Women are team players in the Navy's future

Published on CPOB Tony Martin (author), ABIS Tara Byrne (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), International Women's Day

Leading Seaman Marine Technician Brittany Abel on HMAS Canberra during Exercise OCEAN EXPLORER. (photo: ABIS Tara Byrne)
Leading Seaman Marine Technician Brittany Abel on HMAS Canberra during Exercise OCEAN EXPLORER.

International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March, is the global day recognising the economic, political and social achievements of women. For women in the Navy who make up approximately 21% of the full-time RAN workforce, it is not just another day at sea or ashore but also a day to take pride in their duties and reflect on their role in Navy.

Female sailors and officers throughout Navy say they are accepted for their skills and experience in a Defence Force which recognises women as equals across a broad range of disciplines.

Leading Seaman Marine Technician Brittany Abel is in her ninth year in Navy. As a High Power Maintenance Supervisor onboard HMAS Canberra, she is in a role that would have been in the male domain just a generation ago.

“Navy has changed a lot since I first joined and it’s great to see all genders working together equally with no boundaries,” said Leading Seaman Abel.

Clearly this Marine Technician feels at home at sea and ashore.

“I really enjoy travelling and networking with all different ranks and services. 

“Being part of a team is a big part of my life. I’ve played AFL and rugby for Navy and playing sport for Defence is definitely a highlight for me.” 

One of Navy’s longest serving female members says women are vital to any team and all are widely accepted across the fleet. 

Warrant Officer Karen Sellars first put on the Navy uniform in 1982. Back then, the Royal Australian Navy looked very different. The culture was male focused with limited opportunities for women to go to sea.

Despite this, Warrant Officer Sellars looks back on those days with pride.

“To be honest, I can’t think of a time in my career that I felt undervalued,” Warrant Officer Sellars said. 

“My advice for young women joining the Navy today is the only limit you have is the one you place on yourself.

“Respect comes from being able to do the job. The women I have worked with have always added to capability. Women can sometimes bring a different approach to an issue or situation - that’s why they have been able to integrate so well into the ranks.”

After more than 35 years of service, WO Sellars’ most prominent reflections are focused less on acceptance and more on other cultural changes within the RAN. Her highlights include the integration of the WRANS and the RAN, seagoing service and being respected for doing the job well.