Women in Aviation

Women were just making inroads into aviation in the 1980s. Some were already working in the industry – Christine Davy was a senior pilot with Connair  – but it was still challenging for women wanting to pursue a career as a pilot. Deborah Lawrie had to take her quest to be accepted by an airline company to the Victorian Equal Opportunity Board.

This was due to a combination of misogyny and sexist beliefs that suggested women were not strong enough for the job, or else would be restricted by hormones and PMT. They could even fall pregnant, heaven forbid. A lesser factor was the cost of training and the fact that women earn less than men as well, making financing training a more arduous process.

Kathy took up her new job in Alice Springs in this environment. She was conscious of the biased attitudes she was likely to encounter and knew she would have to prove herself, whether to her colleagues or to the local community. She was apprehensive about how she would cope. It was the unknown rather than lack of confidence in her flying skills that caused her anxiety. By nature, she was reserved and controlled, and her outward demeanour hid her inner turmoil.

I asked Kathy what attracted her to flying as a career:

Women in Aviation

Kathy Sullivan

Kathy: Learning to fly was something I dreamed about for years, but never really thought it was possible. They I met some private pilots in a social setting, and realised if they could do it, so could I. I booked my first trial flight and after that, I was hooked. I had no definite career objectives until then, but suddenly a new option opened before me.

So you knew you wanted to become a professional pilot?

Kathy: Not immediately. My first focus was going solo and then getting my restricted pilot’s licence. Just getting that far took a bucket load of money but by that stage, I was really focussed. I was working in retail, but took a part-time job in hospitality as well so I could save up enough to do the rest of my training in one hit. My unrestricted license followed and then I worked towards my commercial license.

Did you have much support?

Kathy: My family were surprised at my choice but didn’t raise any objections. I also joined the Australian Women Pilots Association, and that is where I really felt supported. Whenever I felt discouraged or that I was chasing an impossible dream, other members reminded me of what was possible.

What made you decide to take the job in Alice Springs?

Kathy: Getting experience is so important, and the type of work that was available with StationAir would not be offered to me in a major city. It was a fantastic opportunity to both gain experience and to prove myself. At times I wondered what I was taking on, but I kept looking around at other people who were doing similar work and knew that I was just as qualified as they were.

You seem to have made some good friends in Alice Springs.

Kathy: Absolutely. That made such a difference to starting a new job, in a new town and with unfamiliar requirements. Sarah was an absolute darling, going out of her way to make me feel at home. Brian showed me the ropes as well, and I am really grateful to both of them and the welcome they gave me when I first arrived in town.

What advice would you give to another young woman looking to aviation for a career?

Kathy: Don’t believe anyone who says it’s not a job for a woman. There are challenges – I don’t deny that,   but if you’re determined and are prepared to go where the work is, the opportunities are there. I’d suggest joining AWPA and getting to know other women in the industry.

There was a suggestion that you only took the job in the Northern Territory in order to find a husband.

Kathy: Spurious suggestions like that shouldn’t even be given air. I know I met Alex in Alice Springs, and yes, we’re now married, but that was a surprise to me as much as anyone. The last thing I was looking for was a relationship. Is that all? I’m running late for the northeast mail run.

Don’t let me keep you – you’ve been most helpful. Thank you.

Emily Hussey.

 

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Romancing Melbourne

I moved to Melbourne a few months ago and since then have been looking for new writing connections. I have discovered the Melbourne Writers’ Group and also the local Romance Writers’ Group and have made valuable connections in each. Having the support of like-minded people is so helpful on what is a solo journey. I have also submitted some work (a short story and a couple of poems) to an anthology that will shortly be published by Melbourne Writers with the theme “Ties that Bind”.

I am currently half-way through book three, which will be the last of the series set in Alice Springs. This novel, with the working title of Picture This, features Melissa Gilbert, who was a rather unlikeable character in book one, The Red Heart. Getting to know Melissa has been a challenge and I really had to delve into her backstory in order to understand what motivated her to behave the way she did.

Living in an apartment now instead of a large house with all the gardening and maintenance issues has made writing a little easier in that I now have more time for it. I live quite close to my day job and so have time for a short period of writing in the morning, or at least thinking about the plot lines and where it is taking the story. Perhaps when I have finished the current series, the next book will be set in a bustling metropolis as an interesting contrast.

Sunrise over East Melbourne

View from my balcony at sunrise

Happy to make connections with any other lone writers in Melbourne.

Changing times equals progress

There have been a few valleys and troughs in recent months.  My publisher decided to cease operations and that was a disappointment.  Rights to The Red Heart have reverted to me however, so I am free to seek another publisher.  That is exactly what I will do when attending the Melbourne conference of the Romance Writers of Australia.   This is the first time that I have attended a writers’ conference and the program looks to be really rewarding.  I am so looking forward to it, and of course to the networking, new friends and new learnings that I am sure will result.

Another event in my life has been the end of my day job, due to the role being made redundant.  This is both scary(where is the money going to come from now) and exciting because I am going to have the time to do new and more challenging things – like complete the second book and start a new business.  Yes I am doing both.

The second book, so far nameless, picks up Sarah’s story.  If you have read The Red Heart, you will know that Sarah welcomes Kathy on her arrival in Alice Springs and becomes a close friend, with both women working in the same company.  We don’t have the  opportunity to learn much about Sarah in this story though, and book two fills in some of the background to why she is on her own in Alice Springs, and the challenges that she faces.  I am so pleased to now have more time for dedicated writing, and of course the looming conference has given me renewed enthusiasm.

The new business harnesses life skills that have been acquired over the decades, and fine-tuned with further training.  Through Work Life Junction, I will provide life coaching services.  Specifically, I am focussing on transitional coaching, working with people who are confronted by life choices and work choices and who need some assistance in clarifying their goals and strategies.  If you slip on over to www.worklifejunction.com.au (still a work in progress) you will get a broader understanding.

In general, life is frantically busy but also exciting right now.  I look forward to giving updates on my success at pitching to a new publisher at the conference, and also on progress with Sarah’s story.