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Miss Australia was the title for the winner of the Miss Australia Quest or the Miss Australia Awards, which ran from 1954 until 2000, when the last Miss Australia was named. From 2002, the Miss World Australia contest has been held, and the Miss Universe Australia contest has been held since 2004.
The title of Miss Australia had existed since 1908, although it was not until 1954 that it became associated with the Spastic Centres of Australia. The Miss Australia Quest was sponsored and organised from 1954 until the early 1960s by the lingerie manufacturer, Hickory, until Dowd Associates transferred the ownership to the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association in 1963.
From 1926 to 1991 the program operated as the Miss Australia Quest, after which the name was changed to the Miss Australia Awards to reflect changing community attitudes.
Miss Australia raised money for the Spastic Centres of Australia through her family and friends. She was judged on merit, as well as raising the monies for children and adults with cerebral palsy.
The pearl-encrusted Miss Australia crown, worn by titleholders from 1965 to 1991. The crown was hand-crafted in silver and blue velvet, and decorated with more than 800 pearls. Designed by Melbourne artist Ernest Booth and manufactured in Japan, the crown was presented to the Miss Australia Quest in 1965 by Toyomoto Australia Pty Ltd. The crown was last used in 1991, and is held at the National Museum of Australia.
The first Miss Australia contest was held in 1908 as a one-off event sponsored through the Lone Hand, with entrants from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The winner was Alice Buckridge from Victoria. The primary purpose of the contest was "to attract customers: whether they were newspaper readers, patrons at an amusement venue or visitors to a country fair" (Saunders and Ustinoff, 2005:4)
The Miss Australia contests of 1926 and 1927 were sponsored by Smith's Weekly magazine and Union Theatres, with heats from each State, and were straightforward beauty contests, judged by an anonymous panel from the staff of the magazine and associated publications. Miss Australia 1937 was again sponsored by Smith's Weekly and again had heats in each State, but judging criteria were far broader, and the judging panel comprised prominent women. The prizes for the first two centred around film tests and an escorted trip to the movie capitals of America. The 1937 prize was a chaperoned first-class travel world tour which included London for the Coronation season. Smith's Weekly was not involved in later Quests.
In 1953, the contest was revised by Bernard J. Dowd to promote the American Hickory lingerie that he marketed in Australia. A panel of Hickory-appointed judges in each state selected a winner based on photos sent it by young women, and then a national panel of Hickory-appointed judges chose the winner, Miss Australia.
In 1954, Colin Clay of the Queensland Spastic Welfare League asked Hickory if the Miss Australia competition could be used as a fundraiser for the league. Hickory agreed and from then on the contestants raised money for the league. Each state branch of the league would conduct its own contest to find a state winner, known as Miss Queensland, Miss New South Wales, etc, based on traditional "beauty contest" critieria. They would also award Miss Queensland Charity Queen, Miss New South Wales Charity Queesland, etc to the young woman who raised the most money in each state. The state finalists would then compete in the national competition for Miss Australia and Miss Australia Charity Queen.
In 1963, Dowd assigned all rights to the contest to the League.
- 1908 – Alice Buckridge
- 1926 – Beryl Mills of Geraldton, Western Australia
- 1927 – Phyllis Von Alwyn of Launceston, Tasmania
- 1937 – Sheila Martin of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
- 1946 – Rhonda Kelly
- 1947 – Judy Gainford
- 1948 – Beryl James
- 1949 – Margaret Hughes
- 1950 – 1952 No Miss Australia as a result of the dispute between Miss Australia 1949 and her chaperon.
