5 mins read 28 Mar 2022

Women of the Australian Space Community: Anntonette Dailey is excited to present a new series, where we focus on the women of the Australian space communities - bringing you their inspiring stories in a weekly interview with Ruth Harrison. 

Anntonette Dailey with former NASA astronaut Andy Thomas AO. Credit Supplied

In March each year we not only celebrate International Women’s Day but we also enjoy learning about all the contributions women have made to society during Women’s History Month. Originally started in the US in 1987, it has in recent times, in part due to social media, become more well known across the world. 

As a celebration of all the wonderful work, inspiration and support that women across our region do in the space sector, will be speaking to a new women in the Australian space community weekly, to uncover their stories and find out who inspires them.

Anntonette Dailey - Executive Director, Operations and Communications, Australian Space Agency.

What is your role at the Australian Space Agency?

I am Space Agent number 10. I was the 10th person to join the Australian Space Agency. I look after the Agency behind the scenes. I know Government, it’s not something you can learn quickly, no books to guide or degrees to learn. It’s an uncanny world, people in the corporate sector complain about Government bureaucracy – but there are reasons for why things happen the way they do.

Day-to-day I look after everything that you would find in a traditional ‘Chief Operating Officer’ role. But I also look after inspirational activities for the Agency as it’s a special passion.

I am most proud about my leadership of the Agency’s headquarters, delivery of the Australian Space Discovery Centre and the front face of mission control.

How did you end up working in the space sector and what drew you to it?

I am genuinely a space groupie. I officially started in the space sector by attending a space camp in year 9 and then going to the US space camp in Year 10. I think I attended every space event I could be part of. At university, I decided on engineering and science with a focus on environmental outcomes. During my university years, I co-chaired the Australian Space Research Conference with Iver Cairns (Professor Iver Cairns is currently the Director of CUAVA and led the development of Australia's first Decadal Plan in space science) and Fred Menk (Professor Fred Menk is the current chair, Academy of Science National Committee for Space and Radio Science), was the President of the National Space Society of Australia. 

I have always been interested in Earth and its environment. The space industry was a critical tool to better understand our planet.

What advice would you give to people looking to start their career in the Australian space industry, whether they are new graduates or those looking to move their careers over?

It is still fairly hard – the industry is growing so the opportunities are limited, especially if you are not an Australian citizen. The jobs are coming though and business confidence is growing dramatically. My advice:

  • Join all those various industry committees – SIAA, National Committee for Space Engineering (through Engineers Australia), ITEE, AYAA, Australian Aerospace Association etc. They give opportunities for exposure and you gain invaluable experience whilst working to support the industry (in a voluntary capacity).

  • Apply for awards, grants, internships. There are so many of these and it’s a wonderful barometer of your skills. Be a tall poppy.

  • Ask – ask about summer internships, cheaper access to conferences of opportunities.

  • Volunteer wisely – there needs to be a payback in exposure.

The Australian Space Agency gets so many requests for job opportunities, all the roles are advertised on

Col. (USAF, ret) Pam Melroy, the current NASA Deputy Administrator, is one of a number of women who have inspired Anntonette. Credit: NASA

Which women in the history of the space Industry do you look up to? What was it about their achievements that resonated with you?

I’m surrounded by so many inspiring women. Their achievements varied, but I think the reason they resonate is less about their technical skills and more about how they made others feel. 

Dr Megan Clark AC (Space Agent One and the first Head of the Australian Space Agency) taught me about values and living up to those values (it was her confidence in me that led me to lead the major visible elements of the Australian Space Agency – HQ, Discovery Centre and Mission Control).

Pamela Melroy (Col. (USAF, ret) Pam Melroy, the current NASA Deputy Administrator and one of only two women to command a space shuttle) walked in the tiny office of the Australian Space Agency and spent time with everyone, showing humility and friendship.

Dr Jeanette Rothapfel AM (award winning science educator and author), who was the supervisor on my Year 9 school camp urged me to continue with my dreams

Kerrie Dougherty OAM (lecturer in the space humanities department of the International Space University and independent space historian, curator and writer) who made time for me, even though I was a high school student and just shares her knowledge freely. There are so many more.