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Female veterans march together to be recognised

This image shows By the Left campaign supporters Ledy Rowe, Lucy Wong, Allison Gillam, Kellie Dadds and Jan‑Maree Ball at the Australian War Memorial.

Pictured at the Australian War Memorial are By the Left campaign supporters Ledy Rowe, Lucy Wong, Allison Gillam, Kellie Dadds and Jan-Maree Ball.

The Department’s Female Veterans and Veterans’ Families Policy Forum was established to build a strong network of representatives of female veterans and develop solutions to the complex challenges faced by female veterans and veterans’ families.

At the second meeting of the forum, in October 2017, topics included health issues, the impact of defence service on veterans’ families, and ways to support people in the veteran community experiencing domestic violence.

Forum participants also talked about the need for increased awareness to combat misconceptions about how female veterans wear their medals during commemorative events.

Forum participant Kellie Dadds, an Army veteran with 22 years of service, says that female veterans regularly find themselves accused of wearing their male relatives’ medals ‘on the wrong side’.

It is a painful example of a lack of recognition that causes some female veterans to stop participating in commemorative events and even distance themselves from the veteran community.

Ms Dadds and a number of other members of the Women Veterans Network Australia (WVNA) organised a campaign in 2018 to try to reverse that reaction and broaden the public perception of veterans in Australia.

The By the Left campaign urged female veterans to come out and march as a group on Anzac Day, to send a powerful message about women’s presence in the ADF and the veteran community.

On Anzac Day 2018, thousands of women turned out, and WVNA observed more female veterans participating in marches, and fewer incidents of female veterans being questioned about their medals.

Ledy Rowe, an Army veteran who marched in Canberra, said that the campaign had 'changed so many thousands of lives for the positive'.

'The most positive outcome is that women who have never valued their service came out and marched and were proud of what they had done in the past', Ms Rowe said, ‘That was wonderful to see'.

Women comprise more than 16 per cent of the ADF, and the proportion of women is growing in all three services. DVA is working to ensure that female veterans are recognised and have a voice in the development of policy and the delivery of support to meet their needs.

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