Sr Julie O’Sullivan in her military uniform.

On ANZAC Day (25 April) we remember those who have served in the defence forces of Australia and New Zealand. Two Western Australian based Sisters of Saint Joseph, Sisters Julie O’Sullivan and Carla Curran, served in the military prior to making their commitment to religious life.

During World War II, Sr Julie served in the Australian Army as a member of the 52nd Wireless Section. This group, based in the Perth suburb of Cannington, intercepted Japanese signals, recording the messages and forwarding them to a central bureau for deciphering. This top secret work required the staff to sign an oath that they would not reveal anything about their work for 30 years.

Sr Julie (1921 – 2011) and her six siblings were raised in Manjimup, in the forests of south-west Western Australia, where they were taught by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Four of Sr Julie’s brothers enlisted as part of the war effort and this inspired Julie to also contribute. In January 1947, a year after her discharge from military service, Julie entered to become a Sister of Saint Joseph.

Sr Carla served in the navy from 1951 – 1955 as part of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service Group 8. This group had responsibility for codes and ciphers communicated by morse code and teleprinters. Carla was based first at Flinders Naval Depot on the Mornington Peninsula, and then at Harman Naval Wireless station in Canberra. She progressed to become a leading WRAN Telegraphist before leaving in 1955. After much thought Carla entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1957.

Sr Carla Curran’s military medals and WRAN’s insignia.

Both Carla and Julie spent the majority of their ministry as teachers and in other supportive roles in Western Australia.

Carla, the eldest of seven children, was educated by the Sisters of Saint Joseph at the convent school at South Perth, in the buildings where she now lives.

Carla marched for the first time in an ANZAC Parade in the late 1970s at a time when she was still wearing a habit.

In the early 2000s when both Julie and Carla lived at the convent in South Perth, they were part of the annual ANZAC Day march held in Perth. Volunteers collected them from the convent and then they were driven in vehicles as part of the parade.

Today ANZAC Day is a day of contemplation and remembrance for Sr Carla.

The stories of Julie and Carla’s military service form part of the history of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

Sue Sondalini
Western Australian Archivist