Address at naming ceremony, Western Sydney Airport

Thank you Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of NSW, and thank you for your continued hard work and vision for this State. The reason why NSW is Number One is because it has a great State Government, a great State Government which is going to continue long into the future. May that happen. I also acknowledge, of course, my boss, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison who is also doing a fantastic job and is another visionary person who wants to make sure that jobs and projects such as this are going ahead. I acknowledge of course the traditional owners. I acknowledge also my Parliamentary, Ministerial and other colleagues on this wonderful, wonderful day.

Most importantly, as Gladys and Scott have both said, I acknowledge the family of Nancy-Bird Walton. They must see this as a wonderful day, not just for them but also for all young women who want to take to the skies, who want to be a pilot, who want to be an engineer.

Sadly, worldwide only 3% of pilots are female. Only 1% of women in aviation are engineers. We need to make sure that number gets corrected. As the Federal Government – and I’m sure as the State Government too – we are doing many, many things to make sure that those numbers increase. Watch this space.

But Nancy-Bird would have loved today. She would have been flying around these skies and looking down below her and seeing the dust, the heat and the dirt – and it wouldn’t have been, at the moment, unlike some of those airports that she landed at in the 1930s. But of course, we’re developing this airport – we’re developing this as another international gateway to Australia, to the beautiful State of NSW. But in the 1930s the airports around country NSW where she went barnstorming would not have looked dissimilar to what we see here today. And yet she made the effort, as the Prime Minister has said, as the Commonwealth’s first female commercial pilot, to make sure those areas were visited. She made her plane, the de Havilland Gypsy Moth, available to people who had never ever seen a plane before, and she gave them rides in it.  Later, in 1935 she took on the job to work as a pilot using her plane, a Gypsy Moth, as an air ambulance for the Royal Far West Children’s Medical Service.

What a great aviatrix!  What a great pioneer! What – as the Prime Minister has said – a trailblazer she was. And she continues to be today: In death, her legacy is going to be this airport, named after her; and I am sure that young female would-be pilots, whether they are at the Australian airline pilot academy at Wagga Wagga where so many are doing their training or whether it’s young women who drive past and see this sign and think: I could do that too. I could be just like Nancy-Bird Walton. I could take to the skies. I could be a trailblazer just like her – because she is, as Gladys has just said, a true role model for young women, indeed for all young people, for anybody who has ever looked at the skies and had a dream. She made it a reality; so can they. So for anybody who’s watching this telecast, particularly if you’re a young woman: There are opportunities there for you. We urge and encourage you to take to the skies, to make your dream a reality.

The Prime Minister, the Premier and all of us are truly privileged that we’re here today, in the midst of Nancy-Bird’s family, her wonderful family, perhaps her greatest legacy, but this indeed is also a marvellous legacy for her, naming the airport after her…the Western Sydney International Airport, after Nancy-Bird Walton, is truly inspirational. It will draw inspiration for many, many years to come and it’s truly a great acknowledgement of a great Australian. 

With that, I’d like to now call on Senator Marise Payne, Senator for NSW, for whom Western Sydney, for whom Penrith means such a great deal.