- 1953 – Maxine Morgan
- 1954 – Shirley Bliss
- 1955 – Maureen Kistle
- 1956 – June Finlayson
- 1957 – Helen Wood
- 1958 – Pam Mackay
- 1959 – Joan Stanbury
- 1960 – Rosemary Fenton
- 1961 – Tania Verstak
- 1962 – Tricia Reschke[a]
- 1964 – Jan Taylor
- 1965 – Carole Jackson
- 1966 – Sue Gallie
- 1967 – Margaret Rohan
- 1968 – Helen Newton
- 1969 – Suzanne McClelland
- 1970 – Rhonda Iffland
- 1971 – June Wright
- 1972 - Krystyna Sztanska (Miss Victoria International)
- 1972 – Gay Walker
- 1973 – Michelle Downes
- 1974 – Randy Baker
- 1975 – Kerry Doyle
- 1976 – Sharon Betty
- 1977 – Francene Maras
- 1978 – Gloria Krope
- 1979 – Anne Sneddon
- 1980 – Eleanor Morton
- 1981 – Melissa Hannan / Leanne Dick
- 1982 – Jenny Coupland
- 1983 – Lisa Cornelius
- 1984 – Maryanne Koznjak
- 1985 – Maria Ridley
- 1986 – Tracey Pearson
- 1987 – Judi Green
- 1988 – Caroline Lumley
- 1989 – Lea Dickson
- 1990 – Rebecca Noble
- 1991 – Helena Wayth
- 1992 – Suzanne Lee
- 1993 – Joanne Dick
- 1994 – Jane Bargwanna
- 1995 – Margaret Tierney
- 1996 – Suzanne Haward
- 1997 – Tracy Secombe
- 1998 – Suellen Fuller
- 1999 – Kathryn Hay
- 2000 – Sheree Primer
Miss Australia at International pageants
- 1952 – Leah MacCartney
- 1953 – Maxine Morgan (4th RU)
- 1954 – Shirley Bliss
- 1955 – no (Universe), Beverly Prowse (World Miss – semi-finalist)
- 1956 – no (Universe)
- 1957 – no (Universe), June Finlayson (Miss World)
- 1958 – Astrid Tanda Lindholm
- 1959 – no (Universe)
- 1960 – no (Universe)
- 1961 – no (Universe)
- 1962 – no (Universe)
- 1963 – no (Universe)
- 1964 – Maria Luyben
- 1965 – Pauline Verey (Miss Universe – semi-finalist), Jan Rennison (Miss World)
- 1966 – no (Universe)
- 1967 – no (Universe), Judy Lockey (Miss World)
- 1968 – Lauren Jones (Miss Universe), Penelope Plummer (Miss World 1968)
- 1969 – Joanne Barret (Miss Universe 2nd RU), Stefane Meurer (Miss World)
- 1970 – Joan Lydia Zealand (Miss Universe-2nd RU), Valli Kemp (Miss World-Semi-finalist)
- 1971 – Tony Suzanne Rayward (Miss Universe-1st RU), Valerie Roberts (Miss World-Semi-finalist)
- 1972 – Kerry Anne Wells (Miss Universe 1972), Belinda Green (Miss World 1972)
- 1973 – Susan Mainwaring (Miss Universe), Virginia Radinas (World)
- 1974 – Yasmin May Nagy (Miss Universe-Semi-finalist), Gail Margaret Petith (World-3rd RU)
- 1975 – Jennifer Matthews(Miss Universe), Anne Davidson (World-Semi-finalist)
- 1976 – Julie Anne Ismay (Miss Universe-4th RU), Karen Jo Pini (Miss World-1st RU)
- 1977 – Jill Maree Minahan(Miss Universe), Jaye-Leanne Hopewell (Miss World – finalist)
- 1978 – Beverly Frances Pinder (Miss Universe),Denise Ellen Coward (Miss World – 2nd RU)
- 1979 – Kerry Dunderdale (Miss Universe), Jodie Anne Day (Miss World – 3rd RU)
- 1980 – Katrina Judith Rose Redina (Miss Universe), Linda Leigh Shepherd (Miss World)
- 1981 – Karen Sang (Universe), Melissa Hannan (Miss World – finalist & Queen of Oceania)
- 1982 – Lou-Anne Caroline Ronchi(Miss Universe & Miss International – semi-finalist), Catherine Anne Morris (Miss World – semi-finalist & Queen of Oceania)
- 1983 – Simone Cox (Universe), Tanya Bowe (Miss World, Queen of Oceania)
