Theme Australian Defence Force
Written by Libby Stewart, Museum of Australian Democracy
In 1972, Major Barbara Maxwell, chief instructor and commanding officer of the Women's Royal Australian Army Corps (WRAAC) School in Sydney said of the women under her command:
We try to keep our girls soft and feminine... I think there are jobs for men and there are some for women... We do a lot of communications work and driving and catering, jobs that suit the mentalities and abilities of women...I just don't like guns, I suppose. It isn't very feminine is it? Shooting, I mean (Australian, 3 July 1972, in Bomford, 99).
Much has changed for women in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in the years since Major Maxwell expressed her particular view of women's roles in the army. Change and increasing the diversity of roles for women have at times been slow, with the leaders of the women's services in the army, navy and air force themselves creating barriers to progress. Change has been inevitable, though, for the evolution of the ADF has mirrored changes in Australian society. Attitudes to women and women's roles have now broadened to the extent that, following an announcement by Defence Minister Stephen Smith in September 2011, within five years there will be no positions in the ADF closed to women. The final barrier, lifting the ban on women in combat roles, was unthinkable until only very recently. It reflects, amongst other things, a belief within both the government and the ADF that there should be no obstacles to women achieving leadership at the highest levels of the three services. It also recognises that acceptance of women in the ADF by their male colleagues will only be fully achieved once women occupy the most senior positions of head of the army, navy and air force, and ultimately chief of the defence force.
Women's leadership in the Australian armed forces has, naturally, differed according to social norms and individual leadership styles. Women have only been part of the services in significant numbers since the Second World War. They were often led by conservative women, who aimed to ensure that the women they commanded maintained their femininity and only carried out roles traditionally ascribed to women in order to free up men for active service. Despite this, many of these early women leaders worked extremely hard on behalf of their 'girls', ensuring that living standards were adequate, that they acquired better pay and opportunities, and that younger women were mentored to achieve their best.
Major changes to the status of women in the armed forces took place in Australia, as in other parts of the world, in the late 1970s and 1980s. Achievements such as equal pay and the lifting of the marriage ban for servicewomen reflected what was happening more widely for women around the country, but they were still hard fought gains. Women in the armed forces were frequently ignored by feminists and received little, if any, support from women who were fighting hard for women's equality in other areas. And as they had always done, service women continued to fight male opposition to their advancement within the ADF, usually proving their worth by doing their jobs as well as, if not better than, their male colleagues. Because the ADF's women leaders have often operated under the radar and, more recently, outside the scope of the women's liberation movement, their considerable achievements, dating back seventy years, have not been publicly recognised until more recently.
Women Leaders during the Second World War
The formation of specific women's services in the army, navy and air force during the Second World War created the first real opportunity for Australian women to become leaders in the military forces, enabling them to develop their own styles and practices. Previously, women's main contribution to Australia's overseas military commitments had been in a nursing capacity, beginning with the first small groups of civilian nurses sent to South Africa during the Boer War of 1899-1902. The formation of the Australian Army Nursing Service soon followed, with hundreds of nurses serving in many different theatres during the First World War. This service continued during the Second World War, with the navy and air force also opening up their services to female nurses (Bassett, passim). Their extraordinary work continues to the present, on peacekeeping operations and in war zones.
When war broke out in 1939, Australian women were keen to contribute to the war effort and several civilian groups were soon formed. They included the Women's Australian National Services, the Women's National Emergency Legion, the Women's Air Training Corps and the Women's Emergency Signalling Corps. Women were not initially considered for the armed services but, as the war spread and demands for personnel became even greater, federal cabinet reluctantly decided to introduce women into the forces. First to form was the Women's Australian Auxiliary Air Force (WAAAF) in March 1941, followed by the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) in October 1941 and the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) in July 1942.
Federal government reluctance to create women's services in the armed forces mirrored attitudes among military leaders and in the general community. There was support for women's contribution to the war effort through the traditional roles of nursing, fund raising and home-front support but a disinclination to engage with women who wanted involvement in activities like home defence, signals, driving, navigation and engineering. Implicit in the objections to women in these roles was a fear of women invading traditional male spheres, such as the officers' mess, and of them taking men's jobs at the end of the war. Discussion over the formation of the women's services was robust and protracted, and Melanie Oppenheimer reports that, even in January 1941, 'the Advisory War Council recorded that "the feeling of the Council was against the enlistment of women in the Fighting Services, particularly for duties which, in civil life, are performed by men"' (Oppenheimer, 91).
