Theme Australian Political Parties

Written by Marian Sawer, Australian National University

Australia was the first country in the world to give most women the right both to vote and stand for the national parliament (in 1902). However it was to be four decades before the first women were elected to the Australian parliament, a gap greater than in any other democracy. Even then progress was very slow. In 1973, for instance, abortion law reform was being debated by the all-male House of Representatives; to represent women, a Women's Embassy was set up outside playing Australian Helen Reddy's anthem, 'I am woman, hear me roar'.

Absence from the parliamentary arena was not for lack of trying. In 1903, four newly enfranchised women stood for the federal parliament, the first able to do so anywhere. The prominent Victorian suffragist, Vida Goldstein, became the most famous example of that new political phenomenon, the woman candidate. She stood as an independent for the Senate and urged newly enfranchised women not to waste their votes by following the old party lines. Like NSW suffrage leader Rose Scott, Goldstein did not wish women to become 'camp followers to a corrupt system of party politics' (Searle, 29). In her 'Manifesto', Goldstein argued that women's interests could only be effectively protected by women parliamentarians and that the increasing volume of social legislation made it particularly important for women to be present as 'representatives of the home'. It should be noted, however, that she herself listed her occupation as 'journalist' and her platform included equal pay and equal employment opportunity for women in the new Commonwealth public service.

Goldstein's 1903 Senate candidacy was supported by the Women's Federal Political Association of which she was president, and she attracted large audiences for her election meetings. For the first time, these were often dominated by women. Although unsuccessful, Goldstein polled over 50,000 votes and went on to stand for federal parliament four more times. At the international level, she became a representative of the enfranchised Australian woman, whether at the foundation of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in Washington in 1902 or campaigning for the Women's Social and Political Union in London, where she had an audience of 10,000 at the Albert Hall in 1911. As a leader Goldstein always had the courage of her convictions, often being ahead of public opinion, whether as a suffrage organiser, a pioneer woman candidate, a supporter of conciliation and arbitration (and equal pay) or as a founder, alongside Adela Pankhurst, of the Women's Peace Army during World War I (Brownfoot,

Distrust of male party machines characterised even those women's movement activists who obtained party endorsement, like Edith Cowan, the first woman elected to an Australian parliament. Cowan had been a leader in many women's organisations, including the National Council of Women of which she was president when elected to the Western Australian parliament in 1921. Although she was an endorsed National Federation candidate, she declared she was 'a Nationalist and belong to no party in this House'. She voted sometimes with her own party, sometimes with Labor, a flouting of party discipline that doomed her two subsequent attempts to be re-elected. However, her independence of mind helped fortify her in expressing unpopular views in defence of unmarried mothers or in favour of sex education in schools. She was also responsible for successful private members' bills enabling women to enter the law and other professions (Women's Legal Status Act) and giving mothers equal rights of inheritance in the case of the intestacy of their children. She lobbied successfully for a reduction in the charge for prams on suburban trams, for playgrounds and children's clinic funding and for women to be allowed into the Speaker's Gallery of parliament (Sawer & Simms, 87-90; Brown,

Despite the independence of mind displayed by Vida Goldstein and Edith Cowan, strong party loyalties were to be a dominant feature of Australian politics and the established political parties, on both the left and the right, played a gatekeeping role in preventing women entering parliament. When they did preselect women it was usually to seats never won by their party. In the first four decades after gaining political rights, only a small number of women stood for the Australian parliament and 75 per cent of those stood as independents or for minor parties This meant that failure was more or less guaranteed, in what was effectively a two-party system (Sainsbury, 72-3).

Distrust of male party politics, belief that women's domestic responsibilities had primacy over political ambitions and protection of entrenched interests within political parties all contributed to the absence of women from Australian parliaments in the inter-war period. This entry will survey the institutional barriers to women's leadership in the older parties and show how women gradually surmounted these barriers in the 1990s, partly through their own separate institution building. It will also examine the emergence of post-materialist parties since the 1970s, which provided greater scope for women's leadership even if this was not at first contagious.

Conservative Parties

The first women elected to parliament in Australia, the first women to chair parliamentary committees and the first women to enter Cabinet were all from the conservative parties. Most of these early conservative women politicians became Dames of the British Empire at some point in their careers, which both acknowledged their significance and underlined empire loyalty- an important theme of conservative politics. In Australia, the largest conservative party since 1944 has somewhat confusingly been called the Liberal Party of Australia. At the international level, the Liberal Party belongs to the International Democratic Union, the body to which the UK and Canadian Conservative parties and the US Republicans belong, rather than to the Liberal International.

