Women in the Australian Senate

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There have been 110 women in the Australian Senate since the establishment of the Parliament of Australia. Women have had the right to stand for federal parliament since 1902, and there were three female candidates for the Senate at the 1903 federal election (Vida Goldstein, Nellie Martel, and Mary Moore-Bentley). However, it was not until Dorothy Tangney's victory at the 1943 federal election that a woman was elected. Since then, all states and territories have had multiple female senators – in chronological order: Western Australia (1943), Queensland (1947), Victoria (1950), South Australia (1955), Tasmania (1975), the Australian Capital Territory (1975), New South Wales (1987), and the Northern Territory (1998).

History[edit]

The passage of the Commonwealth Franchise Act allowed women to both vote and stand for election to the Parliament of Australia.[1][2] Numerous women stood unsuccessfully as independents or as representatives of minor parties for election to the Senate, including prominent South Australian suffragist Vida Goldstein, who ran in 1903, 1910 and 1917. However, women were not successful in entering federal politics until World War II. The major parties did not endorse any female candidates for the Senate before the War.

The first woman to be elected to the Senate was Labor representative Dorothy Tangney in 1943; she represented Western Australia. Following Tangney's entry into politics, the Senate has continuously had women members. (By contrast, although the first woman member of the House of Representatives, Dame Enid Lyons, was also elected in 1943, that house has had women members continuously only since 1980.)

The second woman elected to the Senate, Annabelle Rankin, also achieved a number of firsts for women: she was the first female Whip, and she was the first woman with a federal portfolio when she became Minister for Housing in 1966. In 1975, Margaret Guilfoyle became the first female cabinet minister with a portfolio. In 1996 Margaret Reid was the first woman elected as President of the Senate.

Women in the Senate have made significant changes to Australian law which have benefited women. For example, a private member's bill written by Senator Susan Ryan was crucial to the development of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986, the Public Service Reform Act 1984 and the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987.

With the appointment of Sarah Henderson to the Senate on 11 September 2019, the number of women in the chamber was equal to the number of men for the first time in history.[3]

List of women in the Australian Senate[edit]

Names in bold type indicate Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. Names in italics indicate appointments made under section 15 of the Constitution, or through disqualification. Names marked with an asterisk (*) also served in the House of Representatives. Where no closing date is shown, the Senator's term of service is unexpired.

