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Spotlight Her

Meet 15 ADF Women Doing Great Things

by Shamsa Lea and Lyndsay Freeman

Propel Her is excited to launch #SpotlightHer, where we feature 15 impressive women who serve in the ADF. Join us as we shine a spotlight on the silent achievers who contribute in inspirational ways to the defence of Australia. These women were all nominated by their colleagues as someone who inspired them…and we are pretty inspired too! Please also get in touch if you can assist with any of their ambitions, and follow their lead in bravely discussing your own ambitions with your support network.

In our eyes, these 15 amazing women exhibit the incredibly diverse range of skills, talent and ambition in the ADF. We hope this piece prompts you to reflect on your own successes and goals, and we encourage you to ‘think big’ in terms of your ambitions both within the military and beyond. Our Propel Her pieces on mentoring, personal branding and networking offer some avenues for you to share these goals with a support network, and ultimately reach them. Thank you to the amazing service women above for being part of our first #SpotlightHer piece! It takes courage to put yourself out there, and we are all richer from hearing your personal stories.

Pay and Accounts Maritime Personnel Operator, HMAS Stuart

I am a Maritime Personnel Operator Sailor in the RAN with 5 years’ experience, including a deployment to the Middle East. I am currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Business (Human Resources), and I pride myself on my application of job knowledge and interpersonal relationship skills. I am an extremely keen Rugby League player, having been involved with Navy, ADF and civilian teams, with an upcoming preseason with the Harvey Norman West Tigers.

Key ambition: Play professionally in the Women’s NRL. But also, upon obtaining my Bachelor, becoming an HR Executive for a major company.

Command Sergeant Major Forces Command

I am a veteran of 34 years of service in the Australian Army and remain passionate about soldiering. It became apparent to me at the rank of corporal that I enjoyed instructing, teaching and passing on knowledge through experience, which is why I took every opportunity to develop in the regimental pathway. I take pride in the fact that I have instructed on every ‘all corps’ soldier course that Army delivers from the Army Recruit Course through to the Regimental Sergeant Major Course. Two of the biggest highlights of my career, aside from my current appointment, were my posting to the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy in 2007-2008 as a Faculty Advisor, and my fourth deployment as the first female Regimental Sergeant Major, Joint Task Force 633 in 2013.

Key ambition: My ambition is to leave every place in better shape than I found it. Due to my military career being closer to the end than the start these days, I remind myself to enjoy life and ‘take time and smell the roses’.

Executive Officer, Gender Peace and Security Directorate

My name is FLTLT Karyn Ey, and I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Social Science degree and a Masters in Community Development Emergency Management. I worked as an International Disaster Relief Coordinator before joining the Royal Australian Air Force where I had the opportunity to respond to many international disasters such as the Japan triple disaster, Philippines typhoon, Samoa tsunami, and the 2011 Queensland floods. I have also had the opportunity to work in Rwanda, post-genocide, leading community development teams. In 2020 I was assigned to the Defence COVID-19 Task force as the Strategic Gender Advisor. This is the first time a Gender Advisor had been deployed on Australian soil and it was a privilege to have worked in the role.

Key ambition: My key goal is to deploy with the United Nations as a Gender Advisor.   

Officer Commanding Echo Squadron, Australian Defence Force Academy

I am a Personnel Capability Officer and have been posted to a variety of roles that have presented varying levels of challenges, both personally and professionally, and provided me with a supportive network who keep me in line! My career highlight was co-creating the Inaugural Pacific Military and Police Womens Cup which saw over 100 serving women from across the South Pacific coming together to play rugby. I have supported the ADF as a Korean Linguist in multiple domestic and overseas exercises and deployments, and have enjoyed mentoring women through recruiting to their appointment/enlistment date. I am currently building networking opportunities for ADFA Air Force trainees through the ‘Get to Know your Spec’ series.