With the decision made to create women's services, various women were considered to lead them. Clare Stevenson became the first director of the WAAAF in June 1941. She had been a senior buyer for the Berlei company for many years and went on to make the WAAAF extremely successful. In the manner of her appointment, however, she was treated with disdain and a patronising attitude typical of what she was to confront regularly as director. Having been invited to tea with New South Wales Governor Lord Wakehurst and his wife to discuss her possible appointment to the position, she politely declined, saying that 'the idea ... filled me with horror' (Stevenson & Darling, 14). She subsequently told the minister for air, John McEwen, that she was not interested but she was appointed regardless. The position was offered and accepted on her behalf and announced by the minister before she had been informed.
Finding herself with little choice but to accept, Group Officer Clare Stevenson, as she became, made the best of her position. As a leader, she adopted a very 'hands on' approach. She admitted her first intake of women, most of whom were from the Women's Air Training Corps, where they had learnt air force drill, wireless telegraphy, and had worked as drivers and store clerks. She made a point of learning Air Board Orders in detail so that she could apply the ones she thought sensible, then ignored or amended others. She also personally interviewed the women who became her officers, and she and her officers then decided on the officer training course curriculum together. She fought discrimination against her women whenever she could. On one occasion, she heard that two WAAAF girls had arrived in Melbourne after recruitment and had been diagnosed with venereal disease. They were immediately discharged, an anomaly that angered Stevenson because, when Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) servicemen were diagnosed with the same disease, they received treatment and a loss of pay, the suspension of pay being reversed once they were cured. The chief medical officer argued against Stevenson, saying it took too long to clear up the disease in women and was not worth the effort. Stevenson persisted, waiting hours in Sydney to talk to a specialist doctor who was a consultant to the RAAF, asking him 'to put up some modern ideas on the treatment of VD in women to the Director General of Medical Services. What went on between the two medicos I don't know, but the battle for treatment was won' (Stevenson & Darling, 50).
More than 27,000 women enrolled in the WAAAF during the war. By 1945, 77 per cent of positions were open to women, including radio telephony, signals, radar operations, aeronautical inspections, meteorology, catering, messing and clerical work. The women were not allowed to fly or to serve outside Australia and, until 1943, were not allowed to enlist, instead enrolling as auxiliaries for renewable periods of twelve months. Clare Stevenson fought hard against this and other discrimination, which included unequal pay (women were paid two-thirds the rate of men), awards and entitlements, repatriation benefits and compensation for single servicewomen. Margaret Curtis-Otter, who became second-in-charge of the WRANS during the war, applauded Stevenson's determination to fight injustice.
After the Japs came into the war and things got a bit tiresome, the powers-that-be decided yes, they did need women. Clare Stevenson insisted on her women ... being enlisted to deferred pay and all the benefits to which RAAF was entitled. The old men blew through their whiskers, but she was adamant: either the women got the same benefits as the men or she would tell her enrolled girls not to enlist (Adam-Smith, 232).
Such strong initial leadership of the WAAAF no doubt set a standard that meant in later years women in the RAAF would achieve gains more quickly than those in the navy and army. The first controller of the AWAS, Sybil Irving, was also a strong leader but she had very definite views on the place of women in the army and on the way women should act and be perceived. She insisted on a strict code of behaviour, telling AWAS officers 'let us remember always that this is the Australian Women's Army Service. If our conduct is based on good taste and good sense it will naturally follow that our conduct will be unobtrusive, courteous and natural'. On working with men, she commented, 'don't be hearty-be womanly' (both quotes in Oppenheimer, 96). Irving was supported in her views by Eleanor Manning, who was appointed assistant controller of the AWAS in November 1941. After her appointment, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that 'Miss Manning was emphatic that she disliked an "unfeminine" approach to the women's auxiliary, and thought that volunteers should not try to look masculine just because they wore a uniform' (11 November 1941).
