Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Warren Snowdon has cleared the way for more women to serve in Navy submarines by formally approving shared female and male accommodation on board every boat.
Mr Snowdon said the move, which was a recommendation of the previous Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Russ Crane, is a major step forward for women in the Australian Defence Force and has the full support of new Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Ray Griggs and his leadership team.
“This move will ensure that our female submariners access the same training and career-progression opportunities as their male crewmates.
“The Australian Government believes it is important that the nation’s defence forces be representative of the community it serves and it’s committed to ensuring that female military personnel have opportunities for career progression and development.”
Mr Snowdon said women had been serving onboard Australian Navy submarines since 1998 but, until now, females had to sleep in female-only six-berth cabins.
“A lack of dedicated bunk space on board has occasionally led to female submariners missing out on postings because of bunk limitations, which has, in turn, denied the submarine force qualified specialists.
“These limitations have also meant that only two of our three operational submarines have been able to accommodate females,” Mr Snowdon said.
Successful trials have already been conducted over several years across the submarine force with officers and senior sailors.
Strict rules apply to maintain the dignity and privacy of all people involved.
Currently 44 of the Navy’s 560 submariners are female, which equates to 7.8 per cent.
A submarine community forum will be held on 23 June in Rockingham, Western Australia, to inform the broad submarine family of the implementation plan for the initiative and gather feedback on its implementation. This will provide opportunity for families and spouses to gain more information and to have their questions answered.
The first fully integrated junior sailor messes will begin in July 2011 on board all commissioned submarines.
Of the three services, Navy has the largest percentage of women serving in its ranks at 18 per cent.
"It should be pointed out that 97 percent of Navy positions, including combat-related positions, are already open to females, but this latest measure is a significant step in the right direction,” Mr Snowdon said.
“At this stage, only clearance diving remains a restricted employment category.”
Minister Snowdon: Alice Plate 0400 045 999
Defence Media: 02 6127 1999