19 Feb 2019

Q & A with Royal Australian Navy Pilot Kate Munari | Leadership Speaker

A quote from and photograph of Kate Munari

Kate Munari is leading and succeeding as a female in a male-dominated workplace. She is the only female Australian Navy pilot to fly operationally in Afghanistan and has recently retired from the Royal Australian Navy after 17 years of service. As a speaker, Kate is engaging right from the start and will enthral any audience with stories from a harsh and unique workplace whilst inspiring everyone to realise that stereotypes and seemingly insurmountable odds shouldn’t stop them from pursuing their goals.

How did your interest in flying come about?

Although I didn’t really know anyone in the military, I grew up with a keen interest in it. My father had a corporate job in defence aviation and I grew up very close to my brother who was quite interested in military hardware, particularly fast jets. My Dad’s career coupled with my brother’s inclination towards ‘boys toys’, sewed a seed of interest in me at an early age. I’ve always been sporty, competitive and I love the outdoors. My parents were very supportive and encouraged me to explore all my passions to the fullest. After an initial presentation from defence recruiting at school, I went to the Defence Force Recruiting Centre and saw some pretty cool photos of helicopters doing some exciting stuff; landing on the back of ships in wild seas; troops fast roping out the side; and delivering supplies to disaster areas…I thought that would be an amazing job! To me, it certainly looked fulfilling, challenging and rewarding.

What were you awarded the Afghanistan Campaign medal for?

I was awarded the British Afghanistan Campaign medal by Prince Charles at Clarence House for serving in Afghanistan on Operation Herrick, which was the British Afghanistan Campaign. I served three times in Afghanistan with the British as a Commando Helicopter Force pilot. The day we were presented our medal at Clarence House in London is a moment I will never forget and it was a privilege to have been given that opportunity.

Tell us about leading & succeeding in a male-dominated environment?

Perseverance towards my goal of becoming an operational military pilot and having a strong belief in myself has been key to leading and succeeding in my position. To be honest, I never considered gender. Perhaps I am fortunate that it never played a part in my upbringing. My brother and I were encouraged to pursue our interests, regardless of whether they were considered traditionally male or female. Stereotypes around gender were not even a consideration. This attitude continued into my military career where my ability was the key to success. It is important though to remain true to yourself and recognise that being a female leader can bring valuable tools to a male-dominated environment.

Is there anyone in particular who has inspired you?

Whilst I don’t have any one person who has been an inspiration, I have always drawn strength in all my endeavours from family and their support of me. My parents, brother, grandmother and extended family have always shown great interest and encouragement in everything I have pursued. No matter where I was in the world, having exciting adventures or tough times, they have always supported me in everything I have committed to and that has helped me immensely to achieve my goals. I am lucky to have found this support and inspiration so close to home.

What achievement are you most proud of in your career?

Without a doubt being the formation commander of 2 Sea King helicopters in Afghanistan, supported by Apache gunships to accomplish missions, both day and night. At times I had up to 28 people’s lives in my hands, literally. Being responsible for making the ultimate decisions about the missions in the heat of the moment was a responsibility I thrived on. I am proud to have been tried and tested in that most challenging of environments.

Discover more about Kate here.

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