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Diversity champion earns Peter Rule inclusion honour

Squadron Leader Johanna Hunter has been awarded the 2023 Peter Rule Inclusion Award for her unrelenting championing of diversity in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).

30 November, 2023

The Squadron Leader Peter Rule Memorial Trophy is named after the man whose distinguished 20-year career in the Air Force from 1955-75 ended because homosexual men were banned from serving. He committed suicide in 1987.

The award, launched in 2019, celebrates the individual who has most positively influenced the inclusive culture of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

Squadron Leader Hunter, who works at Joint Forces Headquarters in Upper Hutt, has been praised in her citation as an advocate for diversity, notably in her contributions during her previous posting at Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Auckland.

“Within the No. 230 Squadron executive team she was a strong voice to represent all personnel, being the courageous voice when needed to question the system if she felt more diversity was needed,” says the citation.

“Squadron Leader Hunter will consistently challenge any gender stereotype, and was often heard challenging conversations straying into bias stereotypes. She is an inspiration to others - not just to our junior personnel but for all of us to be more courageous in these important conversations. She shows others that they also can speak up, that they are supported, and they are represented.”

Squadron Leader Hunter, from Auckland, joined the RNZAF in 2013. Following her basic training she undertook trade training overseas. She encountered challenges that “put a fire in her” to champion diversity and inclusion in the Air Force.

“I had an interesting time. That’s why I work so hard in the diversity space now, to make things better for people coming after me.”

The NZDF has grown since then, but conversations and discussion still need to be had, she says. Her citation noted she was not afraid to hold people accountable, and possessed a “unique ability to confidently cut right to the difficult part of inclusive culture conversations”.

She took an active role in the Base Auckland Wahine Toa network, being in a good position to support others.

“I’ve got the benefit of stripes on my shoulder and being a Deputy Flight Commander. I lived in married quarters, met other women who had challenges, and worked hard at setting up networks to support those who did not or could not get the support they should have.”

Squadron Leader Hunter and her husband have two children, aged two and four. She’s deployed on operations and participated in exercises all over the world and will fly to Hawaii before Christmas for conferences.

“It all started when I saw a job ad for the Air Force, and since then I’ve had a lot of opportunities and really enjoyed my career,” she says.