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Women In Service

The role of women in the Australian military began to change significantly in the 1970s following the impact of the feminist movement. In 1975, the International Year of Women, the Australia’s Defence Force chiefs established a committee to explore opportunities for increasing female participation in Australia’s military.

The Defence Equality Organisation, established in 1997, developed frameworks to facilitate greater acceptance of women throughout the ADF.

Female Australian soldiers Afghanistan
Image: Female Australian soldiers in Afghanistan During the first (1990-1991) and second (2001-Present) gulf conflicts, women were active in service as pilots, medical and support staff on military bases from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan.

In the late 1970s female soldiers began to be integrated into the Army at large. Women were excluded from positions involving physical combat and were unable to serve in infantry, armoured, artillery and engineering units in the Army.

The WRAAF was disbanded in the early 1980s and female personnel were absorbed into Australia’s mainstream Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Australia’s first female air force pilots graduated in 1988 and today there are no barriers to women in any role within the air force. As at January 2015, there were over 700 pilots in Air Force, 25 of whom were women equating to around 2.8%.

Programs have been put in place to support women who wish to join the RAAF and pursue roles which include becoming fighter pilots. Since 1987, 42 women in the RAAF have graduated the pilot’s course and gained their “wings” flying planes such as C-17 Globemasters, C-130 Hercules and Wedgetail airborne early warning and control planes.

WRANS personnel were gradually absorbed into the RAN during the early 1980s, however, women were not permitted to serve aboard ships until as late as 1983.