Renowned foreign correspondent Sally Sara has weighed briefly into the debate around the culture within the Australian Defence Force saying she found the troops in Afghanistan "immensely respectful and helpful".
Sara, who has reported for the ABC from more 25 countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Lebanon, was in Canberra today for International Women's Day speaking to 1200 people at a lunch for United Nations Women Australia.
As the Federal Government works to deal with 775 credible claims of sexual and other abuse within the ADF, Sara touched on her work reporting from Afghanistan on and off over three years and her first-hand experience of living in close quarters with the Australian troops.
"I guess from being out in the field with Australian troops over the past three years in Afghanistan, I would have the opportunity to spend as much or more time as any of the other female journalists in Australia going out into the field," she told the audience at the National Convention Centre.
"I know there's been quite a bit of discussion about the culture within the Australian Defence Force, again, within the past few days.
"My experience in the field with the soldiers from dealing personally with hundreds of them was that they were immensely respectful and helpful, that was just my personal experience, and I didn't have any difficulty at all in the field dealing with them. They were very, very helpful," she said.
"It doesn't negate the experiences of others but that was over quite a period of time. I sleep where they sleep; I eat where they eat. I'm on patrol with them as well. And often in small bases you can hear everything that's going on. So every range of experience is possible on the spectrum but it also shows these soldiers are more than capable of behaving in that way and doing so very, very well."
Sara, 41, who has returned to Australia to take on a role as rural and regional affairs correspondent, taking over from Paul Lockyer who was killed in a helicopter last year, said being female wasn't relevant to her ability being a foreign correspondent.
There were some practical issues to be overcome but she wanted to be judged on her professionalism, not her gender.
"There's no reason why we can't be there and the reason why I talk about the issue of a being a foreign correspondent as a female is really just to dispell it. I really don't think there are many difficulties or issues there," she said.
"When you look at things like equipment, I don't need a policy or some changes or a think tank on how females will cope in the field, I just need a lighter camera. I just need a tripod I can carry and those things are really, really easy to organise."
Before her speech, Sara said women in Afganistan were worried about their future.
"They had a lot of gains, they lost them under the Taliban, they've got some back. They're worried when foreign forces go and there's some sort of political settlement, if that's how iut's going to play, they're concerned about what they will mean," she said.
"They don't have any firm evidence or trust that the insurgents will start making women's rights a priority.