During 50 years with Defence, Edna Poles has seen careers, including that of a service leader, blossom and installations come and go.

Commander Forces Command Major General Matt Pearse presented the Forces Command Australian Public Service member with the Secretary’s Long Service Award on behalf of Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty at Victoria Barracks.

During the presentation, Colonel Matt Stevens, of Headquarters Forces Command, outlined the career of a woman who started as a clerk with Navy in 1969 and moved into the Army in the late 1990s.

“Over her career, she worked at many of the Army installations around Sydney – many are now closed down,” Colonel Stevens said.

Ms Poles said she had witnessed many changes in her half-century career.

“From afar, I have watched the careers of my Navy friends bloom and have seen many a young sailor and officer move up the ranks,” Ms Poles said.

“I saw a young flag lieutenant move up the ranks to the current Chief of Navy – Vice Admiral Michael Noonan. 

“My Army friends have risen up the ranks also and it is always a pleasure when they come back to say hello.

“It’s hard to believe how the time has passed and what I have been witness to over my working life. 

“Edna has made a significant contribution over five decades and I commend and thank her for her dedicated service.”

“I started with a pencil and eraser – now I use a computer.”

Ms Poles said there were few women in the services when she commenced.

“Look where we are now. There is opportunity for women wanting careers in the services,” she said.

“The culture in Defence is unique. I tried to go for other positions with other departments but realised I could only work for Defence.”

Ms Poles said she had experienced ups and downs and “met some fantastic people along the way who are still my good friends”.

Ms Poles transferred to Victoria Barracks in 2002 and continues to serve as the administration coordinator with the Personnel Branch.

Mr Moriarty praised Ms Poles for her enduring service.

“Edna’s career across Defence has been remarkable. She has made a significant contribution over five decades and I commend and thank her for her dedicated service,” Mr Moriarty said.

Edna was joined at the presentation by her sister, Marzia, and other family and friends at the Victoria Barracks Officers’ Mess.