Despite her emphasis on women retaining their femininity, Irving herself was formidable. Jean Woods, who worked with her in the AWAS, said 'Sybil was, of course, impressive. She could be abrupt, decisive and self-assured in the public arena in a way women were not expected- or trained- to be in those days, and this stood her in good stead' (Adam-Smith, 254). She was appointed to the role partly because she had developed a reputation as a good manager and leader in the Girl Guides and Red Cross. Under her stewardship, the roles for AWAS women grew from typists, cooks and clerks to include the manning of anti-aircraft and coastal artillery gun sites, working in ordnance, cipher, electrical, mechanical and intelligence units, and as parachute re-folders, transport drivers and canteen workers. They served all over the country and, from May 1945, a small number served in New Guinea. In all, over 24,000 women served in the AWAS during the war.
The WRANS was smallest of the women's auxiliaries and the last to form. In April 1941, fourteen women were employed as telegraphists and stewards at HMAS Harman but it was not until July 1942 that the Navy Office set out formal conditions of service. The navy was a reluctant employer of women and WRANS women mostly filled traditional roles as drivers, typists, clerks, stewards, cooks and orderlies. The first director was Chief Officer Sheila McClemans, who was not appointed until 1944. She was from Perth, where she had been a successful lawyer and barrister in the 1930s, establishing the first all-female law firm there. Margaret Curtis-Otter said of her colleague: 'Many stood in awe of Sheila. This was unnecessary, for under a slightly austere exterior there was a very warm and caring woman, ever on the alert to solve difficulties and, if possible, improve any situation which a WRAN found untenable' (Huie, 260). Like Clare Stevenson, McClemans adopted a personal approach to leadership, travelling widely to visit WRANS at their bases around the country, and becoming particularly attached to HMAS Cerberus at Flinders in Victoria, where the majority of WRANS women were trained. She ensured that the women housed there had suitable food and accommodation, and, with her legal background, frequently supplied legal advice and guidance on the problem of unwanted pregnancies to both AWAS and WAAAF directors. On one occasion, she took a very personal approach to a pregnant WRAN, bringing her into her own office to work until her confinement. Her biographer, Lloyd Davies, states that 'at least two of her senior officers believe that her failure to achieve higher rank was due to the fact that she devoted her time to serving others and gave no thought to promoting herself' (Davies, 100). McClemans was realistic about the limitations placed on women's roles in the navy during the war but, when she learned years later that the navy was considering enlistment for overseas service for the WRANS, she laughed and said 'Marvellous! It's only taken them forty years!' (Adam-Smith, 215).
Post-war Women's Services
At the end of the war all of the women's auxiliary services were disbanded. Despite women's achievements in traditionally male areas, there was a strong push from within the military, as well as in the government and the general community, for women to return to their traditional roles. For some of the women who had served in the armed forces, the process of returning to home life was difficult but others were ready to marry and settle down. The government only allowed female nursing and medical staff to serve in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, mainly because it did not want the women's services to be a permanent part of the armed services then or in the future. In the early 1950s, however, the Cold War was escalating, regional tensions were growing, and Australia became involved in the Korean War. Despite recruitment campaigns, the armed forces were unable to raise sufficient numbers and it became apparent that, whether they wanted to or not, the government was going to have to re-form the women's services. In July 1950, federal cabinet approved the creation of ongoing women's services, thus beginning a new era for women in the Australian armed forces.
Strong leadership of the post-war women's services was crucial to the successful push for equality in women's roles in the ADF. The Women's Royal Australian Army Corps (the 'Royal' prefix was granted in June 1951) was announced in April 1951, a combination of the wartime AWAS and the Australian Army Medical Women's Service (AAMWS). Two experienced and capable war-time leaders were placed in charge of the new organisation: Director Lieutenant Colonel Kathleen Best was the highly respected former leader of the AAWMS during the war, and Honorary Colonel Sybil Irving the former leader of the AWAS. They needed to be strong leaders because they fought entrenched hostility and resentment from the beginning. WRAAC historian Janette Bomford writes that:
during the WRAAC's history the army as an organisation and the men in it had to come to terms with the fact that women were there to stay. The various reviews relating to the value of servicewomen to the army and their service conditions often reveal a paternalistic, overprotective view of women that eventually had to give way to changing community understandings of women's role in society (Bomford, 2).