# Name Party State Period of service
1 (Dame) Dorothy Tangney Labor WA 21 August 1943 – 30 June 1968 (defeated)
2 (Dame) Annabelle Rankin Liberal Qld 1 July 1947 – 24 April 1971 (resigned)
3 Agnes Robertson Liberal / Country WA 22 February 1950 – 30 June 1962 (retired)
(Dame) Ivy Wedgwood Liberal Vic 22 February 1950 – 30 June 1971 (retired)
5 (Dame) Nancy Buttfield Liberal SA 11 October 1955 – 30 June 1965 (defeated)
1 July 1968 – 11 April 1974 (retired)
6 Marie Breen Liberal Vic 1 July 1962 – 30 June 1968 (retired)
7 (Dame) Margaret Guilfoyle Liberal Vic 1 July 1971 – 5 June 1987 (retired)
8 Ruth Coleman Labor WA 18 May 1974 – 5 June 1987 (retired)
Jean Melzer Labor Vic 18 May 1974 – 30 June 1981 (defeated)
Kathy Sullivan* Liberal Qld 18 May 1974 – 5 November 1984 (resigned)
11 Susan Ryan Labor ACT 13 December 1975 – 29 January 1988 (resigned)
Shirley Walters Liberal Tas 13 December 1975 – 30 June 1993 (retired)
13 Janine Haines Democrats SA 14 December 1977 – 30 June 1978 (retired)
1 July 1981 – 1 March 1990 (resigned)
14 Jean Hearn Labor Tas 15 October 1980 – 30 June 1985 (retired)
15 Florence Bjelke-Petersen NCP / National Qld 12 March 1981 – 30 June 1993 (retired)
16 Margaret Reid Liberal ACT 5 May 1981 – 14 February 2003 (resigned)
17 Patricia Giles Labor WA 1 July 1981 – 30 June 1993 (retired)
18 Rosemary Crowley Labor SA 5 March 1983 – 30 June 2002 (retired)
Margaret Reynolds Labor Qld 5 March 1983 – 30 June 1999 (retired)
Olive Zakharov Labor Vic 5 March 1983 – 6 March 1995 (died)
21 Susan Knowles Liberal WA 1 December 1984 – 30 June 2005 (retired)
Amanda Vanstone Liberal SA 1 December 1984 – 26 April 2007 (resigned)
23 Jo Vallentine NDP / Ind. / Greens WA WA 1 July 1985 – 31 January 1992 (resigned)
24 Jocelyn Newman Liberal Tas 13 March 1986 – 1 February 2002 (resigned)
25 Janet Powell Democrats / Ind. Vic 26 August 1986 – 30 June 1993 (defeated)
26 Sue West Labor NSW 11 February 1987 – 5 June 1987 (defeated)
1 July 1990 – 30 June 2002 (retired)
27 Bronwyn Bishop* Liberal NSW 11 July 1987 – 24 February 1994 (resigned)
Jean Jenkins Democrats WA 11 July 1987 – 30 June 1990 (defeated)
Kay Patterson Liberal Vic 11 July 1987 – 30 June 2008 (retired)
30 Irina Dunn NDP / Ind. NSW 21 July 1988 – 30 June 1990 (defeated)
31 Meg Lees Democrats / APA SA 4 April 1990 – 30 June 2005 (defeated)
32 Vicki Bourne Democrats NSW 1 July 1990 – 30 June 2002 (defeated)
Cheryl Kernot* Democrats Qld 1 July 1990 – 15 October 1997 (resigned)
34 Karin Sowada Democrats NSW 29 August 1991 – 30 June 1993 (defeated)
35 Christabel Chamarette Greens WA WA 12 March 1992 – 30 June 1996 (defeated)
36 Dee Margetts Greens WA WA 1 July 1993 – 30 June 1999 (defeated)
Judith Troeth Liberal Vic 1 July 1993 – 30 June 2011 (retired)
38 Kay Denman Labor Tas 24 August 1993 – 30 June 2005 (retired)
39 Belinda Neal* Labor NSW 8 March 1994 – 3 September 1998 (resigned)
40 Jacinta Collins Labor Vic 3 May 1995 – 30 June 2005 (defeated)
8 May 2008 – 15 February 2019 (resigned)
41 Natasha Stott Despoja Democrats SA 29 November 1995 – 30 June 2008 (retired)
42 Kate Lundy Labor ACT 2 March 1996 – 24 March 2015 (resigned)
43 Sue Mackay Labor Tas 8 March 1996 – 27 June 2005 (resigned)
44 Lyn Allison Democrats Vic 1 July 1996 – 30 June 2008 (defeated)
Helen Coonan Liberal NSW 1 July 1996 – 22 August 2011 (resigned)
Jeannie Ferris Liberal SA 1 July 1996 – 2 April 2007 (died)
Brenda Gibbs Labor Qld 1 July 1996 – 30 June 2002 (defeated)
48 Marise Payne Liberal NSW 9 April 1997 –
49 Karen Synon Liberal Vic 13 May 1997 – 30 June 1999 (defeated)
50 Trish Crossin Labor NT 16 June 1998 – 6 September 2013 (retired)
51 Jan McLucas Labor Qld 1 July 1999 – 9 May 2016 (retired)
52 Linda Kirk Labor SA 1 July 2002 – 30 June 2008 (retired)
Claire Moore Labor Qld 1 July 2002 – 30 June 2019 (retired)
Kerry Nettle Greens NSW 1 July 2002 – 30 June 2008 (defeated)
Ursula Stephens Labor NSW 1 July 2002 – 30 June 2014 (defeated)
Ruth Webber Labor WA 1 July 2002 – 30 June 2008 (defeated)
Penny Wong Labor SA 1 July 2002 –
58 Concetta Fierravanti-Wells Liberal NSW 5 May 2005 –
59 Judith Adams Liberal WA 1 July 2005 – 31 March 2012 (died)
Annette Hurley Labor SA 1 July 2005 – 30 June 2011 (retired)
Anne McEwen Labor SA 1 July 2005 – 2 July 2016 (defeated)
Christine Milne Greens Tas 1 July 2005 – 10 August 2015 (resigned)
Fiona Nash National NSW 1 July 2005 – 27 October 2017 (election voided)
Helen Polley Labor Tas. 1 July 2005 –
Rachel Siewert Greens WA 1 July 2005 –
Dana Wortley Labor SA 1 July 2005 – 30 June 2011 (defeated)
67 Carol Brown Labor Tas. 25 August 2005 –
68 Sue Boyce Liberal Qld 19 April 2007 – 30 June 2014 (retired)
69 Mary Jo Fisher Liberal SA 6 June 2007 – 14 August 2012 (resigned)
70 Catryna Bilyk Labor Tas. 1 July 2008 –
Michaelia Cash Liberal WA 1 July 2008 –
Sarah Hanson-Young Greens SA 1 July 2008 –
Helen Kroger Liberal Vic. 1 July 2008 – 30 June 2014 (defeated)
Louise Pratt Labor WA 1 July 2008 – 30 June 2014 (defeated)
2 July 2016 –
75 Bridget McKenzie National Vic. 1 July 2011 –
Lee Rhiannon Greens NSW 1 July 2011 – 15 August 2018 (resigned)
Lisa Singh Labor Tas. 1 July 2011 – 30 June 2019 (defeated)
Anne Urquhart Labor Tas. 1 July 2011 –
Larissa Waters Greens Qld 1 July 2011 – 18 July 2017 (resigned)
6 September 2018 –
Penny Wright Greens SA 1 July 2011 – 9 September 2015 (resigned)
81 Lin Thorp Labor Tas 20 June 2012 – 30 June 2014 (defeated)
82 Anne Ruston Liberal SA 5 September 2012 –
83 Sue Lines Labor WA 15 May 2013 –
84 Nova Peris Labor NT 7 September 2013 – 9 May 2016 (retired)
85 Deborah O'Neill* Labor NSW 13 November 2013 –
86 Jacqui Lambie PUP / Ind. / JLN Tas 1 July 2014 – 14 November 2017 (resigned)
1 July 2019 –
Linda Reynolds Liberal WA 1 July 2014 –
Janet Rice Greens Vic 1 July 2014 –
89 Katy Gallagher Labor ACT 26 March 2015 – 9 May 2018 (resigned)
18 May 2019 –
90 Jenny McAllister Labor NSW 6 May 2015 –
91 Joanna Lindgren Liberal (LNP) Qld 21 May 2015 – 2 July 2016 (defeated)
92 Pauline Hanson* One Nation Qld 2 July 2016 –
Jane Hume Liberal Vic. 2 July 2016 –
Skye Kakoschke-Moore NXT SA 2 July 2016 – 22 November 2017 (resigned)
Malarndirri McCarthy Labor NT 2 July 2016 –
96 Kimberley Kitching Labor Vic 25 October 2016 –
97 Lucy Gichuhi Family First/Ind./Liberal SA 19 April 2017 – 30 June 2019 (defeated)
98 Kristina Keneally Labor NSW 14 February 2018 –
99 Amanda Stoker Liberal (LNP) Qld 21 March 2018 –
100 Mehreen Faruqi Greens NSW 15 August 2018 –
101 Wendy Askew Liberal Tas 6 March 2019 –
102 Sam McMahon National (CLP) NT 18 May 2019 –
103 Claire Chandler Liberal Tas 1 July 2019 –
Perin Davey National NSW 1 July 2019 –
Nita Green Labor Qld 1 July 2019 –
Hollie Hughes Liberal NSW 1 July 2019 –
Susan McDonald National (LNP) Qld 1 July 2019 –
Marielle Smith Labor SA 1 July 2019 –
Jess Walsh Labor Vic 1 July 2019 –
110 Sarah Henderson* Liberal Vic 11 September 2019 –

