WOB pays tribute to women who serve


From a teenage bank worker to an award-winning chaplain, Women on Boards pays tribute to remarkable women - past and present - who have served the country.


Jean Mascord: Being ‘manpowered’ meant Jean could do a man's job

Jean Mascord was working at the Commonwealth Bank when World War II broke out. She was obviously a good worker because despite the fact that she was only 18, the Bank had her 'manpowered'. This meant she was capable of doing a man's job and prevented her from joining up.

But she was determined to do her bit for the war and while working diligently at the bank during the day she also joined the Hurstville branch of the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) as a nurse, working often at what was to become the Concord Repatriation Hospital which looked after returned servicemen.

When the war ended, Jean seized the chance to make good use of her VAD training and volunteered for overseas service. She was the youngest in a group of 10 VAD nurses chosen for a mission to repatriate Allied Prisoners of War from South East Asia.

But first she had to pass an interview and medical inspection and gain Manpower clearance to leave Australia. On 26 September 1945 the women set sail on the HMS Glory, converting a British aircraft carrier into a hospital ship. Being the first women ever to sail as part of the ship's company on Royal Navy warships, they were granted officer status.

Afterwards Jean returned to work at the bank and remained there until she married in 1947. She worked in a voluntary capacity for many community groups. You can read the full story, from the DVA Anzac Portal by Margaret Keech, here

Ensuring food security with the Women’s Land Army

Picking apples and grapes or testing herds of cattle, it was all the same to Isobel Anstee. As a member of the Australian Women’s Land Army - formed in 1942 in response to labour shortages in rural industries as men went off to fight - she was called on to do a number of different jobs, from picking apples in Ringwood and picking grapes at Chateau Tahbilk to herding cattle and working with flax in Lake Bolac.

One of the most important products during World War II was flax. It was used for all sorts of clothing and equipment from coats to parachute harnesses, from ropes to tarpaulins and even to cover gliders used to transport troops.

When the British Government lost its traditional flax supplies from Russia, Belgium and Ireland, it was forced to look elsewhere and sent stocks of flaxseed to Australia to fill the gap.

The Government was under constant pressure from farmers seeking the release of their former workers in order to meet war production contracts. Introducing women to the workforce went much of the way to solving the problem.

Isobel said work in the flax mills at Lake Bolac was the most important job she did during the war - even though it was the hardest with long hours and involved working in dusty conditions. 

“"Recruits for the AWLA were assessed for fitness and we had to accept the condition that we must go when and where directed. Our uniform was exactly the same as AWAS. Our hours were 28 days work with two days off each month (and nowhere to go). My 2 and three quarter years spent in the Land Army were very rewarding and worthwhile,” said Isobel, when she was interviewed about her experiences in the Women’s Land Army

Chief Petty Officer Sharon Brown: Making warship history

Chief Petty Officer Sharon Brown has witnessed a significant change in attitude towards women in her 42-and-a-half-year naval career.

In 1980, Chief Petty Officer Brown was in the first cohort of Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) recruits to train and graduate with their male counterparts. WRANS merged into the Royal Australian Navy in 1984 but women could not serve at sea until the following year. Even then, it was optional and excluded combat duties.

Chief Petty Officer Brown’s first sea-going experience was in 1985 in HMAS Jervis Bay GT203, a training and troop transport vessel. Nearly a decade later, she was one of the first females posted to a warship, serving in HMAS Sydney from 1992-1994. One of Chief Petty Officer Brown’s career highlights was meeting Prince Philip during a winter ceremonial parade at HMS Raleigh while she was on Exercise Long Look 1997.

That meeting only lasted a few minutes, but Chief Petty Officer Brown said the prince was very interested in the jobs of the RAN personnel and why they were at Raleigh. Chief Petty Officer Brown will retire in June. She plans to travel Australia and the world and do geocaching.

You can read more about Chief Petty Office Brown’s career here.

Air Force Chaplain Sue Page: Providing critical pastoral support

Air Force Chaplain Squadron Leader Sue Page plans to develop her director skills after winning a prestigious Prince of Wales Award for her commitment to professional development.

Squadron Leader Page has spent nine years as a specialist reserve chaplain in the Air Force, providing critical pastoral support to deployed personnel.

As a Uniting Church Minister it was Squadron Leader Page’s pastoral ministry experience, as well as being the partner of a full-time ADF member, which prompted her to join the Air Force Reserves.

“I thought I could bring a helpful perspective in chaplaincy to those serving and their families,” Squadron Leader Page said.

Posted to No. 24 Squadron at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia, Squadron Leader Page’s won the coveted Defence 2022 Prince of Wales Award. 

The Prince of Wales Award scheme recognises the dedication of ADF reservists and the valued support they receive from their civilian employers through the provision of up to $8000 towards training and professional development. 

Squadron Leader Page said she will use her award funds to pay for a company directors course through the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Completing the course will help to enhance her capacity as the current Associate General Secretary for the Synod of South Australia.

“This is professional development that will directly impact my civilian role, giving me skills and access to resources that I do not currently have,” she said.

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