Following the right flight path

Life doesn’t always follow an easy flight path, but support and guidance from those in the air and on the ground can make it easier, as Pilot Officer Katherine Russell has discovered.

CAPTIONPilot Officer Russell receives the 2023 UNSW Canberra Spirit Award at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Story by Lieutenant Commander Sandra Turner. 

A trainee officer at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Pilot Officer Russell is the recipient of the 2023 UNSW Canberra Spirit Award.

An award for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to recognise qualitative characteristics such as persistence, resilience, academic growth and attitude.

The award was presented to Pilot Officer Russell at the recent Nura Gili Indigenous students awards night.

Pilot Officer Russell has no regrets about her career decision and appreciates the support from everyone involved to get her to where she is now.

On being notified of her award, Pilot Officer Russell said the first thing she did was call her parents and siblings.

“My family have always been my biggest supporters and have always backed me in whatever pursuit I have set for myself,” Pilot Officer Russell said.

The support she received through the Indigenous Pathway to the Academy Program allowed Pilot Officer Russell to join the Air Force as a security military dog handler in 2017 and to develop her skills as a junior aviator.

Pilot Officer Russell was commissioned in 2021 and is grateful for the support she received from 22 Squadron at Richmond after her commission.

Now in her second year at the academy, Pilot Officer Russell said she feels honoured to have been nominated for the award.

“The academy has so many amazing Indigenous members and anyone could have deservingly won the award,” Pilot Officer Russell said.

“ADFA is so dynamic and there is always something changing, adapting or moving. It is a constant test in agility, but that’s where I learn the most, both about the organisation and about myself.

“The diversity of experience, service and job roles, between both the staff and other students, provides infinite opportunity to widen my understanding of the Defence Force.

“The Academy offers opportunities for professional and personal development and I highly recommend anyone who is interested in commissioning to consider coming through the Academy.”

Note: Nura Gili is UNSW’s student-facing services, programs and study facility. Nura Gili offers study spaces and meeting places for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and researchers.


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