Timeline[edit]

Sarah HendersonJess WalshMarielle SmithSusan McDonaldHollie Hughes (politician)Nita GreenPerin DaveyClaire ChandlerSam McMahonWendy AskewMehreen FaruqiAmanda StokerKristina KeneallyLucy GichuhiKimberley KitchingMalarndirri McCarthySkye Kakoschke-MooreJane HumePauline HansonJoanna LindgrenJenny McAllisterKaty GallagherJanet RiceLinda ReynoldsJacqui LambieDeborah O'NeillNova PerisSue LinesAnne RustonLin ThorpPenny WrightLarissa WatersAnne UrquhartLisa SinghLee RhiannonBridget McKenzieLouise PrattHelen KrogerSarah Hanson-YoungMichaelia CashCatryna BilykMary Jo FisherSue BoyceCarol Brown (politician)Dana WortleyRachel SiewertHelen PolleyFiona NashChristine MilneAnne McEwenAnnette HurleyJudith AdamsConcetta Fierravanti-WellsPenny WongRuth WebberUrsula StephensKerry NettleClaire MooreLinda KirkJan McLucasTrish CrossinKaren SynonMarise PayneBrenda GibbsJeannie FerrisHelen CoonanLyn AllisonSue MackayKate LundyNatasha Stott DespojaJacinta CollinsBelinda NealKay DenmanJudith TroethDee MargettsChristabel ChamaretteKarin SowadaCheryl KernotVicki BourneMeg LeesIrina DunnKay PattersonJean Jenkins (politician)Bronwyn BishopSue WestJanet PowellJocelyn NewmanJo VallentineAmanda VanstoneSusan KnowlesOlive ZakharovMargaret ReynoldsRosemary CrowleyPatricia GilesMargaret Reid (politician)Flo Bjelke-PetersenJean HearnJanine HainesShirley WaltersSusan RyanKathy Sullivan (Australian politician)Jean MelzerRuth ColemanMargaret GuilfoyleMarie BreenNancy ButtfieldIvy WedgwoodAgnes RobertsonAnnabelle RankinDorothy Tangney

Proportion of women in the Senate[edit]

Numbers and proportions are as they were directly after the beginning of Senate terms and do not take into account deaths, resignations, appointments, defections or other changes in membership. As senators typically serve six-year terms, in the absence of a double dissolution, the numbers of female senators overlap two “terms”. State-based Coalition parties that caucus with one of the major parties (Liberal National Party, Country Liberal Party) have been included in the Liberals' or Nationals' totals.

