National Council of Women of Queensland Annual Dinner
Senator Claire Moore, Councillors, Service representatives, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which we gather, the Turrbul and Jagera people, and pay respect to their Elders past and present – with encouragement to their young emerging leaders.
It is a pleasure to join you this evening, both as Governor and as your proud Patron.
It is always a privilege to present awards to members of the National Council of the Women of Queensland, in recognition of their outstanding contribution to encouraging the participation of women in all aspects of Queensland life.
We have just marked another Anzac Day - a very significant occasion in our national calendar, and a time to reflect on the immense service and sacrifice given by our fellow Australians in times of conflict.
In anticipation of Brigadier Coyle’s keynote address this evening, I have been reflecting on the contribution of Australian women enlisted in the service of our country.
And, while I acknowledge there is a long way to go in achieving equal representation within this field, it inspired me to consider how attitudes have changed since the first World War.
Back then, Australian women were expected to continue managing the home while fathers, sons and brothers were on the front line of battle.
To support the war effort, women were expected to join voluntary organisations, such as the Australian Red Cross, the CWA, and the rather absurdly-titled ‘Cheer-Up Society’.
Active participation back then was confined to nursing – a vital contribution of course, but one in which women found their opportunities limited.
It was not until World War II that our national attitude started to shift.
More than 24,000 women joined the Australian Women’s Army Service when it was founded in 1941.
Its members served in artillery, intelligence and signals corps.
They carried out clerical and manual work, maintained transport and equipment and drove everything from cars to amphibious vehicles.
And, in 1945, members of the AWAS became the first women to serve overseas in non-medical roles, when a posting of 385 members sailed to New Guinea aboard the MV Duntroon.
This tour of duty was the start of what has since developed into a growing understanding of the unique contributions made by women in military service throughout Australia.
Today there is active commitment from the ADF in recruiting and retaining the talented, motivated women that work within its ranks.
As a country we are most fortunate this is the case.
To the women being honoured tonight, I urge you to find inspiration in the stories of Australia’s women in service.
You can find no greater role model than Brigadier Coyle, who will be addressing you shortly.
But for now, I congratulate each one of you on your success, in raising awareness of your rights and responsibilities as citizens, and in encouraging the participation of women in all aspects of our community life.