- 1984 – Donna Thelma Rudrum (Miss Universe), Lou-Anne Caroline Ronchi(Miss World – 2nd RU)
- 1985 – Elizabeth Rowly (Miss Universe), Angelina Nasso (Miss World)
- 1986 – Lucinda Bucat (Miss Universe & Miss International 86), Stephanie Eleanor Andrews (Miss World)
- 1987 – Jennine Susan Leonarder(Miss Universe), Vanessa Gibson (Miss International – semi-finalist), Donna Thelma Rudrum (Miss World)
- 1988 – Vanessa Gibson (Miss Universe), Catherine Bushell (Miss World – Semi-finalist & Queen of Oceania)
- 1989 – Karen Wenden (Miss Universe, Miss Photogenic), Natalie McCurry (Semi-finalist & Queen of Oceania)
- 1990 – Charmaine Ware (Miss Universe), Karina Brown (Miss World)
- 1991 – no (Universe), Leanne Buckle (Miss World-1st RU & Queen of Oceania)
- 1992 – Georgina Denahy (Miss Universe-Semi-finalist), Rebecca Simic (Miss World)
- 1993 – Voni Delfos (Miss Universe-finalist) Karen Ann Carwin (Miss World)
- 1994 – Michelle van Eimeren (Miss Universe), Skye Edwards (Miss World)
- 1995 – Jacqueline Shooter (Miss Universe), Melissa Porter (Miss World – semi-finalist)
- 1996 – Jodie McMullen (Miss Universe), Nicole Smith (Miss World)
- 1997 – Laura Csortan (Miss Universe-, Miss Amity & Miss world – semi-finalist)
- 1998 – Renee Henderson (Miss Universe), Sarah Jane St.Clair (Miss World)
- 1999 – Michelle Shead (Miss Universe), Kathryn Hay (Miss World)
- 2000 – Samantha Frost (Miss Universe), Renee Henderson (Miss World)
- 2001 – no (Miss Universe), Eva Milic (Miss World), Christy Anderson (Miss Earth)
- 2002 – Sarah Davies (Miss Universe), Nicole Gazal (Miss Australia World – semi-finalist), Ineke Candice Leffers (Miss Earth)
- 2003 – Ashlea Talbot (Miss Universe), Olivia Stratton (Miss Australia World – winner; Miss World People's Choice), Shivaune Christina Field(Miss Earth)
- 2004 – Jennifer Hawkins (Miss Universe 2004), Sarah Davies (Miss Australia World – semi-finalist), Alethea Lindsay (Miss World Australia runner up), Shenevelle Dickson (Miss Earth – finalist)
- 2005 – Michelle Guy (Miss Universe), Alethea Lindsay (Miss Universe Australia runner up), Denae Brunow (Miss Australia World), Ann Maree Bowdler (Miss Earth)
- 2006 – Erin McNaught (Miss Universe), Sabrina Houssami (Miss Australia World – 2nd runner up, Miss Asia Pacific World), Victoria Winter (Miss Earth)
- 2007 – Kimberley Busteed (Miss Universe), Caroline Pemberton (Miss Australia World), Victoria Stewart (Miss Earth)
- 2008 – Laura Dundovic (Miss Universe- top 10 finalist), Katie Richardson (Miss Australia World), Rachael Smith (Miss Earth),
- 2009 – Rachael Finch (Universe – 3rd runner up), Sophie Lavers (Miss Australia World – Miss World Talent 2009 3rd runner up)
- 2010 – Jesinta Franklin (Universe – 2nd Runner up), Ashleigh Francis (Miss Australia World)
- 2011 – Scherri-Lee Biggs (Universe – top 10 finalists), Amber Greasley (Miss World Australia – Miss World quarter finalist)
- 2012 – Renae Ayris (Universe – 3rd Runner up), Jessica Kahawaty (Miss Australia World – Miss World 2nd runner up)
- 2013 – Olivia Wells (Miss Universe), Erin Holland (Miss World Australia – Miss World Oceania), Kelly Louise Maguire (Miss Grand Australia- Miss Grand International 4th runner up).
