Highest-ranked woman in Royal NZ Navy pays tribute to wāhine toa

By Taroi Black

The highest-ranked woman in the Royal New Zealand Navy has paid a special tribute to wāhine toa “past and present” serving in the defence force.

Commodore Melissa Ross (Ngāpuhi), who was raised in Kawerau, attended the annual ANZAC commemorations at Whakatāne War Memorial Hall and says she is proud of the women and girls who are taking heed of their mana to serve.  

“It's really good to enjoy all the women past and present. The women that have played a part both in supporting going to war and those that are currently serving,” Commodore Ross says.

While today’s ANZAC Day coverage on Māori Television was dedicated to women, the challenge of seeing more women at the top in the defence force is a rare sight.  

It is something that is a huge driver for Commodore Ross who became the first woman in New Zealand’s naval history to achieve Commodore rank and the first woman appointed Deputy Chief of Navy.   

“It is good to have other women that are more senior to bring in other women through and to help push them up.”

Defence Minister Peeni Henare, who also attended the commemorations in Whakatāne, sees Commodore Ross’ successes as a beacon of hope for other wāhine to achieve.  

“She is a shining example for us all. I hope her achievements will encourage more wāhine to be elevated to high levels within the defence industry.”