Term Labor Liberal National Democrats Greens Others Total
Women Total % Women Total % Women Total % Women Total % Women Total % Women Total % Women Total %
1944–1947 1 22 4.5% 0 12 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 1 36 2.8%
1947–1950 1 33 3.0% 1 2 50.0% 0 1 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 2 36 5.6%
1950–1951 1 34 2.9% 3 21 14.3% 0 5 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 4 60 6.7%
1951–1953 1 28 3.6% 3 26 11.5% 0 6 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 4 60 6.7%
1953–1956 1 29 3.4% 3 26 11.5% 0 5 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 4 60 6.7%
1956–1959 1 28 3.6% 3 24 12.5% 1 6 16.7% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 5 60 8.3%
1959–1962 1 26 3.8% 3 25 12.0% 1 7 14.3% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 5 60 8.3%
1962–1965 1 28 3.6% 4 24 16.7% 0 6 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 5 60 8.3%
1965–1968 1 27 3.7% 3 23 13.0% 0 7 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 3 0.0% 4 60 6.7%
1968–1971 0 27 0.0% 3 21 14.2% 0 7 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 5 0.0% 3 60 5.0%
1971–1974 0 26 0.0% 2 21 9.5% 0 5 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 8 0.0% 2 60 3.3%
1974–1975 2 29 6.9% 2 23 8.7% 0 6 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 4 60 6.7%
1975–1978 3 27 11.1% 3 27 11.1% 0 8 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 6 64 9.4%
1978–1981 3 27 11.1% 3 28 10.7% 0 6 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 1 0.0% 6 64 9.4%
1981–1983 4 27 14.8% 4 28 14.3% 1 3 33.3% 1 5 20.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 1 0.0% 10 64 15.6%
1983–1984 7 30 23.3% 4 24 16.7% 1 4 25.0% 1 5 20.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 1 0.0% 13 64 20.3%
1984–1987 6 34 17.6% 5 28 17.9% 1 5 20.0% 1 7 14.3% 0 0 0.0% 1 2 50.0% 14 76 18.4%
1987–1990 5 32 15.6% 7 24 29.2% 1 5 20.0% 3 7 42.9% 0 0 0.0% 1 3 33.3% 17 76 22.4%
1990–1993 5 32 15.6% 7 29 24.1% 1 5 20.0% 4 8 50.0% 1 1 100.0% 0 1 0.0% 18 76 23.7%
1993–1996 4 30 13.3% 7 30 23.3% 0 6 0.0% 3 7 42.9% 2 2 100.0% 0 1 0.0% 16 76 21.1%
1996–1999 9 29 31.0% 8 32 25.0% 0 5 0.0% 5 7 71.4% 1 2 50.0% 0 1 0.0% 23 76 30.3%
1999–2002 9 29 31.0% 9 32 28.1% 0 3 0.0% 4 9 44.4% 0 1 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 22 76 28.9%
2002–2005 10 28 35.7% 8 31 25.8% 0 4 0.0% 4 8 50.0% 1 2 50.0% 0 3 0.0% 23 76 30.3%
2005–2008 12 28 42.9% 8 33 24.2% 1 6 16.7% 2 4 50.0% 3 4 75.0% 0 1 0.0% 26 76 34.2%
2008–2011 14 32 43.8% 9 32 28.1% 1 5 20.0% 0 0 0.0% 3 5 60.0% 0 2 0.0% 27 76 35.5%
2011–2014 14 31 45.2% 8 28 28.6% 2 6 33.3% 0 0 0.0% 6 9 66.7% 0 2 0.0% 30 76 39.5%
2014–2016 14 25 56.0% 5 27 18.5% 2 6 33.3% 0 0 0.0% 7 10 70.0% 1 8 12.5% 29 76 38.2%
2016–2019 14 26 53.8% 6 24 25.0% 2 6 33.3% 0 0 0.0% 5 9 55.6% 3 11 27.3% 30 76 39.5%
2019 16 26 61.5% 10 30 33.3% 4 5 80.0% 0 0 0.0% 5 9 55.6% 2 6 33.3% 37 76 48.7%

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Women in South and Western Australia voted in the 1901 election.
  2. ^ Indigenous Australian women did not achieve federal franchise in all jurisdictions until 1962, and were not required by law to enrol to vote until 1983.
  3. ^ Macmillan, Jade (10 September 2019). "Gender equality set to be achieved in the Senate for the first time". ABC News. Retrieved 14 September 2019.

References[edit]