Women in the New South Wales Legislative Council

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There have been 54 women in the New South Wales Legislative Council since its establishment in 1856. Women have had the right to stand as a candidate since 1918; the Council introduced direct election in 1978.

The first women appointed to the Legislative Council were Catherine Green and Ellen Webster in 1931, both appointed directly by the premier, Jack Lang. Green departed in 1932; after Webster's departure in 1934 women were absent from the Council until 1952, when Gertrude Melville became the first woman elected by the New South Wales Parliament to serve. Since then women have been continuously represented in the Legislative Council. The first Liberal woman to serve in the Legislative Council was Eileen Furley in 1962. The first National Party woman was Judy Jakins in 1984. The first minor-party woman was Democrat Elisabeth Kirkby, elected in 1981. The first Call to Australia/Christian Democrat woman was Marie Bignold in 1984; the first Greens woman was Lee Rhiannon in 1999. No female MLCs have been elected as independents, although Anne Press, Marie Bignold, Beryl Evans, Franca Arena and Helen Sham-Ho all left their parties and continued to sit as independents.

The first female minister in the Legislative Council was Virginia Chadwick, who was appointed Minister for Family and Community Services in 1988 by Premier Nick Greiner. Deirdre Grusovin and Carmel Tebbutt held ministerial positions in Labor governments before transferring to the Legislative Assembly.

List of women in the New South Wales Legislative Council[edit]

Names in bold type indicate ministers and parliamentary secretaries. Names in italics are of women who entered the parliament through by-election or appointment. Names marked with an asterisk (*) also served in the Legislative Assembly. Where no closing date is shown, the MLC’s term of service is unexpired.

# Name Party Period of service
1 Catherine Green Labor 24 November 1931 – 7 September 1932 (resigned)
2 Ellen Webster Labor 26 November 1931 – 22 April 1934 (defeated)
3 Gertrude Melville Labor 10 September 1952 – 21 August 1959 (died)
4 Edna Roper Labor 23 April 1958 – 5 November 1978 (retired)
5 Anne Press Labor/Ind Labor/Liberal 22 October 1959 – 5 November 1978 (retired)
6 Amelia Rygate Ind Labor/Labor 7 September 1961 – 5 November 1978 (retired)
7 Eileen Furley Liberal 14 November 1962 – 22 April 1976 (retired)
8 Evelyn Barron Labor 23 April 1964 – 22 April 1976 (retired)
9 Margaret Davis Liberal 23 April 1967 – 15 September 1978 (resigned to run for LA)
10 Kath Anderson Labor 23 April 1973 – 28 August 1981 (retired)
Vi Lloyd Liberal 23 April 1973 – 28 August 1981 (retired)
12 Delcia Kite Labor 23 April 1976 – 3 March 1995 (retired)
13 Marie Fisher Labor 7 October 1978 – 22 February 1988 (retired)
14 Virginia Chadwick Liberal 6 November 1978 – 5 March 1999 (retired)
Deirdre Grusovin* Labor 6 November 1978 – 31 May 1990 (resigned to run for LA)
Dorothy Isaksen Labor 6 November 1978 – 22 February 1988 (defeated)
4 July 1990 – 5 March 1999 (retired)
17 Franca Arena Labor/Independent 27 October 1981 – 5 March 1999 (defeated)
Elisabeth Kirkby Democrats 27 October 1981 – 25 June 1998 (resigned)
19 Ann Symonds Labor 8 September 1982 – 30 April 1998 (resigned)
20 Beryl Evans Liberal/Independent 30 April 1984 – 3 March 1995 (defeated)
Judy Jakins National 30 April 1984 – 1 July 1991 (seat abolished)
22 Marie Bignold Call to Australia/Independent 5 December 1984 – 1 July 1991 (seat abolished)
Judith Walker Labor 5 December 1984 – 3 March 1995 (retired)
24 Marlene Goldsmith Liberal 19 March 1988 – 5 March 1999 (retired)
Elaine Nile Call to Australia/CDP 19 March 1988 – 27 August 2002 (resigned)
Helen Sham-Ho Liberal/Independent 19 March 1988 – 28 February 2003 (retired)
27 Meredith Burgmann Labor 25 May 1991 – 23 March 2007 (retired)
Jan Burnswoods Labor 25 May 1991 – 23 March 2007 (retired)
Patricia Forsythe Liberal 25 May 1991 – 22 September 2006 (resigned)
Jenny Gardiner National 25 May 1991 – 6 March 2015 (retired)
31 Janelle Saffin Labor 25 March 1995 – 28 February 2003 (retired)
Patricia Staunton Labor 25 March 1995 – 2 September 1997 (resigned)
33 Carmel Tebbutt* Labor 30 April 1998 – 26 August 2005 (resigned to run for LA)
34 Lee Rhiannon Greens 27 March 1999 – 19 July 2010 (resigned to run for Senate)
35 Amanda Fazio Labor 30 August 2000 – 6 March 2015 (retired)
36 Melinda Pavey* National 3 September 2002 – 6 March 2015 (retired to run for LA)
37 Catherine Cusack Liberal 22 March 2003 –
Kayee Griffin Labor 22 March 2003 – 4 March 2011 (retired)
Sylvia Hale Greens 22 March 2003 – 6 September 2010 (resigned)
Robyn Parker* Liberal 22 March 2003 – 4 March 2011 (retired to run for LA)
Christine Robertson Labor 22 March 2003 – 4 March 2011 (retired)
42 Penny Sharpe Labor 11 October 2005 – 5 March 2015 (resigned)
6 May 2015 –
43 Marie Ficarra* Liberal 24 March 2007 – 6 March 2015 (retired)
Lynda Voltz Labor 24 March 2007 –
Helen Westwood Labor 24 March 2007 – 6 March 2015 (defeated)
46 Sophie Cotsis Labor 7 September 2010 – 16 September 2016 (resigned to run for LA)
Cate Faehrmann Greens 7 September 2010 – 18 June 2013 (resigned to run for Senate)
48 Jan Barham Greens 26 March 2011 – 13 February 2017 (resigned)
Natasha Maclaren-Jones Liberal 26 March 2011 –
Sarah Mitchell National 26 March 2011 –
51 Mehreen Faruqi Greens 19 June 2013 –
52 Courtney Houssos Labor 28 March 2015 –
Bronnie Taylor National 28 March 2015 –
54 Dawn Walker Greens 22 February 2017 –

