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Hinchliffe, Meredith Maxwell
(1946 – )

Arts administrator, Valuer

Meredith Hinchliffe has been involved with the arts in Canberra since 1977 when she joined the Crafts Council of the ACT as its Executive Secretary and then Director. She went on to work in organisations such as the National Campaign for the Arts, Museums Australia, ArtsACT, and the Donald Horne Institute for Cultural Heritage at UC, and has also worked as a freelance arts consultant and exhibitions curator since 1997. Meredith is a specialist on crafts including ceramics, textiles and furniture, and is an approved valuer under the Commonwealth Government’s Cultural Gifts Program. She has written about the arts for numerous arts journals and regularly contributed reviews of crafts and visual arts exhibitions and books to The Canberra Times from 1978 to 2009. Meredith has been a long-time advocate and lobbyist for the arts, and is a significant patron of and donor to arts organisations, especially the Canberra Museum and Gallery. In 2022 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of her significant service to the arts.

Kellett, Joan Mary OAM
(1929 – 2017)

Community activist, Sports administrator

Joan Kellett’s community activism focused on the education and welfare of children in the ACT. In 1977 she established one of Australia’s first after-school programs and a home for the Australian Early Childhood Association in the Majura Primary School, Watson. She served as Chair of the school board at North Ainslie Primary School and on the boards of Lyneham High School and Dickson College. For 30 years from 1984, she was an executive member of the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations. Her dedication to the sport of swimming as an administrator and official, and her contribution to the Canberra community, was recognised by the award of the Order of Australia Medal in 2003.

Joan Kellet was inscribed on the ACT Honour Walk in 2018.

Mabo, Bonita
(1943 – 2018)

Aboriginal rights activist, Human rights activist

Bonita Mabo was a prominent Indigenous and South Sea Islander activist. She was the wife of land rights campaigner Eddie Mabo.

Holt, Lillian Rose
(1945 – 2020)


Lillian Holt was a member of the first generation of Aboriginal high school and university graduates and had an impressive track record of full time work, study and concomitant achievements. She traversed new terrain in order that younger ones might follow.

Lillian worked or studied full time since the age of 17. She worked as an educator in Aboriginal affairs and education “25 hours a day, eight days a week”! She was appointed as a University of Melbourne Fellow in 2003 -2005, prior to that she was Director of the Centre for Indigenous Education, University of Melbourne.

Lillian Holt passed away on her birthday in February 2020, at the age of 75.

Maunsell, Evelyn
(1888 – 1977)


Evelyn Evans was a young English girl from a well-to-do family, who while in Australia as part of a world trip, met and married station manager Charles Maunsell in 1912. They lived at Mulgrave Station which was located on the frontier of far north Queensland. Evelyn endured incredible hardship, with pioneering forcing her to endure hazards that pushed her far beyond the traditional female role; that of mother, wife and homemaker. Her courage and resourcefulness helped further the position and importance of women in colonial society.

Corrie, Christina Jane
(1867 – 1937)

Mayoress, Women's rights activist

The Queensland Women’s Electoral League (QWEL) was co-founded by Christina Corrie (wife of Brisbane mayor Leslie Corrie) in 1903. The Queensland Women’s Electoral League differed from the Women’s Electoral Franchise Association (WEFA) in that it was conservative, anti-socialist and pro private enterprise. Its membership was drawn from women in professions and wives of businessmen. Christina Corrie was one of the most well known women in Brisbane in the early 1900s and she used her notoriety to advance the causes of the many social, cultural and charitable institutions she supported.

Crist, Alice Guerin
(1876 – 1937)

Author, Journalist

Alice Crist was a prolific writer of verse and short fiction, who published widely in the Australian secular and religious press including the Bulletin (Sydney) Worker, Steele Rudd’s Magazine, Home Budget, Toowoomba Chronicle, Catholic Advocate and Catholic Press. Crist wrote about her rural and domestic experiences, frequently celebrating the beauty of the bush and the virtues and struggles of Irish Australian pioneers. Crist was also a long-term member and vice-president of the Toowoomba Ladies Literary Society. Her Irish heritage intermingled with a unique Australian flavour and this contributed to the uniqueness of her poetry.

