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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1088

Senator CROWLEY —My question is addressed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. The White Paper `Defence of Australia' released this week by the Minister for Defence contains new and higher figures on the employment of women in the Defence Force. Can the Minister confirm this apparent broadening of opportunities for women in the Defence Force and can she say what new areas have been opened to women?

Senator RYAN —I am happy to say that I can confirm that the defence White Paper includes new figures on both the number of women employed in the Defence Force and the number of Defence Force positions open to women. These figures represent a significant increase on those previously released. When Labor came to office in 1983 only around 8 per cent of Defence Force jobs were open to women. Now, 35 per cent of all Defence Force jobs are open to women. The number of women actually serving in the Defence Force has also risen significantly. In July 1983 women comprised 6.2 per cent of the Defence Force personnel. The figure had risen to 8.4 per cent by 31 December 1986.

The first women pilot trainees were recruited by the Air Force this year, in 1987. There has been a significant expansion in the number of trade-based positions and apprenticeships open to women. Opportunities now exist for women to serve at sea on Navy oceanographic, hydrographic and training ships. Women now undertake officer training at the Australian Defence Force Academy. I should emphasise that women compete on the basis of merit with their male colleagues for all Defence Force positions which are open to them. Our Government believes that young women have a great deal to contribute to Australia's Defence Force and, as is made clear in the White Paper, we will continue the process of opening the maximum number of positions to women consistent with maintaining operational effectiveness. I urge young women to investigate the opportunities now open to them in the Australian Defence Force.