Joan Child

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The Honourable
Joan Child
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Henty
In office
18 May 1974 – 13 December 1975
Preceded by Max Fox
Succeeded by Ken Aldred
19th Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
In office
11 February 1986 – 28 August 1989
Preceded by Dr Harry Jenkins
Succeeded by Leo McLeay
Personal details
Born Gloria Joan Liles Olle
(1921-08-03)3 August 1921
Yackandandah, Victoria, Australia
Died 23 February 2013(2013-02-23) (aged 91)
Melbourne, Victoria
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party

Joan Child, AO (3 August 1921 – 23 February 2013) was an Australian politician. She was the first woman to be Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives.[1] [2] Up until the election of Anna Burke on 9 October 2012, she was the only female Speaker of the lower house.

Early life[edit]

Gloria Joan Liles Olle was born in Yackandandah, Victoria in 1921, daughter of Warren Olle, a postmaster, and his wife Hilda née Seedsman. She attended Camberwell Girls Grammar School.[3] She married Hal Child, a business manager, who died suddenly in the mid 1960s, leaving her a widow with five sons (Peter, Andrew, Geoff, Gary and Roger) to raise, aged 7 to 17. She worked in factories, shops, as a cleaner and as a cook. When the youngest boy left school, she worked for Jim Cairns, first as a campaign volunteer and then as a liaison officer.[4]


A member of the Australian Labor Party, Child was elected to the House for the seat of Henty, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, in 1974, having narrowly failed to win the seat in 1972. She was the first female Labor member of the House, and only the fourth woman elected to the House in its history. After less than two years in the House she was defeated in the landslide Liberal victory in 1975. After unsuccessfully contesting the seat in 1977, she regained it in 1980 and served until her retirement in 1990.

Child became Speaker on 11 February 1986 as the unanimous nominee of the ALP, and was not opposed by the Liberal Opposition. She was liked and respected by MPs from both sides of the Chamber, but she found the notorious rowdyism of Australian parliamentary conduct difficult to deal with, and her health suffered under the strain. She resigned as Speaker in August 1989.

Child was Speaker when the Provisional Parliament House was closed and the Parliament moved to the new Parliament House in June 1988. There was some discussion of the old Speaker's Chair, which had been a gift from the Parliament of the United Kingdom, moving with the Parliament, but Child, as Speaker, refused to move the chair. Child retired from Parliament at the 1990 election, when the seat of Henty was abolished.

She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours of June 1990.[5]

Joan Child remained active in Labor Party affairs in her retirement. She was a member of the Patrons Council of the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria. She died on 23 February 2013, aged 91. A state funeral was held on 5 March 2013.[6]


Other sources[edit]

  • Gloria Joan Child in the Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in the Twentieth Century
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Harry Jenkins, Sr.
Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Leo McLeay
Preceded by
Max Fox
Member for Henty
Succeeded by
Ken Aldred
Preceded by
Ken Aldred
Member for Henty
Division abolished