A beacon for future generations

Department of Defence

In 1998, the Royal Australian Navy afforded women the opportunity to enter the submarine service, affectionately known as the ‘silent service’.

Australia was the fourth country to do so, and in 1999 the first female sailors were awarded their dolphins.

Since then, Navy has achieved some momentous milestones, with women taking up positions including chief of the boat and executive officer of the boat.

Petty Officer Sara Clarke is one of those, becoming the first female submariner to gain her Technical Charge Qualification.

“As the first woman to achieve my Technical Charge Qualification, I stand humbly proud,” Petty Officer Clarke said.

“This achievement is not just a personal milestone but a beacon for future generations, demonstrating the boundless potential when passion meets perseverance.”

Joining the Navy in 2009, Petty Officer Clarke was only one of three women in her cohort to earn her dolphins.

“At 21, feeling both relieved and immensely proud, I navigated the demands of my submariner board while completing my electronic technician trade,” she said.

“The essence of being a submariner, for me, is the pride woven into the fabric of my uniform and the unbreakable bonds of mateship forged over time.

“These relationships, built on mutual respect and shared experiences, are irreplaceable.”

Petty Officer Clarke said that Navy has not only shaped her professional journey but has also left an indelible mark on her heart.

“Being a submariner is not just a role – it’s an identity, one that I carry with pride and gratitude,” Petty Officer Clarke said.

Another woman who fulfilled their aspirations to become a submariner is Lieutenant Commander Kristy-Ann Youd, who joined the Navy in 2010.

She said getting her dolphins was proof that determination and discipline are key.

“When that moment came it felt as though a weight was lifted. I was emotional at having achieved something I had strived for, a seven-year goal,” Lieutenant Commander Youd said.

Increasing the participation rate of women across the organisation is not just a moral and social obligation, but an operational necessity.

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