Deborah Wardley won the right to be employed as a pilot by Ansett in a case heard by the Victorian Equal Opportunity Board.

Deborah Wardley. National Archives of Australia.

Deborah Wardley, a qualified pilot and flying instructor, sent in the first of many applications to Ansett Airlines. It was not until after a prolonged battle through the new Victorian Equal Opportunity Board (now VCAT) and later the Supreme and High Courts of Australia, that Ansett was ordered to include her in their next pilot training program. The company remained uncooperative until its new owner, Rupert Murdoch, whose brother-in-law had been taught to fly by Wardley, intervened.

Deborah Wardley recalls that on one occasion, as a pilot for Dutch airline KLM, she had to leave the cockpit to talk to a passenger who was concerned for his safety because a woman was piloting the plane. When she spoke, the man recognised her Australian accent and remembered that he had flown with her before. She asked him if he’d arrived at his destination in one piece, and he agreed he had. Her response was a simple one: ‘Well, what are you complaining about, then?’  (Source: Government Culture Portal).

The photo shows Deborah Wardley (left) and Felicity Bush (right) as trainee Ansett pilots in 1981.

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