Women and the military in Australia | Women in the military in Australia

Australian Military

Women in the Australian military

Wing Commander Linda Corbould, the first woman to command a Royal Australian Air Force flying squadron, training in a USAF C-17 Globemaster III.The first women became involved with the Australian armed forces with the creation of the Army Nursing Service in 1899. Currently, women make up 12.8% of the Australian Defence Force (with 15.1% in the Royal Australian Air Force, 14.6% in the Royal Australian Navy and 10.5% in the Australian Army) and 17.5% of the reserves. However, only 74% of the total number of available roles in the Australian armed forces are available to women. Despite this, using 1998-99 figures, the ADF had the highest percentage of women in its employ in the world. In 1998, Australia became the fourth nation in the world to allow women to serve on its submarines.

Like many other countries, Australia does not currently permit women to serve in the following military positions involving 'direct combat', as defined by the 1983 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW):
Clearance diving teams
Infantry including Special Forces
Combat Engineers
Airfield Defence Guards or Ground Defence Officers

Women can serve in combat units or at times in combat, but they currently cannot serve in combat roles in combat units. So whilst a woman could not be a Royal Australian Armored Corps Driver/Signaller in an Armored unit such as 2 Cav Regt, they could serve as medic, storeman, RAEME tradesperson in 2 Cav Regt. Women in such roles undertake the same training and undertake the same jobs as their male counterparts. For example, women medics were deployed to 5/7 RAR company patrol bases as part of the INTERFET force in East Timor.In 1975, women did train as Radio Operators with Royal Australian Signals Corps, of which a few served in 2 Sig Regt, which is a Field Force Unit.

Health and safety reasons also exclude women from surface finishing and electroplating within the Air Force due to the use of embryo-toxic substances. Australia was the fourth country to permit female crew on submarines, doing so in June 1998 on board Collins class submarines. Australia's first deployment of female sailors in a combat zone was aboard HMAS Westralia in the Persian Gulf during the 1991 Gulf War. On 27 September 2011, Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced that women will be allowed to serve in frontline combat roles by 2016.
In 1992, allegations of alleged sexual harassment on board HMAS Swan were investigated, and in 1998 similar allegations arose in the Australian Defence Force Academy.