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Qantas restarts scholarships for female and Indigenous pilots

written by Jake Nelson | May 2, 2023

Qantas operates its Pilot Academy in partnership with partnership with Flight Training Adelaide. (Image: Qantas)

Qantas is making moves to increase female and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in its cockpits with 50 scholarships.

The Flying Kangaroo is investing $1.5 million over five years to attract more female and ATSI students to its Pilot Academy. The scholarships – which will be issued at a rate of 10 per year, each valued at $30,000 – will cover accommodation, meals, and utilities, with tuition to be paid by the students.

This is a restart of the scholarship program after a three-year pause during COVID-19, with the 10 annual scholarships an increase from the six prior to the pandemic. Graduates from Qantas Pilot Academy’s 12-month course will hold three qualifications, including a Commercial Pilot’s Licence, and will be added to Qantas Group’s pilot talent pool and given access to opportunities with its partner airlines.

According to QantasLink CEO John Gissing, the scholarship program aims to tap into a “broader, more diverse talent base”.

“We know that we’re going to need to draw from a wider pool of talent than we have traditionally if we’re going to meet that demand for pilots, both for us and the broader industry,” he said.


“While we’re slightly above the global average in terms of female pilots, we know we still have a lot of work to do. Doubling the size of our scholarship program will help encourage more women and First Nations students take the first step towards their career as an aviator.”

Currently, seven per cent of Qantas pilots are women, compared to the five per cent global average.

The subject of gender quotas has seen some debate within the industry; Deborah Lawrie, Australia’s first female pilot at a major commercial airline, who in the 1970s famously won a 10-month legal battle against Ansett’s refusal to hire women as pilots, told Australian Aviation in 2021 that quotas are “attacking [the issue] from the wrong end”.

“They need to go to the other end and encourage women to get in the industry in the first place. By virtue of getting more applicants, you’ll get more who are competitive with the guys.

“If there were more emphasis on it being a possibility as a career for a female, you’d get more applying anyway,” she said.

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