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Wooster, Olwen Abigail (1917–1981)

by Steve Eather

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Olwen Abigail Wooster (1917-1981), air force officer and telecommunications engineer, was born on 22 December 1917 at Charters Towers, Queensland, daughter of Queensland-born parents Vivian Henry Wooster, telephone mechanic, and his wife Ethel Abigail, née Albrecht. Educated at Blackheath College, Charters Towers, Olwen passed the junior public examination and reached senior standard but did not sit the final examination. In 1934 she began work as a telephonist in the Postmaster-General’s Department. She was transferred to Ayr in 1936 and Townsville in 1941.

In the early years of World War II Wooster placed her name on the Women’s Voluntary National Register and trained as a voluntary aid. On 21 February 1942 she enrolled in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force as a wireless telegraphy operator. Apart from periods under training, she spent the whole of her service at the Royal Australian Air Force’s Melbourne Wireless Transmitting Station (later Telecommunications Unit). Commissioned in August 1942, she performed the duties of a cypher officer then a signals traffic officer. Her supervisors recognised her intelligence, pleasant personality and ‘great capacity for work’. She was promoted to temporary flight officer in January 1945 and awarded a card for good service.

Demobilised on 2 September 1946, Wooster joined Trans-Australia Airlines as its ground communications superintendent, based in Melbourne. She applied her technical and management skills to planning and implementing teletype, telephone, public-address and internal communications systems throughout the airline’s network in Australia and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. By 1954 she led a staff of 120 people. She was awarded the British Empire Medal (1961) for this work.

Between 1964 and 1967 Wooster was employed as a communications officer with the Victorian Totalisator Agency Board and she played an important role in developing that organisation’s communications systems for approximately three hundred metropolitan and country agencies, district centres and racecourses. From 1967 to 1978 she worked for Honeywell Pty Ltd and was responsible for integrating the company’s equipment into the communications network of the Postmaster-General’s Department (Australian Postal Commission). While with both the TAB and Honeywell she received high praise for her competence as a communications and computing specialist. In 1978 she formed a communications and data-network consultancy, O. A. Wooster & Associates Pty Ltd. Her achievements did not stop her receiving business mail addressed to ‘Mr O. A. Wooster’.

One of several pioneering women in her field, Wooster was an associate of the Institution of Radio (and Electronics) Engineers, Australia, and the Australian Institute of Management, and she was a member of the Society of Women Engineers, United States of America, the Victorian Computer Society and the Telecommunications Society of Australia (Victorian Division). She played an active part in the WAAAF Association, organising annual reunions. Interested in women’s issues, she was a member of the Lyceum Club and president (1972-73) of the Soroptimist Club of Melbourne. Her pastimes included swimming, golf, photography and playing the piano. She never married. ‘Woos’, as she was known, died of myocardial infarction on 11 October 1981 at Burwood, Melbourne, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Wooster papers, A.1991.018, and Soroptimist International of Melbourne papers, A1981.0133 (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • A9300, item Wooster O A (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Steve Eather, 'Wooster, Olwen Abigail (1917–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wooster-olwen-abigail-15630/text26831, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 19 July 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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