Potter, Norah Mary
(1849 – 1927)

Religious Sister, Teacher

Mother Patrick Potter was born in Ireland and educated at Cloontagh National School and Longford Convent School. In 1866 she began her novitiate as a Sister of Mercy at Athy Convent, Kildare. Upon arrival in Australia in 1868, Mother Patrick joined the Queensland Sisters of Mercy congregation which had been established by Mother Vincent Whitty, making her profession of vows at Brisbane’s All Hallows Convent in 1869. Appointed to All Hallows’ school, Mother Patrick contributed greatly to the religious, academic and cultural development of the students. In 1879 she was elected to the administration of the Brisbane congregation of Sisters of Mercy, where she acted as Superior or assistant, for the next 48 years.

Smith, Wilhelmena
(1886 – 1975)

Jockey, Sportswoman

Bill’ Smith was a successful North Queensland jockey in the early 1900s. Viewed as small in statue and eccentric in behaviour, it was not until his death in 1975 that it was discovered that ‘Bill’ Smith was actually a woman, thus making her Australia’s first female jockey.

Bryan, Edith
(1872 – 1963)

Disability rights activist, Teacher

Edith Bryan was appointed head teacher of the school section of the Queensland Blind, Deaf and Dumb Institution in Brisbane, Australia, in 1901. In 1918 the Queensland government assumed responsibility for this charitable organisation and initially Edith retained her position with the institution.

Following an increase in class numbers as a direct result of introduction of the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Instruction Act of 1924, which made the education of deaf children compulsory, it was deemed appropriate in 1926 that a male should take control of the school. Edith retained charge of the deaf section of the school until she retired in 1937, after which she continued to work for the deaf community.

An active member of the Queensland Adult Deaf and Dumb Mission which she had helped to establish in 1902, Edith chaired a parent support-group which she had also promoted. The mission named Edith Bryan Hostel in her honour.

Drew, Ann
(1822 – 1907)

Welfare worker

Ann Drew settled in Toowong, with her husband Richard Langler Drew in the early 1860s. Over the next four decades Ann advocated and helped administer an array of welfare institutions. Most importantly, in April 1871 she founded the Female Refuge and Infants’ Home (‘Mrs Drew’s Home’) for young single mothers and their babies. Initially funded by Ann and her friends, the refuge eventually gained government assistance, however, this funding was withdrawn in 1900.

As lady president of the Social Purity Society, Ann was involved in the establishment of Lady Musgrave Lodge (1891-1892) as a hostel and training place for immigrants and other ‘friendless’ girls. She also took part in agitation to repeal the Contagious Diseases Act of 1868 and held the position of secretary of the committee of the Lady Bowen Hospital from 1870 to 1879. In 1906 Ann Drew retired as ‘Foundress and Superintendent’ of the Female Refuge and Infants’ Home.

Robinson, Nellie Elizabeth
(1915 – 1992)

Mayor, Radio presenter, Teacher

Nellie Robinson was elected as Alderman to the Toowoomba Council in 1961. In 1967 she was elected mayor of Toowoomba, thus becoming Queensland’s first female mayor. Nellie served the state for 14 years. The Queen’s New Year Honours list in 1979 made her an officer of the Order of the British Empire for “distinguished service to local government”.

McConnel, Ursula Hope
(1888 – 1957)

Anthropologist, Photographer

Ursula McConnel is recognised as an influential anthropologist of the Cape York Peninsula and a talented amateur photographer. McConnel used her photographs to illustrate publications of her research in magazines and ethnographic journals such as Oceania and Walkabout. She was also a collector of Indigenous artefacts.

Content added for original entry by Lee Butterworth, last modified 11 June 2009

As one of the first students of A. R. Radcliffe-Brown’s Australian tenureship, Ursula McConnel conducted ethnographic fieldwork as a participant-observer in western Cape York Peninsula between 1927 and 1934. She worked chiefly among the Wik peoples, particularly the Wik Mungkan based at Aurukun Mission. As part of her anthropological study McConnel amassed a substantial material culture collection of over five hundred artefacts. Together with Donald Thomson’s collection from the same area, it forms a unique record of Wik Mungkan material culture from that period. In 2006 a large collection of professional papers belonging to Ursula was discovered and donated to the South Australian Museum.

