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Women’s rights pioneer Deborah Lawrie enters Hall of Fame

written by Adam Thorn | June 18, 2020

A file image of pilot Deborah Lawrie. (Tigerair Australia)
Deborah Lawrie while working for Tigerair. (Tigerair Australia)

The first female pilot of a major Australian airline, Deborah Lawrie, is set to be inaugurated into the industry’s Hall of Fame.

Lawrie became a pioneer for women’s rights after taking Ansett all the way to the High Court in 1980 to protest against its decision to deny her the right to fly because of her gender.

Last year, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to aviation as a commercial pilot, and to women in the profession.

Other nominees include the co-founder of East West Airlines, Basil Brown, and helicopter trailblazer John Weymouth.

Meanwhile, the special Southern Cross Award will go to the Australian Helicopter Industry Association and the Australian Aerial Application Association, in light of their contribution to the recent bushfire crisis.


Australian Aviation Hall of Fame chairman Steve Padgett said, “The part that women have played in the history of aviation in Australia is also something we should all be very proud of, and it is recognised in this year’s awards.

“This year has had its special challenges for the aviation industry and has highlighted the quality of the very special inductees and organisations that have been in the forefront of the fight against the fires that decimated parts of Australia during the 2019-20 Australian bush fire season.”

The induction ceremony will be held on Saturday, 14 November, at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Illawarra Regional Airport, Albion Park, NSW.

The Hall of Fame was launched in Wagga Wagga in 2010 and the full list of nominees, and their official bios, is below:

Captain Deborah Jane Lawrie AM – Captain Lawrie has been involved with aviation for over 50 years, commencing her flying training at age of 16 and becoming the first female airline pilot for a major airline in Australia. She is regarded as a trailblazer and standard bearer by all those women who have followed her lead.

Basil South Brown – Basil Brown was a co-founder of East West Airlines and was the inaugural president of AAAA in 1958. He established Airfarm Associates in NSW in 1953 and was in the forefront of the Australian ag flying industry for decades to come.

John Weymouth is a national pioneer in using helicopters for commercial and emergency purposes. These include firefighting, search and rescue, mustering, training, and infrastructure inspection to name just a few. Due in part to Weymouth’s extensive vision for the helicopter, Australia now operates the world’s second largest fleet of civil helicopters.

Southern Cross Award – The Southern Cross Award this year is in recognition of the significant contribution to the firefighting effort during the recent devastating bush fires made by the Australian Helicopter Industry Association and the Australian Aerial Application Association.

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Comments (5)

  • James


    Excellent. So she should.

  • I remember Debbie when she was a young F.27 first officer, when I worked at ANSETT crewing at Tullamarine.
    She was the captain on a TIGER flight we were on in March this year, SYD/MEL, so still on the go.

    I give her absolute full credit for her stance against Sir Reg in those early 70s.

  • Peter


    Unfortunately for Deborah she was laid off by Virgin/Tiger a few months ago.

  • Jake


    Yep, Deb is a great woman; Pity Virgin sacker her and all the other Tiger Pilots ending her career via management mismanagement!

  • Jacques


    Well done Deb, you’re a champ and a true leader

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