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These days it’s quite common to find ladies in command of commercial airliners, bizjets and combat aircraft. Thirty years ago, however, this was certainly not the case here in Australia and a female required a stubborn streak & thick skin to push through and gain acceptance in a very male dominated world.
While the situation for ladies in aviation is still not completely balanced it is significantly improved over the scene in the mid-70s. One reason for that improvement was thanks to the efforts of Deborah Lawrie (aka Deborah Wardley) who was the first female pilot with Ansett Airlines, one of Australia’s biggest airlines until it’s demise in 2001.
Deborah’s story is one of determination and a drive to achieve her goals, no matter what obstacles society and some organisations put in her path. We are fortunate enough in this episode to have had Deborah join us for a great chat about her interest in aviation, learning to fly, her early commercial days, getting into Ansett, the Australian Pilots’ Dispute of 1989 and her subsequent career working with KLM before returning to Australia where she is currently working with Jetstar as their manager of Safety Investigations (while still also flying their A320s).
It’s an incredible chat and we think that in addition to learning about Deborah’s life, you’ll also learn a lot about the Australian airline environment of the past & present.
Deborah Lawrie is the greatest role model for all Australian women. Perseverance and belief in herself.
Debbie is featured in my new book “First Females Above Australia – first 100yrs of Australian women pilot firsts”. It includes 100 short bios and photos, and no historic record has ever been published like this, and my aim is to distribute it to school libraries. I feel this salute to pioneer women pilots is long overdue. I am seeking publishing funds of say $8,000 for a modest 200 page b/w book, colour cover – 1,500 copies. I am Australia’s first woman helicopter pilot (1965). I taught Aviation History at UWS for Bachelor of Aviation degree, a degree that I managed to attain, at age70yrs. I became a uni lecturer just one week after I graduated.Not bad for a 15yr old high school dropout.
Perhaps you may like to interview me on this great book which will be an inspiration to women of all ages. I know Debbie Lawrie and am so proud of her and her wonderful, long-time aviation career. Best regards.
What a wonderful podcast. I listened as I plodded around my garden and was enthralled by Deborah’s life story and how she battled against ‘the macho dominated system’. What a waste of her energy that could have been better focused on her flying career. Particularly interesting to me was her change of continent (as I have a dutch mother) and the irony of her son traveling back to Holland, after she had returned to Aus to help him out. Interesting flying experiences are really good for a podcast subject. It helps the listeners understand how challenging it is getting to the pinnacle of ones career in aviation. Her experiences of flying the DC9 and 727 particularly interesting to an aviation enthusiast a little past forty! Fantastic podcast. Well done guys. Keep it up, even though I don’t live in your part of the world I always look forward to your next episode. Best regards, Pieter (Southsea, UK)
Rosemary – thanks for your comments and yes, we will be in touch soon :)
Pieter – excellent to hear from someone so far away. Thanks for getting in touch and just remember one of Steve’s favourite commnents: “You’re not much if you’re not Dutch!” :) :)
Grant – am looking forward to doing an interview with you next month, and my aviation history book “First Females Above Australia” is almost ready for pre-press.
Am spreading the word about your programs through the Australian Women Pilots’ Association membership.
Best regards – Rosemary
Thanks Rosemary – very much appreciated. Good luck getting your book printed. Getting them across the line is always a major effort :)