Rosemary Follett

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Rosemary Follett
1st Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory
In office
11 May 1989 – 5 December 1989
Deputy Paul Whalan
Succeeded by Trevor Kaine
In office
6 June 1991 – 2 March 1995
Deputy Wayne Berry
Preceded by Trevor Kaine
Succeeded by Kate Carnell
Member of the ACT Legislative Assembly
In office
4 March 1989 – 18 February 1995
Serving with Berry, Collaery, Connolly, Duby, Grassby, Humphries, Jensen, Kaine, Kinloch, Maher, Moore, Nolan, Prowse, Stefaniak, Stevenson, Wood, Whalan
Preceded by first Assembly
Succeeded by Multi-member multiple constituencies
In office
18 February 1995 – 12 December 1996
Serving with Carnell, Connolly, Cornwell, Humphries, Moore, Tucker
Preceded by Multi-member single constituency
Succeeded by Simon Corbell
Constituency Molonglo
Personal details
Born (1948-03-27) 27 March 1948 (age 69)
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Alma mater Canberra College of Advanced Education
Occupation Politician, activist

Rosemary Follett AO (born 27 March 1948) is a former Australian politician who was the inaugural Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, serving in 1989 and again between 1991 and 1995. She was the first woman to become head of government in an Australian state or territory.


Background and early years[edit]

The child of a court reporter, Aubrey Follett, an Anglican, and his wife, Judith (née Lusby), a Roman Catholic, Rosemary Follett was born in Sydney in 1948, and moved with her family to Canberra in 1952.[1] She attended Canberra Catholic Girls' High School. She joined the Australian Public Service after leaving school, and travelled to Darwin and Sydney. She returned to Canberra with the public service, but was made to resign when she married, as was the policy at the time. She studied stenography, and worked as a secretary for various politicians over the next ten years.[1]

The 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government inspired Follett to join the Ginninderra branch of the Australian Labor Party, serving as its president between 1983 and 1984. In the meantime, she returned to university, studying arts and administration at the Canberra College of Advanced Education, and rejoined the public service.[2] Prior to her election to the Assembly, Follett was an elected Member for Fraser in the representative advisory ACT House of Assembly, serving between 1985 and 1986;[2] and became President of the ACT branch of Labor in 1987.[1]

Political career[edit]

Preselected to lead Labor in the period before the 1989 inaugural general election, Follett was elected to the inaugural ACT Legislative Assembly and, on 11 May 1989, was elected by the Assembly as the inaugural Chief Minister.[3] The first Assembly was characterised by a hung parliament and significant political instability.[4]

Confidence was waning in the minority Follett Labor government. On 5 December 1989, Bernard Collaery, leader of the Residents Rally group (with four members in the Assembly) moved the following motion in the Assembly:[5]

That this Assembly no longer has confidence in the Chief Minister of the ACT and the minority Labor Government and has confidence in the ability of Mr Kaine to form a government.

— Bernard Collaery

The vote was resolved in affirmative (10 votes to 7 votes), and Trevor Kaine was elected as the second Chief Minister. After another motion of no confidence was passed, this time against Kaine, Follett returned to office in 1991 and she led Labor to victory at the 1992 general election. Defeated by the Liberals under Kate Carnell at the 1995 general election. Follett continued to lead the ALP until the following year 1996. With a caucus of six members, Follett stood down as leader after she was tapped on the shoulder by Andrew Whitecross, the man who would become her successor and two of their colleagues. Follett then resigned from the ACT Legislative Assembly in December 1996. Simon Corbell was elected to fill the casual vacancy.[citation needed]

Post-political career[edit]

Since leaving politics, Follett has been Deputy Vice-chancellor at the University of Canberra; Chair of the Vocational Education and Training Authority; a member of the University of Canberra Council; member of the Sentence Administration Board and chair of the board of Senior Secondary School Studies.[1] She led a trade mission to Japan and was instrumental in bringing about the ACT's sister-city relationship with Nara and was a member of the Milk Authority of the ACT in 1996, and the Canberra Labor Club, Canberra Tradesmen's Club and the Australian Fabian Society. Follett was the ACT's Sex Discrimination Commissioner from 1996 to 2004.[1] On 14 April 2014, Follett received an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra. [6]

See also[edit]


Political offices
New title Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory
Succeeded by
Trevor Kaine
Preceded by
Trevor Kaine
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory
Succeeded by
Kate Carnell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Trevor Kaine
Opposition Leader of the Australian Capital Territory
Succeeded by
Trevor Kaine
Preceded by
Kate Carnell
Opposition Leader of the Australian Capital Territory
Succeeded by
Andrew Whitecross
Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly
New title Member of the ACT Legislative Assembly
Served alongside: Berry, Collaery, Connolly, Duby, Grassby, Humphries, Jensen,
Kaine, Kinloch, Maher, Moore, Nolan, Prowse, Stefaniak, Stevenson, Wood, Whalan
Succeeded by
Multi-member multiple constituencies
New title Member for Molonglo
Served alongside: Carnell, Connolly, Cornwell, Humphries, Moore, Tucker
Succeeded by
Simon Corbell