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Women In Transport: Liz Martin a leading light in heritage

HANDING OVER: Liz Martin gets the keys to another piece of trucking history from Big Rigs NT correspondent, Neil Bromley.
HANDING OVER: Liz Martin gets the keys to another piece of trucking history from Big Rigs NT correspondent, Neil Bromley. unknown

LIZ Martin is a leading light in road transport heritage and has driven the National Road Transport Hall of Fame for what feels like forever.

But Liz had a life before the Hall of Fame always involved with trucks and running a spare parts business out of Alice Springs.

Growing up on a cattle and buffalo station in the Top End meant that Liz was driving trucks long before it was legal to do so.

"We were lucky in the Territory," says Liz about being accepted as a driver, "there were never any problems, everyone knew each other and you were accepted for who you were."

Liz says she has seen much more kick-back against women drivers in the southern states.

"The NT and Western Australia have always been better, mining in WA opened many doors to women drivers as management realised they tended to be gentler with gear and kept trucks cleaner," she says.

"Heather Jones and the Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls also have played an important part in getting wider acceptance".

Liz Martin says that women have moved out of administrative office jobs into middle and senior management in the transport industry.

But Liz still has horror stories, some quite recent.

"Had a bloke ring up the other day asking for Les Martin at the Hall," she says.

"There's no Les Martin here, it's Liz," she replied.

"No I wanted to talk to the man in charge, Les," he said digging his hole deeper.

"It's a woman in charge and it's Liz, L-I-Z..."

Liz pointed out that the bloke's attitude wasn't a real good start to getting his name on the Wall of Fame.

And speaking of the Wall of Fame, currently less than five percent of the people on the Wall are women.

"So many women play a vital role in transport operations," Liz says, "women have been content to sit in the background and do the work."

Liz Martin says the road transport industry does itself a disservice by shutting out women.

"We need drivers, men and women, starting earlier so they learn the game properly."

Liz was always keen on history, particularly of road transport and the early days when the pioneers laid the foundations for so much transport innovation that we live with today.

She was asked by Kurt Johansson and Judy Robinson to join a steering committee back in 1990 and the National Road Transport Hall of Fame was born.

As president Liz presided over the growth of the facility for 13 years, was chief executive through to 2014 and continues as chairperson.

She has made the national road transport Hall of Fame the centre of her life for quarter of a century and the complex now houses the largest collection of commercial vehicles in the southern hemisphere. Liz has attracted a string of awards including the national road transport personality of the year, national transport woman of the year, Northern Territory achiever of the year, the Brolga Award for excellence in tourism and an Order of Australia medal.

Quite an achievement for a woman from the bush.

Topics:  alice springs trucking women in transport

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