This year heralds 70 years since the formation of three specific military services for the women of Australia.


The first of the services to be formed, the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force (WAAAF) was established in February 1941, the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) was formed in April 1941 and the Australian Army Women’s Service, later known as the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) was established, seventy years ago today.


Commemorating the occasion, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, today said that the forces were originally formed to release men from certain military duties to allow their deployment in fighting units overseas.


 “During the Second World War more than 27,000 women joined the ranks of the WAAAF. The women who joined were posted across the country, from north Queensland to Western Australia, they served at RAAF bases, flight training schools and factories,” Mr Snowdon said.


“These women played a vital role in the war effort despite not being allowed to fly or serve outside Australia. They worked in a range of areas such as radio telephony, signals, radar operations, flight mechanics and electrics, meteorology, catering and administration.


The WRANS was formed, initially to provide women to undertake driving, office duties and catering services.  By the end of the war their role was expanded to include work in technical areas such as protecting ships from magnetic mines, intelligence and cryptanalysis.


“Over 2,000 women served with the WRANS during the Second World War, and after a short stand-down after the war, the service continued to support the Royal Australian Navy in
non-seagoing roles until the mid 1980s,” Mr Snowdon said.


The formation of the AWAS was authorised on 13 August 1941.


“The AWAS took on more than 21,000 women for roles in anti-aircraft and coastal artillery, ordnance, cipher, electrical, intelligence and mechanical units, as clerks, typists and cooks, parachute folders, drivers and butchers during the Second World War,” Mr Snowdon said.


Similar to the WRANS, the AWAS was disbanded after the war but reinstated in 1951 as the Women's Royal Australian Army Corps (WRAAC). In the late 1970s female soldiers began to be integrated into the Army at large and in early 1984, the WRAAC was disbanded.

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