Key ambition: My long term goal is to contribute to the overall ADF Diversity initiative, to promote that the difference individuals bring to an organisation, is the value to which they can add to the organisation. In the short term, I’d love to build further opportunities for our women in sport across the South Pacific, and I’d love to work in this area to create more networks and opportunities for women. Twitter - @esthersuh_

Space Intelligence Analyst, Australian Space Operations Center (AUSSpOC)

I’m the first Space Intelligence Analyst in the AUSSpOC and I’m very excited to be a part of Air Force’s increasing capabilities in the Space Domain. I’m also the 2IC for our unit’s WINGs, and this year was honoured to be selected as a serving member on the ACT Ministerial Advisory Council for Veterans and Their Families. In my free time I study two Bachelor degrees covering German, Latin, and Ancient History. I am also researching Space Ethics.

Key ambition: Professionally, I would love to find new ways to contribute to and support others in education opportunities inside Defence. Personally, I’m starting a short story collection and would love it to be published…I’m honestly not sure which of those is more achievable!

Global Detachment Commander, Joint Movement Control Officer - Sydney

My name is Lou, I have two daughters (7 and 11) and a serving Army spouse, and I have over 18 years of experience in the RAAF. I was in the Catering mustering for 12 years and participated in numerous exercises and deployed to the Middle East Region, including three months in Malaysia as a Commcen Guard. I remustered to Air Movements where I have participated in numerous exercises, deployed to the Middle East Region in different locations and participated in four trips to American as part of a Mobile Air Load Team (MALT).

Key ambition: Promote to a position where I can influence the future of my Mustering.

Divisional Officer, Australian Defence Force Academy

I joined the Australian Army in 2008 and became a member of the Royal Australian Engineers. My career highlights to date include participation on the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program, delivering infrastructure within remote Australia; deployment as a Project Engineer and Force Protection Engineer Advisor within the Middle East; and the planning and execution of infrastructure in support of International Engagement within Papua New Guinea. I have also had great experiences as an instructor at the School of Military Engineering and at the Australian Defence Force Academy. I love AFL and am a big supporter of the Women’s Army Aussie Rules team.

Key ambition: My immediate career goal is to successfully coach and mentor my trainees at the Australian Defence Force Academy to inspire them to pursue their dreams within Defence. I also aim to become a Senior Project Engineer in the future to coordinate the delivery of strategic infrastructure projects.

Divisional Chief Petty Officer, Royal Australian Naval College

I am a passionate people-person. I wear many hats; Wife, Mum of three, Grandma, Coach, Leader, Wellness advocate, Sailor, Animal and nature lover. With my 24 years service experience and a focus on bringing out the best in others, I’ve been able to support and influence many, both in and out of service. I’ve facilitated Veteran and Emergency Services support groups (Trojans Trek) in remote bush settings and lead a local support group (Buddy Up Australia, Shoalhaven) helping those who have served stay well and connected with their local community. My superpower is my ability to hold space for others, allowing them to be heard, start healing, have hope and develop skills to live well beyond service induced injury/stress illness.

Key ambition: Continue to work in the wellness space developing and facilitating programs for those who have served. Exploring the Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer as a future career direction.

Events Coordinator to Air Commander Australia

I am a mum of two teenagers and have been a Chef in Royal Australian Air Force for almost 10 years. Early on I found a love for cake design and decorating, this patience made it easier for me to teach others in all aspects of the kitchen. I really enjoy watching other people achieve from something I taught them. I once made a unicorn out of margarine for a fun in-house competition (which I won). Firstly who knew you could make sculptures out of butter, and secondly it’s very therapeutic to play with.

Key ambition: I want to be actively involved in enhancing the reputation of RAAF Catering within the greater Air Force. I aim to foster and mentor junior chefs to be the best they can be so they stand proud every day. And while it sounds totally crazy, I would love to be WOFF-AF one day.

Staff Officer for Capability Development, Headquarters Health Services Wing

I am Ajitha (AJ), a dental officer with over 10 years of experience in the Royal Australian Air Force, including operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East as well as several humanitarian missions. My roles ranged from being a dentist to being the health officer in charge of military hospitals. I am the only person in my family to be a part of the military and extremely proud to serve!

