63 women in Australia’s military have signed up for combat roles
More than 60 women have signed up for combat roles in the Australian military, such as in the infantry and as members of tank crews, since gender restrictions were lifted last year from the most dangerous defence jobs.
However, the military won't say whether any Australian woman has fought in a combat role in Afghanistan.
Australian Defence Chief Geneneral David Hurley told a Senate committee on Tuesday that 63 women were either in frontline roles or training for them since gender barriers were lifted in the army, navy and air force in January last year.
But women opting for direct combat roles still make up a tiny proportion of the 8,000 women in the Australian Defence Force. Women account for 14 per cent of Australia's military.
Women had been banned from the infantry, special forces, field artillery units, tanks, armoured vehicles, mine clearing, bomb disposal and from guard duty at air force bases.
The Defence Department said yesterday that most of the 63 women - 15 permanent personnel and 48 reservists - had chosen army jobs, with a few opting for navy and air force roles. It declined to release total numbers within the various roles, "as this has the potential to place undue pressure on any individual pursuing a combat role".
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Israel and a few European countries have no restrictions, or limited restrictions, on women in combat roles.