McConnel, May Jordan
(1860 – 1929)

Nurse, Suffragist, Teacher, Union organiser

May Jordan McConnel was the first paid female union organiser in Queensland, elected Secretary of the newly-formed Tailoresses Union on 5 August 1890. The Brisbane Women’s Union met for the first time on 27 August 1890 and discussions focused on securing fair wages, fair hours and equitable conditions in the workplace for women. In Brisbane on 17 December 1893, May delivered an address to suffrage supporters, celebrating New Zealand women’s success in attaining the right to vote. In February 1894, a public meeting was held and the Woman’s Equal Franchise Association, a strong supporter of women’s suffrage, was founded. May was elected as Treasurer. In 1910, the McConnel family left Brisbane for the United States, leaving their Indooroopilly house, ‘Robgill’, as a gift to Queensland. This house became the Methodist Church’s first institutionalised home for orphans in the state – the original Queen Alexander Home for Children. The family never returned to Australia and May died in California in 1929.

McWhinney, Agnes
(1891 – 1987)

Lawyer, Solicitor

Following the introduction of the Legal Practitioners Act of 1905, Agnes McWhinney became the first Queensland woman to be admitted as a legal practitioner in 1915. Agnes was also the first female solicitor to practise in Queensland.

Bedford, Mary Josephine
(1861 – 1955)

Charity worker, Philanthropist

Josephine Bedford worked tirelessly to improve the lives of impoverished woman and children in Brisbane. She was instrumental in founding the Crèche and Kindergarten Association in 1907 and the Playground Association in 1913. The Bedford Playground in Spring Hill commemorates Josephine’s outstanding contribution to Queensland children. Josephine volunteered with the Scottish Women’s Hospital when World War I broke out and served in Serbia for 12 months as head of the ambulance service. She was awarded the fifth class of the Order of St Sava by the King of Serbia.

Prentice, Una Gailey
(1913 – 1986)


Una Prentice (nee Bick) was the first woman law graduate admitted to the Bar of the Queensland Supreme Court, first woman admitted to the Bar of the High Court, and first female Commonwealth Prosecutor.

Reid, Joan Innes
(1915 – 2001)

Community worker, Politician, Social worker, University tutor

Joan Innes Reid influenced many lives as a pioneering social worker and the first woman councillor (and deputy mayor) in Townsville, North Queensland. In 1953 she was the only practicing medical social worker in Queensland outside of Brisbane. Joan also actively involved herself in community work, helping to establish medical, humanitarian and cultural institutions in Townsville. In 1976 she joined the staff of the James Cook University and became the first woman to be awarded an honorary degree by the University in 1995. In 1984 Dr Innes Reid was made a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of her community work and in 1989 she received life membership to the Australian Association of Social Work.  The Joan Innes Reid prize in social work awarded by James Cook University is named in her honour

Cribb, Estelle
(1877 – 1947)


Estelle Cribb was a first day pupil at Ipswich Girls Grammar School (IGGS) in 1892. She was the first woman to study for a Master of Arts, with Honours in Mathematics, from the University of Sydney. She graduated in 1901. After obtaining an Honours Diploma in Education, she was appointed Mathematical Mistress at IGGS in 1903. She held the position for 35 years, retiring in 1938. Estelle Cribb was an active member of the IGGS Old Girls’ Association, serving as President for 12 years. She was much loved and when she died on 5 November 1947 a memorial fund was established by the Old Girls’ Association. In 1952 commemorative gates were unveiled at the front of IGGS, which still commemorate her

Miller, Olga Eunice
(1920 – 2003)

Community worker, Environmentalist, Illustrator, Storyteller, Writer

Olga Miller was a direct descendant and Elder of the Butchulla people of Fraser Island. She was an Aboriginal historian who wrote about and taught Aboriginal culture for over 40 years.

The entry was written in consultation with family members.

Smith, Celia
(1911 – 1980)

Aboriginal rights activist, Community worker

Celia Smith was one of the unsung heroes of the early Aboriginal rights movement, helping hundreds obtain their social welfare rights, taking up their cases with politicians and bureaucrats. As an early member of the Queensland Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (QCAATSI), Celia took over from poet Kath Walker as its honorary secretary. She was also a delegate to its federal counterpart, the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI).

From 1970 Celia wrote a regular column in the QCAATSI monthly newsletter in which she discussed issues of land rights, conditions on reserves, wages, and housing for Aborigines. She campaigned vigorously for a ‘yes’ vote in the successful 1967 referendum to empower the commonwealth government to legislate on Aboriginal affairs. She was often ‘on duty’ at the ‘tent embassy’ set up in 1974 at King George Square, Brisbane, to publicise the need for more Aboriginal housing in the city and to protest against the State’s repressive Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander Affair Act in 1965. In the 1970s Celia belonged to the Queensland branch of the Union of Australian Women, and kept the organisation informed of matters affecting Aborigines.

