1902 Federal suffrage

Non-aboriginal women gain the right to vote in Federal elections, the right to sit in Federal Parliament, and the right to stand for election.

However, it would take another 41 – or until 1943 – before the first women would finally win a seat in the federal parliament.

It would also take another 60 years before Indigenous women won the same rights in 1962.

1903 First female parliamentary candidates

Vida Goldstein (Vic), Nelli Martel (NSW) and Mary Ann Moore Bentley (NSW) stand for election to the Senate, and Selina Anderson stands for the seat of Dalley (NSW) in the House of Representatives – But none are elected.  

1911 First International Women’s Day

Following the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1910, the very first International Women’s Day launched in March 1911 by Clara Zetkin, Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany.

1921 First woman elected to Australian parliament

Edith Cowan elected to the lower house of the WA Parliament.

1943 First women elected to federal parliament

Enid Lyons (United Australia Party) in the House of Representatives and Dorothy Tangney (Labor) in the Senate. 

1943 The Women’s Prayer

Our Prime Minister
Which art in Canberra
Democracy be thy aim.
May liberty come and equality be won
For women as well as for men.
Give us this day equal status
And forgive those conventions
Which discriminate against us.
Lead us not back to inferiority
And deliver us from exploitation
For thine is the Party, the power and the policy
To give us equality
For Evatt and Evatt

Jessie Street, President of the United Association of Women pens the poem, and sends it to the Prime Minister John Curtin, who is quoted as being ‘amused’.

1966 The Public Service ‘marriage bar’ abolished

Introduced at the beginning of the 1900s, the bar on married women’s employment was intended to keep women from stealing men’s jobs, and boost the birth rate.

1972 Equal pay act

Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission (ACAC) evaluates their 1969 decision granting women equal pay for equal work.
The 1969 principle applied only to women doing exactly the same work as men, employed in predominantly male occupations.

The 1972 Equal Pay Case expanded on this principle, now encompassing ‘equal pay for work of equal value’, and a single rate for a job regardless of gender.

However, with a highly gender segregated workforce, the question of how to measure ‘work of equal value’ still persists today.

1975 International Women’s Year

The United Nations declares 1975 International Women’s Year, and announces the period from 1976-1985 as the United Nations Decade for Women.

1979 Deborah Wardley wins the right to be employed as a pilot

After a prolonged battle through the Victorian Equal Opportunity Board (now VCAT) and later the Supreme and High Courts of Australia, the airline Ansett was ordered to include Wardley in their pilot training program. The company remained uncooperative until its new owner, Rupert Murdoch, intervened.

1981 First female government head

Patricia O’Shane appointed as the head of the NSW Ministry of Aboriginal Affair in 1981, and becomes the first Aboriginal persona, and the first woman to become a permanent head of ministry in Australia.

1982 A 39-year-old Queensland lawyer and academic named Quentin Bryce

Who would later become our Governor-General, is appointed as the convenor of the National Women’s Advisory Council.
An article published in the National Times following her appointment describes her as “Brisbane’s best dresser” and a “superwoman”.
But she rejected these labels.
“Radical or conservative? I don’t think I’m really either, and it’s probably part of being a 35-year-old mother of five… Woman are tagged with superwoman images when really they’re just exhausted. And they don’t talk about it – there really isn’t enough plain speaking about it all, about how hard it is.” – Quentin Bryce

1983 CEDAW

Australia signed on to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

1984 Australian Parliament passes Sex Discrimination Act

to ensure women have the same access to jobs, services and accommodation as men. It also makes sexual harassment illegal for the first time in Australia.

1986 The Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986 

requires certain employers to promote equal opportunity for women in employment. The office of the Director of Affirmative Action established.

1989 First female head of state

Rosemary Follett appointed the ACT Chief Minister.

1995 Natasha Stott Despoja becomes the youngest person,

and youngest woman elected to Federal Parliament at the age of 26.

2000 Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999

comes into effect, requiring a range of organisations with more than 100 people to establish a workplace program to remove the barriers to women entering and advancing to leadership positions within the workplace.

2000 The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security

is adopted unanimously by 191 nations.

for breastfeeding her 11-day-old baby.

2008 First female Governor General of Australia – Quentin Bryce

2010 First female Prime Minister – Julia Gillard

2012 Julia Gillard’s ‘misogyny speech’

in Parliament receives worldwide attention.

I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not.
And the Government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever. Julia Gillard

2013 First Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman elected to federal parliament – Nova Peris

2016 First Aboriginal woman elected to House of Representatives

Linda Burney wins the NSW seat of Barton.

2017 Senator Larissa Waters

becomes the first woman to breastfeed in Federal Parliament, while Minister Kelly O’Dwyer becomes the first Cabinet Minister to give birth while in office.

2017 Women’s March

A worldwide rally to protest against sexism and demand stronger rights and policies to support and advance women held on 21 January 2017. Advocates call for wide ranging reform across human rights, immigration, healthcare, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTIQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights.

2017 Same sex marriage becomes legal in Australia

as the Marriage Act is amended to give same-sex couples the right to marry in the same way as heterosexual couples.

The passing of the Bill was seen as a watershed moment for equal rights in Australia.

2017 First game in the Australian Football League Women’s competition

The Collingwood Magpies and the Carlton Blues play the first premiership game of the AFLW on 3 February 2017.

2018 Greta Thunberg

A Swedish school girl’s ‘School strike for the climate’ kick starts global protests for climate action.

In 2019 Time magazine names her one of the 100 most influential people, and she becomes the youngest individual Time Person of the Year.

Thunberg is also nominated for both the 2019 and 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

2020 – Girls, it’s your move!