Progress for women in the army, however, was very slow. Kathleen Best and Sybil Irving adopted a conservative approach by emphasising ladylike behaviour in WRAAC women, believing that it was the only way women would be respected and accepted in the army. It was clear from the outset that the role of the WRAAC, like the other women's services, was to free men for the frontline, with women working in traditional jobs as cooks and clerks to allow more men to join combat units. In the WRAAC, women were paid at 75 per cent of the male wage; they either had to be single or widows without dependent children, had to resign on marriage, and be aged between eighteen and thirty. Their training was segregated from men and was a much simpler version, with no weapons handling or training in tactics. Uniforms emphasised femininity, rather than approximating the dress of a male soldier. With the WRAAC leadership adopting a conservative view of women's roles, few within the service challenged the gender stereotype and most were proud of serving within a women-only corps. Kathleen Best lectured regularly on leadership at the WRAAC school in Mildura and was described as 'inspirational'; however, her lectures on demeanour taught women to always conduct themselves in a 'ladylike' manner. But inequities in employment conditions were also important to her, and she and her senior officers worked to redress them. They felt that, if conditions were improved, a better quality of woman would be attracted to enlist, and she would be more likely to make the army a career if enlistment was for more than the current four years. Women were also leaving because of the lack of opportunity to serve overseas and because of the need to resign on marriage. In 1954, a review of conditions for members of the WRAAC recommended retention after marriage but only with the consent of the husband. Kathleen Best continued to fight these conditions until her resignation in 1957.
Best's successor was Colonel Dawn Jackson who, despite holding the view that 'a man comes to the army to fight, it is the role of the women to release the men by working as clerks and cooks' (Bomford, 58), also worked hard for better conditions for women in the corps. She succeeded in achieving two major gains for servicewomen: the right to serve overseas, and the end of automatic discharge on marriage. Jackson travelled to South Vietnam to inspect conditions for Australian servicemen and recommended that WRAAC women be sent there to serve. The minister for defence disagreed, saying that it was too dangerous for women, despite the presence of nurses from the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps in Vietnam from 1967. WRAAC officers were finally allowed to serve in Singapore from November 1967.
Of the three armed services, the Royal Australian Navy was probably the most reluctant to re-form its women's auxiliary after the war. Despite this, the WRANS was formally inaugurated in 1951 with a war-time WRANS officer, Blair Bowden, filling the role of director. Active recruiting began immediately, with 1500 applications received for 250 positions. Conditions for recruits had not improved since the war, with women receiving separate training to men, only occupying positions designated suitable for women, not being able to serve at sea, and being made to resign in the event of marriage or pregnancy. Bowden worked tirelessly to try to improve conditions of employment for members of the WRANS, arguing that a widening of the service would attract better quality recruits. In 1953, she wrote that 'it is my considered opinion that unless the service is expanded it will eventually dwindle away from sheer lack of incentive to live' (Christopherson, 80).
Change was slow but gains were made and, in 1959, the WRANS was granted permanent status. In 1958, Captain Joan Streeter became director of the WRANS. Known as 'Ma'am Wrans', Streeter was principally responsible for the retention of women in the service after marriage, something finally introduced in 1968. She was also instrumental in having the entry age for recruits reduced from eighteen to seventeen, and influential in the creation of a WRANS reserve. One writer has observed that Streeter 'always denied being a women's libber ... She believed there will always be those in the male ranks who will accept women and those who will not, and doubted there would ever come a day when the Navy was full of women Admirals' (Huie, 264). Captain Barbara McLeod, who succeeded Joan Streeter as director in 1973, said of her predecessor's achievements: 'When I first came into the Navy there were only two avenues for employment open to WRANS officers-administration and communications. Today, as a result of the untiring efforts of Captain Streeter, there are many more job opportunities for both Wrans and officers' (Huie, 266).
Wing Officer Doris Carter became the first director of the WRAAF in April 1951 and was, like many of her fellow officers, from the ranks of the wartime WAAAF. She had an admirable background as a leader, having been Australia's first female field athlete at an Olympic Games, in Berlin in 1936, representing Australia in international hockey, and later holding the position of general manager of the Australian Women's Team at the Melbourne Olympics. She was described as 'intelligent, clear thinking, effective, hard working, a good disciplinarian and with "superabundant energy"' and 'ideal to head the reformed women's service' (Stephens & Isaacs, 116). As in the other two women's services, conditions for women in the WRAAF were similar to wartime conditions, with women receiving two-thirds the pay rate of airmen, prohibited from many positions, unable to serve north of Townsville, and forced to resign upon marriage. Doris Carter aimed to change conditions for the nine hundred or so women she commanded and, by the end of her tenure in 1960, she had helped to make the WRAAF an essential element of air force operations.
