Ladies and gentlemen, I have some prepared remarks today which I very much want to share with you. Many great Australians have looked out across our desert expanses or mountain wildernesses and felt adventure calling. And today, we celebrate someone who answered that call. A sky-high moment in Australia’s aviation history is happening right here in Western Sydney. It’s with great pride that as a people, we officially name in honour of one of Australia’s greatest pioneering aviators, the Western Sydney International Airport the Western Sydney International Nancy-Bird Walton Airport.
But let me tell you why because that’s what’s really important. Australia’s story is a tremendous one and it is the story of so many amazing women in our country. We think back to the times out this way – Angus will know about this – to Elizabeth Macarthur, the pioneer of Western Sydney well before today’s times. Right through, it is the story of amazing women.
As a young girl in the 1920s, Nancy-Bird would gaze out and dream of flight. At 17, clutching her life’s savings of 200 pounds, she arrived at Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s new flying school at Mascot. She spent long days in training and it paid off. She became the youngest woman in the Commonwealth, not just in Australia but in the Commonwealth, to obtain her commercial license. Leading for Australia and leading for women all around the world. But then, for 400 pounds, she bought a Gipsy Moth and she described it as a rattle trap. And from that point, she was truly free as a bird.
Nancy-Bird once described the joy of flying as utter solitude and utter responsibility. You have time to think, she said, time to see, as she put it, how insignificant the scratches man has made upon the surface of this great world. For her great joy invited great risk and it did demand bravery. Barnstorming affairs and race meets across New South Wales and country areas was a death-defying calling. Think about it – a rickety plane brought to life by the spin of a propeller. Wings so fragile, you could put your foot clean through while hopping in. Weather so hot, a bit like today, it shrank the wood and boiled the fuel. Nancy-Bird’s only instruments of navigation were a compass, a watch and a map. But as much as she loved the sheer adventure of flying, Nancy-Bird had more to offer than a daring do. When Reverend Stanley Drummond asked her in 1935 to form the first Air Ambulance for the Far West Children’s Health Scheme, flying nurses in and out of Bourke, she immediately agreed. She served in the Women’s Air Training Corps throughout the Second World War and later devoted herself to numerous charitable works here and abroad, while raising her two young children – one of whom is with us her today – with her husband Charles.
It is now 10 years since her death and Nancy-Bird Walton lived to the age of 93. She had a gift for leadership and bringing people together. She was utterly charming, as I knew from first-hand experience when I met her on several occasions. So, I’m sure this hero of the Australian skies would be proud that the airport named in her honour will be providing much opportunity and enrichment to the workers and families of Western Sydney.
The Australian Government is investing, as you know, $5.3 billion in this airport plus $2.9 billion in surrounding road works, with the project supporting over 11,000 direct and indirect jobs during the construction period and 28,000 full-time jobs within five years of opening, delivering real, long-term benefits to the Western Sydney community. We’re looking at an airport twice the size of Kingsford Smith, which I’m sure Nancy-Bird would have appreciated, with a projected 10 million passengers annually by 2031. And already as you can see around us, it is propelling investment and economic growth in the region. Billions of dollars of road and rail projects have been planned and delivered. The Western Sydney International Nancy-Bird Walton Airport will be an economic game-changer for one of the fastest growing regions in our nation. So how appropriate is it that in the Sydney of 2026, when operations begin, two of Australia’s iconic aviators and pioneers, Nancy-Bird Walton and Charles Kingsford Smith, will be flying side by side here in Sydney.
This project is a project of our government and would not be able to be made possible without the incredible partnership our government has had with the New South Wales Government and I want to commend Gladys Berejiklian as Premier and as a previous Transport Minister and as a Treasurer, in all of these roles, has been so supportive of this project – not just what happens here on site, but what has to happen around this site to ensure the Western Sydney International Nancy-Bird Walton Airport is not just a Western Sydney Airport, which is its primary function, but is an airport for Sydney more broadly and the nation. Gladys has shown tremendous leadership on this project and has been a wonderful and willing partner as we’ve gone about the job of making this a reality.
You want to know what vision looks like? You’re looking at it here at this airport. You’re looking at it right here and it’s taken the teamwork of the Liberal-National Government at both a Commonwealth and a state level to make it a reality. I want to thank very much – I’m sure Michael McCormack would agree as the Deputy Prime Minister – I want to thank Gladys and her team for their wonderful partnership. May it long continue. Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of New South Wales. Thank you.