The 2021 Women in Defence Awards will (finally!) take place on 01 February following several postponements. The event will be held virtually due to the current public health situation in eastern Australia.

Ahead of the event, we are proud to introduce our readers to the amazing finalists across nine categories. Today we are focusing on the finalists in Engineering and Technical Trade.

Lieutenant Commander Natalie Stafford of the Royal Australian Navy
Natalie was essential to HMAS Anzac’s exit from the ANZAC Mid-life Capability Assurance Program (AMCAP). Additional to her role as the Systems Engineering Officer (SEO) on board, she coordinated the repair of communal and living areas, improving habitability and ship morale, while also managing the tests and trials program. Natalie also performed the role of Damage Control Officer during the ship’s Mariner Skills Evaluation process, a role normally performed by the Deputy Marine Engineering Officer. Her efforts ensured a successful Marine Skills Evaluation for the ship and she later ensured that the ship could sail to Sydney to progress further unit reading workup training. She was integral to achieving the timely release of Anzac from the AMCAP program and ensuring successful achievement of the Sea Release Milestones set down for the ship in 2020.

Squadron Leader Emily Carrie of the Royal Australian Air Force
Emily is a Defence Aviation Safety Authority's certification engineer, leading a team that evaluates the design of Defence aircraft. Her outcomes are fundamental to assuring senior Defence leadership that new Defence aircraft and major modifications to extant Defence aircraft are safe for their intended purpose. In this role, she personally guided Defence’s acquisition project office to achieve ‘type certification’ of the new F-35A aircraft. Concurrently, she led the team of certification engineers who were responsible for type certification of the C-27J aircraft, approved approximately 50 major modifications to other Defence aircraft, and also took on the roles of her direct supervisor and later the only other Squadron Leader in the section after their departure.

Louise Burr of the Royal Australian Air Force
Throughout 2020, Louise was responsible for delivery of $1.5 billion worth of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter facilities across RAAF Bases Williamtown and Tindal under Air 6500. Louise drove accountabilities relating to the management of hundreds of critical ICT and security-related defects at the Tindal F-35 facilities to ensure passive ICT and security accreditation deadlines were achieved on critical path to F-35 First Aircraft Arrival. She was responsible for spearheading a short notice installation of additional Aircraft Arrestor Systems at RAAF Base Williamtown to mitigate the risk associated with deficiencies in F-35 wet runway braking and arresting hook performance. It is worth noting that Louise achieved all of these objectives, and many more, whilst home-schooling three primary-aged children during COVID-19 restrictions during 2020.

Jennifer Del Mastro of Nova Systems
Jennifer is a Senior Systems Safety Engineer and is currently consulting for the Australian Navy’s $3.6 billion Sea 1180 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) project. Jennifer commenced the project looking after the safety program for Seaboats on a 3-month contract, which was extended for an additional 12 months (plus extension of 24 months), looking after the safety engineering for the whole OPV. These project extensions were a direct result of Jennifer’s contribution to meeting project milestones and a fantastic achievement. Jennifer also volunteers as Engineering Ambassador in CSIRO/STEM programs. Her commitment to the engineering profession is delivering enduring benefits to the engineering community both today and tomorrow.

Dr Sarah Cannard of Nova Systems
Sarah is the Program Director and Project Manager for the Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth, building the start-up company and aiming to establish it as a premier Australian organisation. She is also currently the Deputy Industry Director at the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre. Sarah has been involved with many complex Defence, space and civil programs including the JAXA Hayabusa Spacecraft re-entry, hypersonic rocket launches, Woomera Test Range trials and activities, the Joint Navy/DTSG Autonomous Warrior 18 activity, and the Hunter Class Frigate Program. She aims to help Australia build its core space offerings so the country can contribute to international space missions.

Alicia Pollock of Serco Asia Pacific
Alicia was the Tug Boat Master & Vessel Operator/Maintainer at HMAS Coonawarra until recently when she relocated to Jervis Bay as Master. As part of the Fleet Marine Services Contract (FMSC) contract in Darwin, Alicia would take command of a range of Serco Tugs and support vessels to manoeuvre Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ships and visiting Navy ships in and around Darwin harbour.

Alicia is an exemplary employee who is a role model for all, but particularly for women who want to pursue a career in the maritime services sector. She one of only a handful of female tug boat Masters in Australia. Throughout her 10 years with Serco, Alicia has been involved in training and endorsing many of her colleagues on a range of different vessels.

Chief Petty Officer Jodie Katherine Matters of Royal Australian Navy
Delivering information warfare capability on HMAS Ballarat, in 2020 she was fundamental to the installation and set-to-work of augmented high-level cryptographic equipment and enhanced satellite communications. Jodie used her refined and highly effective communication skills to engage external stakeholders to enable the fusion of Ballarat’s information exchange requirements and enhance the integration and interoperability with joint and allied forces. At short notice, she implemented the communications architecture that enabled Australia’s first participation in Exercise Malabar since 2007. Alongside her professionalism, CPO Matters has the humility to be honest about her personal struggles, experiences she draws upon to encourage and inspire personnel in her department and the wider ship's company. Her humanistic approach has earned her trust and respect which transcends all ranks.

Jenny Gigliotti of Ventia
Jenny works in the base services contract for Ventia as their Regional Hospitality & Catering Manager for the South East Zone with sites across Tasmania and Victoria. Jenny has worked in operations and senior management positions in the hospitality and catering industry for 34 years in restaurants, hotels, cafes, Defence operations and her own business. She holds an Associate Diploma of Management from the William Angliss Institute. Jenny’s standout success was her involvement in Ventia’s support to Operation Bushfire Assist.

Ventia was tasked by Defence to provide logistics support to the operation (firefighting, aircraft refuelling, emergency accommodation, transport, catering). At the emergency peak on 3 January, they supported Defence in the evacuation of 2,000 residents. Jenny was integral in mobilising an operations team, many of whom were on Christmas leave.

Leading Aircraftwoman Belynda Pettit of Royal Australian Air Force
Belynda is the Lead Supplier and only member of the No. 30 Squadron Logistics Cell. No. 30 Squadron provides operational airbase support to units at RAAF Base East Sale, the busiest military airbase in Australia.

During 2020 Belynda surged during Operation Bushfire Assist when Royal Australian Air Force Base East Sale became the main evacuation handling point for bushfire affected communities such as Mallacoota and surrounds. Despite her junior rank Belynda is a mentor and coach to junior officers that she has taken the time to educate in the area of logistics and finance. She is never too busy to educate those around her and is a patient, thoughtful teacher.

Warrant Officer Electronics Technician Suzie Peterson of Royal Australian Navy
In her role on-board HMAS Hobart, in the absence of subject matter expertise support, WOET Peterson developed and oversaw a comprehensive training plan to enable junior members of the weapons crew appropriate exposure in both the technical and tactical application of weapons maintenance and operation during COVID affected operations. This meant that many tasks that were usually handled by contractors were being handled by the ship's crew. Suzie is known for her infectious positivity and dedication to service, always striving for improvement and empowering those around her to be the best they can be. Despite 2020 being a year of incredible personal loss, Suzie is an outstanding ambassador for Navy and beyond.

Thanks to all our sponsors: SYPAQ, Penten, Airbus, BGIS, Boeing, Leidos, Precision Public Affairs and Ventia.

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