Women in the South Australian Legislative Council

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There have been 16 women in the South Australian Legislative Council since its establishment in 1840. Women have had the right to vote and stand as candidates since 1894.

In 1895, South Australian women became the first state in Australia, and some of the first in the world, to be given the right to vote and stand for election to Parliament. The following year at the 1896 election, the first women in Australia voted. Ironically, South Australia was the last state to elect a female representative, at the 1959 election, when Jessie Cooper and Joyce Steele were elected to the Parliament of South Australia for the Liberal and Country League (LCL).

The first woman candidate for Legislative Council honours was Patience Howard, née Hawker (28 March 1900 – 9 August 1994), who stood for the Labor Party for Central No.2 at the 1953 election.[1] She and her running mate Mr. Leslie McLean Wright were unsuccessful in this Liberal stronghold.[2] Mrs. Howard had previously sat for the equally unwinnable Assembly seat of Burnside at the 1946 by-election[3]

The first successful female candidate for the Legislative Council was Cooper. In 1975 she was joined by Labor's first female MLC, Anne Levy, who would later become the first and only female President of the South Australian Legislative Council. Sandra Kanck was the first female Democrat in 1993, and Ann Bressington was the first female independent in 2006.

In the current Legislative Council, two of eight Liberal MLCs (25%) and one of seven Labor MLCs (14.3%) are female. One of two Greens MLCs (50%) are female, Dignity for Disability's sole MLC is female, while Family First has not elected a female MLC.

List of women in the South Australian Legislative Council[edit]

Names in bold indicate women who have been appointed as Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries during their time in Parliament. Names in italics indicate entry into Parliament through a by-election or by appointment and * symbolises members that have sat as members in both the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly.

Name Party Period of service
Jessie Cooper LCL/Liberal 7 March 1959 – 10 July 1979 (retired)
Anne Levy Labor 12 July 1975 – 10 October 1997 (retired)
Barbara Wiese Labor 15 September 1979 – 15 September 1995 (resigned)
Diana Laidlaw Liberal 6 November 1982 – 6 June 2003 (resigned)
Carolyn Pickles Labor 7 December 1985 – 8 February 2002 (retired)
Bernice Pfitzner Liberal 23 October 1990 – 10 October 1997 (defeated)
Caroline Schaefer Liberal 1 August 1993 – 20 March 2010 (retired)
Sandra Kanck Democrats 11 December 1993 – 30 January 2009 (resigned)
Carmel Zollo Labor 11 October 1997 – 15 March 2014 (retired)
Gail Gago Labor 9 February 2002 –
Kate Reynolds Democrats 17 February 2003 – 17 March 2006 (defeated)
Michelle Lensink Liberal 26 June 2003 –
Ann Bressington No Pokies 18 March 2006 – 15 March 2014 (retired)
Tammy Franks Greens 20 March 2010 –
Jing Lee Liberal 20 March 2010 –
Kelly Vincent Dignity for Disability 20 March 2010 –


Kelly Vincent Jing Lee Tammy Franks Ann Bressington Michelle Lensink Kate Reynolds Gail Gago Carmel Zollo Sandra Kanck Caroline Schaefer Bernice Pfitzner Carolyn Pickles Diana Laidlaw Barbara Wiese Anne Levy Jessie Cooper

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barbara Wall A Short History of Stawell School: The forgotten school on Mount Lofty published for Mount Lofty Districts Historical Society by Peacock Publications 2012 ISBN 978--1-921601-69-9
  2. ^ "8 p.c. swing to Labor in Council poll". The News (Adelaide). 60, (9,232). South Australia. 12 March 1953. p. 12. Retrieved 9 August 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  3. ^ "L.C.L. Wins Burnside: Big Margin". The Mail (Adelaide). 35, (1,778). South Australia. 22 June 1946. p. 1. Retrieved 9 August 2016 – via National Library of Australia.