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My Australia; Ayah Khalid, RAAF Officer

RAAF Flying Officer Ayah Khalid. Source: SBS-Abby Dinham

Ayah Khalid is changing the face of Australia’s defence forces. As a woman of a culturally diverse background, she thought a military career would be out of reach - but this year she began her service as a flying officer in Adelaide.

With the engine of the P-8-A Poseidon roaring overhead, Flying Officer Ayah Khalid ducks under the hatch of the weapons bay.

She speaks with a ground crew member, as the they run over the inventory of switches and settings in the belly of the Boeing 7-3-7, a passenger plane that’s been modified to incorporate maritime surveillance and attack capabilities.

It’s her first month as an armament engineer at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia; just the beginning of a military career she once thought to be out of her reach.

Born in Kuwait, she’s the second of five children.

Ayah’s mother is Lebanese-Australian, who became a citizen after coming to Australia as a student in 1983 during Lebanon’s civil war.

Her father is an Egyptian mechanical engineer.

Ayah says she had some concerns the uniform would not meet her religious requirements, or that the mess may not offer a Halal option, but thanks to the guidance of a hijab wearing army officer she felt at ease.

Group Captain McCarthy was the only woman among 30 men in her defence force academy intake;  today over 25 per cent of the air force is female and last year 40 per cent of defence force graduate recruits spoke a language other than English.

While Australia is the third country Ayah Khalid has lived in, it’s the first she calls home.

Beginning her career as an officer in the Australian Defence Forces this year, she says she intends to serve her new country for many years to come.

 

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