In her words: inspiring quotes from Australia’s ground-breaking women

By Elizabeth Arrigo 8 March 2018
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This is what our female gold medallists, servicewomen, politicians, activists and adventurers have to say.

1. Maude ‘Lores’ Bonney

Record-breaking pilot (1897-1994)

Maude Lores Bonney

(Image Credit: Wikimedia)

“I would like to think those flights of mine have a small corner in the history of achievement. I always liked to say I travelled the world with a Gipsy.”

2. Cathy Freeman

Olympic gold medallist (1984-)

Cathy Freeman

(Image Credit: Wikimedia)

“Disappointment and adversity can be catalysts for greatness. There’s something particularly exciting about being the hunter, as opposed to the hunted. And that can make for powerful energy.”

3. Faith Thomas

First Indigenous female cricketer (1933-)

“I always say that I hold two records…I think I’m still the fastest woman bowler ever. And I think I also might have been the biggest flash in the pan ever.”

4. Nova Peris

First Indigenous female parliamentarian (1971-)

“As a child growing up, I dreamt big. Most people would have looked at an Aboriginal girl from the Territory, where the statistics…point to every reason why I should not succeed. But I was determined to be successful.”

5. Jade Hameister

Youngest person to complete the polar hat-trick (2002-)

Jade Hameister

(Image Credit: @jadehameister)

“What if young women around the world were encouraged to be more, rather than less? What if the focus shifted from how we appear to the possibilities of what we can do?”

When told to ‘make me a sandwich’ by a number of male internet trolls in response to her TED talk, Hameister made one, posted a picture of herself with the sandwich at the South Pole and captioned the photo:

“I made you a sandwich (ham & cheese), now ski 37 days and 600 kilometres to the South Pole and you can eat it.”

6. Faith Bandler

Indigenous activist (1918-2015)

Faith Bandler

(Image Credit: Wikimedia)

“Dear friends, much pain has been endured in the past, and that pain is no longer designated to hopelessness. It’s time to move the process of reconciliation forward with a little more speed. That is the task. If not now, when? If not us, who?”

7. Nancy Wake

Decorated Australian servicewoman (1912-2011)

Nancy Wake

(Image Credit: Wikimedia/Australian War Memorial)

“Freedom is the only thing worth living for. While I was doing that work,
I used to think it didn’t matter if I died, because without freedom there was no point in living.”

8. Dame Enid Lyons

First woman elected to the House of Representatives (1897-1981)

Dame Enid Lyonst

(Image Credit: Wikimedia/National Library of Australia)

“This is the first occasion on which a woman has addressed this House. For that reason, it’s an occasion which for every woman in the commonwealth marks in some degree a turning point in history.”

9. Jessica Watson

Record-breaking sailor (1993-)

Jessica Watson

(Image Credit: Wikimedia)

“You don’t have to be someone special to achieve something amazing. You’ve just got to have a dream, believe in it and work hard.”

10. Robyn Davidson

Adventurer (1950-)

“The two important things that I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision.”

 11. Dame Nellie Melba

Opera singer (1861-1931)

Dame Nellie Melba

(Wikimedia/State Library of Victoria)

“The first rule in opera is the first rule in life: see to everything yourself.”

12. Evonne Goolagong Cawley

First Indigenous woman to win Wimbledon  (1951-)

Evonne Goolagong Cawley

(Image Credit: National Archives of Australia)

“When you have a dream you have to work hard to achieve that dream. Your dreams when you are young can be the force that keeps you going.”

13. Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin

Writer (1879-1954)

Miles Franklin

(Image Credit: Wikimedia)

“It’s a sign of your own worth sometimes if you are hated by the right people.”

14. Julia Gillard

Australia’s first female Prime Minister (1961-)

Julia Gillard

(Image Credit: Wikimedia)

“I think even people who may not remember me as a good PM, I think for whoever the next woman is, there will be a bit of a pause, breathe, whatever else this female Prime Minister does, we don’t want it to be like that for her again.”

15. Gaby Kennard

Record-breaking pilot (1944-)

“For me, it was like a dream. I had to make it a reality, and it was not easy. I didn’t have money at the time, I didn’t have an aeroplane, but I worked on it and created it out of nothing basically. And I think if I can do that, other people can do what they want to do.”

16. Florence Violet McKenzie

Electrical engineer (1890-1982)

Florence Violet McKenzie

(Image Credit: Wikimedia/Australian War Memorial)

“To see every woman emancipated from the “heavy” work of the household by the aid of electricity is in itself a worthy object.”

17. Alyssa Azar

Youngest Australian to reach the peak of Everest (1998-)

“I made sure I got my summit photos, but I wanted to have a moment to take it in — the realisation of completing a goal is a really good feeling. It was a pretty surreal moment when I reached the top — it’s something I’ve dreamt about since I was eight. All the years of hard work makes it all the more special.”

18. May Gibbs

Author of Australian children’s books (1877-1969)

May Gibbs

(Image Credit: Wikimedia)

“Humans please be kind to all bush creatures and don’t pull flowers up by the roots.”