Her experiences travelling around Australia as a young backpacker sowed the seed of the idea to move here, but Sergeant Shelby Powell could never have imagined she would one day take an active part in an Anzac Day ceremony in Canberra.

Born in Shrewsbury, England, she grew up in a small town called Market Drayton in Shropshire.

At the start of her career she enlisted in the Royal Air Force in August 2002 as a geospatial intelligence analyst. 

“I had an interest in sport and photography. The recruits told me that this would be a great trade for that,” Sergeant Powell said.

“I then joined the RAAF as an air intelligence analyst after having exposure to the Australian lifestyle and culture whilst on exchange with the RAF in 2009 to support military operations.

“On return to the UK, I submitted an ‘expression of interest’ to be a lateral transfer, then three years later I was given my ‘letter of offer’ to transfer.

“I turned down my RAF promotion to come across to the RAAF as it had been a long-term dream to live and work in Australia, and I’ve never looked back.

“Since arriving in Australia, most of my career has been predominantly with the Air Force’s Geospatial Intelligence 460 Squadron in Canberra.

“I had been a backpacker when I was 18, doing all the typical backpacker stuff, which made me fall in love with the country that I now call home.

“I have since set roots by marrying an Australian and having two beautiful children.”

Sergeant Powell was given the honour of doing the reading at the Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial on Anzac Day on April 25.

“Being selected to read at the Last Post ceremony really is a privilege and a career highlight, considering special permission had to be granted due to the cancellation of all services due to COVID-19,” she said.

“Anzac Day to me means the loyalty for the country you love and digging in through the tough times.”

Sergeant Powell is a recipient of multiple UK and Australian awards from her operational deployments to the Middle East region, including being a member of a unit that earned a Meritorious Unit Citation.

Australian Defence Force members currently deployed on operations or working overseas, and who are also supporting the COVID-19 response, are upholding the Anzac spirit while serving Australia's national interests.