Wardley v. Ansett: an examination and analysis of a leading and influential equal opportunity case
AffiliationEconomics & Commerce
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
CitationsDahn, S. (1987). Wardley v. Ansett: an examination and analysis of a leading and influential equal opportunity case. Masters Research thesis, Economics & Commerce, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 1987 Susanne Dahn
The aim of this paper is to examine Deborah Wardley's lengthy and costly struggle to become a trainee pilot with Ansett Airlines. This struggle began in February 1976 when Deborah (then) Lawrie lodged an application with Ansett. Ansett finally offered her employment some 3 1/2 years later after the company had been found guilty of discriminating against her on the basis of her sex and were ordered to accept her as a trainee. The protracted legal battles continued however and over 4 years elapsed before Mrs. Wardley's trainee position was secured. The examination constitutes a chronicle of the facts as well as the judicial aspects of the dispute from the attempts at conciliation by the Victorian Commissioner for Equal Opportunity through proceedings at the Equal Opportunity Board, the Supreme Court of Victoria and the High Court of Australia. At the time of the complaint by Miss Lawrie, the Equal Opportunity Act was in its infancy and the Ansett/Wardley case was the first Victorian Equal Opportunity matter to be heard by the judicial system. The examination also includes a range of ancilliary issues that impacted on the case which, together with the legal precedents set by the case, have had important consequences on community and employer attitudes to equal employment opportunity generally and sex discrimination in particular. These ancilliary issues include the media/public attention given to the case, the involvement of women's groups, the particular attitudes and tactics adopted by Sir Reginald Ansett and his company and the personal characteristics of Mrs. Wardley herself. The examination concludes with an analysis of the case, and the key factors that made it unique and of historical importance. Moreover, the peculiar characteristics of the case raise important issues about the effectiveness of equal opportunity legislation in eliminating sex discrimination in employment.
KeywordsDeborah Lawrie; Ansett Transport Industries; sex discrimination; women; Victoria; employment; law; legislation
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