On 17 October, HMAS Harman, in Canberra, hosted the annual commemorative service to recognise the service of women in the Navy.
The service also celebrated another special event. On 7 June 1985, the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service and Royal Australian Nursing Service were combined into the Royal Australian Navy, and this year marked the 30th anniversary of the amalgamation.
Mrs Jean Nysen (service number WRAN 87), who served at Harman during the Second World War was one of the key attendees and had many stories to share about her early days as a telegraphist.
The commemorative address was delivered by reserve Commander Christine Reghenzani, who has a 42 year history in the Navy; 12 years in the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service, 23 years in the Permanent Navy, and seven years in the Reserves. Commander Reghenzani is nearing completion of a doctoral thesis on changes to Navy women’s employment over the five decades 1960 to 2010. She shared some of her research with the audience of approximately 80 people.
“I am passionate about the Navy and very keen to publish the story of women’s service for current and future generations of Navy women,” Commander Reghenzani said.
“The pioneers who achieved a first for women in the Navy have made the path easier for those who followed.”
The service, held at the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service Memorial was attended by the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett; Minister Mick Gentleman, MLA representing the Chief Minister of the ACT; Mr Jeremy Hanson, CSC, MLA Leader of the Opposition in the ACT Legislative Assembly; and other dignitaries including the Commanding Officer of Harman, Commander Jayne Craig.
Cadets from the local Navy Cadet Unit, TS Canberra, formed the catafalque party. The service was enhanced by the contribution of Able Seaman Emelia Winter who played the Last Post, Commander Debra Bryne, whose beautiful voice led the singing of the Naval Hymn and the National Anthem, and Commander Dina Kinsman who played the bagpipes during the laying of wreaths and poppies.
One component of Christine’s thesis focuses on the achievements of Navy women. She would be delighted to hear from anyone who has a story about Navy women who achieved a first while serving in the Navy. Her contact details are firstname.lastname@example.org or 0417 936 198.