenge Days, Exercise Executive Stretch and Exercise Boss Lift.

“Employer Challenge Days and Exercise Executive Stretch are activities for employers of Reservists and potential employers of Reservists. The opportunity gives employers an insight into the type of training conducted in the ADF,” Major General Brereton said.

Exercise Boss Lift takes employers to visit their ADF personnel on exercises and operations within Australia and overseas. This provides an opportunity for employers to actually see their employees working as Reservists.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney supports the valuable link the DRS provides to the community, Reservists and employers.

“The recent Boss Lift to East Timor showed employers what Reservists do for our country. Employers work alongside Reservists and see how Reservists’ training and deployment builds leadership and teamwork skills,” Senator Feeney said.

“The employers on Boss Lift gained a valuable insight into the benefits their employees bring to the civilian workplace.”

Senator Feeney encouraged all Australian employers, be they small, medium or large, in the private or public sector, to complete Statements of Support for Reservists.

“Employers can complete a short online form, expressing their support for our Navy, Army and Air Force Reservists. The employers can then be promoted as supportive on the Defence Reserves Support website,” he said.

“I also hope that employers will reinforce their support by developing a Defence Reserve Leave Policy for their organisation with the help of the DRS team.”

Once a year the South Australian DRS team hold an Employer Support Awards night. This is an opportunity to formally recognise those employers who have shown exemplary commitment to supporting Reservists in their workplace.

For anyone interested in learning more about DRS or becoming a Supportive Employer, visit or call 1800 803 485.

Pictured: Employers being put through their paces on an Exercise Executive Stretch and Major General Paul Brereton Head Cadet, Reserve and Employer Support Division

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