Since leaving the army, Dianne Ryder has dedicated her life to serving her community and promoting reconciliation. Picture: Karen Wheatland.

Stratton resident recognised in WA Women’s Hall of Fame

Di Ryder says she was still trying to get her head around how amazing it is to be inducted into the WA Women's Hall of Fame.
March 8, 2024
Anita McInnes

DIANNE Ryder of Stratton, who was last night inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame says she feels humbled and honoured to be acknowledged in such a way.

The former Australian Army non-commissioned officer is a respected Noongar Elder who has dedicated her life to serving her community and promoting reconciliation.

“It’s such an honour and humbling, when I look at the previous inductees extraordinary women have gone ahead of me,’’ she said.

“For me, I love what I do in the community and I believe each and every one of us can make a difference.

“It can start small and then just with the right support around you it’ll be able to grow into other things.’’

A strong advocate for Aboriginal people in the areas of veterans, families, and children she has received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2023, the National NAIDOC lifetime achievement award in 2017, was nominated for Australian of the year in 2015 and was awarded the Perth NAIDOC outstanding achievement and the City of Swan active citizen awards in 2009.

Ms Ryder has also been recognised by the Australian Army and the NAIDOC committees for her unparalleled service.

Her mother Josephine Ryder told her she was the first Aboriginal girl to be born at Swan District Hospital.

She grew up in Bindoon and Toodyay before moving to Perth when she was about 16 or 17-years-old and worked with her mother who was employed at the chicken farm at Wooroloo.

“When my youngest sister – I’m one of 11 – started school, my mum got a job,’’ she said.

“She went and worked and she loved it because not only did she have all the kids at home either working or at school she had her own life, her own money – it was just amazing.’’

She joined the Australian Army in 1974, when there were few Aboriginal soldiers, and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant by 1995.

Her mother and father William were both big influences on her life.

“Dad worked all his life – he started off at Gidgegannup with my pop working at a sawmill and from there I think he worked at a sawmill in Morley.

“Then we moved to Bindoon where he worked the sawmill and from there to Toodyay where he worked on the railway so he was away four or five days a week basically from Sunday night to Friday night while mum kept the house going.’’

She retired after 20 years in the army but started volunteering for various health, education, and cultural programs, determined to make a positive impact on others’ lives.

This led to her becoming part of many committees, boards and programs that aim to improve the lives of Aboriginal people and involve non-Aboriginal people in their culture and history.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic she has stepped back a bit but still runs the Indigenous Veterans Service up at Kings Park every year and the Swan Aboriginal Community Christmas Celebration.

For her both are incredible events.

“I think it is because so many people come together – you look at the spirit of reconciliation this shines out in both of these things.

“It’s because people do want to make a difference to Indigenous veterans.

“But also the Christmas celebration – no one gets paid – we do a whole week of it.

“We start on the Monday – the Christmas party is normally on the first day of the Christmas holidays so we get all this stuff in and start from there sorting and wrapping and all that sort of stuff so it can come together on the Friday.

“That’s held in Guildford, which is significant to Aboriginal people anyway because it was a meeting place all those years ago.

“The Anglican Church (St Matthew’s) through Reverend Katrina Holgate they’ve been amazing so it’s just all fallen into place after Covid.’’

She has one son Jay and a daughter-in-law Sharrie.

At the age of 62 she became a grandmother and now helps out with her grandsons aged five and six.

“I’ve got to make the most of these beautiful kids.

“My son says you never did this for me – I say hello I was working,’’ she laughs.

She said back in her day Aboriginal people were stereotyped and people thought they could achieve little.

But she did things outside the box by joining the army, which taught her that she could achieve things in life.

“Joining the army was hard you had to learn to spit polish shoes, starch uniforms – now this was back in ‘74 so we didn’t have these new uniforms or uniforms you don’t have to starch.

“If you set your mind to whatever you can do I got through that five weeks and was like okay and then I went to driver training.

“Mum and dad were really strong people and they reinforced strong work ethics, mutual respect and the commitment – you can achieve whatever you set your mind to – the army really reinforced that to me throughout my career.

“I’ve been lucky enough to speak at Banksia Hill detention centre, Casuarina and Bandyup I always put this message out ‘you can achieve I’m living proof that you can achieve’.

“You’ve got to have your mind set the right way but you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

“Along the way there were hiccups, racism and that sort of stuff but I also had good people that knew that I was a good worker or knew what a person I was that supported me as well and I think that’s the key to anything.’’

Just days before her induction into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame she was still trying to get her head around how amazing it is.

Her sister Anne Garlett put forward her nomination.


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