Timeline[edit]

Dawn Walker Penny Sharpe Bronnie Taylor Courtney Houssos Mehreen Faruqi Sarah Mitchell Natasha Maclaren-Jones Jan Barham Cate Faehrmann Sophie Cotsis Helen Westwood Lynda Voltz Marie Ficarra Penny Sharpe Christine Robertson Robyn Parker Sylvia Hale Kayee Griffin Catherine Cusack (politician) Melinda Pavey Amanda Fazio Lee Rhiannon Carmel Tebbutt Patricia Staunton Janelle Saffin Jenny Gardiner Patricia Forsythe Jan Burnswoods Meredith Burgmann Dorothy Isaksen Helen Sham-Ho Elaine Nile Marlene Goldsmith Judith Walker Marie Bignold Judy Jakins Beryl Evans Ann Symonds Elisabeth Kirkby Franca Arena Dorothy Isaksen Deirdre Grusovin Virginia Chadwick Marie Fisher Delcia Kite Vi Lloyd Kath Anderson Margaret Davis Evelyn Barron Eileen Furley Amelia Rygate Anne Press Edna Roper Gertrude Melville Ellen Webster Catherine Green (Australian politician)

Proportion of women in the Council[edit]

Numbers and proportions are as they were directly after the beginning of Council terms and do not take into account deaths, resignations, appointments, defections or other changes in membership.

Term Labor Liberal National Greens Others Total
Women Total % Women Total % Women Total % Women Total % Women Total % Women Total %
1952–1955 0 33 0.0% 0 14 0.0% 0 11 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 0 60 0.0%
1955–1958 1 35 2.9% 0 12 0.0% 0 11 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 1 60 1.7%
1958–1961 2 34 5.9% 0 13 0.0% 0 11 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 2 0.0% 2 60 3.3%
1961–1964 1 23 4.3% 0 11 0.0% 0 15 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 1 10 10.0% 2 59 3.4%
1964–1967 2 27 7.4% 1 11 9.1% 0 12 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 2 8 25.0% 5 58 8.6%
1967–1970 3 29 10.3% 2 12 16.7% 0 12 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 1 7 14.3% 6 60 10.0%
1970–1973 3 27 11.1% 3 15 20.0% 0 11 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 6 0.0% 6 59 10.2%
1973–1976 4 24 16.7% 4 20 20.0% 0 11 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 4 0.0% 8 59 13.6%
1976–1978 4 23 17.4% 3 22 13.6% 0 13 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 1 0.0% 7 59 11.9%
1978–1981 5 23 21.7% 2 14 14.3% 0 6 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 7 43 16.3%
1981–1984 5 24 20.8% 1 12 8.3% 0 6 0.0% 0 0 0.0% 1 2 50.0% 7 44 15.9%
1984–1988 6 24 25.0% 2 11 18.2% 1 7 14.3% 0 0 0.0% 1 3 33.3% 10 45 22.2%
1988–1991 5 21 23.8% 4 12 33.3% 1 7 14.3% 0 0 0.0% 3 5 60.0% 13 45 28.9%
1991–1995 7 18 38.9% 6 13 38.5% 1 7 14.3% 0 0 0.0% 2 4 50.0% 15 42 35.7%
1995–1999 7 17 41.2% 4 13 30.8% 1 5 20.0% 0 1 0.0% 2 6 33.3% 14 42 33.3%
1999–2003 4 16 25.0% 1 9 11.1% 1 4 25.0% 1 2 50.0% 2 11 18.2% 9 42 21.4%
2003–2007 6 18 33.3% 3 9 33.3% 2 4 50.0% 2 3 66.7% 0 8 0.0% 13 42 31.0%
2007–2011 6 19 31.6% 3 10 30.0% 2 5 40.0% 2 4 50.0% 0 4 0.0% 13 42 31.0%
2011–2015 5 14 35.7% 3 13 23.1% 3 7 42.9% 2 5 40.0% 0 4 0.0% 13 42 31.0%
2015–2019 4 12 33.3% 2 13 15.4% 2 7 28.6% 2 5 40.0% 0 5 0.0% 10 42 23.8%

See also[edit]