Australian Army soldier is facing discharge from a result of not being clean shaving. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Australian Army soldier is facing discharge from a result of not being clean shaving. Picture: Zak Simmonds

ADF razor gang threatens soldier’s career with bizarre rule

TWO Townsville based soldiers have spoken out against a rule that could see them removed from the army for having a beard.

The men, who the Townsville Bulletin has chosen not to name, have more than two decades of service between them and both have had their facial hair for about six years.

The pair is anxiously awaiting a final decision on whether they can continue their service.

They believe their that careers have been negatively impacted by a long-term medical recommendation not to shave.

They said they were part of a much larger group of males who were being unfairly targeted for their facial hair.

"It's discrimination against something so minor," one of the soldiers, who has served for 14 years, said.

The soldier said the sudden change in how the army dealt with facial hair came after an internal email, seen by the Bulletin, was sent out in 2016 from the then Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell.

"I continue to be surprised by the number of soldiers I see either unshaven or wearing beards," Lt Gen Campbell wrote.

"I am currently considering whether personnel currently ­unable to shave on an enduring basis should be deemed ­non-deployable and considered for either service transfer or discharge."

The soldier, who blames service conditions for the cause of his long-term skin irritation, can't understand why his beard had ­become career threatening, given it doesn't prevent him from doing his job.

"Over the last two years it's set my career back a fair bit. I've lost experience, I've lost promotion courses and have just been ­confined to barracks," he said.

"We used to go out in the field from four to eight months at a time and there's no real chance to wash at all; you're in vehicles and always covered in grease and dirt, then have to shave every day."

Another Townsville soldier ­facing possible medical discharge, also due to his beard, said he was being unfairly "segregated" from his peers.

He has had his beard since 2013 as prevention for a skin condition known as foliculitis, which he said was a result of being forced to shave in unhygienic conditions while deployed.

"It's so stressful," he said.

"There is absolutely no job ­security.

"I understand the importance of traditions but traditions should also change with the times."

A Department of Defence official said the army had always had strict dress and personal presentation policies for discipline, operational and safety reasons.

"Members of the Australian Army wear their uniform with pride and respect to its tradition," she said.

"Army policy is always under review to ensure appropriate ­balance is applied between the ­operational and safety requirements, and workforce needs."

Members with medical conditions that prevent shaving are ­considered by the Medical ­Employment Classification Review Board.

The board considers the medical evidence, the member's wishes, and their commanding officer's advice and workforce requirements before making a decision.

Soldiers with certain religious beliefs are also exempt from the army-wide rule, as well as Pioneer Sergeants posted to the Townsville-based 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.



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