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Australian Defence Force

  • 50,000 - 100,000 employees

Rebecca Holmes

I lead and manage the team responsible for maintaining and repairing the ship's structures, propulsion systems, electrical generation and distribution, and associated mechanical services.

What's your job about?

At sea, Marine Engineers are one of the officers in charge, responsible for the Marine Engineering department. Our department provides engineering and maintenance capabilities to ensure the seaworthiness of the ship.

I lead and manage the team responsible for maintaining and repairing the ship's structures, propulsion systems, electrical generation and distribution, and associated mechanical services.

My team also looks after the main and auxiliary machinery, engines, automatic and remote control systems, hydraulics, air conditioning and refrigeration, ventilation systems and electrical power generation, and conversion equipment.

My role involves resource management – assigning and scheduling personnel, assets and equipment to the task at hand.

Ashore there is a wide range of opportunities across Defence. I could work on system specifications, acquisition and through-life support, system certification or machinery trials. I could also find myself in a human relations role coordinating the training and management of sailors and officers or recruiting future Australian Defence Force personnel.

What's your background?

Canberra is where I spent the most time growing up. I moved around a lot. Dad is an Army officer so I knew what I was getting into, but I chose the Navy because I like to travel. 

I am an engineer because I like to solve complex problems. My grandfather was an engineer in the Navy. He shared lots of stories growing up. He and I spent a lot of time making things out in the garage.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

When I commenced my career 10 years ago there were only two women in my engineering cohort at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). While it was visibly noticeable that the girls were outnumbered it wasn’t an issue. I had a really supportive group of peers going through my training. You’re respected as a member of the team, supported, and recognised for your contributions and achievements.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

The Navy is a great way to start your engineering life. There are all of these opportunities; if you grab them with both hands you’ll go places you never thought you would go.

My highlights include participating in the Centenary of ANZAC deployment. I was onboard HMAS Anzac for a five-month deployment around the world. I’m pictured during a ceremonial sunset on this deployment. We were in Turkey for ANZAC Day taking part in a naval review led by the Turks, sailing past Anzac Cove.

Day to day what I find most rewarding is taking on a serious engineering defect. You work as a team to problem-solve. At the end of the day, you get a capability back up and running and you go to bed knowing that you did your job. It is very satisfying.

What are the limitations of your job?

Military engineers don’t do a lot of traditional engineering design work. We generally don’t build things from scratch, but we have so much other work to do, and in the Navy, you’re not just one type of engineer. You gain a breadth of experience. You live an active lifestyle. It is hard work, but the work is worth it. You know you’re achieving something.

At sea, connectivity can be a challenge. Your work environment is so busy and Wi-Fi is intermittent, which can impact staying connected with people back home. Navy does recognise the importance of staying in touch and good Wi-Fi is becoming more common in our ships. What makes up for it is the team around you. You form a close-knit community at sea. 

What are three pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student?

  1. Volunteer for everything. I put my hand up and had the opportunity to undertake a bunch of battlefield study tours during my time at the ADFA. I travelled to Turkey, Papua New Guinea and France during the leave periods on ADFA-organised trips. I also had an opportunity to spend two weeks on a sponsored visit to South Korea’s military academies. Lean into opportunities because there are heaps.
  2. Don’t procrastinate. Time is limited and you want to make sure you have time for all the fun stuff you can volunteer for. 
  3. Study hard. You’ll need all of your mental faculties to take on the challenges that you’ll tackle when you start your career.

In the Navy, you can set yourself up for the future with world-class training opportunities. Be paid to develop vocational and life skills and put both into practice undertaking interesting and varied work.