Healy, Mrs June Marie, OAM Senator MOLAN (New South Wales) (20:31): I rise today in memory of a strong advocate and a brilliant organiser for veterans and war widows, the aged and women in the Army, June Marie Healy OAM, who passed away in August this year. This accomplished ex-servicewoman was a former national secretary of the Returned and Services League and national president of the War Widows Guild, Council of the Ageing and Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps Association. In 1990, June was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to veterans. She served in the Army in two roles, as an enlisted Army officer and later as an Army wife, a member of the camp followers, as Army families, including mine, used to refer to themselves.
June’s family, the Davidsons, like most families, were impacted by the horrors of the world wars. While working at The West Australian newspaper, she enlisted in the Royal Australian Army Corp in 1954. She was accepted into the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps in 1960. Reports of June and other female officers attending, of all things, charm and deportment classes made all the papers. ‘How to turn on the charm’ was the news headline. What barely made the news was that June’s group were the first women to take part in the quartermaster’s course at the Canungra jungle training centre in Queensland. The media and the military have certainly come a long way.
June became engaged to fellow Army officer John Healy in 1962 just before he was posted with the first Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, known as AATTV, and, upon his return 15 months later, they married. June had to leave the Army before her first daughter was born shortly before John returned to Vietnam. Over those two combat tours he was away for 780 days. She wrote at the time: ‘I would have preferred a posting where I could accompany him. Well, I can’t say I didn’t know what I was getting into.’ Taped letters between her and her husband when he was in Vietnam are held in the Australian War Memorial collection. There were decades of yearly and even shorter postings, packing up the family, including another young daughter, to move interstate and overseas. In 1976 she was again living in the jungle training centre at Canungra, where she had done the quartermaster’s course and where employment opportunities for spouses were limited. June always kept busy with Army wives’ activities and founded a thrift shop in Canungra which raised money for the Girl Guides and provided a valuable service for Army families relocating from vastly different climates.
During her longest period in Canberra, June was appointed the first woman executive to the RSL’s national headquarters, in 1981. The RSL’s media release described it as a major break with tradition. She was later promoted from deputy to national secretary. During June’s time with the RSL her husband, John, had postings in the Sinai and at Kapooka.
Most military families know the challenges of time apart. Fortunately, John returned to Canberra, to Army office at the Department of Defence. After 13 years with the RSL, June retired following the death, in 1994, of John, her husband, who had retired by then, as a colonel. She continued taking veterans and families on commemorative tours, including many to Borneo and Gallipoli, and to Bangka Island in Indonesia with Vivian Bullwinkel and several other famous World War II nurses, which is where I first met her. She remained a volunteer with many organisations, was an enthusiastic participant on boards and committees, and was a member of the Prime Minister Advisory Council on Ex-Service Matters. Chair Allan Hawke noted, ‘Your personal and professional experiences in advocating for the veteran community, your quiet dignity and your wicked sense of fun added significantly to council meetings.’
It’s fitting that I am acknowledging June’s outstanding contribution to her defence community during Legacy Week in most Australian states. She was both a supporter and a beneficiary of the magnificent work of Legacy and the War Widows Guild. Vale June Marie Healy OAM, who defined for us all a life of service and whose unparalleled service will be greatly missed