Home' Air Force News : April 28th 2011 Contents 22
April 28, 2011
THE service of women to the RAAF
over seven decades was celebrated in
Brisbane earlier this year when more
than 440 former and serving members
of the Women's Australian Auxiliary
Air Force (WAAAF), Women's Royal
Australian Air Force (WRAAF) and
RAAF gathered for the 2011 national
The celebration in Brisbane this
year also marked the 60th anniversary
of the formation of the WRAAF on
January 30, 1951.
Association secretary Rosemary
Coleman said the committee had
worked for more than 12 months to
bring the event to fruition.
"It was a fantastic weekend," Ms
The WAAAF was formed in March
1941 after intense lobbying of the
WGCDR Mary Anne Whiting has
experienced many changes over her
40 years of service in the WRAAF
and then the RAAF.
She enlisted in the WRAAF in
September 1970 and then, when the
WRAAF was disbanded, she was
transferred to the RAAF before
transferring again to the RAAF
Active Reserve in 2010.
Her father was an Air Force
navigator, and as a girl she expe-
rienced all the ups and downs of
She said there were times she
only saw her father on weekends
for many months while the family
waited for married quarters.
She enlisted as a Clerk
"Conditions of service have
improved a great deal. [One
woman] was in the WAAAF and
serving in Toowoomba; the accom-
modation was so dirty and full of
vermin, she was bitten on the head
by a rat," WGCDR Whiting said.
"As WRAAFs our accommoda-
tion was not exactly five star -- but
NEW ROLE: Above,
WRAAFs assemble on
THE BEAT GOES
ON: Left, WAAAF
in Brunswick, Victoria,
during the Loan Rally
in April 1945.
DRESSED FOR THE OCCASION: Recruits at
West Melbourne Technical School in the early days
of the WAAAF.
Photos courtesy RAAF Museum REMEMBER THIS?: The
WRAAF uniform in 1974.
government by women who wished to
serve in the war and representations
by the Chief of Air Staff who wanted
to release airmen to active service
A training depot was established in
Malvern, Victoria, an organisation was
established and recruiting started on
March 15. Two days later, 19 airwomen
marched into the training depot.
Initially, recruiting for the WAAAF
was not hurried and by the end of
1941, only 1500 women were serv-
ing. The situation changed dramati-
cally after Japan entered the war in
December and the three services rec-
ommended the service of women be
accelerated and expanded.
By October 1944 that number had
increased to 18,677, and by the time
the WAAAF disbanded in July 1947,
more than 27,000 had served in 73 dif-
ferent musterings and specialisations.
Fifty-seven died in the line of duty.
In February 1950, the government
announced it was introducing a new
Women's Auxiliary Air Force.
In July, Cabinet approved the
re-establishment of the force. The
new service would be a branch of the
PAF, not an auxiliary, and would be
known as the Women's Australian Air
Force. Then, in November 1950, King
George VI approved the adoption of
the title Women's Royal Australian
Air Force and it came into being on
January 30, 1951.
The size of the new force was
limited to 30 officers and 832 air-
women, intended to provide a highly
qualified corps nucleus that could be
expanded quickly and efficiently in
an emergency, but this increased to
1050 in 1965.
Initially, WRAAFs could be posted
against 21 musterings and this had
increased to 31 by 1967. However,
their pay and conditions lagged
against their male counterparts for sev-
eral years, as was the case across the
workforce at the time.
In 1951, they were paid 75 per cent
of the basic wage and 67 per cent of
their male equivalents.
Parity with the basic wage and an
increase to about 80 per cent of the
male wage was achieved by 1970 but
it was not until the WRAAF became
part of the RAAF that full parity was
we had to live-in no matter our age
until we reached SNCO rank. We
were bed-checked and had to apply
for weekend leave.
"The WRAAF had been amal-
gamated into the RAAF by the time
I made SGT following a posting to
Canberra, but still there was no pro-
vision for female accommodation in
the Sergeants' Mess. My suggestion
to be allocated a room where all the
male SNCOs were quartered was
met with horror. I had to live out."
In WGCDR Whiting's day, the
widespread view was that women
in the WRAAF would serve until
they became married and were
then discharged; today women can
chose to have a family and still
continue to have a career.
Until 1984 no woman served
overseas in the RAAF; today, they
serve in all areas where the Air
Force is deployed.
"Life in the WRAAF was more
restrictive than I imagined," she
"The transition to the RAAF
opened up many more opportuni-
ties for me including the chance to
be commissioned into the admin-
istrative category. When I first
joined the WRAAF the highest
rank I could aspire to as a CLKA
was SGT (and I would never have
been in charge of an orderly room)
and there was only one branch
opened to women, WRAAFG (gen-
WGCDR Whiting said moving
from the WRAAF to the RAAF
was a great step forward.
"I am very proud I have had the
opportunity to spend the greater
part of my working life in the
RAAF and I can continue now until
I reach 65.
"Many of the great experiences
I have had are because I had great
bosses and role models who gave
me opportunities and then let me
get on with the job. I have also
been very fortunate to have many
good people who have weaved
their way in and out of my life and
"Most young people leaving
school today expect to have three
different careers during their
working life in different organisa-
tions; I have had three different
careers in the one organisation
-- as an airwomen, a SNCO and an
PROUD: WGCDR Mary Anne Whiting
with CDF ACM Angus Houston.
' Until 1984 no woman
served overseas in the
RAAF; today, they serve
in all areas where the Air
Force is deployed.
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