SIX years after becoming the most senior lesbian officer in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), former Air Commodore Tracy “Warrior Doc” Smart has now become the fourth highest-ranked officer in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
An advocate for improving health care within the ADF, Smart was rewarded with the one-star officer rank of Air Commodore in 2009 for her work in improving health delivery services.
“I am passionate about providing high quality health care to the men and women of the ADF — that is, helping those who serve our country — and that’s really what I focus on when I come to work each day,” Smart said.
“I’m very proud of the work of our men and women and I am keen to deliver effective health services for ADF personnel at home and when deployed.”
Smart’s new undertaking as the Commander of Joint Health Command will see her responsible for the delivery of health services and medical readiness of ADF members.
Being the ADF’s Surgeon-General, Smart will now also provide strategic health advice and technical oversight of operational health services.
Smart has been one of the most visible LGBTI members of the ADF through her work both behind the scenes as a role model and publicly leading the ADF contingency at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras three times since 2008.
Adding to a list of openly serving LGBTI military servicemen and women, including the Queensland Australian of the Year and trans advocate Catherine McGregor, Smart and her counterparts are not only breaking through a “pink ceiling” that existed for years in the ADF, but also attaining ranks once considered impossible for women.
Though few women have ever reached the two-star officer rank and despite being the first lesbian to ever do so, Smart continues to downplay her sexuality and gender with respects to her ability to do her job.
“Everyone has a sexual orientation… mine has no material effect on the decisions I make or how I command,” she said.
“I think defence people are far more interested in the type of leader that you, and the environment that you create in your command. If you have that right, then inclusive and respectful behaviour simply become ‘business as usual’ and expected.”
Speaking to the Star Observer in 2009, Smart said she and her American-born partner had been welcomed into the ADF community even before LGBTI policies had been officially implemented.
“It makes you appreciate that Australia really does pretty well. We might have complaints from time to time and things seem a bit slow, but we’re ahead of a lot of other countries,” she said.
“One of the things that matter to me [by marching in the Mardi Gras parade] is to say gay men and lesbians are in every walk of life, including what in Australia now is a highly respected profession, like medicine and defence. The more people who do it the stronger that message is.
“Certainly the support we got last year from the rest of the community and the 78ers was really good. I took that as support for the defence force as well, to say we appreciate that you’re serving.”