Women in the New South Wales Legislative Council

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There have been 51 women in the New South Wales Legislative Council since its establishment in 1856. Women have had the right to stand as a candidate since 1918; the Council introduced direct election in 1978.

The first women appointed to the Legislative Council were Catherine Green and Ellen Webster in 1931, both appointed directly by the premier, Jack Lang. Green departed in 1932; after Webster's departure in 1934 women were absent from the Council until 1952, when Gertrude Melville became the first woman elected by the New South Wales Parliament to serve. Since then women have been continuously represented in the Legislative Council. The first Liberal woman to serve in the Legislative Council was Eileen Furley in 1962. The first National Party woman was Judy Jakins in 1984. The first minor-party woman was Democrat Elisabeth Kirkby, elected in 1981. The first Call to Australia/Christian Democrat woman was Marie Bignold in 1984; the first Greens woman was Lee Rhiannon in 1999. No female MLCs have been elected as independents, although Anne Press, Marie Bignold, Beryl Evans, Franca Arena and Helen Sham-Ho all left their parties and continued to sit as independents.

The first female minister in the Legislative Council was Virginia Chadwick, who was appointed Minister for Family and Community Services in 1988 by Premier Nick Greiner. Deirdre Grusovin and Carmel Tebbutt held ministerial positions in Labor governments before transferring to the Legislative Assembly.

List of women in the New South Wales Legislative Council[edit]

Names in bold type indicate ministers and parliamentary secretaries. Names in italics are of women who entered the parliament through by-election or appointment. Names marked with an asterisk (*) also served in the Legislative Assembly. Where no closing date is shown, the MLC’s term of service is unexpired.

Name Party Period of service
Catherine Green Labor 24 November 1931 – 7 September 1932
Ellen Webster Labor 26 November 1931 – 22 April 1934
Gertrude Melville Labor 10 September 1952 – 22 April 1958
Edna Roper Labor 23 April 1958 – 5 November 1978
Anne Press Labor/Ind Labor/Liberal 22 October 1959 – 5 November 1978
Amelia Rygate Ind Labor/Labor 7 September 1961 – 5 November 1978
Eileen Furley Liberal 14 November 1962 – 22 April 1976
Evelyn Barron Labor 21 November 1963 – 22 April 1976
Margaret Davis Liberal 23 April 1967 – 15 September 1978
Kath Anderson Labor 23 April 1973 – 28 August 1981
Vi Lloyd Liberal 23 April 1973 – 28 August 1981
Delcia Kite Labor 23 April 1976 – 3 March 1995
Marie Fisher Labor 7 October 1978 – 22 February 1988
Virginia Chadwick Liberal 6 November 1978 – 5 March 1999
Deirdre Grusovin* Labor 6 November 1978 – 31 May 1990
Dorothy Isaksen Labor 6 November 1978 – 22 February 1988
4 July 1990 – 5 March 1999
Franca Arena Labor/Independent 27 October 1981 – 5 March 1999
Elisabeth Kirkby Democrats 27 October 1981 – 25 June 1998
Ann Symonds Labor 8 September 1982 – 30 April 1998
Beryl Evans Liberal/Independent 30 April 1984 – 3 March 1995
Judy Jakins National 30 April 1984 – 1 July 1991
Marie Bignold Call to Australia/Independent 5 December 1984 – 1 July 1991
Judith Walker Labor 5 December 1984 – 3 March 1995
Marlene Goldsmith Liberal 19 March 1988 – 5 March 1999
Elaine Nile Call to Australia/CDP 19 March 1988 – 27 August 2002
Helen Sham-Ho Liberal/Independent 19 March 1988 – 28 February 2003
Meredith Burgmann Labor 25 May 1991 – 23 March 2007
Jan Burnswoods Labor 25 May 1991 – 23 March 2007
Patricia Forsythe Liberal 25 May 1991 – 22 September 2006
Jenny Gardiner National 25 May 1991 –
Janelle Saffin Labor 25 March 1995 – 28 February 2003
Patricia Staunton Labor 25 March 1995 – 2 September 1997
Carmel Tebbutt* Labor 30 April 1998 – 26 August 2005
Lee Rhiannon Greens 27 March 1999 – 19 July 2010
Amanda Fazio Labor 30 August 2000 –
Melinda Pavey National 3 September 2002 –
Catherine Cusack Liberal 22 March 2003 –
Kayee Griffin Labor 22 March 2003 – 4 March 2011
Sylvia Hale Greens 22 March 2003 – 6 September 2010
Robyn Parker * Liberal 22 March 2003 – 4 March 2011
Christine Robertson Labor 22 March 2003 – 4 March 2011
Penny Sharpe Labor 11 October 2005 –
Marie Ficarra* Liberal 24 March 2007 –
Lynda Voltz Labor 24 March 2007 –
Helen Westwood Labor 24 March 2007 –
Sophie Cotsis Labor 7 September 2010 –
Cate Faehrmann Greens 7 September 2010 – 18 June 2013
Jan Barham Greens 26 March 2011 –
Natasha Maclaren-Jones Liberal 26 March 2011 –
Sarah Mitchell National 26 March 2011 –
Mehreen Faruqi Greens 19 June 2013 –

Timeline[edit]

Mehreen Faruqi Sarah Mitchell Natasha Maclaren-Jones Jan Barham Cate Faehrmann Sophie Cotsis Helen Westwood Lynda Voltz Marie Ficarra Penny Sharpe Christine Robertson Robyn Parker Sylvia Hale Kayee Griffin Catherine Cusack (politician) Melinda Pavey Amanda Fazio Lee Rhiannon Carmel Tebbutt Patricia Staunton Janelle Saffin Jenny Gardiner Patricia Forsythe Jan Burnswoods Meredith Burgmann Dorothy Isaksen Helen Sham-Ho Elaine Nile Marlene Goldsmith Judith Walker Marie Bignold Judy Jakins Beryl Evans Ann Symonds Elisabeth Kirkby Franca Arena Dorothy Isaksen Deirdre Grusovin Virginia Chadwick Marie Fisher Delcia Kite Vi Lloyd Kath Anderson Margaret Davis Evelyn Barron Eileen Furley Amelia Rygate Anne Press Edna Roper Gertrude Melville Ellen Webster Catherine Green (Australian politician)

See also[edit]