WRAAF National Reunion

The 2011 National WRAAF Reunion was held in Brisbane from Friday, 28 January to Sunday, 30 January 2011 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the formation of the WRAAF in January 1951. It was a fantastic weekend, commencing with the official opening of the reunion by Her Excellency The Governor-General of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce AC on Friday night at the cocktail party held at the Mercure Hotel, North Quay Brisbane. It was not common knowledge who was going to officially open the reunion and therefore when Her Excellency's arrival was announced, the room erupted in cheers and clapping. After her speech and she stepped down from the dias, she was mobbed by the ladies. It was really great to see.

Overall we had 515 register for the reunion but this number decreased to 447 by the date of the reunion for various reasons, mainly ill health, family functions and some because of the flooding as they were cut off and could not get to Brisbane. Unfortunately we did not have any ex-WAAAF attend, while about 6 WAAAF did register for the reunion, over time they all cancelled. However, we had ex-WRAAF from every state and territory in Australia for the reunion.

The Reunion Committee did not contemplate cancelling the reunion because of the impending flooding. Planning for the reunion started back in 2009 and we felt we had come too far to postpone or cancel it, especially when the hotel was not affected at all by the flooding. The only concern for the weekend was the lunch cruise on the Kookaburra Queen on Sunday.

On Saturday night, 29 January 2011, a formal dinner was held at the Mercure Hotel and attended by 447 ex-WRAAF. Our MC was Mrs Robyn Moore, National Patron of Make A Wish Australia who really got the girls into the swing of things for an enjoyable evening. Our guest speaker was Wing Commander Mary Anne Whiting (Retd) who rose through the ranks of the WRAAF to become a commissioned officer in the RAAF and served for nearly 40 years. Mary Anne gave a very interesting talk on her time in the WRAAF and RAAF, reflecting on old and new attitudes towards females in the Defence Forces and how times had changed since her entry into the WRAAF in 1970.

On Sunday, 30 January 2011, a church service was held in St Paul's Presbyterian Church, St Paul's Terrace, Spring Hill and was attended by approximately 200 ex-WRAAF members. Some photos are attached. Rev. Tim Hodgson, RAAF Chaplain at RAAF Base Amberley delivered the sermon. The church service was followed by a luncheon cruise on the Kookaburra Queen on the Brisbane River. This was the only concern we had when the flooding occurred because initially the company cancelled all cruises but eventually were given permission to moor at Bretts Wharf (rather than Southbank or Eagle Street Pier, both of which were damaged) and to cruise down the river towards the mouth. This proved to be a very pleasant afternoon on the murky Brisbane River but a lovely lunch was served and luckily there was plenty of wine on board. We actually had 2 boats as the first boat which held 300 was full by July 2010 so they were able to put on a second boat for us which held about another 100. We had organised Brisbane City Council buses to move the ladies from the hotels to the church and then to the wharf for the cruise and return to the hotel.

From 2009 the WRAAF Branch Brisbane held raffles, bring and buy tables and organised the sale of a 2010 WRAAF Calendar to raise funds for the reunion. Also we had a range of memorabilia for sale at the reunion which included tea towels, memo pads, handbag hooks and car stickers, all of which were very popular. We were successful in our application for a DVA Saluting Their Service grant for $3000 and the RAAF Association Qld Division donated $1000 towards the reunion. We also received other donations and raffle prizes from other RAAFA Branches and ex-service individuals. In August 2010 we asked RSL Qld for a donation for the reunion but unfortunately we are still waiting for a reply but we have heard unofficially that our request was denied.

Trevor Benneworth, editor of the RAAF Radschool magazine came to the cocktail party on Friday night to interview some of the ladies for an article for his magazine. A link to the magazine article is attached, however, his article refers to our service as RAAF not WRAAF. He was very lucky we gave him permission to do this as these WRAAF reunions are usually "women only" !! However, we did officially invite John Carlile, the State President of RAAF Association Qld Division, to the cocktail party as Michael Bryce was originally to accompany Her Excellency but at the last minute did not come with her. John still enjoyed himself (how could he not with all those ex-WRAAFs !!).

This was the largest reunion held so far.The reunions began in the late 70's, early 80's and are usually held every 2 years. So far they have been held in Sydney, Melbourne, Beechworth, Perth, Adelaide and Toowoomba. The 50th anniversary reunion was held in Toowoomba in January 2001 and about 370 attended.

Everyone had a great time, the Reunion Committee have received numerous emails, cards and letters saying how much everyone enjoyed themselves, some saying "it was the best reunion ever". We all had a great time catching up with old and new friends and looking forward to the next one in Perth in 2013.

Rosemary Coleman WRAAF Branch Secretary

St Paul’s Presbyterian Church WRAAF Service

by Fran McCoy (Photographs: Robert McCoy)

A commemorative service was held in our Church on 30th January this year to recognise the service of our women in the Women's Royal Australian Air Force (WRAAF). As our state reeled from the impact of the floods on the lives of so many communities, it was uplifting to recognise the positive influence of our defence forces in the clean up and re-building process and to listen to the message of the Reverend Tim Hodgson, RAAF Chaplain, as he highlighted the quiet deeds and the support offered over many disasters to the people of Queensland; the courage, the hope and the willingness of communities to rebuild, and the strength and grace of the Lord that we can draw on to help us also rebuild our own lives.

The WRAAF members who helped to fill our church and worship with us have a proud history and came from across Australia to be part of the reunion hosted in Brisbane. The flag bearers, Mrs Dianne Pickering and Mrs Linde Cavanagh and banner bearer, Mrs Rosemary Coleman heralded the commencement and closure of the service as they proudly carried the flags. God’s Word was read by Mrs Cheryl Souvlis and Mrs Hazel Harrington. Ms Emily Allan played both the Last Post and Reveille as the wreath was laid before our honour board.

Thank you members of the WRAAF for sharing this special time with us at St Paul’s. Thank you for your service to our country, for the sacrifice of so many women who did not return home to friends and family, and for the ongoing support so quietly given to communities not only in Queensland, but also across Australia. May the Grace of our Lord be with you all.

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