Sort by (Relevance)
Sara, Vicki

Academic, Endocrinologist

Vicki Sara researches in the area of growth hormones and foetal brain development. She became the Dean of Science at Queensland University in 1996.

Vicki was the Chancellor of the University of Technology, Sydney, for three terms: 15 December 2004-14 December 2008; 15 December 2008-14 December 2012 and; 15 December 2012 until 17 February 2016.

Freeman, Joan
(1918 – 1998)


In 1976 Joan Freeman became the first woman to be awarded the British Institute of Physics’ Rutherford Medal. She began her career at CSIR Radiophysics Laboratory during World War II, working on the production of a 10cm microwave radar set, and spent most of her working life at the British Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell.

Freeman, Mavis Louisa
(1907 – 1992)

Scientist, Servicewoman

Mavis Freeman worked with Macfarlane Burnet during the 1930s and, with Burnet, succeeded in identifying the microbe responsible for Q fever. She became only the second female scientist to join the AIF and served in the Australian Army Medical Corps during World War II, undertaking research into safe methods for blood transfusion in malarial regions.

Reid, Elizabeth Anne
(1942 – )

Consultant, Educator, Political scientist, Public speaker, Researcher

In 1973 Elizabeth Reid became the first adviser on women’s affairs to a head of state, being appointed in this capacity for Australian Labour Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Reid went on to work as an adviser, administrator, consultant, educator and researcher in an international setting on issues of women and development, health and population. She is currently based in Canberra, a Visiting Fellow, State, Society and Governance Program, College of Asia and the Pacific, at the Australian National University, and an analyst, programmer, consultant and trainer in development and humanitarian assistance.

Galbraith, Jean
(1906 – 1999)

Author, Botanical collector, Botanist

Galbraith, a prominent Victorian naturalist, joined the Field Naturalists’ Club of Victoria in 1923 and in 1970 was awarded their Australian Natural History Medallion. In 1950 she published Wildflowers of Victoria which by 1970 had gone to three editions.

Dowse, Sara
(1938 – )

Feminist, Public servant, Women's rights activist, Writer

Sara Dowse is a prize-winning writer of reviews and Canberra-themed fiction. A feminist and women’s rights activist, she was a member of the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Women’s Electoral Lobby-ACT. She became the inaugural head of the Women’s Affairs Section of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (now Office of the Status of Women) for the Whitlam government.

(This entry is sponsored by generous donation from Christine Foley.)

Ryan, Susan
(1942 – 2020)

Educator, Parliamentarian, Senator

Susan Ryan was appointed the first Labor Senator for the Australian Capital Territory, in 1975. In the Federal Parliament she was the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister Bob Hawke on the Status of Women 1983-88 and the Minister for Education, 1984-87. She presided over the passage of the federal government’s Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunities in Employment) Act 1986. She later worked in the plastics industry, and in superannuation.

From July 2011 to 2016 she held the newly created position of Age Discrimination Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission. She was also the Disability Discrimination Commissioner from July 2014 to 2016.

Susan Ryan passed away on 27 September, 2020. She was a woman of many firsts; a trailblazer for Labor women in parliament. As former prime minister, Julia Gillard, observed, ‘Every Australian’s life has been improved by her leadership on gender equality.’

Denoon, Pamela
(1942 – 1988)

Biochemist, Public servant

Pamela Denoon was National Coordinator of the Women’s Electoral Lobby from 1982-84. She actively lobbied for women’s rights in Canberra during the 1980s, and established by bequest the National Foundation for Australian Women and the Pamela Denoon Trust.

De Leo, Maria

Women's rights activist

Maria De Leo was the inaugural National Coordinator of the Women’s Electoral Lobby, 1978-79.

Carnahan, Yvonne

Women's rights activist

Yvonne Carnahan was the National Coordinator of the Women’s Electoral Lobby from 1980-81.

Thompson, Lorelle

Women's rights activist

Lorelle Thompson was the National Coordinator of the Women’s Electoral Lobby from 1983-84.

Morgan, Joanne

Women's rights activist

Joanne Morgan was the National Coordinator of the Women’s Electoral Lobby in 1984.

Elix, Jane
(1960 – 2012)

Advocate, Consumer activist, Environmentalist

Jane Elix was the National Coordinator of the Women’s Electoral Lobby from 1985-86.

Lee, Lynn

Women's rights activist

Lyn Lee was the National Coordinator of the Women’s Electoral Lobby, 1986-88.

Taylor, Joy

Joy Taylor was the National Coordinator of the Women’s Electoral Lobby in 1988.

Owen, Mary
(1921 – 2017)

Trade unionist, Women's liberationist

Mary Owen was founding Coordinator of The Working Women’s Centre Melbourne, 1975-1986, when it was absorbed into the Australian Council of Trade Unions. She was a staff member of AAESDA (Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors & Draughtsmen of Australia), 1965 -1975 and a member of La Trobe University Council 1983-1990. She was appointed Deputy Chancellor of La Trobe University 1989. A founding member of Emily’s List, Mary Owen was also a Member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) for over forty-three years. She represented WEL on many Government committees, making a significant impact on policies advancing the status of women, especially the fight for equal pay.

In 1986 the first Mary Owen Dinner was organised in Melbourne to celebrate Mary’s retirement. Held annually, the event lasted twenty years. There was always a female keynote speaker and the audience, normally in the order of 600 women, wearing the feminist colours of purple, green and white, was a sight to behold. The last dinner was held in 2005.

