Women in the Australian Senate

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There have been 88 women in the Australian Senate since the establishment of the Parliament of Australia. Women have had the right to both vote and sit in parliament since 1902 and all states and territories have been represented by a woman in the Senate.

History[edit]

The passage of the Commonwealth Franchise Act allowed women to both vote and stand for election to the Parliament of Australia.[1][2] Numerous women stood unsuccessfully as independents or as representatives of minor parties for election to the Senate, including prominent South Australian suffragist Vida Goldstein, who ran in 1903, 1910 and 1917. However, women were not successful in entering federal politics until World War II. The major parties did not endorse any female candidates for the Senate before the War.

The first woman to be elected to the Senate was Labor representative Dorothy Tangney in 1943; she represented Western Australia. Following Tangney's entry into politics, the Senate has continuously had women members. (By contrast, although the first woman member of the House of Representatives, Dame Enid Lyons, was also elected in 1943, that house has had women members continuously only since 1980.)

The second woman elected to the Senate, Annabelle Rankin, also achieved a number of firsts for women: she was the first female Whip, and she was the first woman with a federal portfolio when she became Minister for Housing in 1966. In 1975, Margaret Guilfoyle became the first female cabinet minister with a portfolio. In 1996 Margaret Reid was the first woman elected as President of the Senate.

Women in the Senate have made significant changes to Australian law which have benefited women. For example a private member's bill written by Senator Susan Ryan was crucial to the development of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986, the Public Service Reform Act 1984 and the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987.

List of women in the Australian Senate[edit]

Names in bold type indicate Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. Names in italics indicate appointments made under section 15 of the Constitution, or through disqualification. Names marked with an asterisk (*) also served in the House of Representatives. Where no closing date is shown, the Senator’s term of service is unexpired.

Name Party State Period of service
(Dame) Dorothy Tangney Labor WA 21 August 1943 – 30 June 1968 (defeated)
(Dame) Annabelle Rankin Liberal Qld 1 July 1947 – 24 April 1971 (resigned)
Agnes Robertson Liberal; Country Party WA 22 February 1950 – 30 June 1962 (retired)
(Dame) Ivy Wedgwood Liberal Vic 22 February 1950 – 30 June 1971 (retired)
(Dame) Nancy Buttfield Liberal SA 11 October 1955 – 30 June 1965 (defeated)
1 July 1968 – 11 April 1974 (retired)
Marie Breen Liberal Vic 1 July 1962 – 30 June 1968 (retired)
(Dame) Margaret Guilfoyle Liberal Vic 1 July 1971 – 5 June 1987 (retired)
Ruth Coleman Labor WA 18 May 1974 – 5 June 1987 (retired)
Jean Melzer Labor Vic 18 May 1974 – 30 June 1981 (defeated)
Kathy Sullivan* Liberal Qld 18 May 1974 – 5 November 1984 (resigned)
Susan Ryan Labor ACT 13 December 1975 – 29 January 1988 (resigned)
Shirley Walters Liberal Tas 13 December 1975 – 30 June 1993 (retired)
Janine Haines Democrats SA 14 December 1977 – 30 June 1978 (retired)
1 July 1981 – 1 March 1990 (resigned)
Jean Hearn Labor Tas 15 October 1980 – 30 June 1985 (retired)
Florence Bjelke-Petersen NCP; National Qld 12 March 1981 – 30 June 1993 (retired)
Margaret Reid Liberal ACT 5 May 1981 – 14 February 2003 (resigned)
Patricia Giles Labor WA 1 July 1981 – 30 June 1993 (retired)
Rosemary Crowley Labor SA 5 March 1983 – 30 June 2002 (retired)
Margaret Reynolds Labor Qld 5 March 1983 – 30 June 1999 (retired)
Olive Zakharov Labor Vic 5 March 1983 – 6 March 1995 (died)
Susan Knowles Liberal WA 1 December 1984 – 30 June 2005 (retired)
Amanda Vanstone Liberal SA 1 December 1984 – 26 April 2007 (resigned)
Jo Vallentine NDP; Independent; Greens WA WA 1 July 1985 – 31 January 1992 (resigned)
Jocelyn Newman Liberal Tas 13 March 1986 – 1 February 2002 (resigned)
Janet Powell Democrats; Independent Vic 26 August 1986 – 30 June 1993 (defeated)
Sue West Labor NSW 11 February 1987 – 5 June 1987 (defeated)
1 July 1990 – 30 June 2002 (retired)
Bronwyn Bishop* Liberal NSW 11 July 1987 – 24 February 1994 (resigned)
Jean Jenkins Democrats WA 11 July 1987 – 30 June 1990 (defeated)
Kay Patterson Liberal Vic 11 July 1987 – 30 June 2008 (retired)
Irina Dunn NDP; Independent NSW 21 July 1988 – 30 June 1990 (defeated)
Meg Lees Democrats; APA SA 4 April 1990 – 30 June 2005 (defeated)
Vicki Bourne Democrats NSW 1 July 1990 – 30 June 2002 (defeated)
Cheryl Kernot* Democrats Qld 1 July 1990 – 15 October 1997 (resigned)
Karin Sowada Democrats NSW 29 August 1991 – 30 June 1993 (defeated)
Christabel Chamarette Greens WA WA 12 March 1992 – 30 June 1996 (defeated)
Dee Margetts Greens WA WA 1 July 1993 – 30 June 1999 (defeated)
Judith Troeth Liberal Vic 1 July 1993 – 30 June 2011 (retired)
Kay Denman Labor Tas 24 August 1993 – 30 June 2005 (retired)
Belinda Neal* Labor NSW 8 March 1994 – 3 September 1998 (resigned)
Jacinta Collins Labor Vic 3 May 1995 – 30 June 2005 (defeated)
8 May 2008 –
Natasha Stott Despoja Democrats SA 29 November 1995 – 30 June 2008 (retired)
Kate Lundy Labor ACT 2 March 1996 –
Sue Mackay Labor Tas 8 March 1996 – 27 June 2005 (resigned)
Lyn Allison Democrats Vic 1 July 1996 – 30 June 2008 (defeated)
Helen Coonan Liberal NSW 1 July 1996 – 22 August 2011 (resigned)
Jeannie Ferris Liberal SA 1 July 1996 – 2 April 2007 (died)
Brenda Gibbs Labor Qld 1 July 1996 – 30 June 2002 (defeated)
Marise Payne Liberal NSW 9 April 1997 –
Karen Synon Liberal Vic 13 May 1997 – 30 June 1999 (defeated)
Trish Crossin Labor NT 16 June 1998 – 6 September 2013 (retired)
Jan McLucas Labor Qld 1 July 1999 –
Linda Kirk Labor SA 1 July 2002 – 30 June 2008 (retired)
Claire Moore Labor Qld 1 July 2002 –
Kerry Nettle Greens NSW 1 July 2002 – 30 June 2008 (defeated)
Ursula Stephens Labor NSW 1 July 2002 – 30 June 2014 (defeated)
Ruth Webber Labor WA 1 July 2002 – 30 June 2008 (defeated)
Penny Wong Labor SA 1 July 2002 –
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells Liberal NSW 5 May 2005 –
Judith Adams Liberal WA 1 July 2005 – 31 March 2012 (died)
Annette Hurley Labor SA 1 July 2005 – 30 June 2011 (retired)
Anne McEwen Labor SA 1 July 2005 –
Christine Milne Greens Tas 1 July 2005 –
Fiona Nash National NSW 1 July 2005 –
Helen Polley Labor Tas. 1 July 2005 –
Rachel Siewert Greens WA 1 July 2005 –
Dana Wortley Labor SA 1 July 2005 – 30 June 2011 (defeated)
Carol Brown Labor Tas. 25 August 2005 –
Sue Boyce Liberal Qld 19 April 2007 – 30 June 2014 (retired)
Mary Jo Fisher Liberal SA 6 June 2007 – 14 August 2012 (resigned)
Catryna Bilyk Labor Tas. 1 July 2008 –
Michaelia Cash Liberal WA 1 July 2008 –
Sarah Hanson-Young Greens SA 1 July 2008 –
Helen Kroger Liberal Vic. 1 July 2008 – 30 June 2014 (defeated)
Louise Pratt Labor WA 1 July 2008 – 30 June 2014 (defeated)
Bridget McKenzie National Vic. 1 July 2011 –
Lee Rhiannon Greens NSW 1 July 2011 –
Lisa Singh Labor Tas. 1 July 2011 –
Anne Urquhart Labor Tas. 1 July 2011 –
Larissa Waters Greens Qld 1 July 2011 –
Penny Wright Greens SA 1 July 2011 –
Lin Thorp Labor Tas 20 June 2012 – 30 June 2014 (defeated)
Anne Ruston Liberal SA 5 September 2012 –
Sue Lines Labor WA 15 May 2013 –
Nova Peris Labor ACT 7 September 2013 –
Deborah O'Neill* Labor NSW 13 November 2013 –
Jacqui Lambie Palmer United Tas 1 July 2014 –
Linda Reynolds Liberal WA 1 July 2014 –
Janet Rice Greens Vic 1 July 2014 –

