Why Australia Should Adopt National Service

This post follows on from my post on Resourcefulness as a key ingredient missing from todays generation. Thinking through the issue some more, I believe there are a number of individual and national benefits for National Service. First, let me define what I do, and don’t mean though.

Military National Service

Map of Mandatory Military National Service
Map of Mandatory Military National Service

When most think of National Service, it’s in the guise of a period of Military Service.

That’s how I served in the South African Air Force for 2 years in ’85-’86. An entire generation of white, male, South Africans served between 1 and 2 years, from ’68 until ’89.

Although SA no longer requires National Service other countries, such as Switzerland and Singapore do still require military service for males. Israel demands this for females as well.

But I don’t necessarily think we should implement Military National Service.

The Social Benefits of Service

Imagine we restructured National Service to be an option to serve in any service that is good for the country, this could include:

  • Ambulance
  • Police
  • Fire Fighting
  • SES & RFS
  • Community Services like Social Work
  • Sports Education
  • Aged & Palliative Care
  • Road Traffic Enforcement, and yes,
  • Military Service

Just think of the benefits to our economy with young people learning key skills, and delivering crucial services throughout the country. Imagine capable, self-disciplined young people serving communities throughout the country, and representing us around the world.

This would also be a far more cost effective measure to integrate asylum seekers into the country than detention.

Requirement For Citizenship

In fact this would be a good test for citizenship as well. If you want to vote, or work in the government, you need to complete mandatory service for the country.

If you don’t, you’re welcome to be a Permanent Resident, pay taxes etc, but have none of the rights and protections of citizenship.

Global Perspective

I also think that every person should spend a significant time serving overseas. At least 6 months to a year. Australia could use this as an “in kind” portion of Foreign Aid.

From an aid perspective, well trained medics, police, engineers, and social workers are more effective than just dollars. The return is also far more tangible because for individuals, serving overseas changes your perspective from entitlement to empowerment. From selfish to grateful.

Individual Benefit

If I’m honest, I resented 2 yrs ‘wasted’ in the Air Force for a long time. Despite having a choice to serve. I chose to naturalise as a citizen so I could apply for pilot selection in the SAAF, with full knowledge that the price was two years service.

Much more recently I understand the positive impact national service plays in my life. In a large part because I’m acutely aware of the challenges many, if not most, young people experience coming out of high school today.

These include:

  • Core life skills, like cooking, cleaning, and maintenance, navigating, ability to find food and shelter and more
  • Displine, particularly self-discipline
  • Healthy respect for others, including most importantly, self-respect – which leads to self-esteem
  • Team work, trust in colleagues, and understanding the importance of inter-dependence
  • Advanced skills that contribute to a career, depending on your branch of service – for me recognising the importance IT would make contributed to my career
  • Physical fitness and mobility, that itself could turn around your own life, and the wellness of the nation.
  • And two years to mature and figure what you want to do before wasting time and money at university. Even if that is a lesson in what you don’t want to do 🙂

In short, resourcefulness

If I were PM, I reckon this would be the most effective turn around for our economy.

If You Can’t Take a Joke, Take a Cement Pill!

Exercising Parabats
Take a Cement Pill and harden up

When I served in the South African Air Force, as you'd expect, there were times when things got challenging. Tough even. Fear, hunger, cold, loneliness, fatigue, pain, a fair amount of humiliation. Not continually, not even regularly, but discomfort is common to the military. (As it is to life)

At those times your brothers would respond in one of two ways. Either,

“If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have signed up!”

– or –

“Take a cement pill, and harden up!”

The first an effort to laugh off the discomfort. The joke was we were all conscripts, we hadn't signed up. The message: Even as conscripts we have agency. We had still made the choice not to defer, or object.

The second began as an insult from our instructors, but over time became a joke amongst the troops. It is a checkpoint to remind you a simple truth in life. Mental toughness is a decision.

You always have agency. Pain is inevitable, but suffering a choice.

So, if you can't take a joke, take a cement pill…

…and harden up.