Florence Bjelke-Petersen

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Florence, Lady Bjelke-Petersen
StateLibQld 1 102284 Joh and Flo Bjelke-Petersen on their wedding day, 1952.jpg
Senator for Queensland
In office
12 March 1981 – 30 June 1993
Preceded by Glen Sheil
Personal details
Born Florence Isabel Gilmour
(1920-08-11) 11 August 1920 (age 95)
Brisbane, Queensland
Nationality Australian
Political party National Party of Australia
Spouse(s) Joh Bjelke-Petersen

Florence "Flo" Isabel, Lady Bjelke-Petersen (born 11 August 1920) is an Australian retired politician and writer. She was a member of the Australian Senate from 1981 to 1993, and is the widow of the longest-serving Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.[1]


Born as Florence Isabel Gilmour in Brisbane, she was employed as private secretary to the Queensland Commissioner for Main Roads when she met Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, who was then a Country Party member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland.[2] They were married on 31 May 1952.

Bjelke-Petersen was preoccupied with home duties until well after Joh Bjelke-Petersen became Premier in 1968. In the 1970s, however, she assumed an increasingly public role, as part of the Queensland National Party's increasing promotion of a Bjelke-Petersen "personality cult." Her homely sayings and her recipes for pumpkin scones were quoted in the media.

At the 1980 federal election, Joh Bjelke-Petersen arranged against the wishes of Party President Sir Robert Sparkes for his wife to be placed in the Number 1 position on the National Party's Queensland Senate ticket, ensuring her election. Her term was due to commence on 1 July 1981, but on 6 February 1981, Queensland Senator Glen Sheil resigned, creating a casual vacancy.[3] She was appointed on 12 March 1981 for the remainder of Sheil's term, and then continued into her own term. It was speculated that her husband, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, intended entering federal politics, and that at some point Florence would resign from the Senate to allow Joh to be appointed to the vacancy. But Joh Bjelke-Petersen's federal aspirations ended with the failed "Joh for Canberra" campaign in 1987.[citation needed]

When Joh Bjelke-Petersen was knighted in 1984, Flo Bjelke-Petersen became Lady Bjelke-Petersen, and was officially known as "Senator Lady Bjelke-Petersen." She was frequently, but incorrectly, referred to as "Lady Florence" or "Lady Flo". (This usage suggests she is the daughter of a peer rather than the wife of a knight.) Although the name "Lady Flo" is incorrect, it has been almost universally used in the media and among the general public.

She was re-elected at the 1983 and 1987 elections (both double dissolutions), and her term expired on 30 June 1993.[4]

In Canberra Lady Bjelke-Petersen was well liked by politicians of all parties, even those who loathed her husband. Her speeches were usually about local Queensland issues and seldom political in content.


She has published a cookbook which included her recipe for her trademark pumpkin scones.[5]


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