• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE0359

Kirner, Joan Elizabeth

(1938 – 2015) The Honourable Joan Kirner
  • Born 20 June, 1938, Essendon Victoria Australia
  • Died 1 June, 2015, Melbourne Victoria Australia
  • Occupation Parliamentarian


In 1990 Joan Kirner was elected the first woman Premier for the State of Victoria. She held the position for two years but her legacy will extend for much longer. As the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews said in a statement after her death:

“Through her decades of advocacy for gender equality, [Joan Kirner] fundamentally changed [The Victorian ALP] and our society. In the process, she raised a generation of Victorian Labor women – one of whom became Prime Minister…
She fought every day for fairness. Our state is stronger for her service and our lives are greater for her friendship. She was our first female Premier and because of her work, she won’t be the last.”


Kirner entered the Victorian Parliament in 1982 as an MLC (ALP) for the Province of Melbourne West. Between 1985 and 1988 she was Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands. In 1988 she moved to the Lower House as the member for Williamstown and was appointed Minister for Education (1988-1990) and Minister for Ethnic Affairs (1990-1991). She served as Deputy Premier from 1989-1990 and in 1992 became the Leader of the Opposition.

Kirner resigned from parliament in 1994. That same year, she was appointed Chair of the Employment Services Regulatory Authority (which position she held until 1996), and Chair of the National Committee to Celebrate the Centenary of Federation. In May 2001, as a member of the Victorian Committee for the Centenary of Federation, she organised the Women Shaping the Nation event and presentation of the Victorian Honour Roll of women in the Victorian Parliament with 756 women present.

Kirner’s interest in social justice, equity for women, the arts and landcare was lifelong. With Moira Rayner, she co-authored the best selling Women’s Power Handbook, published in 1999 and illustrated by Judy Horacek. Kirner was a co-convenor of Emily’s List, a Board member of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, and a member of the Playbox Theatre Board. She supported a variety of organisations including the Living Museum of the West, the Women’s Circus and Positive Women.



  • 2001 - 2001

    Inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women

Published resources

Digital resources

Related entries

  • Related Organisations
    • EMILY's List Australia (1996 - )
    • Victorian Rural Women's Network (1986 - )
  • Related Exhibitions
    • Women in Australia's Working History (2002 - )
  • Related Concepts
    • Women in Politics: Australian Labor Party