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Thursday 29 October, 2015
Last Sunday, a group of women gathered in the Chapel at the Repat Hospital, Daw Park. Some came in uniform; others in civilian dress. We all shared a common purpose – to uphold a legacy that honoured all Australian Ex-Servicewomen, past and present; women whose spirit exists strongly in our midst through their sacrifice, courage and resilience in undertaking ADF service.
For more than a century women have served in the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force. They have served in roles that range from transport to healthcare. They have served throughout the world and at home. When few received the training, education or opportunities for promotion available to women of the ADF today, they served in any way they could – in medical roles, in intelligence, in communications, logistics, and in administration, to name a few. And like our servicemen, many suffer with ongoing physical and psychological injuries as a result of this service.
Yet, despite this continuous service, their courageous stories, and the honours they have received, remain largely unknown.
Why is this? Why is it taking so long for our servicewomen to be given the recognition they deserve? Is it because women have historically been in the minority? Has a lack of female voices in positions of leadership played a role?
Today, reasons like these are no longer valid. In 2015, women stand proud as leaders in government, industry, academia and in Australia’s Defence community. These leaders have a responsibility and an opportunity to inform the wider community about women’s achievements. Servicewomen today have an opportunity to honour their past female veterans. We can set a new standard moving forward.
Last Sunday’s gathering was a prime example of this – an opportunity taken to come together with our male colleagues – to remember, honour and reflect on the contribution Australia’s servicewomen have made over the past 100 years of service.
There was some concern amongst those who attended that this annual commemorative service may not continue. There is a need for the next generation to step up to ensure it does; hence this call to action now.
As a younger veteran who was at the Chapel last Sunday, I feel it is my duty to remember all those women who went before me. I would like to see us commit to setting aside a date that we meet on every year to commemorate the legacy of all Australian servicewomen.
I also encourage the wider veteran and Defence communities to join with me in ensuring women’s stories of service, lost over the years, can be brought to light – particularly during this significant period of national reflection.