Womaneer: Meet the Female Soldier Building a Community for Other Servicewomen
Introducing: Womaneer, our new series that highlights and celebrates the oft–overlooked women of our day who are making waves in the fields of politics, crypto-currency, not-for-profit, and many more spheres of influence. Each of these women have something in common: Vision, grit, and a heavy dose of persistence that keeps them going despite the odds.
These women are proof that the gender gap is closing… that is, if you fight for it. With some guts, you can become the next pioneering voice in your field—a womaneer. We've heard from Aimie Rigas of Power Ledger and Caitlin Barrett of Love Mercy Australia, now, meet Kellie Dadds, a former servicewoman who after joining the military at age 17, then spent 22 years serving our country and has been deployed for service eight times. After a dutiful career, Dadds also spends much of her time volunteering as a committee member for the Women Veterans Network Australia (WVNA), an ex-service organisation that provides support and community for servicewoman to help ease their transition back into civilian life. An important service, considering that The Australian Defence Force currently consists of just 15 percent permanent serving women.
This year has undeniably signaled an important shift towards equality, and Anzac Day is no different, with women leading front and centre this year as the country acknowledges their immense contributions. Dadds has also been a key figure behind the the campaign 'By the Left', an initiative that aims to promote and legitimise women wearing their service medals, with women veterans regularly finding themselves wrongly challenged about their own medals, thought often to be belonging to male family members. Dadds, stating on the Department of Veterans' Affairs policy forum in October last year: "Many female veterans no longer march on significant occasions such as Anzac Day, and many have also distanced themselves from the veteran community citing a sense of not belonging due to not feeling recognised as a veteran."
As we take a moment to celebrate the lucky country Australia is, thanks largely to the sacrifice of many, we also pay our respect to those who so tirelessly serve both past and present. While we’ve spoken to just one Womaneer, we know that there is a sea of other amazing women on the frontline of our Defence Force. Read on for more of Dadds story.
I was a community-minded person as a child which led me towards public service. My grandfather has served during World War II and I had an interest in serving in the ADF. My decision to apply for Army came quite late, during year 12. I joined as a 17 year old in 1996. I had finished school the year prior and had decided to defer my university placement for 12 months. As it turned out, I enjoyed the Army so much they I continued to serve for 22 years.
Leaving the military can be a daunting experience as it is like leaving your second family. To ease that transition, I was eager to connect with the veteran community to maintain my connection to the force and to meet new people. I felt immediately comfortable with WVNA in terms of the support and friendships it provided.
I did not find gender impacted on my experience within the military. My approach was that I was a soldier regardless of gender. I did however serve in a role where servicewomen were well represented. However, I do not purport to speak on behalf of all servicewomen, as some did experience what can only be described as appalling treatment due to their gender.
WVNA is just like an normal ex-service organisation group of which there are over 350. Each organisation supports a section of the veteran community, and WVNA supports inclusively supports servicewomen. The reason so many groups exist is that despite being united by our service, we all have our own tribes based on our experiences in the military. So, many servicewomen (which included current and ex-serving) have found WVNA to be a group that they can best relate to.
WVNA is a social media support network. There are 22 regional groups based around Australia who will occasionally conduct local events such as a coffee catch-up, some light exercise etc. However [mainly] we are a conduit to point servicewomen in the direction of another ex-service organisation who provides whatever service is required. We are keen to steer away from duplicating services that well funded and professionally supported groups already provide.
The Australian Defence Force is an equal opportunity workforce which has taken many years to achieve. My hope is that women continue to see the value in serving their country. It is a huge commitment, but one that is also a wonderful privilege to be involved with. I would encourage any woman who is seeking a long term career that provides so many different opportunities, excellent training, remuneration and satisfaction to consider joining the Australian Defence Force.
A special thank you to all the service women and men who have served our country, and to all their family members and friends. Today we honour you.