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RFDS in WA celebrates International Women's Day 2023

Date published

07 Mar 2023

Today is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The UN Women Australia’s International Women’s Day theme for 2023 is ‘Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future’. Hear from some of our extraordinary women cracking the code at the RFDS in WA below.

Image of Robin Miller Sugar Bird Lady

Robin Miller – Sugar Bird Lady

“I fly for a living because for me flying is living”

Robin Miller was a pioneering female pilot who revolutionised opportunities for women in the aeromedical industry and refused to be held back by gender expectations and stereotypes. She embodied the Royal Flying Doctor values of innovation, dedication, and integrity during her short life.

Robin trained as a nurse at Royal Perth Hospital, and in her off-duty time, gained her private and commercial pilot’s licence. But this was the 1960s and jobs for female pilots were uncommon. During the polio epidemic, Robin seized the opportunity to combine her passion for nursing and flying and pitched to the government offering to deliver vaccines to the north-west and Kimberley regions of Western Australia in her own aircraft. She administered the vaccine using sugar cubes and became known to Aboriginal children as the Sugar Bird Lady. Robin flew solo over 68,000kms administering 37,000 doses of the polio vaccine.

In 1970, Robin was recognised by the Australian Women’s Pilots’ Association for her notable contribution to aviation by an Australian woman. Robin tragically died from cancer in 1975 when she was just 35 years old, and her limitless potential was cut short.

Robin’s life and career is still an inspiration to many people today reminding us to reach for the skies and to never stop following our passions.

Learn more about Robin's adventures -

Judith Barker CEO of RFDS WA in plane

Judith Barker ASM - RFDS WA CEO

Judith Barker took up the leadership reins of RFDS WA in October last year after more than 25 years’ experience in health and emergency management.

“For me, International Women’s Day is about celebrating how far we have come as women in our careers, our lives and our rights, but it’s also about reminding people how far we have to go. When I watch what is happening beyond our country’s borders, it breaks my heart to see women’s rights and the rights of LGBTQIA+ people going backwards".

“As a CEO, my role is to advocate for everyone and to ensure in our workplace we represent the diversity of our community.

“At times, in some of the spaces I have worked, I have faced challenges and barriers specific to my gender. I had to work hard to overcome these obstacles which, at times, have been really tough and tested my resilience. I do not want to see anyone facing some of the things I’ve had to face. I am very passionate about having a culture where everyone, not just women, but people of all diversities are welcome, included and safe".

Read more about CEO Judith Barker -

Trish Thompson with gifted knitted toys

Trish Thompson - RFDS WA 20 Year Employee

Trish has been a big part of the RFDS WA team for the past 20 years, with a diverse resumé spanning Community Engagement, Base Administration, Operations and Clinical Support. After a short two-month ‘retirement’ in 2020, Trish returned to her initial position as a Bequest Officer on the Community and Engagement team.

Trish believes International Women’s Day is all about celebrating the achievements of women around the world.

“I think it’s an opportunity to recognise how far we’ve come and feel very proud about all that has been achieved,” she said.

“The best piece of advice I have been given in my career is to always strive to do the best job you can. Face challenges head on, and don’t be afraid to speak up and share.

“The most important thing for you to remember is you can do whatever you desire with your career. Don’t be afraid to have a go. The results will follow.”

Discover more about Trish's RFDS bequests -

nadia somers in RFDS WA operations centre

Nadia Somers - Head of Logistics & Business Continuity

Nadia is Head of Logistics & Business Continuity, overseeing the RFDS WA Regional Operations Centre, where no day is ever the same. Nadia started her career in Special Needs Education before making a change into Aviation, working for airlines and then moving into Airport Management & Compliance, specifically for very remote communities across WA and NT.

Nadia says International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate and recognise the achievements of all women in all walks of life.

“It is a day of solidarity for us all to celebrate our complexities and our accomplishments, to be proud of our femininity and strength, to be proud of our practicality and our intuition,” she said.

Nadia believes it is crucial for women to recognise their own worth.

“If you want to work on a project, speak up. If you want to lead a team, say so. Work to become known as someone who can be counted on - collaboration is more important than competition,” she said.

Learn more about the services Nadia and her colleagues deliver -