Women in the making of Canberra - Representing

Women have made significant contributions to politics in the ACT, at both the territory and federal levels. In a city whose key business is politics, it is not surprising to see many women taking an active part as representatives or aspiring representatives themselves, or working behind the scenes to ensure that women are represented in the territory and federal legislatures in proportion to their presence in the population.

The Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL) has had a strong presence in Canberra since the 1970s. A former prominent member of WEL, Wendy McCarthy, is now Chancellor of the University of Canberra.

Several women have represented the ACT in Federal Parliament. Susan Ryan (Minister for Education in the Hawke Labor government (1983-1989), Margaret Reid (President of the Senate in the Howard Coalition government, since 1996) and Kate Lundy (since 1996). Ros Kelly, Federal Member for Canberra in the House of Representatives, was responsible for a number of ministerial portfolios between 1990 and 1994, including Arts, Sport and the Environment, in the Hawke-Keating Labor government.

Kate Carnell and Rosemary Follett

Kate Carnell and Rosemary Follett shake hands in December 1996, when Rosemary Follett left ACT politics to become the Territory's Discrimination Commissioner Photograph courtesy of Canberra Times

Fourth ACT Women's Consultative Council

Fourth ACT Women's Consultative Council, 1998-2001. Front, left to right: Chair, Karen Fogarty, Deputy Chair, Jacqueline Pearce. Back, left to right: Glenda Munro, Ann Wentworth, Margaret Head, Myriam Bonazzi, Lulu Turner, Aysun Adams, Betty Craig, Margery Smyth, Libby Bell. Absent: Julia Nesbitt, Matilda House, Megan Thompson, Jean Thomson, Cathi Moore

A large number of women have served as Members of the ACT Legislative Assembly, and two - the Labor Party's Rosemary Follett and Liberal Kate Carnell - have been Chief Minister. Rosemary Follett was the first woman to head an Australian government.

Women play a significant role as members of the ACT Women's Consultative Council and other consultative bodies. The Women's Consultative Council assists the Government to develop and implement policies to advance the status of women in the ACT.

The Young Women's Forum Steering Committee assists the Women's Consultative Council in consulting with young women.It is made up of members of the Council and young women representing community groups.

Eleanor Morrison and Jacqui Pearce

Eleanor Morrison (Member, Young Women's Forum Steering Committee) and Jacqui Pearce (Convenor of the Young Women's Forum Steering Committee and Deputy Chair of the WCC), at a Youth Week 2001 Sports Event for Young Women, organised by the Committee in City Walk

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Published by the National Foundation for Australian Women, March 2004