Annabelle Rankin

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Dame Annabelle Rankin

High Commissioner of Australia to New Zealand
In office
Prime MinisterWilliam McMahon
Gough Whitlam
Preceded byTed Hicks
Succeeded byBrian Clarence Hill
Senator for Queensland
In office
1 July 1947 – 24 May 1971
Succeeded byNeville Bonner
Minister for Housing
In office
26 January 1966 – 22 March 1971
Prime MinisterHarold Holt
John McEwen
John Gorton
William McMahon
Preceded byLes Bury
Succeeded byKevin Cairns
Personal details
Born(1908-07-28)28 July 1908
South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Died30 August 1986(1986-08-30) (aged 78)
South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Political partyLiberal
RelationsColin Rankin (father)

Dame Annabelle Jane Mary Rankin DBE (28 July 1908 – 30 August 1986) was an Australian politician and diplomat. She was the first woman from Queensland elected to parliament, the first woman federal government minister, and the first Australian woman to be appointed head of a foreign mission.

Rankin was born in Brisbane, the daughter of state MP Colin Rankin. A member of the Liberal Party, she was elected to the Senate at the 1946 federal election, taking her seat the following year. She was the second woman elected to the Senate, after Dorothy Tangney. Rankin was the Liberal Party's chief whip from 1947 to 1950 and from 1951 to 1966; she remains the longest-serving whip in the party's history, in either chamber of parliament. In 1966, she was made Minister for Housing in the Holt Government, becoming the first woman to hold a ministerial portfolio. She held that position until her retirement from politics in 1971. As High Commissioner to New Zealand from 1971 to 1974, she was the first woman to head an Australian mission overseas.


Rankin in the 1940s.

Rankin was born in Brisbane, Queensland on 28 July 1908, the daughter of Colin Dunlop Wilson Rankin (a former Member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland) and Annabelle Davidson (née Thomson).[1]

The family lived in Brooklyn House, Howard (now heritage-listed).[2][3] She attended primary school in Childers and Howard. She attended secondary school at Glennie Memorial School in Toowoomba.[4]

She was well known in the community for her public service though the CWA, Guides Australia, Red Cross and YWCA.[5]

Rankin was elected to the Senate in the 1946 election, as a representative of the Liberal Party. Her term began on 1 July 1947. She was the first woman appointed as Opposition Whip in the Senate and, following the election of the Menzies government in 1949, also served as Government Whip in the Senate.

Rankin in 1966.

On 26 January 1966, Prime Minister Harold Holt appointed her Minister for Housing in his first ministry, responsible for the Department of Housing. She was the second woman to reach ministerial rank in the Federal Parliament.[6] After 1968 she was the equal longest-serving senator, alongside Bert Hendrickson and Justin O'Byrne. She resigned from the Senate in 1971 and was made High Commissioner to New Zealand, a post she held to 1974. Following her retirement she returned to Brisbane where she continued to be involved in voluntary organisations.[7]


Rankin died in Brisbane aged 78, on 30 August 1986.[5] She was cremated following a State funeral at St John's Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane.


Annabelle Rankin was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) on 13 June 1957 for political and public services.[8] In 1977 Rankin was made a Life Member of the Queensland Branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia.


The Electoral Division of Rankin, which came into effect at the 1984 election, is named in her honour. The Dame Annabelle Rankin Award was inaugurated by the Queensland Branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia in her memory.


  1. ^ Queensland Registrar-General of Births, Deaths & Marriages
  2. ^ "Howard". Queensland Places. Centre for the Government of Queensland, University of Queensland. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Brooklyn House" (PDF). Fraser Coast Local Heritage Register. Fraser Coast Regional Council. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Rankin, Annabelle Jane Mary (1908 - 1986)". The Australian Women's Register. National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) & University of Melbourne. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Rankin, Annabelle Jane Mary (1908-1986)". Australian Women. National Foundation for Australian Women. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  6. ^ "Suffrage without violence". The Canberra Times. ACT. 10 July 1968. p. 17.
  7. ^ Coultheart, Lenore. "Rankin, Dame Annabelle Jane (1908–1986)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  8. ^ It's an Honour

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Les Bury
Minister for Housing
Succeeded by
Kevin Cairns
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Ted Hicks
Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand
1971 – 1974
Succeeded by
Brian Clarence Hill