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Pioneering Courage

Dr Scott continued her series on inspirational women in Assembly this week, highlighting their significant contributions to the advancement of gender equality.

In this summary of her speech, she features the inspiring story of Deborah Jane Lawrie AM, the first female pilot to join a leading Australian airline and encourages the students to cultivate and practise courage, one of Wenona's core values.

Ms Lawrie, who was passionate about flying, obtained her commercial pilot licence at the young age of 16 and decided to become a commercial pilot when she turned 18. Despite her qualifications, she was repeatedly rejected for two years by the now-defunct Ansett Airlines.

However, she did not give up and continued to send in her application, even when other flying instructors, whom she had either equalled or surpassed in her training, were accepted.

Although she was naturally shy and not at all attention-seeking, Ms Lawrie decided to take Ansett Airlines to court, making this the first sex discrimination case in Australia. Ansett founder, Reg Ansett, argued that women were not suited to be airline pilots and that an all-male pilot crew was safer than a mixed-sex crew. They claimed that pilots needed strength, that women's menstrual cycles made them unstable, and that pregnancy and childbirth would disrupt their careers and jeopardise safety. However, the court ruled in her favour, awarding damages, and allowing her to apply for the job again.

Nonetheless, Ms Lawrie continued to face barriers, fighting all the way to the High Court before she was allowed to fly commercial planes. This story, which took place during my lifetime, serves as a reminder that we must continue to fight for equality and stand our ground when faced with adversity.

As you go about your lives, remember that courage is a muscle that needs to be exercised. When you witness injustice or wrongdoing, have the courage to stand up and speak out.

Whether it is in relationships, online interactions, or any other situation, remember the story of this brave woman who held her ground and paved the way for others to follow their dreams.

In the week ahead, I encourage you to stand your ground and practise courage in your daily lives. Be aware of the situations around you and do not be complicit in the face of injustice.

By doing so, you will not only honour the legacy of this pioneering woman but also create a better, more equal world for future generations.