Meaningful mentorship inspires former sailor to lead

This article has photo gallery Published on Royal Australian Navy (author), POIS Bradley Darvill (photographer)

Topic(s): International Women's Day

Lieutenant Karen Dwyer discusses women’s roles in the Defence Force with her mentors, her partner Squadron Leader Amanda Gosling and the Director Gender Peace and Security, Commander Jennifer Macklin, RAN. (photo: POIS Bradley Darvill)
Lieutenant Karen Dwyer discusses women’s roles in the Defence Force with her mentors, her partner Squadron Leader Amanda Gosling and the Director Gender Peace and Security, Commander Jennifer Macklin, RAN.

International Women’s Day Feature

Lieutenant Karen Dwyer discusses her naval career with her mentor and role model Deputy Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond, AM, RAN.

Lieutenant Karen Dwyer discusses her naval career with her mentor and role model Deputy Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond, AM, RAN.

Lieutenant Karen Dwyer attributes hard work and the influence of strong and positive mentors for her rewarding career in the Royal Australian Navy to date, which has seen her progress through the ranks from Seaman to Lieutenant in just 13 years.

Having reached the rank of Petty Officer as a Maritime Logistics Personnel Operations sailor, Karen commissioned as an officer in November 2019, with a desire to contribute to Navy’s leadership and management reform initiatives.

This month, she’s embarking on a new challenge, as a member of Navy’s new Maritime Human Resources Officer primary qualification.

“I’m really passionate about Navy, because here I’ve had opportunities to work towards achieving my full potential,” Lieutenant Dwyer said.

“That’s an ongoing journey.

“Everything I’ve achieved is testament to hard work, commitment and a conscious decision to step away from poor choices and embrace the best version of myself,” she said.

In her teenage years, long before she joined the Navy, Lieutenant Dwyer was a victim of domestic violence, which greatly affected her outlook on life.

“That fuelled some questionable life decisions in my late teens/early twenties.

“Thankfully, I could see that my behaviours weren’t serving me; they certainly weren’t reflective of my abilities and my potential.

“Joining the Navy was a chance for me to hit the reset button on my life, and that’s exactly what I did,” she said.

The former senior sailor is thankful for the role models she’s had to look up to.

“I’ve directly learnt from some outstanding mentors and role models from the ranks of Seaman all the way through to Rear Admiral.

“I’ll never forget the leadership lessons I learned from my team of three amazing Able Seamen when I was a Leading Seaman.

“I can’t thank Kristen Foster, Simmi Lockhart and Cass Price enough for making me a better leader,” Lieutenant Dwyer said.

She strongly believes that leadership can be found at every rank.

“Every single Navy member is a custodian and creator of our culture!

“I think that’s a powerful truth to keep in mind when you approach your interactions with others, regardless of their rank or background,” Lieutenant Dwyer said.

Karen said her partner, Amanda, who is a Squadron Leader in the Royal Australian Air Force, has also been a huge source of inspiration.

“She’s definitely the smartest person I’ve ever met.

“She’s an engineer, so we tend to see things quite differently.

“But even so, I think we both try to keep people at the heart of our decision making.

“I don’t always get that right, but I’ve experienced the impact that one person can have on the lives of others, both positive and negative, so I try to be on the right side of that experience every time, even during tough conversations,” she said.

With this people-focused officer having recently completed a posting as an instructor at Navy’s Sailor’s Leadership and Management Faculty, the future of the Royal Australian Navy looks bright - with conscientious leaders at every rank.

Lieutenant Karen Dwyer is one of many women serving in the Royal Australian Navy who, alongside their male colleagues, are sharing their diverse experiences to make positive contributions to Navy culture in order to enhance Navy capability and make Australia proud.

The Royal Australian Navy will hold several events to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020 and reflect on the theme ‘Generation Equality’.

‘Generation Equality’ is a call to action to join forces across generations, to create a new vision where every girl and woman everywhere has equal opportunities to lead, to learn, to earn a decent living and to live lives free from violence and discrimination.