Key ambition: 9 years ago, I started a non-profit organisation - Esesson Foundation- in India, which is now registered in Australia. This organisation focuses on healthcare and education for the underprivileged and disadvantaged. My ambition is to serve where there is a need, which in Australia is currently with refugees, asylum seekers and domestic violence affected persons.

Able Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics (ABATV) at 808 Squadron, HMAS Albatross.

I have spent the last five years working on the MRH90 aircraft at 808 Squadron. In that time I deployed on HMAS Adelaide for two years. I have conducted an array of operations and tasking, including Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) to Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST. I’m looking forward to my next role where I will set up the aircraft monitoring systems and analyse data collection for first of class flight trials conducted on various ships. I’ve also taken every representative opportunity that presents itself, including Operation ATLAS (Commonwealth Games ceremonial duties), ADF Volleyball tournaments, ADF Surf Camp and becoming a competent crew member on a sailing yacht. These opportunities have given me the chance to learn new skills and network with members across all services.

Key ambition: I’ve always strived to be the leader in the MRH90 systems diagnosis program, that I believe has much more potential than is utilised. I would cherish the opportunity to expand my knowledge and create an Australian training package by completing the in-depth course in Italy.

Driver Specialist, 2nd Cavalry Regiment

My name is Rahne and I joined the Australian Army as a single mum after successfully completing the Defence Indigenous Development Program (DIDP) before heading to Kapooka. I have enjoyed my two years of service so far. I am very proud to say that I am the first individual in my family to join the military.

Key ambition: My key career goal is to develop my confidence and experience as a military member. I aim to serve on operations overseas and I look forward to everything my future has to bring!

Personnel Capability Officer, No. 1 Flying Training School

I am Anna and, following graduation from the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in 2018, I have loved the diverse nature of my role as an Air Force Officer in personnel capability and supporting operations. This role looks after our most important asset in Defence – our people. I enjoy playing team sports and learning new skills, which has recently included postgraduate study (this often involves putting myself out of my comfort zone). I am the first member of my family to join the military, and have embraced every opportunity that has come my way so far. I look forward to what the rest of my career in Defence has to offer!

Key ambition: I have recently commenced a Masters of Cyber Security, Strategy and Diplomacy through the University of New South Wales - Canberra. This area, along with the space domain, really appeals to me. My career ambition is to be involved professionally in these fields as I see this area as a key contributor to our future fighting force, and it brings a multitude of capability support options to all of the operational domains.

Orderly Room Corporal, 3rd Health Support Company

I am Felicity, a mum to two beautiful daughters, Amelia and Isabelle. I joined the Army in 2014, later in life then most, at the age of 34. I have deployed on Operation ACCORDION as part of a Force Insertion and Extraction Group (FIEG). I am greatly enjoying life in the military and the many challenges it brings. Although my main pastime is driving my daughters to extracurricular activities, I enjoy cruising around Brisbane on my motorbike when I don’t have the girls in tow.

Key ambition: My career goal is to become an expert in my field as a Chief Clerk.

Voluntary Separations Clerk, Career Management Agency (SERCAT 5)

I served in the Australian Regular Army as an Administration Clerk for 12 years, and was the first female in my family to join the Military. During postings in combat units within 3 Brigade, Special Operations Command, and 1 Brigade, I have gained more skills and lifelong friendships than I ever thought possible. I am a mum of two energetic boys and transitioned out of full-time Army to allow me more flexibility to be with my family and complete my University Degree.

Key ambition: I graduate from a Bachelor of Business degree in 2021, which includes a double Major of Accounting and Management. I am focused on my next career in finance while continuing studies to complete my Certification for a Practicing Accountant. Whatever my future career holds for me I will continue working as an Army Reservist as it is a very rewarding experience to add to my already proud military career. My key ambition is to gain experience as an Accountant and work for charities and the not-for-profit sector.