Women in the Australian Military
In today’s Australian Defence Forces women work in over 200 roles, and receive the same training, salaries and opportunities as men.
Women have served in the Australian armed forces since 1899 but until the Second World War were restricted to the Australian Army Nursing Service.
The Women’s Australian National Service (WANS) was inaugurated in 1940. Training for members included air raid and basic military drills, first aid, shooting, signalling, and mechanics.
Leading up to the formation of female branches of the Royal Australian Air Force, Australian Army and the Royal Australian Navy, the WANS demonstrated that women were capable of filling roles traditionally only available to men.
The Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force celebrates its 80th anniversary in March 2021; the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service and Australian Women's Army Service will celebrate their anniversaries in April and August respectively.
To commemorate 80 years of service, this hub will showcase stories of women in military service.
Episode eleven – Women and War
Women have always played a vital role on the home front, supporting the war effort in a variety of ways from factory work to fund-raising. But women have also contributed though military service and by bearing witness. In Episode 11 of Collected, Louise Maher shares the war experiences of four very different women: Alice Chisholm, Olive Sherington, Nora Heysen and Sophia Le Faucheur.
Credits and Collection items featured in episode 11
Definitely not cooks
In the modern era, women have forged outstanding Army careers as photographers too. This article by Meleah Hampton and Jennifer Selby features in the latest issue of Wartime magazine.
Stories of Service
‘He is always in my heart’
Merle Kelway Hare served in the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service during the Second World War.
'It felt like you were moving through a ghost town'
Alison Creagh was a major in the Australian Regular Army when she was deployed to East Timor from 1999–2000, initially as second-in-command of the 1st Joint Support Unit and then commanding the 145th Signal Squadron as part of the International Force East Timor (INTERFET).
Aboriginal servicewoman, Lance Corporal (L Cpl) Kathleen Walker, was a communication worker with the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS). She was a well known Australian poet, actress, writer, teacher, artist and campaigner for Aboriginal rights.
'They were so much more than names on a wall'
Seventeen years ago, Sharon Bown narrowly escaped death in a helicopter crash in East Timor.
A woman interrupted
Nora Heysen was the first woman to be appointed as an Australian official war artist.
The first WRANS
Established by the first qualified Australian female electrical engineer Florence Violet McKenzie OBE, the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps (WESC), trained women to be wireless telegraphists and signallers with the aim of releasing men from this work for war service.
Women in action
PHOTOS FROM THE COLLECTION
Female War Artists Webinar
Having had no official female war artists in the First World War, three were appointed during the Second World War: Nora Heysen, Stella Bowen and Sybil Craig.
In this Museum At Home webinar we explore how female war artists, particularly Nora Heysen, have captured Australia's military experience.
The Australian War Memorial holds a rich collection of interviews with people who have served in Australia's military forces. Amplify is a State Library NSW platform allowing volunteers to listen to and transcribe oral histories. Over 30 interviews with nurses from the Australian Army are ready to be transcribed.
Help us record their stories.
Modern Stories of Service
Sisters on the same path
Sisters Warrant Officers Natasha McRoe and Amy Gale are proud to be standing side by side in the Navy.
Indigenous mentor driven to achieve dream
Private Pamela Amber has achieved her dream of joining Defence and is now setting her mind to being a role model for future Indigenous soldiers.
Meeting Law of supply and demand on operation
Captain Jess Law, from Port Macquarie, is an operations officer on her first operational deployment.
Passion leads to becoming first female loadmaster
When the role of loadmaster was opened to women, retired Warrant Officer Katrina Salvesen seized the opportunity.
Chat with friend inspires long career
A chat with a friend led Warrant Officer Class 2 Cheryl Peebles to join the Army 35 years ago.