The Australian Women's National League (AWNL) was the largest conservative political organisation at the time of World War I and between the wars, dedicated to preserving the 'purity of home life' against the supposed threat of socialism. While it did not at first support women standing as parliamentary candidates, under the outstanding leadership of Elizabeth (May) Couchman, it changed its position in the 1920s. But, despite her great organisational contribution to conservative politics, Couchman herself failed to achieve preselection for a winnable seat. She stood for Senate preselection three times between 1930 and 1940 but only succeeded in being preselected for the safe Labor seat of Melbourne in 1941 (Smart, 51-9, 63; Fitzherbert, 2004, 200-01). But while her parliamentary aspirations were defeated, Couchman was able to leave an organisational legacy that ensured the future access of women to leadership positions in conservative politics after World War II. At the founding conference of the new Liberal Party in 1944, Couchman was able to negotiate from a position of strength. Supported by Ivy Wedgwood and Edith Haynes, she made the merger of the AWNL into the new party conditional on the guarantee that women would hold half the executive positions up to and including deputy state president in Victoria, where the AWNL was strongest (Smart, 64).

The organisational affirmative action achieved by Couchman was to see talented conservative women rise up through the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party and achieve a winnable place on its Senate ticket. These included Ivy Wedgwood, first elected in 1949 and usually claimed to be the first woman to chair a federal parliamentary committee, the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs (1968-70) and then the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare (1970-71). However her Victorian colleague, Senator Marie Breen (first elected 1961), had chaired the Senate Printing Committee from 1965-68 (McCann & Wilson, 7). Both Wedgwood and Breen were active in lobbying on National Council of Women demands, including removal of the Commonwealth marriage bar that caused women to lose their public service jobs on marriage. The next woman leader rising through the Victorian division was Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, who in 1975 became the first woman Cabinet minister with portfolio in the federal parliament when she became education and then social security minister in the Fraser government. She went on to become the first woman to hold an economic portfolio when she became minister for finance in 1980. Guilfoyle in turn was replaced on the Victorian Senate ticket by Kay Patterson in 1987, also to become a Cabinet minister. Since the adoption of proportional representation women have been better represented in the Senate than in the House of Representatives and women ministers have been disproportionately drawn from the Senate.

Guilfoyle might have been the first federal woman Cabinet minister with portfolio, but she had been preceded by Dame Enid Lyons who was appointed to Cabinet in 1949 as vice-president of the Executive Council, without a portfolio of her own. Lyons had a high profile as the widow of a previous prime minister and had been successful in committing the federal Liberal Party to extending child endowment to first children, which became a major campaign policy (Henderson, 283). Despite this policy triumph, her health was poor and she described her role in Cabinet as being there to pour the tea (Sawer & Simms, 84). The next 'first' was provided by Queensland Senator Annabelle Rankin, who became minister for housing in 1966 but was in the outer ministry rather than in Cabinet. In 1971, Rankin retired from politics and became the first woman to head an Australian diplomatic mission, as high commissioner to New Zealand (Sawer & Simms, 262).

Generally the first women ministers, whether at state or federal levels (or indeed in other countries around the world), were allocated so-called 'nurturing' portfolios, such as in areas of health, education and welfare. In Western Australia, Florence Cardell-Oliver became Australia's first woman Cabinet minister in 1947 when she was appointed, first, as a minister without portfolio, then as an 'honorary minister' and, finally, in 1949 was given the health portfolio, which she held until the government changed in 1953. As minister for health she was able to introduce free milk for school children and compulsory chest X-rays (Black, This gender pattern of portfolio allocation was also true of committee responsibilities. We have already noted Senator Ivy Wedgwood's pioneering role in chairing medical costs and health committees. In line with this pattern, the first all-woman committee in the federal parliament was the Senate Select Committee on Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes, established in 1981 and chaired, first, by Liberal Senator Shirley Walters and, then, after a change of government, by Labor Senator Pat Giles.