Mary Anne Whiting, who was one of the last to join the WRAAF in the late 1960s, remembers that women recruits never saw a weapon and the only physical activities they did were 'girlie-type' sports such as women's basketball (later netball). 'It was never anything too physical. We were never expected to work up a sweat - that wasn't ladylike ... We may have been in the Forces, but we were all trained to eventually become good housewives and mothers in the end.' She remembers that it was not until the mid-1970s, during the years of the women's liberation campaign, that the decision was made to integrate the WRAAF with the men's arm of the service (amalgamation took place in 1977). Whiting noted that 'if ever there was a revolution in the Defence Forces then that (amalgamation) was it, that was a major event' (Air Force News, 14 March 2001).
The Australian Defence Force
It is clear that amalgamation of the women's auxiliary services into the mainstream armed forces was, as Mary Anne Whiting observed, the revolution that was needed to finally bring women's participation in the forces to the fore. The move was inevitably and closely linked with changes in the wider Australian society, with women achieving gains in the workplace and elsewhere during the same period. As significant as it was, though, integration of the women's services was a difficult and protracted process. One WRAAF servicewoman, Squadron Leader R.L. Hall, believed that 'the fight was so hard and they [servicewomen] were so browbeaten that most of them left before they could take advantage of the new conditions' (Oppenheimer, 222).
The first significant gains for servicewomen took place a decade before integration. In 1966, the Commonwealth Public Service allowed women to retain their positions after marriage, and the same gain flowed through to the WRAAC and WRANS in 1968 and the WRAAF a year later. The public service abolished automatic discharge on pregnancy in 1973 and the services followed the following year. Equal pay for all servicewomen was finally granted in 1979.
Integration itself took place from 1977, with the WRAAF and Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service integrating with the RAAF in that year. The WRAAC was disbanded in 1984 and the WRANS in 1985. There were mixed feelings among the women towards integration. Many members of the WRAAC regretted the loss of the women-only focus, and those who had served during the war and later in the WRAAC bitterly opposed it, one saying, 'I hate to see women emulating men and I see no reason for them to compete' (Bomford, 121). Others have pointed out more practical reasons for opposing the move: 'It certainly made promotion harder, courses harder to get, and the training became a lot more physical' (Bomford, 121). Others, though, could see that opportunities for a greater range of positions and postings were more likely with integration. The strong leadership that had created strong women's services was one reason that integration proceeded when it did. Squadron Leader Hall, from the WRAAF, wrote that:
the conditions of service, employment across the board and equal pay, now accepted as the norm by female members, were all the result of years of hard work, a dedicated belief in the knowledge that women can do anything and a tenacity to fight to the end to ensure that they were given the opportunity. The hierarchy of the WRAAF did just that... (Hall, 5).
Integration was bitterly opposed by many servicemen, and prejudices against women continued to operate. In 1984, federal legislation also worked to some degree against servicewomen's interests. In that year, the women's liberation movement applauded the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act by the Hawke Labor government. The legislation excluded the Australian Defence Force, however, making it legal for the ADF to exclude women from combat and combat-related duties. Combat duties were defined as 'those requiring a person to commit, or participate directly in the commission of, an act of violence against an adversary in time of war', and combat-related work as 'requiring a person to work in support of, and in close proximity to, a person performing combat duties'. Women in the services, who had been quietly working to overcome discrimination and earn respect from their male peers, now found themselves locked out of jobs they had previously been able to undertake. Besides putting a ban on many positions, the ADF also reduced the number and range of postings available to women. Some women were transferred and retrained, and women in the army could only fill 17 per cent of army positions. Exclusion from combat and combat-related positions affected promotional opportunities for women in all three services.
Feminist and author Anne Summers was at the time the head of the federal Office of the Status of Women and she was given the job of chairing the committee that examined every defence position to decide if they were 'combat' or 'combat-related'. She writes that the weekly meetings became battles as she fought against the male hierarchy, which wanted to exclude women from many more roles than she thought was acceptable. She notes that:
the highlight of the battle came when I found myself shouting at these men, arguing for the right of women to be cooks in the Army. I was amazed at myself. Arguing for women to occupy such a traditional female job. But no, it was not to be. Cooking for men on the front-line was, they said, "combat-related" (Summers, 2011, 239).
