Statistics

Further information on women in politics can be found at the Parliament of Australia’s Library here.

Milestones for women in Australian parliaments

(Source: Australian Parliamentary Library)

1894 – Women in the colony of South Australia win both the right to vote and stand for the colonial parliament

1899 – Women in the colony of Western Australia win the right to vote; they win the right to stand for state parliament in 1920 and the first woman is elected in 1921 (Edith Cowan)

1902 – The Commonwealth Franchise Act is passed, enabling all women (with the exception of Aboriginal women in some states) to vote for the Commonwealth Parliament. From this time, women are also able to sit in the Commonwealth Parliament; the first women are elected in 1943 (Dorothy Tangney and Enid Lyons)

1902 – Women in New South Wales win the right to vote; they win the right to stand for the state Legislative Assembly in 1918

1903 – Four women are candidates for the Commonwealth election—Nellie Martel, Mary Ann Moore Bentley and Vida Goldstein for the Senate, and Selina Anderson for the House of Representatives

1903 – Women in Tasmania win the right to vote

1905 – Women in Queensland win the right to vote

1908 – Women in Victoria win the right to vote

1918 – Queensland women win the right to stand for state parliament

1921 – Edith Cowan (Nationalist) becomes Australia’s first female parliamentarian when she is elected to the WA Legislative Assembly

1922 – Women in Tasmania win the right to stand for state parliament

1923 – Victorian women win the right to stand for state parliament

1925 – Millicent Preston-Stanley (Nationalist) is the first woman appointed to the NSW Legislative Assembly

1926 – Women in NSW win the right to stand for the Legislative Council

1929 – Irene Longman (Progressive Nationalist) is the first women to be elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly

1931 – Ellen Webster (ALP) and Catherine Green (ALP) become the first women appointed to the NSW Legislative Council

1933 – Lady Millie Peacock (UAP) is the first woman to be elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly

1943 – Enid Lyons (UAP, later LIB) and Senator Dorothy Tangney (ALP) are the first female parliamentarians to be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament

1944 – Lillian Fowler is elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly seat of Newtown after serving as the first female Mayor in Australia (1938–9)

1947 – Senator Annabelle Rankin (LIB), becomes Opposition Whip in the Senate becoming the first woman in the Commonwealth Parliament to hold that office

1947 – Florence Cardell-Oliver (Nationalist; elected to the Western Australian Parliament in 1936) becomes Australia’s first female Cabinet minister

1948 – Margaret McIntyre (IND) is the first woman elected to the Tasmanian Legislative Council

1949 – Enid Lyons (LIB) becomes Vice-President of the Executive Council in the Liberal-Country Party coalition ministry of Prime Minister Robert Menzies

1951 – Senator Annabelle Rankin (LIB) becomes Government Whip

1954 – Ruby Hutchinson (ALP) is the first woman to be elected to the WA Legislative Council

1955 – Millie Best (LIB) and Mabel Miller (LIB), are the first women to be elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly

1959 – Joyce Steele (LCL) and Jessie Cooper (LCL) are the first women elected to the South Australian Parliament: Joyce Steele to the SA Legislative Assembly and Jessie Cooper to the SA Legislative Council

1966 – Senator Annabelle Rankin (LIB) is appointed as Minister for Housing, becoming the first woman minister in the Commonwealth Parliament with portfolio responsibility

1970 – Dame Senator Ivy Wedgwood (LIB) chairs one of the first of the Senate’s new legislative and general purpose standing committees, the Health and Welfare Committee

1976 – Senator Margaret Guilfoyle (LIB), who was appointed Minister for Education and Minister for Social Security in 1975, becomes the first woman to be appointed to Commonwealth Cabinet and administer a government department; she is made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979

1976 – Joy Mein (LIB) becomes the first woman state president of a major political party when she becomes the state president of the Liberal Party of Australia Representation of women in Australian parliaments 2014 43

1978 – The NSW Legislative Council is popularly elected for the first time, and four women win places: Virginia Chadwick (LIB), Marie Fisher (ALP), Deirdre Grusovin (ALP), and Dorothy Isaksen (ALP)

1979 – Gracia Baylor (LIB) and Joan Coxsedge (ALP) are the first women to be elected to the Victorian Legislative Council

1980 – Senator Margaret Guilfoyle (LIB) becomes the first woman to hold an economic portfolio as Minister for Finance

1981 – Shirley McKerrow becomes the first female national president of an Australian political party (The Nationals)

1983 – Senator Susan Ryan (ALP) is the first female Labor minister in the Commonwealth Parliament. As the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, Senator Ryan introduces the Sex Discrimination Act 1984

1986 – Mrs Joan Child (ALP) becomes the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives

1986 – Senator Janine Haines becomes the first woman to lead an Australian political party (Australian Democrats)

1989 – Rosemary Follett (ALP) becomes Australia’s first female head of government and first female Chief Minister of the ACT

1990 – Carmen Lawrence (ALP) becomes the first female Premier of an Australian state (Western Australia)

1990 – Joan Kirner (ALP) becomes the first female Premier of Victoria

1990 – Senator Janet Powell (IND) becomes the first woman member of either house to have a private bill passed by both houses, the Smoking and Tobacco Products Advertisements (Prohibition) Act 1989

1990 – Carolyn Jakobsen (ALP) is elected chair of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, the first woman to hold this position

1995 – Senator Margaret Reid (LIB) is elected Deputy-President of the Senate

1996 – Senator Margaret Reid (LIB) becomes the first woman elected as President of the Senate (1996–2002)

1996 – De-Anne Kelly (NAT) becomes the first National Party woman to be elected to the House of Representatives

2001 – Jenny Macklin (ALP) becomes Deputy Leader of the Commonwealth Opposition; in 2002 she is elected as Deputy Leader of the ALP, the first woman to hold the position in the major parties at federal level

2001 – Clare Martin (ALP) is the first female Chief Minister of the Northern Territory

2003 – Linda Burney (ALP) is the first Indigenous Australian to be elected to the Parliament of NSW; she holds several ministerial positions in the NSW Cabinet between 2007 and 2011, and becomes Deputy Leader of the Opposition in NSW in 2011

2005 – Senator Judith Troeth (LIB) is a co-sponsor with Senator Fiona Nash (NAT), Senator Claire Moore (ALP), and Senator Lynette Allison (DEM) of the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Repeal of Ministerial Responsibility for Approval of RU486) Bill 2005 (known as the ‘abortion pill’); this Bill removes responsibility for approval of RU486 from the Minister for Health and Ageing and places it with the Therapeutic Goods Administration

2006 – Senator Kay Patterson (LIB) introduces the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006. It is passed, becoming one of only 10 private senators’ bills to become law since 1901

2007 – Julia Gillard (ALP) becomes Australia’s first female Deputy Prime Minister

2007 – Anna Bligh (ALP) becomes the first female Premier of Queensland

2007 – Julie Bishop (LIB) is the first female Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia

2009 – Kristina Keneally (ALP) becomes the first female Premier of NSW

2010 – Julia Gillard (ALP) becomes Australia’s first female Prime Minister

2011 – Nicola Roxon (ALP) becomes Australia’s first female Attorney-General

2011 – Lara Giddings (ALP) becomes the first female Premier of Tasmania

2012 – Christine Milne (AG) becomes the first woman to lead the Australian Greens at the national level

2013 – Julie Bishop becomes first female Minister for Foreign Affairs

2015 – Annastacia Palaszczuk (ALP) becomes first female elected Premier (in Queensland)

Further information on women in politics can be found at the Parliament of Australia’s Library here.

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