This entry has been made in accordance with the appropriate family protocols.

Don, Ruth
(1902 – 2003)

Teacher, Trade unionist

Ruth Don was the first Senior Mistress of a Queensland high school, as well as the first female Principal of the Domestic Science High School and of Brisbane’s Office Training College. She also became the Queensland Teachers Union’s first female president. Ruth was founding president of the Forum Club in Brisbane.

Tweddell, Joyce
(1916 – 1995)

Army Nurse, Nurse

During World War II, Joyce Tweddell became a prisoner of war (POW) when she was captured, together with many other nurses, by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in February 1942. She was interned in Sumatra for three and a half years before her recovery from the camp at the cessation of the war.

She refused to accept the honour of an MBE in the early 1970s as she believed all surviving prisoners of war should have been awarded this honour.

Muir, Sylvia Jessie Mimmi
(1915 – 1996)

Army Nurse, Nurse

During World War II, Sylvia Muir, along with fellow Queensland Joyce Tweddell, became a prisoner of war (POW) when she was captured, together with many other nurses, by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in February 1942. She was interned in Sumatra for three and a half years before her recovery from the camp at the cessation of the war.

O’Donnell, Ellen
(1896 – 1963)


In 1931, Ellen O’Donnell, along with Zara Dare, became Queensland’s first female police officer, serving with the service for nearly 31 years. As Ellen was never officially sworn in as an officer, she did not wear a uniform or receive officer’s wages. She also was never part of the superannuation scheme. Her duties were restricted to assisting lost children, escorting female prisoners, and working with victims of domestic and sexual violence. Queensland’s decision to allow female officers into the police service was extremely controversial, with opinions divided across the state.

Bligh, Anna Maria
(1960 – )

Parliamentarian, State Premier

Anna Maria Bligh was elected as Premier of Queensland on 21 March 2009, thus becoming the first woman in Australia to be elected in her own right as Premier. She was sworn in as Premier of Queensland on 13 September 2007, following the resignation of Peter Beattie, and was then Queensland’s first female Premier. She was appointed Deputy Premier of Queensland in July 2005 – the same month she celebrated 10 years as Member for South Brisbane. As Deputy Premier she was also Treasurer and Minister for Infrastructure, running the $33 billion Queensland State Budget and leading construction of the $9 billion South-East Queensland Water Grid.

She was formerly Minister for Finance, State Development, Trade and Innovation. Prior to that she was Queensland’s first female Education Minister spending almost 5 years overseeing the most significant reforms to the State’s education system including the introduction of a preparatory year of schooling and requirements for all young people to be “learning or earning”. During that time she also had responsibilities for the Arts portfolio, overseeing construction of the Millennium Arts Precinct. Following the election of the Beattie Labor Government in June 1998, her first ministerial responsibility was as Minister for Families, Youth and Community Care and Disability Services.

In 2017, Anna Bligh was made a Companion in the General Division of the order of Australia ‘for eminent service to the Parliament of Queensland, particularly as Premier, to infrastructure development and education reform, as an advocate for the role of women in public life, and to the not for-profit sector’.

Cooper, Leontine Mary Jane
(1837 – 1903)

Journalist, Scholar, Teacher, Women's rights activist, Writer

Leontine Cooper was Queensland’s most significant writer addressing the rights of white women during the movement for woman suffrage in that state. By the late 1880s she had emerged as one of the key activists who contributed to progressive movements in Australian political life and Australian feminism. Cooper wrote short stories for the Boomerang and in the mid 1890s edited Queensland’s only women’s suffrage newspaper, the Star. For a short time she edited Flashes, a society newspaper, and for a while wrote ‘Queensland Notes’ for Louisa Lawson’s feminist journal, the Dawn.

In 1889 Leontine Cooper led a breakaway group from the Woman’s Equal Franchise Association, which became known as the Queensland Woman’s Suffrage League. Cooper was concerned that the women’s suffrage movement should not be ‘captured’ by the Labor Party, and become subject to party politics. Leontine founded and served as inaugural president of the Brisbane Pioneer Club in 1899 which, like its London namesake, was a progressive women’s club.