- 2014 – Tegan Martin, (Universe – top 10 finalists); Courtney Thorpe (Miss World Australia – Miss World Oceania – top 5); Renera Thompson (Miss Grand Australia- Miss Grand International 3rd runner up).
- 2015 – Monika Radulovic, (Universe – top 5 finalists); Tess Alexander (Miss World Australia – Miss World Oceania – top 11); Claire Elizabeth Parker (Miss Grand Australia- Miss Grand International Winner).
- 2016 – Caris Tiivel (Miss Universe), Madeline Cowe (Miss World Australia – Top 20); Dani Fitch (Miss Grand Australia- Miss Grand International Top 20 finalist)
Famous Miss Australias
One of the most famous Miss Australias was Tania Verstak. She was born in China of Russian parents, and when she won Miss Australia in 1961, she was the first woman of an immigrant background to win the award. Verstak's daughter is the actor Nina Young.
The 1960 "Miss Darling Downs" was Gay Kayler, a multiple beauty quest title holder, television personality, award-winning country music entertainer and recording artist.
Stories from the people involved
In 2007, a National Museum of Australia exhibition, Miss Australia: A Nation's Quest, told the stories of titleholders, volunteers, fundraisers and sponsors involved in the Miss Australia Quest. Historic dresses, trophies and crowns were also included in the exhibition.
Miss Australia in International Beauty Pageants
There are now multiple competitions using Miss Australia in their title. To differentiate amongst the official national preliminaries to international competitions, the franchise name is added to Miss Australia.
For example, Australia's Miss Universe contestants never came from The Spastic Centres Association Miss Australia. A local modelling agency selected representatives through small beauty pageants and screenings.
In 2002 Jim Davie revived Miss Universe in Australia by setting up the Miss Universe Australia organisation. This contest, which exclusively sends contestants to Miss Universe, was made famous by Jennifer Hawkins's victory in the 2004 Miss Universe pageant in Quito, Ecuador. Jennifer became only the second Australian woman ever to win the international title, following Kerry Anne Wells who won the pageant in 1972.
For the Miss World contest, a Miss World Australia is chosen through screenings. In previous years, titleholders from the original Miss World Australia contest were sent to Miss World. However, this was not the case in 2006, when the national contest was cancelled and Sabrina Houssami was controversially crowned the winner. Penelope Plummer became Australia's first Miss World in 1968.
- Cerebral Palsy Alliance. "Miss Australia".
- Miss Australia crown, National Museum of Australia
- Schmidt, Christine. The Swimsuit: Fashion from Poolside to Catwalk. p. 48.
- "Miss Australia, 1937". The Times And Northern Advertiser, Peterborough, South Australia. South Australia. 25 September 1936. p. 1. Retrieved 9 June 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Miss Australian: a short history" (PDF). Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
- "Jumbo Celebrations as Tricia Turns 60! | Perth Zoo". perthzoo.wa.gov.au. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
- http://oliviastratton.com/ Olivia Stratton
- Erin Holland wins Miss World Australia. news.com.au. 21 July 2013.
- Brock beat me, claims ex-wife. smh.com.au. 17 November 2006
- "National Museum of Australia – Miss Australia: A Nation's Quest".
- Miss Australia and Charity/Fundraisers 1954 – 2000 (with photos) Miss Australia Titleholders 1954 to 2000. thespasticcentre.org.au
- Miss New South Wales and Charity/Fundraisers 1954 – 2000 (with photos) Miss New South Wales Titleholders 1954 to 2000. thespasticcentre.org.au
- Miss Australia: A retrospective 1908–2000 Katherine Beard (Hindmarsh, S. Aust. : Crawford House Publishing, c2001)
- Miss Universe Australia website
- Miss World Australia website
- Miss Australia Crown at the National Museum of Australia