Last year the Defence Minister announced that all employment categories have now been opened and are unrestricted. In essence he has cleared the way for females to be employed in frontline combat categories like Infantry and Armour while making the distinction that all applicants must meet common, equal physical requirements for these roles.
Now in all truth, we will never know what the Supreme Commander Allied Forces South West Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur would really make of this transition in today’s modern Australian Defence Force but it is interesting to look back at the role females played in the defence force from during his time.
The Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) was raised in 1941 and it freed men from other duties in the Army to be trained and employed in combat roles, continuing up until disbandment in 1947. During the War the Australian Women’s Land Army took over the duties from farmers who had enlisted, ensuring that food production and other vital crops continued to be produced.
The honor of being both the first and also the largest Women’s service, the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) was formed to replace mechanics in the RAAF but soon expanded into a much bigger role. Not to be undone the Navy brought in the ladies to the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) with an initial intake of 14 at HMAS Harman, the wireless telegraphy station near Canberra, which is still operating as a communications centre today.
With escalation of the Cold War in Korea the need for women was again apparent and the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps (WRAAC) again became an important addition to the capability of the army in 1951 until 1984 when all three women’s services were fully integrated into the Australian Defence Force.
The last word on the value that our Aussie girls contribute, really needs to go to Douglas MacArthur as it was the General himself who advocated for and finally got his way to allow Australian women to be able to serve overseas during his period of command in the War.
“Lest We Forget”