Despite the limitations, women in the services persevered and in 1986 were accepted into the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). In April 1990, it was announced that women in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) could serve in all classes of ships in peacetime, with the exception of submarines. Women in the RAAF could become pilots from 1986 and, in June 1988, Flight Lieutenant Robyn Williams and Officer Cadet Deborah Hicks graduated as the RAAF's first female pilots. Another first was achieved by the third woman to gain her wings, Linda Corbould, who in 2006 took over as commanding officer of 36 Squadron, becoming the first female commander of any RAAF flying unit. By 1989, the percentage of positions in the ADF open to women had risen to 43 per cent, from 23.5 per cent in 1984.
Since integration and the introduction of equal pay for servicewomen, numerous studies have been conducted into the position of women in the armed forces. One of the most ground breaking was that undertaken in 1996 by Dr Clare Burton to examine the cultural, social and institutional barriers to women's career progression and retention in the ADF. She stated unequivocally that 'discrimination issues ... are leadership issues first and foremost' (Burton, 8). In 1998, the then sex discrimination commissioner, Sue Walpole, also noted the importance of leadership in relation to women's progress in the ADF: 'the primary task is not to engage in futile arguments about what women can or cannot do or about what constitutes the battle front. Rather the primary task of leadership is to educate itself and ... to identify and remove barriers to equal opportunity' (Walpole, 25).
As barriers to women's progression in the ADF have been removed, more women have achieved leadership positions in the army, navy and air force. They have needed to negotiate different ways of working in order to achieve success and the respect of their male colleagues. In 2002, three senior defence women analysed women's leadership in the ADF, revealing how differently women's roles in the services were regarded from the days of the auxiliary services. Lieutenant Commander Jan Noonan noted the need for different styles of leadership and that more stereotypically masculine values of competitiveness, hierarchy, toughness and discipline definitely had a place in particular situations. 'Successful leaders', she said, 'be they male or female, will need to ... consciously respond to the demands of a situation ... by selecting the most effective style drawn from a broad repertoire'. Lieutenant Colonel Alison Creagh also employed different leadership styles in her work. She observed that:
regardless of whether you are male or female, leadership requires you to adjust your leadership style depending on the circumstances, the environment you are in and the nature of the group you are leading. These aspects of leadership are gender neutral. However, women may need to employ varying leadership styles early or later than their male counterparts to achieve the same effects (Women Leaders in the ADF, Leadership Paper 1/2002).
She did note, though, that 'most women will also have to rely more on instinct and pure leadership skills than men, who are generally able to use their physical attributes and sometimes their sheer physical presence as an aspect of their leadership style' (Women Leaders in the ADF, Leadership Paper 1/2002).
The final barrier to women's progression in the services, the right to serve in combat positions, was frequently discussed in the years preceding the 2011 announcement that it would be removed. The removal of the ban on women working in 'combat-related' jobs in 1990 sparked heated debate, with arguments then and since centred on women's perceived inability to bear the same loads as men, the fear that physical requirements in training would be lowered to accommodate women, concerns that women would destroy the bond that kept men alive on the battlefield, and a fear of men abandoning their positions in battle in order to rescue wounded female colleagues. In 2000, Chief of the Defence Force Admiral Chris Barrie indicated that these fears would not be tolerated and that support for women in all positions was being encouraged at the highest level: 'To deny our women the opportunity to participate as full members of our Defence Forces would be to deny both the Defence Force and our community access to their very considerable talents' (Spurling & Greenhalgh, 3). Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, chief of the defence force at the time of the removal of the combat ban, proclaimed his delight at the decision, saying that 'It has long been my view- and that of the Service Chiefs- that the issue should not be a matter about gender, but a matter of whether or not a person can meet the required physical standards of any given role in the ADF' (Defence Magazine, issue 2, 2011, 5).
With combat roles now open to women there exists a real possibility that, in time, servicewomen will acquire the required combat experience to allow them to be appointed to the most senior defence positions. When that situation eventuates it is possible to anticipate that the defence force's ongoing issues with sexual harassment of and discrimination towards women in the ADF will slowly abate. In the meantime, with the support of current service chiefs and their political masters, women in the ADF will continue to exercise their skill and considerable leadership talents to perform the best job they can in the service of Australia's defence force.
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