As the first member of her family to pursue a career in the military, Flight Lieutenant Arihia Peri has always forged her own path, welcomed new challenges and has never been afraid to aim high.

Her family moved from Auckland to the Central Coast, NSW, when she was young. As an independent teenager, Flight Lieutenant Peri's parents were not too sure what life in the military was going to be like for their only child and were surprised when she joined Air Force.

Fast forward to 2020, and Flight Lieutenant Peri has served more than a decade in the RAAF as an air traffic controller, currently posted to No. 452 Squadron at RAAF Base Darwin. 

After joining the Air Force in January 2009 and studying at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra for three years, Flight Lieutenant Peri reflected on her career journey which has delivered many opportunities.

"As an 18-year-old, I had no idea what career I wanted to have but I knew that I wanted to go to university. I saw an opportunity walking past Defence Force Recruiting in Newcastle and was overwhelmed by the list of potential jobs offered to me. I thought I would just give it a crack and 11 years on here I am," Flight Lieutenant Peri said.

"Meeting lifelong friends, travelling Australia, always learning new things, being challenged personally and professionally, and having the opportunity for further study with ADFA and a Masters of Aviation Management has been incredible."

In addition to her role of Approach (Radar) Supervisor at Darwin International Airport, Flight Lieutenant Peri extended her passion for safety, training and developing controllers through her active support to the role of Unit Aviation Safety Officer.  

She led the development and establishment of series of education and training programs; as well as network forums that enhanced aviation safety across RAAF Base Darwin. The success of these initiatives saw the education program also extend to the general aviation community. 

These efforts were recently acknowledged with the announcement that Flight Lieutenant Peri had been awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society's Dr Rob Lee Defence Flight Safety Award for 2019.

The award recognises an individual or collective effort that enhances flight safety in Defence and is open to all members of the ADF, Defence civilians, contractors, foreign exchange and loan personnel, and Australian Air Force cadets. 

Flight Lieutenant Peri received a certificate, trophy and $500 from the Royal Aeronautical Society during a ceremony at 452SQN's Darwin air traffic control complex. 

The award ceremony was held over video teleconference with the trophy, citation and cheque presented by Officer Commanding No. 44 Wing, Group Captain Ruth Elsley, in front of an audience of Flight Lieutenant Peri's family and colleagues.

"I was pleasantly surprised and did not expect it at all," Flight Lieutenant Peri said.

"My Flight Commander made a good effort of keeping the surprise under wraps and managed to get my family on video conference for the presentation, which made it extra special.

"I am very thankful and appreciative of being the recipient of such an esteemed award."

Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld praised Flight Lieutenant Peri for her initiative and commitment.

"I commend Flight Lieutenant Peri for her efforts, specifically her readiness to champion generative safety culture improvement both within and external to Defence in the Darwin region," Air Marshal Hupfeld said.