Penny Sharpe

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The Honourable
Penny Sharpe
Penny Sharpe MLC, Nov 2012.jpg
Penny Sharpe MLC, Nov 2012
Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council
Assumed office
11 October 2005
Personal details
Born (1970-10-22) 22 October 1970 (age 44)
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
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 MLC, (born 22 October 1970) is an Australian politician. She has been an Australian Labor Party member of the New South Wales Legislative Council since October 2005, when she filled a casual vacancy caused by the decision of Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt to move to the Legislative Assembly. Sharpe, a mother of three, is 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] Ms Sharpe currently[when?] serves as Shadow Minister for Transport for the Labor Party in the NSW Parliament.[8]

Regions of inner city Sydney like Newtown have a strong gay and lesbian culture and the highest proportion of same-sex couples in the 2011 census,[9] leading the NSW Greens to target Sharpe's seat [10] which critics believe may fall due to Luke Foley's strong Catholic views and opposition to same-sex marriage.[11]


  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. ^ "The Hon. (Penny) Penelope Gail SHARPE, MLC". NSW Parliament. The Hon. (Penny) Penelope Gail SHARPE, MLC 
  9. ^ "Same-Sex Couples". Australian Social Trends. ABS. 
  10. ^ "Labor's Penny Sharpe targeted as early skirmish sets the tone in Newtown battle". Sydney Morning Herald. 4 December 2014. 
  11. ^ "Foley gay marriage stance may hurt Labor in Newtown". Sydney Morning Herald. 7 Jan 2015.