Innovation - DEF Australia

#DEFAUS17 IDEA PITCH – Military Ethics Education Playing Cards

Ethics or moral philosophy is concerned with questions of how people ought to act, and the search for a definition of right conduct (the one causing the greatest good) and the good life (a life worth living or a life that is satisfying or happy). The word ‘ethics’ is derived from the Greek ‘ethos’ (meaning ‘custom’ or ‘habit’). Ethics differs from morals and morality in that ethics denotes the theory of right action and the greater good, while morals indicate their practice. Ethics is not limited to specific acts and defined moral codes, but encompasses the whole of moral ideals and behaviours, a person’s philosophy of life.

Normative Ethics

Normative ethics is the branch of ethics concerned with establishing how things should or ought to be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, and which actions are right or wrong. It attempts to establish a set of rules governing human conduct, or a set of norms for action. There are three defined approaches to normative ethics these being:

Virtue Ethics. Virtue ethics or virtue theory is an approach to ethics that emphasises an individual’s character as the key element of ethical thinking.

Deontological Ethics. The term ‘deontology’ derives from the Greek ‘deon’ meaning ‘obligation’ or ‘duty’, and ‘logos’ meaning ‘speaking’ or ‘study’, Deontological Ethics is an approach to ethics that focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions themselves, as opposed to the rightness or wrongness of the consequences of those actions.

Consequentialism. Consequentialism is an approach to ethics that argues that the morality of an action is contingent on the action’s outcome or consequence. Thus, a morally right action is one that produces a good outcome or result, and the consequences of an action or rule generally outweigh all other considerations (i.e. the ends justify the means).

Education and Training

There is a growing acknowledgment that military ethics and a genuine, deep appreciation of human rights issues is a crucial component of the education of every service member.

Education. In an Army context, education provides individuals with the enabling Skills, Knowledge and Attitude’s (SKA) necessary to undertake military tasks and includes activities that aim at developing communication and thinking skills. Education develops thinking processes that allow trained individuals to make connections between their training and the situations in which they find themselves in order to apply the best COA to the situation. Education broadens an individual’s horizons, allowing training to be assimilated more quickly and with greater understanding. Education helps develop individuals and leaders, who can think, apply knowledge, solve problems under uncertain or ambiguous conditions, and communicate these solutions. Through education, soldiers can find reasoned and viable solutions to complex and unanticipated situations.

Training. Training is a planned process to inculcate and modify SKA through learning. It is the introduction to SKA through instruction, and the development and maintenance of proficiency in those SKA through practice. Training enables individual soldiers to carry out their assigned roles across the spectrum of military activity, and enables groups of soldiers to work collectively towards a military objective (LWD 2-0 Leadership).

The Pitch
The Kings College London, Centre for Military Ethics has developed a set of military ethics education playing cards as a vehicle for raising ethical awareness. Each of the fifty-four playing cards incorporates:
• Military Ethics Question and prompts.
• QR web link to the King’s Centre for Military Ethics webpages.

Image courtesy of Kings College London Centre for Military Ethics

The questions were developed by researchers and ethicists on the principles of professional military ethics. The King’s Centre for Military Ethics QR web link provides additional prompts, questions and information for each question. This can be used as a tool for commanders to develop subordinates understanding of military ethics theory through techniques such as:

Assign a card/question to a member of your team each week and lead an informal discussion.
• Organise a group discussion session based around a subject (the cards can be organised into specific themes).
• Play cards and think about the questions.
The cards, as depicted in the image above are available from King’s Centre for Military Ethics:

The way forward

The Warrant Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer-Academy (WONCO-A) is headquartered at Kokoda Barracks, Canungra, QLD, and is a professional organisation and a centre of excellence in the delivery of training within the All Corps Soldier Training Continuum (ACSTC). WONCO-A conducts all-corps soldier training from corporal to warrant officer class one and trains approximately 2100 soldiers on an annual basis. This equates to 10% of the Army’s soldiers, NCOs and warrant officers across Australia. In addition, WONCO-A hosts twenty five to thirty international trainees each year. These trainees, who are able to attend the full range of promotional courses, are drawn from Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and USA. The Academy has purchased one hundred and fifty sets of the military ethics education playing cards with the intent to conduct a trial of their use on the ACSTC courses. In order to broaden the scope of the trial additional sets of the military ethics education playing cards have been sent to the Royal Military College -Duntroon and the Australian Defence Force Academy. The trial incorporates an online survey which provides a means for users to provide feedback on the cards. The trial is scheduled to be complete on the 08 Dec 17.

In regards to the use of the military ethics playing cards across the Army and indeed the wider Australian Defence Force (ADF) there are two options:

Option 1: The ADF purchases the military ethics education playing cards direct from Centre for Military Ethics, Kings College London at a cost of $2.56 per order and $8.55 postage/handling per box of 50 sets of cards. This option allows the ADF to use the QR web link to the King’s Centre for Military Ethics webpages and to align with the ongoing development of the cards by this institution. The ADF has a strength of just over 80 000 full-time personnel and active reservists. To issue each of the members a set of ADF a set of cards would cost $204 800 and $13 689 for postage/handling . These figures are correct as of the 07 Nov 17.

Option 2: The ADF negotiates with the Centre for Military Ethics, Kings College London for the license/authority to produce the cards in Australia using a local manufacturing company. The cost to the ADF for this option is unknown and would be dependant upon the quote from the manufacturing company.


The Australian Army maintains a strong reputation throughout the world, due in part to the high standards of professionalism, individual behavior and self-discipline displayed by its soldiers and officers. These qualities cannot be taken for granted and are only possible if they are underpinned by a robust and clearly understood framework of values and ethical standards.

About the author

Warrant Officer Class Two Anthony Hogan is an instructor at WONCO-A, Kokoda Barracks, Canungra.