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2012 Marchant Lecture Air Vice-Marshal Julie Hammer

Julie lived in Wavell Heights but couldn't find a proper job

Julie uses a power point presentation which emphasises the irony or her decision to join the RAAF while 'waiting for a proper job'. She had found a job that was to exceed her greatest expectations.

Julie was born in 1955 and attended Wavell Heights Primary, Brisbane Girls Grammar and Hendra High School, and in 1971 was placed 8th in the State of Queensland in the Senior Public (Matriculation) Examination; a B.Sc. (Hons) in Physics at the University of Queensland followed.

Then began the search for a job as a physicist which did not yield much as this was in the days when most people could not even pronounce the word let alone know what it meant. So, in 1977 she joined the Royal Australian Air Force thinking that it would fill in the time while she was 'waiting for a proper job'; hence the title of her talk!

New Recruit to Wing Commander


This photo has only one woman in sight and not only is she wearing trousers but she is in fact 'wearing THE trousers' . The job is becoming more interesting and she has begun to 'climb the ladder of promotion'.

Julie joined the RAAF in the days when most women joined the Women's Royal Australian Air Force (WRAAFs). (The two services were combined shortly after). At the time the women in the RAAF were paid 80% of the male wage and Julie was the third woman to join the Education Branch.

She worked as an Education Officer but transferred to the Engineer Branch in 1981 after employment there was opened to women. Even so her application to transfer had to go to the higher levels of command.
This resulted in a transfer to Amberley near Ipswich in Queensland where she was working on the hanger floor, servicing the long serving F-111 strike aircraft.

At first she faced a small problem as her uniform called for her to wear a skirt, and as she remarked 'it would have been very awkward clambering over an F-111 in a skirt.' So her Commanding Officer had to send a memo to the Base Commander to issue her with men's trousers. (Has the memo been preserved in the RAAF archives?) In 1984 she was transferred to Melbourne and promoted to Squadron Leader the following year.

In 1986 she was transferred to the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell in the U.K., to study full time, on full pay, for her Master of Science in Aerosystems Engineering degree. On completion in 1987 she worked as a technical intelligence analyst in Canberra. Following this, Julie worked on the P-3 Orion ESM Project as project engineer and then, on promotion to Wing Commander, as project manager.

Command of the Electronic Warfare Squadron


Back to skirts and no need to emphasise who is firmly in control and making the running. The physist/engineer/technologist is exploring and developing new pathways.

In1993 she took command of the Electronic Warfare Squadron in Adelaide and was the first woman to command an operational RAAF unit. This is the unit which programs the software and threat libraries in self-protection equipment such as radar warning receivers, jammers, and flare and chaff dispensers.

The process involves combining engineering, intelligence and operational planning skills. Usually this type of command went to aircrew members and Julie was not aircrew. In trying for the command she identified what skills and experience a commander would ideally need to do the job and then demonstrated that she was the best applicant. She got the job but it had to go all the way to the top with Air Marshal Ray Funnell finally making the decision.

This new unit had about 100 members but within a year it grew to some 200 and outgrew the building they occupied so that they had to work in shifts. They had to program the software threat libraries for the electronic warfare equipment on board Orions, Black Hawke Helicopters and Hercules Transports. Sensor equipment had to be fitted to these aircraft to detect such things as missiles aimed at them, the presence of enemy aircraft, enemy radar systems, be able to jam enemy communications, to guide their own missiles and much more.

These threat libraries had to be specifically programmed for particular areas of operation and/or specific enemies. Julie instanced the old warhorse F-111s being easily vanquished by the new F-18 Hornets in war games until her EW Squadron programmed the threat library in the radar warning receiver in the F-111s, enabling them to turn the tables; the F-18 pilots were not amused!

Group Captain to Air Vice-Marshal


The apex of a unique career has been reached. There is nowhere else to go except to 'find a proper job' somewhere else.

Returning to Canberra in 1996 she completed a Graduate Diploma in Strategic Studies at the Joint Services Staff College and then served as Project Director with the Defence Acquisition Organisation. The same year she was promoted to Group Captain.

In 1999 Julie studied for a year at the Royal College of Defence Studies in the UK where she did the course in strategic and international studies. On returning to Canberra she was promoted to Air Commodore, the first woman to achieve One Star rank in the Australian Defence Forces.

From 2000 to 2001 she was Director General of the Information Services Branch, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Department of Defence strategic communications systems and its restricted and secret computer networks. This was at a time when Defence was interconnecting and consolidating what had been many previously diverse and unconnected networks. This organisation comprised a staff of 1,500 at 160 locations.

During 2002 and 2003 Julie was the First Female Commandant of the Defence Force Academy in Canberra. Here she acted as a role model, not only for the young women to show them how far a woman can rise in a military environment, but also for the young men, so that they became used to having a female boss from early in their careers.

For over 28 years, Julie served in the fields of aircraft maintenance, technical intelligence, electronic warfare, and information and communications technology (ICT) systems. At the time of her transfer to the Reserve in August 2005, she was the most senior woman in the Australian Defence Force. She was the first serving woman in the history of the Australian Defence Force to achieve One Star rank which she did in 1999 followed by Two Star rank in 2003.

Life after the RAAF


Hard won honours are bestowed, new challenges accepted and mastered. In a way Julie is back where she started in the RAAF as Education Officer, this time for the young women of Australia and beyond. Maybe she has 'found a proper job'! But meanwhile there is the renovation of the house; a challenge or a proper job?

Julie's career achievements have been widely recognised. She was awarded the 2003 Alumnus of the Year of the University of Queensland, was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2004 Australia Day Honours List, was the recipient of the 2005 ACT Australian of the Year Award and in December 2009, was awarded a Doctor of Engineering Honoris Causa (for the sake of the honour) by the University of New South Wales to recognise her eminent service to engineering.

Throughout her career, Julie has been a visible trail blazer for women in the military both within Defence and beyond, and has been a role model for women in engineering and other non-traditional professions. She has been actively engaged in Engineers Australia and in 2008 was the first female National President in its then 89 year history.

In her frequent public speaking engagements, she focuses on women's contribution in the workplace and the profession, and also speaks more generally on leadership. Her message to young women is: "If Julie Hammer can do it, so can I."

While Julie is still waiting for a proper job she has married a fellow RAAF man, Air Vice-Marshal David Dunlop and together they have travelled around Australia by caravan. They are 'greying nomads' as they are too young to be Grey Nomads. Now he is renovating their home on the Sunshine Coast while Julie helps with advice and many questions such as "Why are you doing that?" "What is this for?" She is being very helpful. And she gives very inspiring talks.