Riverton RSL member recalls women’s contribution to war

Riverton RSL member recalls women’s contribution to war

JULIE Stewart may have been prevented from serving on the frontlines but it never stopped her – and many other women – from positively affecting the army.

Ms Stewart served in Sydney and Melbourne, working as a signals centre supervisor and a cipher operator/supervisor from 1960-72 and went on to help found the WA branch of the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps Association.

She spoke fondly of her time with the army and was one of the many women who volunteered to serve in Vietnam during the war.

However, they faced stiff opposition from the head of the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps (RAAC), who Ms Stewart said refused to even look at their request.

“We weren’t allowed to be sent overseas because we were there to fill in the roles of the boys who were going overseas,” she said.

“That was our role, to stay behind, even though some of us did request and volunteer. Rules were rules; women didn’t go to the front lines.”

Despite being unable to travel to Vietnam, the Parkwood resident said women’s contributions to the armed forces were vital and often understated.

“Without the women, I don’t think they would have been able to carry on,” she said.

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“The boys were just getting shifted over to Vietnam fairly quickly. At one stage I don’t think we had any males in the office at all and if we did, they would come to us for basic training in a basic signal centre.

“You’d get them trained up so they were some advantage to you and then away they’d go to Vietnam.”

Ms Stewart’s family has a history with serving their country; her father and sister both served in the air force and she herself unsuccessfully applied to get in.

She said some of her first memories of Anzac Day made a big impact.

“I was one of the head girls picked to lay the wreath at the memorial,” she said.

“We were all decked out in our uniform and it was a pretty special occasion to be there and see all the RSL heads of states visiting.

“I felt pretty proud to be able to do that.”