Outstanding contribution of Indigenous women in ADF acknowledged


During this year's Naidoc Week the past contributions and the growing influence of Indigenous women is being celebrated.

The contribution of Indigenous women to Australia's Defence services remains a little-known aspect of Australia's military history.

Among them renowned poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal, who enlisted in the Australian women's army service during WWII.

Minister for Defence Marise Payne says the women were: "Serving in World War II in a range of roles where they would have been the only Aboriginal woman involved in that particular activity at that particular time. What did that take? What did that ask of them?"

Minister for Defence Marise Payne
Minister for Defence Marise Payne.
SBS News

Men outnumber women in the Australian Defence Force, and various inquiries have looked at reducing harassment and improving the workplace culture for women in the services.

The Indigenous presence in Australia's war efforts dates back to before Federation and by World War II there were at least nine Indigenous women in the services. Today 20 per cent of all Indigenous recruits are women.

Rhiannon Busch is a Marine Specialist with the ADF and also a specialist Indigenous recruiter - she says her experience with men in the services has been a positive one.

'Being a woman in a male-dominated environment is not as bad as it sounds actually all my mentors in the army have all been males. And it's the women in my family who have been the female role models in my life."

SBS News
SBS News

It was a love of planes and a female role model who inspired Uncle Harry Allie now an Indigenous Elder for the Airforce to take up a career in the services - a career that lasted 23 years.

"From my early days of growing up, when I went next door to see my grandmother, there was always a proud photo of Aunty Martha when she served in the Australian Women's Land Army."

A descendant of the Darug people, Wing Commander Cheryl Neal says she didn't have the most stable of upbringings.

Now the ADF's Deputy Director of Military Recruiting, she credits a few kind words and the ADF for helping her move forward in life.

"One of my school teachers told me don't be afraid of failing be afraid of not trying. I am fortunate that I had some great mentors in life who encouraged me to give the challenge of defence a go and here I am 31 years later."

SBS News
SBS News




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