In this Quick Military Education activity we look at the concept of 'mateship' in the Australian Army and what it means to you. The term ‘mateship’ can be traced back to early colonial times. The harsh environment in which convicts and new settlers found themselves called for communities of men and women to rally together and rely on each other during hardship. In Australia, a 'mate' is more than just a friend and often implies a sense of shared experience, mutual respect and unconditional assistance. By contrast, depending on the delivery and context by which the term is used, it may also be associated with condemnation and insincerity.

The concept of mateship has woven its way into the Australian fabric, so much so that we often use it as a way to describe our national identity: what it means to be ‘Australian’.  This may be why on the battlefield, for Australian servicemen and women, there is no greater fear than the fear of letting your team, or your mates, down.

The excerpt below, depicting final moments before an assault on Lone Pine highlights what we as Australians need most – one another.

In the last few moments before the bloody attack upon Lone Pine in Gallipoli when the 3rd Infantry Battalion was crowded on the fire steps of each bay in its old frontline trench waiting … for the final signal to scramble over the sandbags above, a man with rifle in hand, bayonet fixed came peering over the trenches below. 'Jim here?' he asked.

A voice on the fire step answered, 'Right, Bill, here. Do you chaps mind shiftin’ up a bit,' said the man in the trench. 'Him and me are mates and we are goin’ over together.’ 

The Story of Anzac, C.E.W. Bean, 1944.

QME - Mateship

The clip below (best viewed off DPN) depicts the trailer for the movie Kokoda. Another battle that continues the ANZAC legend. Allow a few minutes for soldiers to view the clip and then you can either use the questions below to create a discussion or come up with your own questions.


Discussion Points

  1. What does mateship mean to you?
  2. How does the concept of mateship impact motivation?
  3. Has the perception of mateship in the Army changed over time?
  4. What changes in society have impacted Army's ability to build camaraderie?
  5. What sort of mate do you think you are? 


Reflection is an important element of learning. It allows us to consider theories or events, and understand how they might apply to us. One way to conduct reflection is using the 'what, so what, now what' process. In this instance, this process could be used like this:

  • WHAT did I learn from considering this scenario?
  • SO WHAT am I going to do about what I’ve learned?
  • NOW WHAT does that learning mean for my own practice as a military professional?

Other activities

If you enjoyed this activity, why not try the other QMEs available on The Cove?

Concluding Comments

This QME is designed to help junior commanders to develop and deliver PME in their unit. If you have feedback or suggestions for improvement to this activity (for example; readings or reference material, alternate discussion points or delivery method), please contact The Cove Team via or leave a comment below in this QME.