A Supplier with No. 84 Wing, Sergeant Deborah Harris has strong family connections at RAAF Base Richmond.
Sergeant Harris has three family members posted to the base - her younger sister Flight Lieutenant Carrie Atkinson, her daughter Leading Aircraftwoman Rebecca Harris and her granddaughter Aircraftwoman Georgia Campbell.
The reunion at RAAF Base Richmond is creating unique opportunities for the women to support one another professionally and personally.
“For many years I didn’t talk about my work as it was a job and language not everyone understood,” Sergeant Harris said.
“Now I discuss the supply role regularly with Rebecca and Georgia, providing guidance if they ask.”
Sergeant Harris enlisted in 2002 wanting a career change after working in retail for 24 years.
“My kids had grown and I had more flexibility,” Sergeant Harris said.
“I was 40 and a grandmother when I enlisted.
“I believe with Rebecca and Georgia growing up with me in the Air Force, it helped with their respective decisions to enlist.”
Like her older sister, Flight Lieutenant Atkinson made the decision to join the Air Force later in life.
I believe with Rebecca and Georgia growing up with me in the Air Force, it helped with their respective decisions to enlist.
Having been married to an Air Force member, she commissioned into the Air Force in 2011.
She joined through a Graduate Medical Program to become a doctor and studied medicine at Australian National University in Canberra.
“I had four young boys when I joined and started medicine,” Flight Lieutenant Atkinson said.
“I think it is nice for people to realise that it is never too late to reach for your goals and it can be done with children.”
In 2016, Flight Lieutenant Atkinson was posted to No. 3 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
As a doctor, Flight Lieutenant Atkinson provided care to patients being evacuated on an aircraft to receive further care.
After working as the operations officer, she moved to Joint Health Command as the Base Medical Services Officer for RAAF Base Richmond.
Leading Aircraftwoman Harris’ decision to join Air Force echoed the experience of her mother and her aunt.
“I worked in hospitality for 10 years as a single mum with no stable family friendly work hours,” Leading Aircraftwoman Harris said.
“I applied to the RAAF after watching my mother transform her life from working in retail to now loving her career and lifestyle in Defence,” Leading Aircraftwoman Harris said.
In 2015, Leading Aircraftwoman Harris was able to settle her three children with her mother in Wagga Wagga, ahead of her enlistment.
Following in my mums footsteps was the best decision I ever made for me and my family.
The family’s support network at the base has ensured Leading Aircraftwoman Harris is able to work away from her family when required.
“Following in my mums footsteps was the best decision I ever made for me and my family,” Leading Aircraftwoman Harris said.
The family’s experience is now inspiring the next generation, as Aircraftwoman Campbell has shown.
“Growing up seeing the stability and passion my grandmother has for her career, and my grandfather’s pride serving in the Navy from 1976 to 1980, I always knew a stable career in the RAAF was something I would work towards,” Aircraftwoman Campbell said.
“After visiting Rebecca on the RAAF Base, I sat nan down and asked her to help me with all the information I needed to reach my goal.”
Aircraftwoman Campbell joined Air Force through the Gap Year Program in January 2019, posting to No. 37 Squadron.
She won’t be the last of the family to join Defence however, with Flight Lieutenant Atkinson’s son Aidan having been accepted for enlistment into the Army.
Leading Aircraftwoman Harris said the older members of her family had served as examples for the younger generation to follow.
“To see my niece Georgia follow in all our footsteps was one of the proudest moments when I stood by her graduation in uniform,” Leading Aircraftwoman Harris said.
“I look forward to hopefully someday doing it again for my cousin Aiden, and for my eldest son.”