This page provides important current and historical information on women’s participation in Australian political life and an understanding of women’s experience and an important part of our history as a nation.
2013 Election: The Abbott’s Brotherhood! There was only one female Minister in the Abbott Government.
The Turnbull Government 2015: There are five female Cabinet Ministers in the Turnbull Government.
Julie Bishop: Foreign Minister, Marise Payne: Defence, Sussan Ley: Health, Michellia Cash: Women and Employment, and Kelly O’Dwyer: Assistant Treasurer and Small Business.
2014 Victorian State Election: There are nine female Ministers in the Andrews ALP Government.
Congratulations to the Andrews Government for appointing females to make 41% of the Cabinet.
First Women in Australian Parliaments – Historical Note
South Australia led the world in not only enfranchising women in 1894 but also making them eligible to sit in parliament. Overall, Australia was seen as a pioneer of women’s political rights. Unfortunately it had the greatest time lag of all western democratic countries between the time when women were eligible to stand for the national legislature and when they were actually elected – 41 years. For more information on when women won the right to vote and to sit in parliament for each Australian state CLICK on First Women in Australian Parliaments.
Women and Government in Australia – Dr Marian Sawer
Dr Marian Sawer’s article titled Women and Goverment in Australia provides detailed information on the introduction of women’s political rights in Australia, the party affiliation of women candidates, and a gender overview of Australian politics. She discusses the impetus for women attaining portfolio positions within parliament, the barriers, and the gender stereotyping associated with these allocations. The article also reviews women in local government as well as on boards and committees. She highlights that for the most part, however, Australian governments remained unconvinced of the need for women’s participation in public decision-making until the 1970s and a greater realisation that full advantage needs to be taken of the talent available in the community and for community perspectives to be adequately reflected. For the full article CLICK on Women and government in Australia – Dr Marian Sawer.
Moving backwards? Women in Australian parliaments by WEL member Dr Marian Sawer (precis). “Australia is slipping in relation to comparable countries” she writes, May 2012, in APO.
HOW important is it to keep counting the number of women in public office and trying to increase their numbers? Recent controversy suggests that some people think the time for monitoring gender gaps is over. Profound irritation has been expressed that issues about gender inequality continue to be raised by ‘ageing feminists’ – or indeed by anyone.
One reason for thinking that counting is no longer relevant is the recent accession of women to positions as head of government. Recent Labor election losses have reduced the number of women heads of government. In general the conservative victories in recent State elections in Western Australia, NSW and Queensland have resulted in a decline in the number of women in parliament (see Figures 1 and 2). Women candidates have not generally proved ‘contagious’ in Australia unlike in Europe, where the introduction of quotas by small Left parties led to other parties following suit. Ironically the decline in women in parliament in Australia has come at the same time as some long overdue developments such as the opening of a childcare centre in the federal parliament in 2009 (21 years after the new building was opened) and some changes in standing orders to accommodate parliamentarians breastfeeding their infants.