The contemporary global security climate is entering an extremely complex and equally alarming phase. Extremist political, religious, and ethno-nationalistic enablers of modern terrorism have found no shortage of ecumenical audiences in which to spread their brutal and lethal messages to. There also appears to be no shortage of individuals willing to carry out indiscriminate acts of violence to further specific agendas in the name of such causes. Islamic extremists in particular are carving out a special place in modern history, committing the most savage and barbaric acts of violence against both fellow- and non-Muslims with absolute impunity.

The death cult and global reach of the Islamic State (IS) phenomena is also resonating with audiences in every corner of the globe with obvious and deadly consequences. The recent murders of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo in Canada, and Drummer Lee Rigby in the United Kingdom, are testament to the very real threat that Western nations, and soldiers in particular, are facing today.

Despite its geographical isolation, Australia is far from immune to the violence that this ideology encourages. The events in Syria and Iraq concerning the Islamic State, and the Australian government’s contribution to the multinational effort to destroy this movement, has again placed Australia well and truly in the spotlight as a legitimate terrorist target. September of this year saw the largest counterterrorism raids in Australian history take place after an IS plot to behead random members of the public was uncovered. An 18-year-old Victorian man, Numan Haider, was also shot dead by police after he stabbed the two officers he had voluntarily agreed to meet for questioning on separate terrorism-related concerns.

September also saw verbal threats made against a uniformed Australian Defence Force (ADF) officer in Sydney by a group of men who threatened to kill him, and further raids were conducted in the state of Victoria after a joint operation involving the FBI and the Australia Federal Police (AFP) uncovered evidence that a 23-year-old Australian man was financing a U.S. citizen fighting in Syria.

Australia also has a number of previous high-profile terrorism-related convictions which involved the specific targeting of ADF personnel and physical property. On 4 August, 2009, four men with links to the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabaab were arrested and charged with plotting to infiltrate Holsworthy Barracks with automatic weapons and kill as many military personnel as possible. And, on 26 October, 2003, Australian citizen Faheem Khalid Lodhi was arrested and charged with plotting to bomb the national electricity grid as well as the Sydney-based defence establishments of Victoria Barracks, the naval base HMAS Penguin, and Holsworthy Barracks.


What these examples serve to highlight is the very real terrorist threat that soldiers are facing on the domestic front. The question relating to the wearing of one’s military uniform outside of a Defence establishment has been a hotly debated topic in Australia recently, particularly in light of the IS threat and recent global events. Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin has stated that, despite the current security climate, he would not order Defence members to not wear their uniform outside of their place of work. The CDF went only so far as to urge ADF members to be “diligent” and “exercise common sense and judgment when considering where and when to wear your uniform in public.”

So the question that remains is, in light of recent events and obvious threats, does wearing one’s uniform in public constitute common sense at all?