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Women In Service

Female medical personnel were deployed to Iraq, Western Sahara and Rwanda during the early 1990s, and 440 of the 5,500 Australians deployed to East Timor in November 1999 were women.

Julie Baranowski a member of the Military Police in a jeep during a street patrol

Photo: Mogadishu, Somalia. 1st March, 1993. Corporal Julie Baranowski a member of the Military Police, serving with the Australian contingent to the Unified Task Force in Somalia (UNITAF), in a jeep during a street patrol.

Military Police women were in demand as the Somali men used to hide weapons under their women’s clothes in the hope of avoiding searches by male soldiers.

In 2002, the Australian Women in War project was commenced to address the gap that prevailed in Australia’s military history around women’s service. This National Foundation for Women project facilitated preservation of women’s service records as well as helping to identify the various relationships that emerged within and between these early women’s service organisations.

The nationwide project funded through DVA and the Office for the Status of Women enabled biographical histories of women’s military and civilian associations formed during and after World War II, to be compiled alongside individual profiles of Australian servicewomen. Guided by a project organising committee, project staff supplemented details supplied by past members with information contained in various volumes and editions of the Australian Dictionary of Biography and Who’s Who in Australia.

The project inadvertently captured an insider account of the struggle Australian women faced to achieve gender equality within Australia’s defence forces. This struggle culminated in a Federal Government announcement in 2011, that from January 2013 all Australian Defence Force (ADF) employment categories would be open to current women serving in the ADF.

Later this year, women will be able to be directly recruited into full combat roles so that no further recruitment barriers will exist for those Australian women interested to join the ADF. This milestone moment will forever change the way Australia’s military forces will recruit and operate.

The involvement of Australian women in each war is closely connected to their role in society at different times, and the nature of each war.

Military women marching

Australia has been involved in a number of wars including The Boer War (1899–1902), World War I (1914–1918), World War II (1939–1945), The Korean War (1950–1953), The Vietnam War (1962–1972) and The Gulf War (1990–1991).