Sharen A’Hang
Nauo (Nawu) woman
Private/Craftsman
Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps
Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Royal Australian Army Pay Corps
Captain (AAC)
Australian Army Cadet Corps

Medals and Awards
Reserve Force Medal
Australian Defence Medal
Australian Cadet Forces Service Medal

 

My name is Sharen Claire A’Hang and I am a Nauo (Nawu) woman, born in Semaphore in South Australia. I attended Le Fevre Peninsula Primary School and Port Adelaide Girls Technical High School. I have also completed higher education courses at Tauondi Aboriginal Community College in Port Adelaide and Greensborough and Heidelberg TAFE Colleges in Melbourne. I have lived at various times in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland. I have four children, two stepchildren and six grandchildren. I live in Mount Gambier and serve on the Board of Pangula Manamurna Aboriginal Corporation, the local indigenous health clinic, and I am a member of the Mount Gambier RSL. I am happily married – but not to my current partner! I’ve had three husbands, plus my current de facto – if at first you don’t succeed try and try again. My aunty said, ‘Don’t marry them – they try harder!’ (When they don’t put a ring on your finger).

When I left high school at 15, I wanted to be a mechanic, but I couldn’t get an apprenticeship– it was a guy’s world, and it wasn’t common for women to be employed in traditionally male jobs. But I did get an apprenticeship in Textile and Knitwear manufacturing. By the time I was 21, I was married with two children, and my dream to be a mechanic had faded somewhat.  Then I learned from a maintenance fitter who worked at the factory where I was working, that I could learn to drive trucks and be paid instead of paying for lessons, if I joined the Army Reserves. It sounded like a good idea, so, at the age of 27, I went into the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps (WRAAC) in Adelaide (Warradale). In 1984 WRAAC was disbanded and I went into Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME). In 1986 all drivers were being forced to transfer to Transport Corps but I chose to train as a Vehicle Mechanic to remain in RAEME. In 1995 I transferred to Royal Australian Army Pay Corps (RAAPC) and trained as an Admin Clerk and Pay Clerk as a less physically demanding job. In August 1998 I discharged because I needed time off for surgery. Afterwards, I applied to re-enlist, but I was older and would have had to do the recruitment process again. It was at the time Timor was starting up, and I thought, you need me more than I need you – so I joined the Australian Army Cadet Corps (AAC) as an Officer of Cadets.

At the time I joined the Army Reserve, as a female, you had to work twice as hard to be seen as half as good – and there were times we had to stand up for ourselves. On an exercise, they had females use the outdoor shower at a set time, and the guys would try to watch us. One day they got a helicopter to fly over us while we were in the shower. When I asked one of them why, he said they wanted to see if I was really a redhead. I told him, ‘You only needed to ask and I would have shown you.’ He was surprised. So, I lifted my arm and showed him the red hair of my armpits.

My great, great-grandfather, Johnny Ah Hang, immigrated to Australia from China in 1850. He landed at Robe in South Australia and unlike most Chinese who travelled east to the goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo, Johnny travelled west to the Sheringa area where he met and married Maggie, a Nauo (Nawu) woman. My paternal grandfather, William Clarence Way Ahang, served in the 1st Australian Imperial Force. His Army Regimental Number was 1822, he served on the Western Front in France and was hospitalised in England where he met and married Christine Mortlock. He was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and the Victory Medal. My maternal grandfather, Albert Ernest Shiell, served in the 1st Australian Imperial Force. His Army Regimental Number was 2127, he served at Gallipoli, in Egypt, on the Western Front in France, and was hospitalised in England. He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal 1914-20 and the Victory Medal.

My father, Ian Clarence A’Hang, after attempting to enlist in the Royal Australian Navy, but being discharged after only 2 days because his skin colour was too dark. He enlisted in the Army and served in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. His Army regimental Number was SX31254, he served in the Pacific Theatre in Papua and New Guinea and was awarded the 1939-1945 Star, the Pacific Star, the War Medal 1939-1945 and the Australian Service Medal 1939-1945.

My brother Trevor Wayne Ah Hang served in both the Australian Army Reserve and the Royal Australian Navy Reserve and was awarded the Australian Defence Medal.

My nephew, James Lewis, is currently serving as a member of the Australian Army Reserve and has been awarded an Operational Service Medal – Boarder Protection and the Australian Defence Medal.

I served in the Australian Army Reserve for 16 years in WRAAC, RAEME and RAAPC as a Private/Craftsman. My regimental number was F439484 and I was awarded the Reserve Forces Medal and the Australian Defence Medal. After my reserve service I joined the Australian Army Cadets as an Officer of Cadets (reaching Captain AAC) serving for 17 years and was awarded the Australian Cadet Forces Service Medal.

A previous partner Robert Hibberd served in the Australian Regular Army and was awarded the 1945-1975 Australian Service Medal with clasp SE Asia, the Defence Force Service Medal with 1 clasp and the Australian Defence Medal. My current partner, Greg Payne, served in both the Australian Regular Army and the Army Reserve and was awarded the Australian Service Medal with clasp Bougainville, the Defence Long Service Medal with 5 clasps and the Australian Defence Medal.