Margaret Austin

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Margaret Austin

Margaret Austin 2008.jpg
25th Minister of Internal Affairs
In office
Prime MinisterDavid Lange
Geoffrey Palmer
Preceded byMichael Bassett
Succeeded byGraeme Lee
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Yaldhurst
In office
14 July 1984 – 1996
Preceded byMick Connelly
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Margaret Elizabeth Leonard

1 April 1933 (1933-04) (age 86)
Dunedin, New Zealand
Political partyLabour

Margaret Elizabeth Austin CNZM (née Leonard, born 1 April 1933) is a former New Zealand politician. She was an MP from 1984 to 1996, representing first the Labour Party and then briefly United New Zealand.


Early life, family and career[edit]

Austin was born in Dunedin on 1 April 1933, and was educated at St Dominic's College, Dunedin, and Sacred Heart College, Christchurch.[1] She studied at Canterbury University College and Christchurch Teachers' College, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1953 and a Diploma of Teaching in 1954.[1] She went on to teach in Christchurch and in 1970 became the head of science at Christchurch Girls' High School and later became senior mistress at Riccarton High School in 1977.[1] She was also a member of the Educational Administration Society and was its president for three years.[2]

In 1955, she married John Austin, and the couple went on to have three children.[1]

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1984–1987 41st Yaldhurst Labour
1987–1990 42nd Yaldhurst Labour
1990–1993 43rd Yaldhurst Labour
1993–1995 44th Yaldhurst Labour
1995–1996 Changed allegiance to: United NZ

She was first elected to Parliament in the 1984 election as the MP for Yaldhurst, an electorate in western Christchurch. After Labour's re-election at the 1987 election, Austin was elected her party's Senior Whip following Michael Cullen's elevation to cabinet.[2]

During her time in Parliament, Austin served as a Minister of Research and Development, Internal Affairs and of Arts, Culture and Heritage. She held the seat for the Labour Party until 1995 when the seat was abolished, in preparation for the changeover to MMP, and she joined with six other MPs to found the centrist United New Zealand Party. Like all United New Zealand MPs (but Peter Dunne), Austin was not re-elected in the 1996 election; Austin stood in the new Ilam electorate where she came third.[3]

Austin was awarded the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal,[1] and in 1993 she was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal.[4]

Later activities[edit]

She later became Chancellor of Lincoln University from 2000–2005. From the late 1990s until about 2011 she worked for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). From 2000–2007 she was president of the chairs of UNESCO national commissions worldwide.[5] In the 2008 New Year Honours, Austin was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the community.[6] Austin has been elected as a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand.[7] She also has an interest in astronomy, leading the project for the Aoraki-Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.[5]

Further reading[edit]

  • A Guide to quality education: handbook for quality, access and participation in New Zealand education prepared by the Labour Opposition, Wellington, [N.Z.]: New Zealand Labour Party, 1992
  • Ministerial brief: Margaret Austin, Wellington, [N.Z.]: Department of Internal Affairs, 1990
  • NZPPTA Principals' Council Conference 1993, Auckland: education for an effective society, Sheraton Hotel, Auckland, July 11–14 [NZPPTA Principals' Council Conference (1993: Auckland, N.Z.)], Wellington, [N.Z.]: The Association, 1993
  • Austin's contribution is: "Speech notes."
  • Positioning Polytechnics for the 90s: Association of Polytechnics in New Zealand Annual Conference, October 1991, hosted by Carrington Polytechnic at the Sheraton Hotel, Auckland : edited proceedings [Association of Polytechnics in New Zealand. Annual Conference (1991 : Auckland, N.Z.)], Auckland, [N.Z.]: Carrington Polytechnic, 1991
  • Austin's contribution is noted under the title: "Opposition Spokesperson on Education."
  • Strategies to achieve excellence: expanding the potential of young Maori through education: 7 September 1993, the James Cook Centra, Wellington [prepared by Institute for International Research], Auckland, [N.Z.]: The Institute, 1993
  • Austin's contribution is a paper entitled: "[T]he agenda for change and it's [sic] effects on education."
  • Austin, Margaret E. (chair); et al. (1997), Achieving excellence: a review of the education external evaluation services: self management, self-review, self improvement, whaia te iti kahurangi (strive for the ultimate), Wellington, [N.Z.]: State Services Commission, ISBN 0-478-08931-7
  • Ogonowska-Coates, Halina (ed.) (1995), Invincible women : a collection of herstories / commissioned by the Christchurch College of Education Te Whare Whai Matauraka ki Otautahi, Christchurch, [N.Z.]: The College, ISBN 0-908858-01-9CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • This book contains a profile of Austin, with eleven other women.
  • Scott, Noel; Austin, Margaret E.; Mallard, Trevor (1985), Interim report of Government Committee on Transition Education to Hon. Russell Marshall, Minister of Education, Hon. Kerry Burke, Minister of Employment, Wellington, [N.Z.]: The Committee


  1. ^ a b c d e Taylor, Alister; Coddington, Deborah (1994). Honoured by the Queen – New Zealand. Auckland: New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa. p. 52. ISBN 0-908578-34-2.
  2. ^ a b Who' Who 1987, p. 32.
  3. ^ "Electorate Candidate and Party Votes Recorded at Each Polling Place - Ilam, 1996" (PDF). Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  4. ^ "The New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993 – register of recipients". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  5. ^ a b Gorman, Paul (16 February 2019). "Margaret Austin. Shining light in dark sky movement". Evening Post. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  6. ^ "New Year honours list 2008". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Royal Society Te Apārangi - View our Companions". Retrieved 21 October 2018.


  • Who's Who in the New Zealand Parliament 1987. Wellington: Parliamentary Service. 1987.
  • Temple, Philip (1994). Temple’s Guide to the 44th New Zealand Parliament. Dunedin: McIndoe Publishers. p. 53. ISBN 0 86868 159 8.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Mick Connelly
Member of Parliament for Yaldhurst
Constituency abolished
Party political offices
Preceded by
Michael Cullen
Senior Whip of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Trevor Mallard