Australian Electoral Commission

Electoral Milestones for Women

Updated: 26 September 2013
Federal Parliament Year State Parliaments
  1884 VIC Henrietta Dugdale formed the first Australian women's suffrage society in Melbourne.
  1895 SA Women eligible to vote
  1897 SA Catherine Spence, first woman to stand as a political candidate in Australia. She stood as SA delegate to the Federal Convention, although told she could not sit even if she won.
  1899 WA Women eligible to vote
The Commonwealth Franchise Act passed, enabling all women (with the exception of Aboriginal women in some States) to vote for the Federal Parliament. From this time, women were also able to sit in Parliament. 1902 NSW Women eligible to vote.
Four women are candidates for the federal election - Nellie Martel, Mary Ann Moore Bentley and Vida Goldstein for the Senate, and Selina Siggins for the House of Representatives. 1903 TAS women eligible to vote in House of Assembly. Qualifications for the right to vote for Upper House remain in place until 1968.
  1905 QLD Women eligible to vote
  1908 VIC Women eligible to vote
  1911 NT and ACT Women eligible to vote
  1921 WA Edith Cowan elected to Legislative Assembly as member for West Perth, the first woman elected to any Australian Parliament.
  1925 WA Mary Alice (May) Holman, second woman in Australia to enter Parliament, first to win a seat for the Labor Party. First woman to be re-elected and hold a seat for more than ten years.
  1933 VIC Lady Millie Peacock became the first female Member of the Parliament of Victoria. She was elected at a by-election for the Legislative Assembly seat of Allandale, caused by the death of the sitting member, Sir Alexander Peacock.
  1937 VIC Ivy Weber was Victoria's second woman parliamentarian but the first to win a seat at a general election. She won and held the seat of Nunawading as an independent.
  1941 WA Florence Cardell-Oliver, first woman suspended from an Australian Parliament.
Dame Enid Lyons, in House of Representatives, representing the United Australia Party, and Sen. Dorothy Tangney, representing the Australian Labor Party, are elected. 1943  
Sen. Annabelle Rankin, Liberal Party, becomes Opposition Whip in the Senate. 1947 WA Florence Cardell-Oliver, first female cabinet member in an Australian Parliament
  1948 TAS Margaret McIntyre, first woman Member of Parliament in Tasmania. She was elected in May for the Legislative Council but was killed in an air accident in Sept 1948.
Dame Enid Lyons is the first woman to hold cabinet rank when she becomes Vice-President of the Executive Council in the Liberal-Country Party coalition ministry of Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies. 1949  
Sen. Annabelle Rankin becomes Government Whip 1951  
  1952 Phyllis Benjamin served as a Member of the Legislative Council (ALP) for Hobart, Tasmania between 1952 and 1976, becoming the first woman in Australia to lead an Upper House (1968–1969). She was also the longest serving woman of any State Parliament in Australia.
  1954 WA Ruby Hutchinson, first woman elected to the Legislative Council
Aboriginal (women) given vote – enrolling optional, voting compulsory if enrolled. 1962  
Sen. Annabelle Rankin becomes Minister for Housing, and thus the first woman to administer a government department. 1966  
Sen. Ivy Wedgewood, Liberal Party, becomes the first woman to chair a Senate committee, the Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs. 1968  
Sen. Ivy Wedgewood chairs one of the first of the Senate's new Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees, the Health and Welfare Committee. The report concerned an inquiry into handicapped persons in Australia. 1970 WA eligible persons aged 18–21 able to vote for Legislative Assembly.

Elizabeth Reid, first adviser appointed to Prime Minister on matters relating to women.

1973  
Sen. Margaret Guilfoyle, Liberal Party, becomes the first woman senator to be a member of the cabinet and to administer a government department.

Sen. Kathy Martin (now Mrs Kathy Sullivan, MP) is appointed Assistant Opposition Whip in the Senate, and later the same year Assistant Government Whip.

1975  
  1980 TAS Gillian James, first female Minister.

WA Margaret McAleer, first female Government Whip in Legislative Council.

Sen. Susan Ryan is the first Labor woman federal minister. As the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, Senator Ryan introduced the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. 1983  
  1984 NSW Janice Crosio the first woman Cabinet Member.
Mrs Joan Child, MP, Australian Labor Party, becomes the first woman to be Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Sen. Janine Haines becomes the first woman to lead an Australian political party, the Australian Democrats.

1986 WA Pam Buchanan, first female Government Whip in Legislative Assembly.
Sen. Margaret Reid and Sen. Susan Knowles representing the Liberal Party become Opposition Whip and Deputy Opposition Whip respectively. 1987  
  1988 NSW Helen Sham-Ho the first Chinese-born parliamentarian in Australia.
  1989 ACT Rosemary Follett, first female head of government in Australia.
Sen. Janet Powell becomes the second woman to lead the Australian Democrats, and the first woman member of either House to have a private bill passed by both Houses, the Smoking and Tobacco Products Advertisements (Prohibition) Act 1989.

Carolyn Jakobsen, MP, is elected chair of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party(Caucus), the first woman to hold this position, and Elaine Darling, MP, and Mary Crawford, MP, are elected Vice-chair and Secretary respectively.

1990

WA Dr Carmen Lawrence, Australia's first woman Premier
VIC Joan Kirner, Victoria's first woman State Premier.
NSW Janice Crosio first woman to serve on the executive of all three levels of government. In local government as Mayor of the Fairfield City Council, in state government as the Minister for Natural Resources in the NSW Legislative Assembly and finally in federal government as a parliamentary secretary in Federal Parliament as the member for Prospect. She retired in 2004.

Sen. Cheryl Kernot becomes the third woman to lead an Australian political party, the Australian Democrats. 1993 TAS Christine Milne, first female party leader – Tasmanian Greens.
Sen. Margaret Reid becomes the first woman president of the Senate 1996  
Thirteen women elected to the Senate 1996  
33 women elected to House of Representatives
10 women elected to Senate (total 22)
1998  
  1999 NSW Kerry Chikarovski the only woman ever to have held the Leadership of the Opposition in the NSW Legislative Assembly.
Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, elected as leader of the Australian Democrats at age 32, becomes the youngest person of any party to hold such a position.

39 women elected to House of Representatives, 16 women elected to Senate (total 55 women elected to Parliament).

2001 WA Carol Martin the first indigenous woman elected to a State Parliament.
Ms Jenny Macklin MP elected as Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party, becomes the first women to hold such a position in either of the two major political parties (ALP or Liberal/National Coalition). 2002 NT Marion Scrymgour the first female Aboriginal minister in any government in the history of Australia.
  2003 NSW Linda Burney became the first Aboriginal person elected to the State Parliament when she won the seat of Canterbury.

VIC Monica Gould first female President of the Legislative Council

VIC Judith Maddigan first female Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

38 woman elected to the House of Representatives, 22 elected to the Senate (total 60) 2004  
Ms Julia Gillard MP becomes Deputy Prime Minister.

40 women elected to the House of Representatives, 27 elected to the Senate (total 67)

2007 QLD Anna Bligh the first female Premier of Queensland after the retirement of Peter Beattie.
  2008 NT Marion Scrymgour the first female Aboriginal deputy chief minister.
Ms Julia Gillard MP becomes Prime Minister.

37 woman elected to the House of Representatives, 30 elected to the Senate (total 67)

2010  
  2011 NSW Shelley Hancock first female Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
Christine Milne becomes leader of the Australian Greens

2012