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Captain Katherine Richards from HMAS Cerberus was recently interviewed by Dennis Gist on his Drive program on RPP FM radio.

Captain Richards spoke candidly about her incredible life while dressed proudly in her summer uniform proudly adorned with the naval insignias and service/campaign ribbons.

In the interview Captain Richards spoke of how she grew up at HMAS Cerberus Naval Base as the daughter of a Medical Officer in charge of the Hospital and felt she was returning home when she took up her posting as first female Commanding Officer 2 years ago.

From then on, her life you could say was mapped out. She graduated from the Australian Defence Force Academy at the University of New South Wales, the Australian Command and Staff College and the Royal Navy’s Dagger Engineering Course at the University College of London (UCL). She holds a Bachelor of Engineering (UNSW), a Masters of Science in Marine Engineering (UCL) and a Master of Management in Defence Studies. She is a Member of Engineers Australia and a Chartered Professional Engineeer (MIEAUST, CPEng).

She is a Marine Engineer Officer (MEO) who has served in the Defence Force Academy and the Royal Australian Navy for over 24 years in a wide variety of sea and shore appointments, including two charge appointments as MEO of HMAS Melville and HMAS Melbourne and most recently as the inaugural Director of the Navy’s Landing Helicopter Dock Ship Systems Program Office. She now says her ‘sea days’ are over, leaving it up to young men and women.

A Commanding Officer takes on many responsibilities including Senior Naval Officer of Victoria with over 1,700 staff members under her command, attends official meetings, has a strong representational role in the community where she ‘uniforms up’,  and is surrounded by ‘pomp and circumstance’ at Naval events.

She shares her busy life with husband Colonel Bernard Richards, a serving officer in the Army. Both met while studying at the Australian Defence Force Academy in their early 20’s. Captain Richards said, “We grew together in our roles and we have been a tremendous support to each other and I couldn’t have accomplished what I have without him.” She humbly explained that her family are very proud of her achievements which provides her with enormous strength. “At the end of the day we are just a normal Australian family.”

Captain Richards explained that HMAS Cerberus is the largest naval base in Australia with approximately 4,500 naval personnel graduating each year. She added, “The responsibility is enormous when you have young men and women under the age of 25 in your care and is an extraordinary privilege and a rewarding experience to see recruits graduate with their trade, trainee or apprenticeships.” She assumed command of HMAS Cerberus, the Navy’s premier training establishment for new entry sailors since December 2011.

Captain Richards is a wonderful inspiration to women with three children, Elizabeth aged 8, Isabella 6 and Harry 3, all nicknamed the Sniper, Commando & Scout who were born into a household that is run with military precision with lots of love, laughs and happiness.

We wish Captain Katherine Richards and her family a wonderful onward journey in her new posting at Canberra for the next 12 months at  the Centre of Defence & Strategic Command Operations and in addition will further her education completing a Masters in Administration. There is no stopping this amazing intelligent and gifted woman, wife and mother of 3.

She will be handing over command of HMAS Cerberus to Captain Steven Bowater at the end of the year.

Words Debra Mar

Photography Rab Siddhi

Pictured: Captain Katherine Richards, first female Commanding Officer at HMAS Cerberus with RPP FM presenter of his Drive program Dennis Gist.