Joyce Steele

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Joyce Steele (29 May 1909 – 24 September 1991) was an Australian politician and one of the first two women elected to the Parliament of South Australia, the other being Jessie Cooper. Steele was elected to the House of Assembly and Cooper was elected to the Legislative Council at the 1959 election. Ironically, South Australia was the last state to elect a female representative – at the 1896 election, South Australian women became the first in Australia, and some of the first in the world, to be given the right to vote and stand for election to Parliament.

Prior to her election, Joyce Steele was a homemaker, an ABC broadcaster and active in community organisations, including the Queen Adelaide Club (the women's equivalent of the exclusive Adelaide Club). She was pre-selected for the Liberal and Country League's (LCL) safest metropolitan seat, Burnside, in 1959 and was comfortably elected. She was not a feminist, and was affiliated with the conservative wing of the LCL.

Molly Byrne was Labor's first female elected to the Parliament of South Australia at the 1965 election, and the third ahead of Steele and Cooper.

Steele was also the first South Australian woman to achieve Cabinet rank in the South Australian Parliament as Minister of Education in the Hall Government from 1968 to 1969. As South Australian schools were increasingly overcrowded due to the children of the baby boomers passing through, it was a tough portfolio, although moderate increases in education spending were allocated. She took the Social Welfare ministry for the remainder of the Hall government's term.

After the government passed electoral reform legislation in 1968, Burnside was mostly replaced by the equally safe seat of Bragg. However, Steele did not contest this seat, instead transferring to the LCL's safest new seat, Davenport, which covered the south-east of the City of Burnside. She received 68% of the primary vote in the 1970 election. On 9 June 1973, Young Liberals State President and Liberal Movement member Dean Brown announced his intention to stand for Davenport pre-selection. Steele, in response, announced her retirement, but not without declaring that "[Dean] certainly will not have my support. I think my attitude to the Liberal Movement is well known".

See also[edit]


  • Hall, Steele (1973). A Liberal Awakening: The LM Story. Investigator Press. ISBN 0-85864-017-1. 
  • Jaensch, Dean (1986). The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History. Wakefield Press. ISBN 0-949268-52-6. 
  • Cockburn, Stewart (1991). Playford: Benevolent Despot. Axiom Publishing. ISBN 0-9594164-4-7.