25 April, 2024

80 years for women

While celebrating service people this year, women in defence have a special celebration, as 2024 marks the 80th anniversary of Australian women first being deployed overseas, outside of medical and nursing services.

Australian Army Women’s Service members on their arrival from New Guinea.
Australian Army Women’s Service members on their arrival from New Guinea.

In November 1944 the War Cabinet gave approval for up to 500 members of the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) to be deployed to what was Dutch and Australian New Guinea, during World War II.

A total of 385 women went, undertaking a wide range of duties including drivers, signallers, cooks, translators, clerks and veterinarians.

At the time, it was stipulated the women deployed had to be volunteers, single and aged between 21 and 35 years of age or up to 40 years old in the case of officers.

Progress for women and their increasing roles in the ADF has continuously changed since 1944, with women now being allowed in all ADF employment categories, including combat roles.

Federal Member for Nanango, Deb Frecklington, said the roles women have in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is something to be proud of, being in awe of those who worked on the fronts during the World Wars.

“The important roles women have had in the ADF has changed over time and that’s something we should be proud of. Today women work in over 200 roles, and receive the same training, salaries and opportunities as men”, Ms Frecklington said.

“Members of the ADF sacrifi ce their safety and their lives for the freedom we all enjoy each and every day, and that should never ever be understated. Every Australian should be incredibly thankful for their service.

“I take my hat off to any current serving member of the ADF, and the many veterans. It’s also important we acknowledge the families of those who serve, for the strong role they play too.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Defence said diverse perspectives provided are invaluable to conflict prevention, resolution and peace and confidence building.

“Increasing Defence’s ability to attract, recruit and retain women, strengthens our capability to deliver on our mission”, the spokesperson said.

“Defence is proud to build and promote a diverse workforce that draws from the Australian community we serve.

“Defence continues our progress towards being an exemplar in attracting, training, retaining, and providing career opportunities for women.

“Defence does not discriminate on the basis of gender for any role, and the representation of women in combat roles continues to increase”, the spokesperson said.”

Women’s representation has increased across all ADF workforce segments, as has the proportion of women deployed, with women currently making up 20 per cent of ADF members, with the department hoping to grow the number to 25 per cent by 2030.

In the past 12 months, Defence’s enlistments were around 21 per cent women.

In 2022 – 2023, women represented 18.3 per cent of the total personnel deployed across 29 operations.

The uptake of flexible work and professional education has also significantly increased in the last decade, with the ADF supporting a diverse and inclusive workplace, through flexible work arrangements, mentorship and professional development, networking opportunities, parental leave and return to work policies and support.

We thank all women and men for their contributions and sacrifice to our country.

Lest we Forget.


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