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Issue 1 2018 Defence
OMMUNICATIONS manager Jess
Donnellan can’t be accused of not pull-
ing her weight... and a lot more.
She recently joined the country’s
strongest women during the Arnold
Strongman Australia Championships
held in Melbourne from March 16-18 where she
placed fifth out of 19 in her division.
Jess qualified for the pinnacle strongman event
after winning her division at the Gates of Valhalla
competition in December last year in Minto, NSW.
Standing at just 159cm and weighing less than
65kg she regularly lifts more than three times her
“I had a personal goal of making the top five as
it was my first time at the competition so I achieved
what I wanted,” Jess says.
Jess works at the Office of the Defence
Seaworthiness Regulator (ODSwR) at Campbell Park
Offices in Canberra.
The ODSwR is a new organisation responsi-
ble for implementing and managing the Defence
Seaworthiness Management System (DSwMS).
The office, which will eventually have close to
80 civilian and military staff, has an enterprise view
across all maritime organisations within Defence.
Jess’s responsibilities within the new organisa-
tion include planning the communication strategies
informing Defence organisations and maritime
industries about the DSwMS and the positive impact
it will have.
She says ODSwR is not just creating regulations
for Defence maritime organisations to respond to.
“We’re also here to educate and advise all of
Defence about the system to ensure that all groups
and services understand their obligations,” she says.
“The goal is to guarantee issues of the past never
Jess studied journalism at James Cook University
in Townsville before she began working with the
Macquarie Radio Network in 2006 writing advertise-
She then became a copy writer for a Cairns-based
advertising agency and worked on corporate market-
Jess says her work took her to Perth where she
worked for a systems integrator which gave her an
insight into mining and maritime systems as well as
“My partner, Ryan, who is also my coach, and I
missed the East Coast, so in 2015 Ryan suggested I
apply for an APS job based in Canberra,” she says.
“I was successful and began working with the
Department of Education and Training at the end of
the year, which included a six-month secondment
with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
as a communications adviser with the Office for
“When I heard about the position at ODSwR late
last year I thought my background and exposure to pri-
vate industry would make me well suited for the role.”
Jess says she is enjoying her job and working in
the Defence environment.
“Aside from needing to learn a lot of acronyms,
it’s a fantastic environment here because the team
just wants to get the job done and they don’t like
wasting time,” she says.
“It’s the type of environment I thrive in and I’ve
also been given the opportunity to do the Gateway
After competing in powerlifting and making it to
the national finals in 2014, Jess says she found she
was not enjoying the sport.
“During the national finals I was trying to get the
world record, but failed the lift,” she says.
“It was extremely devastating, even though I
placed equal first in my category.
“I was also getting a lot of injuries, so I decided
to concentrate on having fun and finding a new chal-
With just under a year in the strongman sport,
Jess has risen from competing in local novice com-
petitions to winning a national online strongwoman
competition and taking third place in the Static
Monsters worldwide log and axle competition.
Each competition typically includes five different
events spanning a range of parameters.
With events including yoke walk, farmer’s carry,
monster dumbbell overhead press and atlas stones,
strongman competitions are not for the fainthearted.
Jess says even regular training sessions leave her
with random bruises and scratches, while competi-
tions tend to leave the athletes beaten up.
“When I started at ODSwR I told everyone what I
do so they don’t get the wrong idea when I turn up to
work covered in bruises,” she says.
“I normally train for about two hours five times
a week and I have my own strongman equipment at
home, just in case.
“I also focus on a high protein, low fat diet and
try to keep my water intake up.”
Jess says some strongman events are for max-
imum weight, others for moving a weight in the
fastest time and some for the maximum number of
repetitions per minute.
“I learnt quickly to be comfortable with being
uncomfortable and be good at working on my weak-
nesses,” she says.
“I love the constant challenge of the sport, its
gaining in popularity among women and it’s exciting
“My division (under 65kg) is one of the most
competitive because smaller women are often under-
estimated in terms of physical strength.
“Last year I lifted 205kg during the maximum
axle deadlift for the national record at the Static
Monsters competition and the heaviest stone I lifted
so far is 90kg to 1.3m.
“It’s empowering to see my body get stronger and
recording the results every time I get a new personal
Jess also qualified for the 2018 Static Monsters
World Championships to be held on the Gold Coast
in May where she will attempt to beat her own
By Sergeant Mark Doran
“I LEARNT QUICKLY
TO BE COMFORTABLE
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