Seven things you may not know about your federal member

Former Prime Ministers John Howard and Bob Hawke recently criticised our modern day parliamentarians, saying there are too many career politicians with no life experience. 

Sussan Ley is not one of them. 

Raised by a British spy in the Middle East, our federal member was riding packhorses through mountains and flying planes solo when still in her teens.  

Here’s seven things you may not know about Ms Ley:

1] She was born in Nigeria and grew up in United Arab Emirates. 

Sussan Ley was born in Kano, Nigeria in 1961. As her father worked in British Intelligence she was constantly on the move, and by the age of one had relocated to the United Arab Emirates. 

“I lived in Dubai before they had a single high rise building,” she said. 

By the age of 10, she'd moved to England by herself to attend boarding school, before returned to the Middle East. 

“I developed a real interest in Arab people. But I didn’t find them scary, I found them fascinating”. 

Her father is fluent in Arabic and Ms Ley said one of her life goals is to master that language. 

2] She was tear gassed by the army as co-chair of parliament’s Friends of Palestine group 

Growing up in the Arab world endeared Ms Ley to the plight of the Palestinians – not a cause you generally associate with conservative politicians. 

She became co-chair of an Australian parliamentary group that supported “the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people carry the legitimacy of the most respected and representative political, judicial and human rights bodies in the world”.

Ms Ley said she was once tear gassed by the army on an observer visiting to the West Bank. 

3] She rode a pack-horse from Yass to the south coast of Victoria at the age of 18

“I developed my love of wide-open spaces in the the UAE… and started riding horses when I was five years old”.

Her loves of horses flourished when she moved to Australia.

At the age of 18, she rode a packhorse from Yass, near Canberra, over Mount Kosciuszko and down to the south coast of Victoria by herself.  

“I never realised that I would one day live in the area I was riding through,” Ms Ley, who would later marry a farmer and settle in north-east Victoria, said. 

The horse ride took her three months

4] She had a commercial pilot licence at 20 and was an air traffic controller 

“I always wanted to fly, but they all told me I’d never get a licence because I was a girl and short-sighted,” Ms Ley said.

Her parents wouldn’t pay the high cost of flying lessons, so at the age of 18 she started working three jobs – public servant during the day, roadside diner and cleaner at night – to put herself through the course. 

She got her commercial pilot’s licence by the age of 20, and later qualified as an air traffic controller. 

5] She had no desire to go to university 

“The last thing I wanted to do after finishing school was do more school,” she said. 

It wasn’t until she was 30 that she enrolled in tertiary studies, and that was out of financial necessity. 

“It was really struggle on the family farm during the drought years. We needed another income”.

“There were hardly any mature-aged students back then… I felt like a freak”. 

She studied part-time for ten years, while raising three children, acquiring degrees in taxation and accountancy. 

6] Expect her to be more outspoken than ever this year

Ms Ley warns that she won’t be toeing the line as much now she’s not a cabinet minister.

“Once of the things people are fed up with politicians is that they don’t seem authentic”. 

7] Her father turns 100 next week 

Edgar Braybrooks, the British spy who would later become a crocodile hunter, is celebrating his 100th birthday on January 17.