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She Wanted To Fly

From the website Australians At Work.
Video clip synopsis – In the 1930s Nancy Bird Walton became known as the "Angel of the Desert", working with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Some tried to discourage a woman flying on her own in the turbulent conditions of the outback.
Year of production - 1991
Duration - 2min 48sec
Tags - gender, heroism, women, work, see all tags


She Wanted To Fly

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About the Video Clip


She Wanted To Fly is an excerpt from the program Nancy Bird Walton (26 mins), an episode of Australian Biography Series 1 (7 × 26 mins), produced in 1991.

Nancy Bird Walton: A fully qualified pilot by the age of 19, Nancy Bird Walton went from being the youngest commercial licensed woman pilot in the British Commonwealth to becoming Australia’s “First Lady of Aviation” in the 1970s. She became known as “Angel of the Outback” for her work with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and received an OBE in 1966. In 1977 she became a Dame of St John (Knights of Malta).

Australian Biography Series 1: The Australian Biography series profiles some of the most extraordinary Australians of our time. Many have had a major impact on the nation’s cultural, political and social life. All are remarkable and inspiring people who have reached a stage in their lives where they can look back and reflect. Through revealing in-depth interviews, they share their stories – of beginnings and challenges, landmarks and turning points. In so doing, they provide us with an invaluable archival record and a unique perspective on the roads we, as a country, have travelled.

Australian Biography Series 1 is a Film Australia National Interest Program.

Curriculum Focus


Reading standard: Students read and view imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that explore ideas and information relating to challenging topics, themes and issues. They explore the ideas, themes and issues explored in these texts, and provide supporting evidence to justify their interpretations. They produce personal responses, for example, interpretive pieces and character profiles.

Writing standard: Students produce, in print and electronic forms, texts for a variety of purposes, including speculating, hypothesizing, persuading and reflecting.

Speaking and listening standard: Students express creative and analytical responses to texts, themes and issues. They identify main issues in a topic and provide supporting detail and evidence of opinions.
The activities in this learning module are relevant to the Interdisciplinary Learning strand of Level 5 Communications (Listening, viewing and responding standard; Presenting standard) and Thinking Processes (Reasoning, processing and inquiry standard; Creativity standard).

The activities are also relevant to the Physical, Personal and Social Learning strand of Level 5 Interpersonal Development (Building social relationships standard; Working in teams standard) and Personal Learning (The individual learner standard; Managing personal learning standard).

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


Nancy Bird Walton was born in Sydney in 1915.

She wanted to fly from an early age, and was known for climbing onto fences and declaring herself to be an 'eppy plane’.

She flew for the first time at an air pageant, at the age of 13, paying the pilot extra to perform aerobatics.

At 18 she was learning to fly, under the tuition of no less than Charles Kingsford-Smith. Nancy was among the first of his pupils at his Sydney flying school, even though she needed cushions to reach the rudder pedals.

Nancy had no intention of flying just for a bit of sport, which was a common motivation among women pilots at the time. It was to earn a living. She became the first woman pilot in the Commonwealth to achieve commercial certification to carry passengers. Her family bought her first aircraft, a De Havilland Gipsy Moth. Nancy and a friend, Peggy, set off on a tour, barnstorming and giving joy rides at country shows where many people had never seen an aircraft, let alone a woman pilot.
On tour, she met Rev. Stanley Drummond, who persuaded her to join a flying medical service in outback Australia. With a better equipped aircraft she worked territory not previously covered by the Flying Doctor Service in remote parts of New South Wales.

In 1936 Nancy won the Ladies’ Trophy in the Adelaide-Brisbane Air Race.

After four years in the outback, she took a break, accepting an offer from a Dutch airline to do promotional work. She returned to Australia just before World War 2 began and undertook training women to back up the men flying in the RAAF.

In 1950 Nancy founded the AWPA (Australian Women Pilots Association). The AWPA celebrated its 50th anniversary in October 2000 with a dinner at a restaurant near Adelaide, South Australia, attended by Nancy herself and sixty or so pilots in powered flight, gliding, ballooning — with hardly a man present.

In 1966 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire.

Classroom Activities

  1. Examine the first scene and give reasons why you think the filmmaker starts with this scene.
    1. Briefly describe your reaction when you realise that it is a woman flying.
    2. Briefly describe your reaction when you realise it is an elderly woman.
    1. List eight pieces of information you find out about Nancy Bird Walton from the video clip.
    2. In 25 words or less write what you think is the message of the video clip
    3. As a class write a definition of the word ‘hero’.
    4. Do you think that Nancy Bird Walton is a ‘hero’? Give reasons for your answer and use evidence from the film.
  2. Imagine that you have been asked to introduce Nancy Bird Walton to a school assembly. Write a 150-word introduction that tells students about her life and why she is an important person.

Further Resources


Go to Australian Biography and select Nancy Bird-Walton