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The Story of Women at Sea in the RAN

© Commonwealth of Australia 2013 This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Department of Defence. ISBN: 978-0-9874958-9-1 Designed by Defence Publishing Services - DPS:AUG001-13

Governor General’s Foreword Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO

This collection of personal stories presents a kaleidoscope of experiences and reflections to encapsulate the role of women in the Royal Australian Navy of 2013. As we mark the centenary of the RAN’s fleet arrival in Sydney Harbour, we should register with pride, and not a little excitement, the advancement of women in this significant aspect of our national life. I have enormous affection for our service women. From my girlhood heroines of World War II – including brave, daring, smart WRANs – to the young women in today’s Navy who practise a huge range of professional skills, they are truly inspiring. Each generation has opened up opportunities in the Defence Force as gender barriers in our wider society have been dismantled.

Each of the stories told here is unique, yet there are common threads – exhilaration, dedication, a hunger for hard work and the rewards it brings. In the words of Captain Michelle Miller, “the fact that I was a woman amongst the first to do these things in our Navy was a novelty (and sometimes pressure) that I felt diminished with every step forward I took”. 

As Governor-General, I have been fortunate to have four women naval officers as Aides-de-Camp. They were exceptional colleagues: professional, committed, engaged. I was impressed by the knowledge and experience they had already acquired, and by their career confidence and ambition to take advantage of further learning and work opportunities to become the best they could be. 

To all the contributors, Bravo Zulu! I congratulate the RAN on producing this book, and I commend it as a tribute to the rise and rise of our naval women. Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia

‘ Each generation has opened up opportunities in the Defence Force as gender barriers in our wider society have been dismantled.’

// WINNING AT SEA The Story of Women at Sea in the RAN


Chief of Navy’s Foreword Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO CSC RAN

Since my career in the Navy began in 1978, women have been a growing and better integrated part of the Navy. Today, in 2013, women play vital roles in all parts of the Navy – they are an irreplaceable part of the team. The steady integration of women into the Navy has not been without significant challenges, some of which have left what I think is a skewed public perception of what life is actually like for a woman in the Navy. This book has numerous accounts by Navy women, describing in their own words their experiences of life at sea in the Navy. I think in their accounts there is a more balanced and comprehensive picture of women’s careers in the Navy. While Navy must always have the integrity to acknowledge and learn from mistakes, we must not shy away from describing the Navy’s now long-standing and positive approach to women. For most people in the Australian Navy today, women have simply always been a part of their experience of naval service. The contribution of women has been overwhelmingly positive: they have served at sea and ashore; on active service in operations and deployed all around Australia and the world; as sailors, engineers, aircrew, submariners and technicians; in charge of departments and in 24 seagoing commands of our ships. This organic growth of women’s roles in the Navy is the basis for continued increases in participation into the future.

I would like to thank all the authors, to whom I am very grateful for their courage to give such personal accounts of th