The Australian navy on Friday appointed its first female admiral, just months after the defence force allowed women to serve in frontline combat for the first time in its history.
Commodore Robyn Walker was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral and will also be the first female sailor to take on the job of surgeon-general.
“This is an outstanding achievement personally for Admiral Walker,” said navy chief Vice Admiral Ray Griggs. “She is an exceptional role model for all women in defence.”
He added that the navy was working at developing initiatives to support leadership by women as part of efforts to improve the gender balance.
“I am proud of the efforts of our people in encouraging and mentoring women in key leadership roles,” he said.
Walker’s promotion follows the defence force announcing a series of reviews this year into the treatment of women, sparked by a sex scandal involving a young female cadet at Australia’s elite military academy.
The moves culminated in September when women were given the right to fight and die for their country by serving in frontline combat positions.
While women had been allowed to fill many military roles, until then they were excluded from the most dangerous and demanding, including in the special forces and rifle companies.
Women were also excluded from being appointed chief of defence, as the role was only open to people who have served in combat.
Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, has made clear no job should be denied on the basis of gender.
“I am looking forward to the challenges that I will face and continuing to make a positive difference in my new role,” said Walker.
Women currently account for about 10,000 of the 81,000 full- and part-time positions in Australia’s armed forces.