Penny Sharpe

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The Honourable
Penny Sharpe
Penny Sharpe MLC, Nov 2012.jpg
Penny Sharpe in November 2012
Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council
Assumed office
6 May 2015
In office
11 October 2005 – 5 March 2015
Preceded by Carmel Tebbutt
Personal details
Born (1970-10-22) 22 October 1970 (age 46)
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party (NSW Branch)
Spouse(s) Jo Tilly
Children Jemima Tilly, Redmond Tilly and Pip Tilly
Alma mater University of New South Wales
Website Personal Website

Penelope Gail Sharpe (born 22 October 1970) is an Australian politician. She was an Australian Labor Party member of the New South Wales Legislative Council from 2005 to 2015. Sharpe was appointed to the casual vacancy caused by Carmel Tebbutt's resignation to stand for a by-election in the Legislative Assembly seat of Marrickville, and was re-elected at the 2011 election.

In 2015, Sharpe resigned from the Legislative Council to contest the Legislative Assembly seat of Newtown at the 2015 election. Newtown was a new seat partially replacing Tebbutt's abolished seat of Marrickville, which had been left open by Tebbutt's retirement. She was defeated in Newtown by Greens candidate Jenny Leong, and was subsequently re-appointed to the Legislative Council to fill her own vacancy. Sharpe, a mother of three, was the first open lesbian to serve in the New South Wales parliament.[1]

Early life[edit]

Sharpe was born in Canberra, but later shifted to Sydney. She studied food technology at the University of New South Wales,[2] where she became involved in student politics.[3] She was elected president of the University of New South Wales Student Guild in 1993, the same year that she met her long-term partner, Jo Tilly.[citation needed] Sharpe rose to national prominence the following year when she became president of the National Union of Students. As president, she was involved in a national campaign against the Keating Labor government's higher education reforms, as well as in the partially successful Victorian battle against attempts by its Liberal government to introduce voluntary student unionism there.[citation needed]

Sharpe was a co editor of Party Girls: Labor Women, a book about the role of women in politics.[4] In late 2004, Sharpe was elected to Marrickville council.[3]

Political career[edit]

Sharpe's official appointment to the Legislative Council was announced in late September 2005, which immediately caused substantial media attention due to her status as a lesbian mother – particularly as she would now be sitting alongside the likes of conservative Liberal David Clarke and Christian Democratic Party firebrand Fred Nile.[5] She largely refused to comment on her private life in the subsequent fracas, but announced her policy goals as improving access to education and eliminating discrimination against gay parents. She has also made clear her intention to confront Clarke and Nile on gay rights issues; a stance that was heavily reflected in her maiden speech to parliament.[6]

Sharpe maintains her own blog, Red Leather.[7]

In March 2015, Sharpe resigned from the Legislative Council to contest the lower house seat of Newtown at the 2015 state election. She was unsuccessful, with Jenny Leong of the Greens winning the seat, and subsequently announced her intention to contest preselection to be re-appointed to the vacancy caused by her own resignation.[8]


  1. ^ Pollard, Ruth (15 October 2005). "Out in the house". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  2. ^ "The Hon. (Penny) Penelope Gail Sharpe, MLC". Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "About Penny Sharpe". Penny Sharpe. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  4. ^ Deverall, Kate (2000). Party Girls: Labor Women. Annandale, N.S.W.: Pluto Press. ISBN 1-86403-117-4. 
  5. ^ "Gay mum set to liven stuffy upper house". Sydney Morning Herald. 18 Sep 2005. 
  6. ^ Sharpe, Penny. "First Parliamentary speech" (PDF). Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  7. ^ Red Leather
  8. ^ Nicholls, Sean (7 April 2015). "NSW state election 2015: Penny Sharpe will seek to return to upper house after Newtown loss". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 April 2015.