Timeline[edit]

Janet Rice Linda Reynolds Jacqui Lambie Deborah O'Neill Nova Peris Sue Lines Anne Ruston Lin Thorp Penny Wright Larissa Waters Anne Urquhart Lisa Singh Lee Rhiannon Bridget McKenzie Louise Pratt Helen Kroger Sarah Hanson-Young Michaelia Cash Catryna Bilyk Jacinta Collins Mary Jo Fisher Sue Boyce Carol Brown (politician) Dana Wortley Rachel Siewert Helen Polley Fiona Nash Christine Milne Anne McEwen Annette Hurley Judith Adams Concetta Fierravanti-Wells Penny Wong Ruth Webber Ursula Stephens Kerry Nettle Claire Moore Linda Kirk Jan McLucas Trish Crossin Karen Synon Marise Payne Brenda Gibbs Jeannie Ferris Helen Coonan Lyn Allison Sue Mackay Kate Lundy Natasha Stott Despoja Jacinta Collins Belinda Neal Kay Denman Judith Troeth Dee Margetts Christabel Chamarette Karin Sowada Sue West Cheryl Kernot Vicki Bourne Meg Lees Irina Dunn Kay Patterson Jean Jenkins (politician) Bronwyn Bishop Sue West Janet Powell Jocelyn Newman Jo Vallentine Amanda Vanstone Susan Knowles Olive Zakharov Margaret Reynolds Rosemary Crowley Janine Haines Patricia Giles Margaret Reid Flo Bjelke-Petersen Jean Hearn Janine Haines Shirley Walters Susan Ryan Kathy Sullivan (Australian politician) Jean Melzer Ruth Coleman Margaret Guilfoyle Nancy Buttfield Marie Breen Nancy Buttfield Ivy Wedgwood Agnes Robertson Annabelle Rankin Dorothy Tangney

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Women in South and Western Australia voted in the 1901 election.
  2. ^ Indigenous Australian women did not achieve federal franchise in all jurisdictions until 1962, and were not required by law to enrol to vote until 1983.

References[edit]