Women reach more leadership roles in Defence

By Harley Dennett

November 7, 2019

Fiona Grasby’s changeover ceremony, and Deb Butterworth. Source: Department of Defence.

Air Force Warrant Officer Fiona Grasby OAM and Navy Warrant Officer Deb Butterworth OAM both ascend to the Australian Defence Force’s most senior role for a warrant officer, known as the ‘service warrant officer’, as it is held by only one individual for each service at a time.

Yesterday, the Air Force conducted a changeover ceremony for Grasby, who takes over from Robert Swanwick and becomes the ninth Warrant Officer of the Air Force (WOFF-AF).

Later, Navy will do the same for Butterworth, who takes over from Gary Wight AM and becomes the ninth Warrant Officer of the Navy (WO-N).

No women have ever held these senior roles before this month. The roles themselves are relatively recent creations, starting only in 1993, compared with the longevity of the organisations themselves. The Navy is 108 years old; the Air Force is 98 years old and preparing for its centenary in 2021.

Along with the Army’s equivalent, Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army (RSM-A), the roles have a unique function inside the ADF. They are responsible for representing to the chief of their respective service the solicited and unsolicited views, concerns, and opinions of the sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen, which affect their service as a whole. They assist in the overall maintenance of discipline and morale of warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and other ranks. They advise the chiefs on a broad range of needs and effectiveness of the Divisional System, personnel, and many other aspects of the ADF, and are often assigned to reviews and inquiries.

The current RSM-A, Warrant Officer Grant McFarlane OAM, will be extended in his appointment until July 2022.

Mandarin Premium has explored leadership, morale, and understanding what advice senior executives need with Deb Butterworth. Watch out for that interview next week.

READ MORE: From government policy to algorithms to medical research focus — where are the women?

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