After Senator Guilfoyle, more women rose to leadership positions in the conservative parties but, with the exception of the 1996 federal election, progress was slower than in the Labor Party where there were successful campaigns for affirmative action to overcome entrenched institutional barriers. The issue of representation of women in public decision-making became firmly placed on the international agenda in the 1990s and women in the conservative parties also took it up it, despite the conservative opposition to quotas as 'patronising women'. In 1993, Chris McDiven, then president of the Liberal Women's Council in NSW, trialled the idea of a Liberal Women's Forum to provide women with a crash course in preselection processes. Over 1993-94, the forum conducted a series of seminars, providing women with mentoring and networking as well as more formal training in media skills. McDiven was accused of only providing assistance to women from the left of the party. She responded that, on the contrary: 'Many were keen to break down factionalism as neither side were supporting women. There were so few women in parliamentary or party positions, and hardly any standing for preselections, when I started the NSW Forum I was actually accused of starting a third faction- women' (quoted in Fitzherbert, 2009, 152).

It should be noted that factions were becoming more entrenched in the Liberal Party in the 1990s and, as in the Labor Party, divided women in the same party. Nonetheless, the success of the Liberal Women's Forum meant it was taken up nationally and helped propel an unprecedented number of women into the federal parliament in 1996. While trumpeted as more effective than Labor's quotas, it was allowed to wither on the vine under the conservative leadership of John Howard from 1996 onwards, and the number of federal Liberal women candidates declined over following elections (Fitzherbert, 2012).

One woman who rose rapidly within the NSW Liberal leadership in the 1990s was Kerry Chikarovski. As minister for industrial relations and the status of women (and soon as deputy leader), she identified as a feminist. After the conservatives lost government and were doing badly in the polls she became Liberal leader (1998-2002), the first woman to lead a major party in NSW. Reflecting later on her experience, she wrote:

I was always conscious that my elevation to the top job had only as much to do with my abilities and skills as it did with the fact that, as a female leader, I was a novelty and there was a very good chance that the media would lift my public profile astronomically … Am I saying that the powers that be- the men that continued to control the process- used me? To some degree, yes. But I was always aware of this and happy to take advantage of it (Chikarovski and García, 222).

Chikarovski did not win the next election and never became premier. While the conservative parties had some women leaders in opposition in the period to 2012, only one became a head of government and that was in the relatively small jurisdiction of the ACT (Table 1). At the federal level, Julie Bishop was deputy leader of the opposition from 2007 and was shadow minister for foreign affairs from 2009. Some conservative women were noted for their bravery, such as Senator Judith Troeth, who in 2005 was part of a small group of Liberal parliamentarians that forced the government to release women and children from migration detention. In 2006, she co-sponsored the cross-party private member's bill that removed the ministerial veto imposed by her government on importation of the abortion drug RU-486.

One of the problems of the conservative parties was that they were putting few women into parliament after the high point in 1996, and there were relatively few women to draw on for their front-bench positions. Conservative victories in state elections 2008-2012 resulted in an overall drop in the number of women in parliament and in Cabinet. For example, the state election in Queensland in 2012 resulted in a fall in the proportion of women in parliament from 36 per cent to 20 per cent and a halving of the proportion of women in Cabinet. At the federal level, women made up 23 per cent of Julia Gillard's Cabinet, but only 10 per cent of the shadow Cabinet.

The Australian Labor Party

To understand the extraordinary gap between political rights and representation in Australia, we need to understand the nature of the Australian Labor Party, established in 1891 as the political arm of the trade union movement. In other countries, parties of the left took the lead in putting women into parliament but this was not the case in Australia.

Traditionally the unions affiliated to the Labor Party were blue-collar male unions, dedicated to protecting their members against competition from cheaper labour and to upholding the 'family wage' for male breadwinners. The wage was to be sufficient to keep women in the home. Despite the pleas of early Labor Leaders such as Andrew Fisher (Sawer, 2012), the party did not preselect women for winnable seats in parliament. Although women's wings were created, their major role was to canvass women's votes and to do the catering for party conferences. The very institutions that brought power to working-class men also served to exclude Labor Party women from the ethos of fraternal solidarity and from access to decision-making roles or elected office (Huntley & Ramsay, 85).

Apart from domination by blue-collar unions, other institutional elements of the Labor Party, such as the strength of its factional system and the machine politics that were part of its Irish Catholic heritage, also created obstacles for women. The Labor Party has a more highly structured factional system than any other Western social democratic party and it is factional loyalty that brings rewards in terms of advancement within the party (Leigh, 427). Cross-factional activity, such as feminist campaigning, is regarded with suspicion.

