RAAF drops ‘airmen’ term

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday April 9, 2021

aviator
Four Royal Australian Air Force PC21 aircrafts fly over the ANZAC War Memorial during a commemoration of the RAAF Centenary, at the ANZAC War Memorial Hyde Park, Sydney. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

The Royal Australian Air Force has replaced the term ‘airmen’ with ‘aviators’ to describe its personnel, and has announced a new program that aims to “revamp” the culture of the Air Force.

In a statement announcing the change on Thursday, the Department of Defence revealed a new ‘Our Air Force, Our Culture’ program would “revamp Air Force culture”.

“The new program builds on the foundation of previous measures, and closely aligns with the update to the Air Force Strategy launched in 2020,” it said.

Last month the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, said the shift in terminology would “instil a stronger sense of identity” within the RAAF as it moves into its second century.

“Of all the work that has been done in developing our Air Force culture, the most challenging dilemma has been fully explaining who we are. We understand well enough what we are and what we do — but have never quite managed to successfully articulate who we are,” he told a centenary dinner.

“We are all aviators. As an Air Force, we are born of the air and space. It is our home, and the place from which we serve our nation. Our trade is aviation. In everything that we do, we are aviators first and foremost.”

Hupfeld noted that all personnel — not just pilots — uphold the common purpose “to think, act and imagine from the perspective of the skies and space above us.”


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While women can now hold any role in the RAAF, that was not always the case. Women were first permitted to serve in 1941, through the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, and then the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force (WRAAF) in 1950.

The WRAAF was disbanded in the early 1980s, according to the Australian War Memorial. Women personnel were absorbed into the RAAF, and Australia’s first female air force pilots graduated in 1988.

According to Defence’s latest annual report, women made up 24.6% of the permanent Air Force cohort at June 2020.

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