Royal Australian Air Force
On a day-to-day basis, Permanent Air Force (PAF) legal officers may provide legal advice to Air Force leaders at all levels, from commanding officers to the Chief of the Defence Force. PAF legal officers will also be deployed overseas in order to provide legal support to military commanders, or in order to perform specific tasks, for example, as legal advisers in peacekeeping or targeting missions.
The primary areas of practice for PAF legal officers are administrative law, military discipline law, and international and operations law. These areas reflect the key roles of PAF legal officers: assisting commanders with the management of their personnel, ensuring the smooth operation of the military justice system, and enabling military operations and military aviation in Australia, and overseas, to comply with Australia’s domestic and international legal obligations.
Outside of these key areas, PAF legal officers will assist in identifying and advising on the full range of legal risks that are relevant to the activities of the Air Force and the Australian Defence Force. These legal risks can arise under, for example, environmental law, work health and safety law, and contract law.
Exceptionally, PAF legal officers may also provide personal legal advice to Air Force personnel in relation to their conduct, or take on non-legal Air Force postings, in management or instructional positions.
To succeed as a PAF legal officer, you need to have a willingness to learn about the full range of work undertaken by the Air Force: from air shows to targeting, and from managing the welfare of personnel to advising on cyber operations. PAF legal officers are expected to be able to build strong professional relationships with their commanders and their colleagues, remaining impartial while providing practical solutions that enable the Air Force to accomplish its missions. And, given the important role of PAF legal officers in training Air Force personnel on the application of the law to their work, Air Force also expects PAF legal officers to have the ability to distil complex legal concepts into clear and understandable ideas.
Administrative law: Commanders frequently turn to legal officers to ensure they comply with the requirements of administrative law when they make decisions that affect ADF members. Consequently, legal officers may provide advice on equal opportunities and anti-discrimination matters, on responses to applications for redress of grievance, and the conduct of administrative inquiries. PAF legal officers also play an important part in training commanders and other ADF personnel who are involved in administrative decision-making.
Operations and International Law: PAF legal officers provide advice on domestic and international law and their effects on the use of aerospace power. As Air Force continues to develop its unmanned aerial vehicle and cyber capabilities, Air Force legal officers are also playing a role in advising on the application of the law to these new areas. International law issues may include the interpretation and negotiation of international treaties, agreements, and memoranda of understanding, international air and space law, the law of the sea, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and UN Security Council Resolutions. Operations law also includes all aspects of law that may impact on Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations, including domestic law issues.
Military Discipline Law: The Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 (DFDA) provides a code of military discipline for the ADF. Specialist legal input is necessary because of the complexity of the work undertaken under the DFDA. Legal officers provide legal reports for reviews of proceedings, and can act as counsel. Legal officers also play an important part in training commanders and other ADF personnel who are involved in the military discipline process.
Other areas of practice: Legal officers will also provide advice in relation to workplace health and safety, copyright law, environmental law, management of common law claims, and government contracts.