Mary Owen was a very early supporter of the Australian Women’s Archives Project, which began as a community based organisation’s response to a request from Mary Owen for help with conserving the records of her long and varied contribution to public life.

Born in 1921, Mary was a woman who effected change – and made Australia a better, more equal place for all of us coming after her. She died 23 March, 2017.

Street, Jessie Mary Grey
(1889 – 1970)

Feminist, Suffragette

Jessie Street was recognised nationally and internationally for her activism in women’s rights, social justice and peace. Street campaigned for equality of status for women, equal pay, the appointment of women to public office and the election of women to parliament. Co-founder of the New South Wales Social Hygiene Association (1916) and Co-founder (1928) and President of the United Associations of Women, she was the only woman on the Australian delegation to the founding conference of the United Nations in 1945 and established the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the Charter of Women’s Rights.

Ryan, Lyndall
(1943 – )

Academic, Educator, Feminist, Historian

Lyndall Ryan was a member of the first Sydney Women’s Liberation Group in 1970. In 1974 she joined the Commonwealth Public Service as a policy analyst on women’s health and child care. She became an academic in 1977 and has held positions in Australian Studies and Women’s Studies at Griffith and Flinders Universities. She was appointed to the position of Foundation Professor of Australian Studies and Head of School of Humanities at the University of Newcastle in 1998.

Levy, Anne
(1934 – )


Anne Levy was the first woman to preside in any house of any Parliament in Australia. She was elected to the South Australian Legislative Council in 1975 where she remained until 1997. In 1986 she became the President of the Legislative Council – the first woman to be a Presiding Officer of a House of Parliament in Australia. She held various Ministerial positions between 1989-1993, including first ever Minister for the Status of Women in Australia.

Read, Robyn

Journalist, Parliamentarian, Political candidate, Politician, Public servant, Tutor, Writer

Robyn Read was an independent member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in the seat of North Shore from 1988 until 1991. She failed to gain re-election in the 1991 by-election. Prior to her parliamentary career, Robyn was a successful local councillor and was Alderman for the North Sydney Municipal Council from 1970-77 and 1987-91 and was also Deputy Mayor from 1974-75.

Ryan, Julia
(1937 – )

Educator, Women's liberationist

Ryan was a member of the first Canberra Women’s Liberation Group in the 1970s and remained in the movement from that time. She was Honorary Secretary of the National Foundation for Australian Women 1991-1996.

Ryan, Edna Minna
(1904 – 1997)

Activist, Feminist, Trade unionist, Writer

Edna Ryan was a leading figure in three eras of feminism in the 20th century. As a feminist and labour activist she is credited with achieving equal pay for women, maternity leave and work based child care. Ryan wrote numerous articles, conference papers, submissions to government and two books, Gentle invaders (1975) and Two thirds of a man (1984).

Henderson, Beryl
(1897 – 1990)

Women's liberationist

Beryl Henderson set up the Abortion Law Reform Association in Canberra. She was an active member of Canberra Women’s Liberation, and translated the French book Abortion: the Bobigny affair: law on trial. The first women’s refuge in Canberra was named after her and in 1987 the Beryl Henderson foundation was established.

Born in England, she arrived in Australia via Israel, to settle in Victoria in 1965. She eventually made Canberra her home until the end of the 1970s when she returned to Israel.

Hunter, Thelma Anna Carmela
(1923 – 2016)

Academic, Political scientist, Women's liberationist

Dr Thelma Hunter was a feminist political scientist, whose academic career was mostly spent at the Australian National University (ANU). She described herself as a teacher, scholar and writer. As well as teaching university students, she worked in schools, in adult education and in preparatory courses for mature age non-matriculants seeking university entry. Before establishing her academic career, she contributed occasional articles to UK newspapers, and was later a regular contributor to the Canberra Times. A hobby artist, she offered drawing workshops to staff and students at ANU, having earlier studied art in evening classes in Sydney and at Dartington College, Devon.

For Thelma Hunter the personal was political; her academic interests in women’s employment, the status of women and the obstacles arising from combining work with marriage and family reflected her own experience. Growing up in an Italian family in Scotland, and later migrating with her family to Australia, Thelma Hunter also identified as a migrant.

Geason, Susan
(1926 – )

Editor, Journalist, Women's liberationist, Writer

Most of Geason’s professional life centred on politics and writing, often a combination of both, including positions as a researcher in Parliament House, Canberra; Cabinet Adviser in the New South Wales Premier’s Department; and head of information in what is now the Environment Protection Authority. Since 1988 she has worked as a freelance writer and editor, and from 1992 till 1997, was literary editor of the Sydney weekly newspaper, the Sun-Herald.

Coleman, Marie Yvonne
(1933 – )

Educator, Feminist, Journalist, Medical Social Worker, Public servant, Researcher, Social activist, Statutory Office Holder

Marie Coleman was the first woman to head a Commonwealth Government statutory agency, and the first woman to hold the powers of Permanent Head under the Public Service Act. She was founding Secretary of the National Foundation for Australian Women, one of the NFAW Board of Directors who worked to establish the Australian Women’s Archives Project (AWAP), and remains active in community organisations and public life in her retirement. She was awarded the Public Service Medal in 1989 for contributions to public administration. In 2001 she was awarded the Centenary Medal. In 2011 she was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia.