Graduating women pilots is an essential step in the Air Force becoming a more equitable and sustainable capability focused organisation.


On 30 Jun 1988 a milestone was achieved for the Air Force when two young women graduated from 144 Pilots Course. Deborah Hicks (now Jeppesen) and Robyn Williams (now Clay-Williams) became the first women to gain their wings. Whilst able to train as Air Force pilots, they did encounter obstacles – it was not until 2011 that then MINDEF, Stephen Smith, announced lifting the restrictions for women serving in ADF combat roles. Robyn was dux of her class and wanted to fly fighters and Deborah, helicopters. Both aircraft types were classified as combat aircraft at the time so neither were allowed to train for their first choice. There have been many ADF milestones involving women. Opening the employment aperture of combat roles to include women goes beyond diversity, it also means a greater pool of potential combatants to choose from over the longer term.