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Qantas was but a small organisation with big ambitions when its staff pension scheme, now known as Qantas Super, was launched in mid-1939.  

Only a year earlier, the company had packed the entire contents of its head office into two Empire flying boats and moved its headquarters from Brisbane to Sydney. At the time, Qantas staff numbered just over 200, with the company relying on a small group of highly skilled and experienced technical staff to support its grand vision. 

Deciding it made sense to offer its valued staff an incentive to both accompany Qantas in its move to Sydney and stay on board for the long term, the board of directors launched a staff pension plan.  

Officially launching the Qantas Staff Pension Scheme on 1 June 1939, Qantas chairman Fergus McMaster said:  

“The company has always recognised the value of its Employees’ services by endeavouring to make working conditions as congenial and remunerative as possible…now…this recognition goes beyond the field of active service to provide for your years of retirement.”

The launch was the culmination of an idea several years in the making.

Qantas founder and managing director Hudson Fysh had first floated the concept of a pension scheme back in 1935, when Qantas joined with Britain’s Imperial Airways to operate the air service between Australia and Singapore.

With Imperial Airways announcing plans for a staff pension scheme, Fysh felt Qantas staff should not be left at a disadvantage.

Though it may have taken a few years, the launch of the scheme came just in time. With war in Europe declared on 3 September 1939Qantas too went on a war footing. 

Gone were the luxurious cabin services and cargoes of oysters on the Empire flying boats to Singapore; two of the six Empire boats and a number of Qantas pilots went to the RAAF, while military and government officials had priority on reduced services.  

The protections offered by the Qantas Staff Pension Scheme were the saving grace for a number of Qantas employees and their families in this time. 

Despite a long campaign by Fysh, Qantas staff and their dependants weren’t covered by war service benefits or payments, like those provided to merchant sailors. Instead, the Qantas Staff Pension Scheme provided support to a number of the families of the 17 Qantas staff who died by enemy action or accidents between 1939 and 1945. 

Thlessons learned in those impossible times have helped ensure the continued growth of Qantas SuperAs it did through the war, the scheme has helped support Qantas employees through a multitude of changes over the last 80 years. 

From Qantas entering government ownership under the nationalisation agenda of the post-war Chifley Government, to its privatisation and float in the 1990s, and onto the great technological change of the 21st century, Qantas Super has always been there.

Did you know...

Who ran the Qantas Staff Pension Scheme

Qantas Super was administered by a committee that included representatives of its members upon launch in 1939, with pilot Bill Crowther joining the team.

This tradition has continued for 80 years – today, all ten directors on the Qantas Super board are Qantas employees, with five of them being directly elected to the Board by the members of fund.

How the Scheme took care of employees

First Officer Mervyn Bateman, who joined Qantas in 1938, was one of four Qantas crew and 16 passengers lost when their Empire flying boat Circe disappeared between Java and Broome on the last Qantas evacuation flight before the Japanese occupied the island in February 1942. 

Though Merv was posthumously commissioned into the RAAF Reserve with the rank of flying officer, no widow’s service pension could be paid because he was officially posted ‘missing’.  

The life insurance cover provided under the Qantas Staff Pension Scheme ensured Merv’s widow Winifred Gillespie and their baby daughter Jenny were taken care of. 

How the Scheme worked

Employees contributed 5% of their annual salary to the Scheme.

For those earning over four pounds per week, this contribution was matched by the company in full; employees earning under four Pounds per week received a contribution of 2.5% from the company. 

The funds were paid into an AMP Endowment Life Assurance Policy or Endowment Assurance Policy.