Nonetheless, in Western Australia, the Labor Women's Organisation had a long and continuous history and supported women like May Holman (Member for Forrest 1925-39), the first and, for the whole of her career, the only elected Labor woman parliamentarian in Australia (Sawer & Simms, 93-6). Other Western Australian Labor women included Dorothy Tangney, the first woman elected to the Australian Senate, where she served from 1943 to 1968. Ruby Hutchison was the first and only woman in the Western Australian Legislative Council (1954-71), regularly introducing bills to get rid of the property franchise, as well as getting women admitted to jury service and founding the Australian Consumers' Association (Sawer & Simms, 132-3).

At the national level, Senator Susan Ryan, a founding member of Women's Electoral Lobby in Canberra and elected as a Labor Senator in 1975, was to lead attempts to make the party more women-friendly. In 1979, she wrote:

one of the major obstacles in gaining women's support for the Labor Party has been its traditional structure: machines, steering committees, complicated trade union connections. These antiquated, unrepresentative, male-dominated hierarchies with their mysterious and indirect ways of getting the numbers for preselections and the election of Party officers deter many women who are otherwise attracted to Labor policies. (Ryan, 24-25).

She commissioned research showing women candidates did not lose votes and succeeded in persuading the party to adopt a comprehensive women's policy. The Labor Party took this policy into government in 1983 and Ryan became a senior Cabinet minister, with education and status of women portfolios. She was able to ensure Australia's ratification of CEDAW (the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and the passage of the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunity for Women) Act 1986, and related measures promoting greater equity in education and employment. At the same time, Western Australian Senator Pat Giles created (in 1983) the Caucus Status of Women Policy Committee to ensure the gender monitoring of policy across the board, with each member being responsible for shadowing two ministers (Sawer & Simms, 211).

Despite the efforts of Ryan to make the Labor Party more women-friendly, the party remained a male bastion. The results of a voluntary affirmative action policy adopted in 1981 were patchy and Labor women campaigned strongly for further reform. In 1994, after intense factional negotiation, the Labor Party's national conference adopted a rule change to ensure women would make up 35 per cent of all Labor parliamentary parties by 2002. This meant women had to be preselected for Labor-held or winnable seats (requiring a swing of 5 per cent or less to win). The 35 per cent quota was backed by the power of the national executive to cancel preselections in the case of non-compliance. The 'bitches had won', as one senior factional leader put it (Debelle, 6).

Despite this win by women, the defeat of the federal Labor government in 1996 led both to a fall in the proportion of women among federal Labor MPs from 13 to 8 per cent and to an anti-feminist backlash within the party. It was in this context that former Victorian premier Joan Kirner, with support from former Western Australian premier Carmen Lawrence and other leading Labor women, decided to establish EMILY's List, a feminist fund-raising body that would support the election of 'progressive' Labor women and be outside the control of the national executive of the party. EMILY's List played a significant role in mentoring and supporting endorsed women candidates who made pro-choice and gender equity commitments. It was also important as a feminist ginger group and succeeded in 2002 in having Labor's national quota policy lifted to a minimum of 40 per cent women and 40 per cent men in parliamentary parties from 2012. By April 2014, women were 43 per cent of Labor parliamentarians around Australia as compared with 22.4 per cent of Liberal parliamentarians.

Minor Parties and Independents

In general, women found the new post-materialist parties, created after the resurgence of the women's movement, more welcoming than the long-established major parties in which institutional culture was difficult to change. Parties such as the Australian Democrats from the 1970s, and the Greens from the 1990s, operated on a more participatory and consensual basis than the older parties and women became the majority of their parliamentary representatives, taking on leadership roles in a number of parliaments. The first woman to lead a parliamentary party in Australia was Senator Janine Haines, who became leader of the Australian Democrats in 1986. This was a powerful position as the Democrats held the balance of power in the Senate. Subsequently five other women were also to lead the party at the federal level: Senators Janet Powell (1990-91), Cheryl Kernot (1993-97) Meg Lees (1997-2001), Natasha Stott Despoja (2001-2002) and Lyn Allison (2004-2008). Not only did women become the majority of Democrat leaders but they also ensured that the party had a feminist agenda, leading to campaign slogans such as 'the party that puts women first'.

