AUSTRALIAN RAILWAY STORY

Railway Voices CD: 20. WOMEN RAILWAY WORKERS

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Margaret McMann Coming Out Show, 1976 ABC Radio

Hello, I'm Margaret McMann and this is coming out, '76. This week's program looks at the problem of one woman who has tried to secure employment in what is still a male-dominated field. We will be speaking to Janet Oakden, whose ambition, ever since childhood, has been to become a train driver.

Janet Oakden first woman traindriver

Well, I mean, I like locomotives so much that I think it's a worthwhile career. Maybe I'm just a bit more persistent than the others. I mean there again, I don't really know. It just never occurred to give up, and certainly I won't give up now. (Interviewer) Do you think that if you get in, that other women will follow, there'll be hordes of women, or have you had any indication from other women? I've had several who said that they would like to be drivers and indeed they've said there've been a couple who want to be guards and even conductors, but they're just not sort of game to take on a two year fight like I have done. It's been quite an emotional bashing as you can understand. They're not game to take on the fight. It's impossible to predict one way or the other. But I think there will definitely be others to follow.

Denise Mills traindriver

I just passed my trials and that means that I'm qualified to drive as from Sydney ... we only go to Goulburn and Nowra at my grade when I'm fully qualified, if I decide to stay on the diesels, I can go to Newcastle or Lithgow, but myself, I'm going on the electrics, so I'll get my grade there.

Carol Swanson electrical mechanic, Cardiff Workshops

I work at Cardiff Railway workshops as an elec. mechanic. I work on locomotives out here. I finished my apprenticeship last year. This is my first year as a tradesman.

Women Apprentices, Karen Blanchford and Evelyn Moss, Chullora

I paint railway carriages. That's about it. I just paint railway carriages. (Interviewer) Did anyone say sort of anything to you when you said you were going to, you were thinking about applying for a job on the railways? At school, my so-called careers advisor, laughed at me, because he'd never heard of it before. Mum and dad thought it was good after a shock that I'd got a job, but everyone else thinks that it's really good and they always ask why and what's it like and everything. The first couple of times they just wrote back with "Ha Ha" on the bottom and all that, and thought that it was a big joke and people who used to speak to you said, "No way, you know you're mad, you're crazy", and I've always known I've been crazy, so I kept going and about two years later I finally got my transfer through. The first day I got there actually I was congratulated by a bloke upstairs and I just said, "For what?" and he said, "Oh you're the first one in the state".

Karen and Evelyn

Yeah, last year there was electricians starting in the apprentice, electricians, trimmers and I think there's a mechanic this year. There is, auto electricians. There has been. They've taken on apprentice boilermakers, I think and sheet metalworkers, but they didn't last. I have heard there's a female car builder too. Yeah tradesman, but I don't know who that is ... painter and decorators too. Lots of painters, the painters are the first ones they go into, painters and decorators.

Denise Mills

I started off in the milk bar at Central, from there I went to stations, went to Homebush, Turramurra and then Sydney relief. I met this girl the other day, she's a guard, first female guard, another one's a conductress.

Carol Swanson

There's always cranes around that you can use or something might be a bit tight, there's always a hammer or something you can knock it with or, there's always a way of getting around it, if your physical strength isn't strong enough to move it.

Denise Mills

My son's two and a half, and I miss him heaps when I'm at work, but he's accepted it, he always says, "Oh mummy's going to work, mummy drives trains".

Carol Swanson

I think it will be easier for the girl who comes after me.

Railway Voices a CD of Australian railway workers stories with songs and poems