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Social media tips and support services - Australian marriage law survey

2017 08 13 SocialMedia

What you can or can’t post on social media as a Defence member is often not well understood.

Bottom Line Up Front: You can participate in the Australian marriage law debate and debate on other public issues, but: be respectful, keep your uniforms out of it, don't harass others, stick to discussing the issues, and avoid discussing political parties.

We’ll try to break down what policy means, but you need to make up your own mind about what is suitable to post on social media. If you write it, you own it, and must live with the consequences from the words that you write.

The basis for Defence policy on the use of social media is to ensure that the Australian Defence Force and Department of Defence are non-partisan, politically neutral, and obedient to lawful direction from the government of the day.

If you do not post official information, and you clearly identify that your views are your own (and not that of your employer), you are allowed to respectfully express your personal views about public issues as a private Australian citizen.

More information is available in the Defence Communications Manual (internal only), Chapter 3 – Digital and Social Media. Other useful information is contained in the Military Personnel Manual, Part 7, Chapter 1 (for ADF members) and in the APSC’s Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees.

Offensive and inflammatory comments on social media could amount to prejudicial conduct under the provisions of the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 (s 60) and breach the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct, under the Public Service Act 1999 and Regulation 2.1 of the Public Service Regulations.

What might seem like a private conversation or a simple post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can take on a life of its own and there is no guarantee of privacy. Even comments made within a closed group can become public very quickly.

Your use of social media could adversely affect both your own reputation and possibly the reputation of the entire Defence organisation, so think carefully before you post.

Pictures of yourself on your profile in uniform or links to Defence in your profile could lead some people may interpret that your comments are being made an official capacity and not as a private citizen.

If your comments could lead someone to conclude that you cannot serve the government of the day impartially and professionally, it might be best not to post.

We’ve developed a few examples to of what we think is okay, what could risky, and what should be avoided - but remember, you need to make up your own mind about what is appropriate before you post.

Most likely okay to post, retweet or share

  • Comments about how marriage equality and the marriage survey will affect you and your family.
  • Reasoned constructive arguments about why Australia should or should not adopt equal marriage.
  • How you are feeling about the debate.
  • Asking what your friends think about the issue.
  • Supportive comments for vulnerable persons and vulnerable communities who have been adversely impacted by the debate.
  • Videos and news articles about the debate.

Could be risky – exercise caution when posting, retweeting or sharing

  • Sharing content from others that you haven't completely read or watched, which could contain inappropriate content.
  • Comments about Defence or Defence policy
  • Comments about Australian government policy

What you should avoid posting, retweeting or sharing

  • Disparaging comments about a political party, or a political party’s position about marriage equality.
  • Disparaging comments about the Australian government.
  • Images of yourself in uniform with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ campaign slogan.
  • Comments that are abusive or harassing to an individual, or a group of individuals.
  • Comments that are not consistent with Defence, service and group values.
  • Campaign material should not be posted on official Defence websites, the Defence intranet or within Defence workspaces.

If you feeling down, or if you need help or support over the next few months, ACON has developed some tips to help you look after your health and well-being:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings
  2. Log off social media
  3. Look out for each other
  4. Stay social
  5. Clear your thinking
  6. Say it to yourself
  7. Take care of you
  8. Get busy
  9. Be creative
  10. Take time out

If you need to chat with someone, try LGBTI counselling services by ACON on (02 9206 2000) or QLife on 1800 184 527. The ADF All Hours Support Line is available 24/7 on 1800 628 036 as is Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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