The Greens gradually replaced the Australian Democrats both as a third force and as the party bringing the highest proportion of women into parliament and into leadership positions. All of these women were propelled into politics by a 'moment of moral outrage' and brought with them the shared leadership style found in both the women's and environment movements (Elix & Lambert). They included Christine Milne, who after leading the campaign against the Wesley Vale pulp mill in Tasmania became leader of the Tasmanian Greens 1993-98 and then federal leader in 2012. In Tasmania, Milne was followed by Peg Putt, another anti-pulp mill campaigner, as leader of the Tasmanian Greens (1998-2008). In Western Australia, Giz Watson had been involved in the first forest blockade to stop the clear felling of jarrah forests and became co-convenor of the Greens WA at the beginning of the 1990s. She was first elected to the Legislative Council for the Greens in 1996 and served until 2013. Among many other issues she was notable for her success in making female genital mutilation a crime. As well as being a registered builder, she has been one of a small number of gay women in leadership positions.

Women in Positions of Political Leadership

As we have already seen, by the 1980s women were achieving positions of party leadership. The first woman to become a head of government in Australia was Rosemary Follett, who became chief minister of the ACT in 1989 and was the first woman to attend a premiers' conference. A year later, Carmen Lawrence became Western Australian premier and Joan Kirner became Victorian premier, both inheriting governments mired in scandal and accusations of financial mismanagement. These women not only achieved leadership positions themselves but brought other women along with them. Follett insisted on women being 50 per cent of nominations for government boards, while a third of Lawrence's Cabinet were women, something unprecedented in 1990. Over the next two decades, a handful of women followed them as heads of government, almost all from the Labor side of politics (see Table 1). In a 'palace coup' in 2010, Julia Gillard became Australia's first woman prime minister and won minority government in the election she called soon after. While she was associated with some important policies for women, particularly equal pay for community service workers, she was also associated with reducing eligibility for the sole-parent pension. As prime minister, she was subjected to an extraordinary level of sexist abuse, particularly in the social media but also on talkback radio. The YouTube video of her powerful parliamentary response to such sexism (9 October 2012) 'went viral' and, within ten days, had been watched by more than two million viewers around the world. She lost office in another palace coup in 2013.

Table 1. Women Heads of Government at 1 December 2012
Rosemary FollettALPACTChief Minister1989, 1991-95
Carmen LawrenceALPWAPremier1990-93
Joan KirnerALPVictoriaPremier1990-92
Kate CarnellLiberalACTChief Minister1995-2000
Clare MartinALPNTChief Minister2001-07
Anna BlighALPQueenslandPremier2007-12
Kristina KeneallyALPNSWPremier2009-11
Julia GillardALPCommonwealthPrime Minister2010-13
Lara GiddingsALPTasmaniaPremier2011-14
Katie GallagherALPACTChief Minister2011-

While Labor women were much more likely than conservative women to become party leaders, the possibility of becoming a presiding officer of parliament, another important leadership position, was more evenly spread. It was notable that in 2011-12 women became speakers in two states where conservative election victories had resulted in a drop in the proportion of women in other leadership positions. In NSW, for example, women were no longer premier and deputy premier, but a woman became speaker, in charge of a house of parliament commonly referred to as the 'bear pit'.

Table 2. Women Presiding Officers at 1 December 2012
Anne LevyALPSAPresident, Legislative Council1986-88
Joan ChildALPCommonwealthSpeaker, House of Representatives1986-89
Roberta McRaeALPACT Speaker, Legislative Assembly1992-95
Margaret ReidLiberalCommonwealthPresident, Senate1996-2002
Virginia ChadwickLiberalNSWPresident, Legislative Council1998-99
Meredith BurgmannALPNSWPresident, Legislative Council1999-2007
Loraine BrahamIndependentNTSpeaker, Legislative Assembly2001-05
Jane AagaardALPNTSpeaker, Legislative Assembly2005-12
Monica GouldALPVictoriaPresident, Legislative Council2003-06
Judy MaddiganALPVictoriaSpeaker, Legislative Assembly2003-06
Jenny LindellALPVictoriaSpeaker, Legislative Assembly2006-10
Sue SmithIndependentTasmaniaPresident, Legislative Council2008-14
Amanda FazioALPNSWPresident, Legislative Council2009-11
Lynette BreuerALPSASpeaker, House of Assembly2010-13
Shelley HancockLiberalNSWSpeaker, Legislative Assembly2011-
Fiona SimpsonLiberal National PartyQueenslandSpeaker, Legislative Assembly2012-
Kezia PurickCountry Liberal PartyNTSpeaker, Legislative Assembly2012-
Anna BurkeALPCommonwealthSpeaker, House of Representatives2012-13
Vicki DunneLiberalACTSpeaker, Legislative Assembly2012-
Bronwyn BishopLiberalCommonwealthSpeaker, House of Representatives2013-
Christine FyffeLiberalVictoriaSpeaker, Legislative Assembly2014-
Elise ArcherLiberalTasmaniaSpeaker, House of Assembly2014-

