Sunday, 03 March 2024

WRANS Sub Section 70th birthday

Rod and I are pleased to join you today to celebrate 70 years of the WRAN - RAN Women’s sub section.

Congratulations on reaching this milestone.

This past week was also Navy Week, making today a truly opportune time to come along and join you in celebration.

As Governor it is a great pleasure to meet members, both past and present, of our Defence Force, and to thank you for your service to our nation.

It is also a great pleasure to work closely with my Honorary Aides de Camp, reservists from each of the four services - Navy, Army, Air Force - and the South Australia Police.

I have four women HADCs, including Lieutenant Lauren Altschwager RAN, who has served Government House with distinction for several years.

The Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service – or WRANS, as it became known – was established in 1942, to free up men for service on ships.

Two years later, your sub section was established as part of the Ex Naval Men’s Association.

Women’s participation in WRANS grew quickly, and by the end of the war, 3000 Australian women had served our country through the service.

I was deeply impressed to learn your sub section still has two members who were active during the 1940s: Mavis Brownlow, who is here today[1]; and Lorraine Tuckwell, who resides in aged care.

I extend my especial congratulations and best wishes to both of them.

WRANS had grown further by the 1960s and 1970s, during which most of you here today conducted your active service, across a broad range of tasks: radio communications using Morse Code and telegraphics, stewardship, driving, secretarial work, payroll, and more.

You undertook this work against an international backdrop of the Cold War, the Indonesian invasion of Timor, the Melbourne–Evans collision, and nationally, Cyclone Tracy.

I can imagine this created some stressful working conditions, especially for radio communicators.

And, no doubt, there was sexism of all kinds with which to contend.

Women also had to resign upon marriage and/or pregnancy, which was the case for your former member, the late Kris Cameron, mother of a current Government House staff member, Nicole Cameron.

Your attitude of getting on with the job - which I have found to be characteristic of women, especially within my mother’s generation - served you well.

WRANS was later integrated in the Royal Australian Navy, with women being permitted to serve aboard ships from 1983.

Today, there are more women serving within the Navy than ever before.

While challenges remain, it is heartening to see women deployed all around Australia and the world; as sailors, engineers, aircrew, submariners and technicians; in charge of departments and in seagoing commands of ships.

It was my pleasure to engage with Captain Emma McDonald-Kerr during her service as Commander of HMAS Encounter, which recently concluded – the first woman to undertake this role in South Australia.

As members of the sub section, I imagine you have spent significant time over the years sharing your stories and impressions of active service.

As Cheryl shared with my speechwriter last week, “we lived on the land bases, and we partied on board too!”, so I’m sure there are lots of lively memories to share!

The strong bonds of friendship that have formed within this group would be a great blessing to you all, as would be the support you offer one another.

I thank Cheryl, the volunteers and all members of the sub section for creating such a warm and welcoming group.

Thank you all for inviting Rod and I along to today’s luncheon.

Happy anniversary, and we wish you all the very best for the future.

Coming events