Women on song in Navy band

This article has photo gallery Published on ABMUSN Ellen Zyla (author), ABIS Chantell Brown (photographer), ABIS Cassie McBride (photographer), LSIS Peter Thompson (photographer)

(From left) Senior ranking female Royal Australian Navy Musicians, Chief Petty Officer Kara Williams, Chief Petty Officer Camille Martin, Lieutenant Cassandra Mohapp and Chief Petty Officer Natalea Erskine at Fleet Base East, Sydney. (photo: ABIS Chantell Brown)
(From left) Senior ranking female Royal Australian Navy Musicians, Chief Petty Officer Kara Williams, Chief Petty Officer Camille Martin, Lieutenant Cassandra Mohapp and Chief Petty Officer Natalea Erskine at Fleet Base East, Sydney.

Thirty years ago the Royal Australian Navy Band started to march to a slightly different beat - recruiting their first female sailor and they haven't looked back.

On 28 October 1985, percussionist Christine McNiven enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy and since then, scores of women have helped transform and shape the Band.

The Navy has two full-time and four Reserve Bands, with women now making up a quarter of the total number of full-time musicians. 

Chief Petty Officers Camille Martin, Kara Williams and Natalea Erskine run the Reserve Bands in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia and between them, rack up an impressive 63 years of service and experience.

Capitalising on that experience, at the start of next year Chief Petty Officer Martin will become the first female Warrant Officer Musician.

Chief Petty Officer Martin joined the Navy Band in July 1995 after starting her military career as a Reservist in the 1st Division, Royal Australian Artillery Band, in 1988, just prior to completing high school. She said, after 20 years of service, she is relishing the new challenge.

“I am looking forward to assisting those within the Musician Category, and wider Navy, and being a positive role model wherever this next chapter takes me,” she said. 

The senior musician said highlights until now have been deployments in HMAS Anzac on operations in the Middle East and representing the Navy Band at Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli.

The most senior female officer currently is Lieutenant Cassandra Mohapp, Musical Director and Officer-in-Charge of the Melbourne Band.  She was only the second ever female Band Officer, following Michelle Rosenboom, now Coleman.

She commissioned from Petty Officer in 2009 and has since also been the Assistant Director of Music-Navy.