Another important leadership position is that of state governor, Northern Territory administrator or, at the Commonwealth level, Australian governor-general. As head of state, the governor-general has to embody the nation, so this is another significant way in which gendered understandings of representation can be challenged. As with heads of government, the Labor Party has so far been considerably more likely to appoint women to these positions.

Table 3 Women as Governors or Governor-General
NameGovernment making appointmentJurisdictionDates
Roma MitchellLaborSA1991-06
Leneen FordeLaborQueensland1992-97
Marie BashirLaborNSW2001
Marjorie Jackson-Nelson LiberalSA2001-07
Quentin BryceLaborQueensland2003-08
Quentin BryceLaborCommonwealth (Governor-General)2008-14
Penelope WensleyLaborQueensland2008-
Sally ThomasLaborNT (Administrator)2011-


The increased presence of women in parliament brought about by Labor Party quotas also resulted in more diverse women being elected. The first woman from a non-English speaking background did not enter an Australian parliament until 1981, when Italian-born Franca Arena, a founder of ethnic radio 2EA in Sydney, was elected to the NSW Legislative Council. While elected for the Labor Party, she resigned from the party in 1997 after controversially naming alleged paedophiles under parliamentary privilege. She was followed into the NSW parliament in 1988 by Helen Sham-Ho, the first Chinese-born Australian parliamentarian. Sham-Ho was elected for the Liberal Party but resigned from the party in 1998 over its lack of support for multiculturalism. By 2005, there were four second-generation migrant women from non-English speaking backgrounds in the NSW parliament- two of Italian background, one Lebanese and one Armenian (Anthony,71). Gladys Berejiklian, the woman parliamentarian of Armenian descent, became minister of transport in the conservative government elected in 2011. A similar pattern was taking place in other Australian parliaments and, at the federal level, Malaysian-born Senator Penny Wong became a senior minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments from 2007. Apart from her Asian-Australian identity, Senator Wong also represented another form of diversity, having a same-sex partner and a child from that relationship.

The first Indigenous women were only elected to parliament in 2001, in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. However, they soon reached the front bench in the Northern Territory, where Marion Scrymgour entered Cabinet in 2003 and was deputy chief minister (2007-09). Another Indigenous woman minister in the Northern Territory, Alison Anderson, served in both Labor and Country Liberal Party Cabinets. In NSW, Linda Burney, of Wiradjuri descent, was elected to a safe Labor seat in 2003, entered Cabinet in 2007 and, in 2011, became deputy leader of the opposition. Beyond NSW, Burney was elected national president of the ALP 2008-09.


The under-representation of women in parliaments and political leadership was only effectively politicised in Australia in the 1990s. Once it was on the agenda and the Labor Party introduced enforceable quotas, women soon increased their presence at the top. Ironically, the policy influence of the women's movement had been at its height in the 1980s, well before the substantial entry of women to leadership positions. The latter coincided with discursive shifts carrying both major parties in the direction of neo-liberal market-based policies. While women in parliament continued to voice gender-based concerns over such policies, this sometimes required considerable bravery. The sight of women in leadership positions was certainly important in promoting the message of 'girls can do anything' but there was often a high price to be paid.

Published Resources

Australian Women's Register Entries


  • Anthony, Karina, The Political Representation of Ethnic and Racial Minorities, Briefing Paper 3/06, New South Wales Parliamentary Library Research Service, Sydney, New South Wales, 2006. Details
  • Chikarovski, Kerry and García, Luis M.,, Chika, Lothian Books, Melbourne, Victoria, 2004. Details
  • Fitzherbert, Margaret, Liberal Women: Federation - 1949, Federation Press, Sydney, New South Wales, 2004. Details
  • Fitzherbert, Margaret, So Many Firsts: Liberal Women from Enid Lyons to the Turnbull Era, Federation Press, Sydney, New South Wales, 2009. Details
  • Henderson, Anne, Enid Lyons: Leading Lady to a Nation, Pluto Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 2008. Details
  • Sawer, Marian and Simms, Marian, A Woman's Place: Women and Politics in Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 1993. Details
  • Searle, Betty, Silk and Calico: Class, Gender and the Vote, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, New South Wales, 1988. Details

