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Defending with Pride Voices: Carole and Christina

Shrine of Remembrance

Release Date: 07/28/2022

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Whether you're a history lover or someone looking to learn more about Australia's wartime history, this podcast is for you. 

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The story of defence couple, Carole Popham and Christina Dennis, started over 50 years ago in the Women's Royal Australian Air Force.

Both born in the '40s, without knowing it they grew up within 350kms of each other in northern Queensland: Carole in Townsville and Christina in Cairns. Coming of age in 1960s Australia - a time of limited work and education opportunities for women - in 1963 and ’64 respectively, Carole and Christina each jumped at the chance to join up and serve their country.

The WRAAF offered the women a chance to travel and see Australia, to meet other people from all walks of life and the opportunity to work in an interesting and challenging environment that home just couldn’t offer.

After meeting in the service 1964, and developing a romantic relationship at the end of 1967, Carole and Christina’s Air Force careers were cut short by the prevailing conservative morals and military regulations of the day. To avoid persecution from within, in late 1968 Carole and Christina decided to out their relationship to their WRAAF officer and voluntarily discharge from the Air Force.

Excelling in their respective musterings, it was not an easy decision to make and was a huge sacrifice. The ban on open service for LGB members in Australia’s military would endure for another three long decades, finally overturned by the Commonwealth government in 1992.

Carole and Christina have been together for 53 years, living in the same Melbourne suburb for almost as long. Much loved in their local community, their story is inspiring, funny, moving and courageous.

They are unassuming trailblazers for today’s queer ADF community.

Defending with Pride: Voices is a podcast produced for the Shrine of Remembrance to accompany the exhibition Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ service.

Content warning:

Parental guidance is recommended: this audio program contains adult themes and concepts.

Support:

If this program raises any issues for you, feel free to call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Qlife on 1800 184 527. Or scroll down for additional support services.

Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Shrine of Remembrance.

CREDITS

Speakers:

Christina Dennis (WRAAF)

Carole Popham (WRAAF)

Huge thanks to Christina and Carole for generously sharing their story, insights and perspectives; for their patience during the pandemic and for their hospitality.

Interviewer/Producer/Sound:

Megan Spencer 

Archival audio:

‘New Careers: Women of the RAAF’ 1958, (excerpts), courtesy of Cinesound Movietone Productions and the National Film and Sound Archive. Used with kind permission.

Music:

Emu and Brolga, commissioned by the Royal Australian Air Force Band. An original composition by Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay man James Henry, performed by the Air Force Band Wind Quintet.

Ensemble:

Flight Sergeant Adam Schlemitz - Bassoon

Corporal Laila Engle - Flute

Corporal Robert Scott - Clarinet

Leading Aircraftman Salvador Blasco Celda - Oboe

Aircraftman Aidan Gabriels - French horn

Original ‘Kissed’ music:

Philip Brophy

Audio mastering:

Kris Keogh

Special thanks:

Professor Noah Riseman; Glenn Eley at Cinesound Movietone Productions; Siobhan Dee at NFSA and Jessica Ferrari at Memento Media.

Flight Sergeant Dr. Ralph Whiteoak, RAAF Band, composer James Henry (Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay) and the Royal Australian Air Force Wind Quintet.

Thank you to the Shrine team: Sue Burgess, Laura Thomas and Kate Spinks, curator of the Defending with Pride exhibition.

Support:

If this podcast raises any issues for you, support is available from the following services:

  • QLife Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for LGBTI people. Phone: 1800 184 527
  • Defence Gay and Lesbian Information Service  Defence Gay and Lesbian Information Service provides policy and community information to gay, lesbian and bisexual, transgender, intersex and non-binary serving and ex-serving members of Defence and their families.
  • Discharged LGBTI Veterans' Association (DVLA) A support and advocacy association for Australian Defence Force personnel, their family and their friends who were adversely impacted by Defence's historic anti-LGBTI policies. Phone 0400 124 213.
  • Thorne Harbour HealthProvides professional, affordable counselling for members of LGBTIQ+ communities and individuals or couples who are affected by or at risk of HIV.
  • Open Arms Free and confidential, 24/7 national counselling service for Australian veterans and their families, provided through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). Phone: 1800 011 046 
  • Lifeline Suicide and crisis support. Phone: 13 11 14

Watch:

Women’s Air Force History documentary series by Jessica Ferrari

Read:

Serving in Silence: Australian LBGT Servicemen and women by Noah Riseman, Shirlene Robnson & Graham Willett published by New South.

Visit:

Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ service exhibition at the Shrine of Remembrance, open from August 2022 until August 2023.

Episode duration:

57:15