Book Sections

  • Brooklyn, Bridget, 'The 1920s: A Good Decade for Women in Politics', in Francis, Rosemary; Grimshaw, Patricia; and Standish, Ann (eds), Seizing the Initiative: Australian Women Leaders in Politics, Workplaces and Communities, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, 2012, pp. 156-170. Details
  • Dickenson, Jackie, 'Fran Bailey and the McEwen Electorate: Women's Leadership in Representative Democracy', in Davis, Fiona, Musgrove, Nell and Smart, Judith (eds), Founders, Firsts and Feminists: Women Leaders in Twentieth-Century Australia, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, 2011, pp. 218-231. Details
  • Dickenson, Jackie, 'Leadership in the Constituency Service of Women Labor Members of Parliament', in Francis, Rosemary; Grimshaw, Patricia; and Standish, Ann (eds), Seizing the Initiative: Australian Women Leaders in Politics, Workplaces and Communities, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, 2012, pp. 393-405. Details
  • Elix, Jane and Lambert, Judy, 'Passionate Defenders, Accidental Leaders: Women in the Australian Environment Movement', in Joy Damousi, Kim Rubenstein and Mary Tomsic (eds), Diversity in Leadership: Australian women, past and present, ANU Press, ACT, 2014. Details
  • Gooch, Kathryn, '"Politics as War": Women and Leadership into the Future', in Francis, Rosemary; Grimshaw, Patricia; and Standish, Ann (eds), Seizing the Initiative: Australian Women Leaders in Politics, Workplaces and Communities, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, 2012, pp. 406-421. Details
  • Grey, Madeline, 'The Nature of Women's Political Leadership: Women MPs in the Parliament of Victoria', in Francis, Rosemary; Grimshaw, Patricia; and Standish, Ann (eds), Seizing the Initiative: Australian Women Leaders in Politics, Workplaces and Communities, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, 2012, pp. 379-391. Details
  • Huntley, Rebecca and Ramsay, Janet, '"Never made to follow, never born to lead": Women in the NSW ALP', in Deborah Brennan and Louise Chappell (eds), 'No fit place for women'? Women in New South Wales Politics 1856-2006, University of New South Wales (UNSW) Press, Sydney, New South Wales, 2006, pp. 84-110. Details
  • Sainsbury, Diane, 'Rights without Seats: The Puzzle of Women's Legislative Recruitment in Australia', in Marian Sawer (ed.), Elections Full, Free & Fair, Federation Press, Sydney, New South Wales, 2001, pp. 63-77. Details
  • Sawer, Marian, 'Topsy-turvey Land-Where Women, Children and the Environment Come First', in John Warhurst (ed.), Keeping the Bastards Honest: The Australian Democrats’ First Twenty Years, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 1997, pp. 237-50. Details
  • Sawer, Marian, 'Entering too Late? Women in Parliamentary Politics in NSW', in Drude Dahlerup and Monique Leyenaar (eds), Breaking Male Dominance in Old Democracies, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 2013. Details

Journal Articles

  • Leigh, Andrew, 'Factions and Fractions: A Case Study of Power Politics in the Australian Labor Party', Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 35, no. 3, 2000, pp. 427-48. Details
  • Ryan, Susan, 'Will Women Swing Back to Labor?', Labor Forum, vol. 1, no. 4, 1979, pp. 21-5. Details
  • Sawer, Marian, 'The Fisher Government and the Era of Liberal Reform', Labour History, vol. 102, May 2012, pp. 71-86. Details
  • Smart, Judith, '"Principles do not alter but the means by which we attain them change": The Australian Women's National League and Political Citizenship 1921-1945"', Women’s History Review, vol. 15, no. 1, March 2006, pp. 51-68. Details

Newspaper Articles

  • 'Labour Will Press For Equal Pay For Women at Next Election, Says Woman M.L.A.', Kalgoorlie Miner (Western Australia), 15 May 1937, p. 8. Details
  • Debelle, Penelope, 'It's Reality Time for Labor Party's Women's Quotas', The Age, 27 January 1995, p. 6. Details

Online Resources