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BJELKE-PETERSEN, Florence Isabel (1920–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Queensland, 1981–1993 (National Country Party; National Party of Australia)</span>

BJELKE-PETERSEN, Florence Isabel (1920– )
Senator for Queensland, 1981–1993 (National Country Party; National Party of Australia)

Florence Bjelke-Petersen was born Florence Isabel Gilmour, in Brisbane on 11 August 1920, eldest of two daughters of James Pollock Gilmour, an accountant and company secretary, and his wife Florence Mabel, née Low. Growing up in the Brisbane riverside suburb of New Farm, her childhood was a secure and happy one, embedded in a contented family life. Florence began her schooling at the New

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BOURNE, Victoria Worrall (1954–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for New South Wales, 1990–2002 (Australian Democrats)</span>

BOURNE, Victoria Worrall (1954– )
Senator for New South Wales, 1990–2002 (Australian Democrats)

In 1973 when the Commonwealth Parliament amended the Electoral Act 1918 to lower the minimum voting age to eighteen, Vicki Bourne was a nineteen-year-old student. Inspired by the opportunity to vote, she looked at the environmental policies of each of the major political parties, rejecting the major parties in favour of the Australia Party. In 1977, when the Australia Party was merging with the

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BREEN, Dame Marie Freda (1902–1993)<br /> <span class=subheader>Senator for Victoria, 1962–68 (Liberal Party of Australia)</span>

BREEN, Dame Marie Freda (1902–1993)
Senator for Victoria, 1962–68 (Liberal Party of Australia)

Although claiming to be a somewhat reluctant senator, Marie Freda Breen created her own opportunities for political advancement and was committed to the increased representation of women in all facets of public life. Marie was born on 3 November 1902 at St Kilda, Victoria, second child of Frederick William Chamberlin, town clerk of St Kilda, who was born in London, and his Australian-born wife,

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BUTTFIELD, Dame Nancy Eileen (1912–2005)<br /> <span class=subheader>Senator for South Australia, 1955–65, 1968–74 (Liberal Party of Australia)</span>

BUTTFIELD, Dame Nancy Eileen (1912–2005)
Senator for South Australia, 1955–65, 1968–74 (Liberal Party of Australia)

Nancy Eileen Buttfield, the first South Australian woman to enter state or federal parliament, and a community worker and public figure in Adelaide, was born on 12 November 1912 in Kensington Gardens, Adelaide, to Edward Wheewall (later Sir Edward) Holden and Hilda May, née Lavis. Nancy’s great-grandfather, James Alexander Holden, arrived in Adelaide from the north of England in 1856, establishing a leather business

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CHAMARETTE, Christabel Marguerite Alain (1948–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Western Australia, 1992–96, (Greens WA)</span>

CHAMARETTE, Christabel Marguerite Alain (1948– )
Senator for Western Australia, 1992–96, (Greens WA)

Christabel Chamarette represented Western Australia as a senator from 1992 to 1996. Her term, although short, was made noteworthy by the fact that between 1993 and 1996 she shared the balance of power with other minor party and independent senators, including her Greens (WA) colleague Dee Margetts. Christabel Marguerite Alain Chamarette was born on 1 May 1948 at Hyderabad, India, the daughter of Arthur

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COLEMAN, Ruth Nancy (1931–2008)<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Western Australia, 1974–87 (Australian Labor Party)</span>

COLEMAN, Ruth Nancy (1931–2008)
Senator for Western Australia, 1974–87 (Australian Labor Party)

Ruth Nancy Huckstep (later Coleman), was born on 27 September 1931 at Collie, a small coal mining town in the south-west of Western Australia. She was the second surviving child of Vincent Huckstep, railway ganger, and his wife Alice Beatrice, née Boulden. A child of the Great Depression, whose father moved from place to place in the course of his job, Ruth was educated

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CROWLEY, Rosemary Anne (1938–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for South Australia, 1983–2002 (Australian Labor Party)</span>

CROWLEY, Rosemary Anne (1938– )
Senator for South Australia, 1983–2002 (Australian Labor Party)

Rosemary Anne WIllis (later Crowley), was born in Melbourne, Victoria on 30 July 1938, the second of six children of Monica Mary Willis, née Redmond, and Everard Joseph Willis, an accountant. Her family, her Roman Catholic upbringing, and her primary and secondary education at Kilmaire Brigidine Convent in Hawthorn between 1943 and 1955, combined to instil in her a passion for social justice and

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DUNN, Patricia Irene (1948–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for New South Wales, 1988–90 (Nuclear Disarmament Party; Independent)</span>

DUNN, Patricia Irene (1948– )
Senator for New South Wales, 1988–90 (Nuclear Disarmament Party; Independent)

Patricia Irene (Irina) Dunn[1] was born on 17 March 1948 in Shanghai, China, the eldest of two children of Timothy Edward Dunn and his wife Raisa Andreevna, née Yakimenko. Irina’s mother was of Ukrainian origin while her father, who was also born in Shanghai, was of mixed Irish, Portuguese and Chinese ancestry. Timothy Dunn worked on the North China Daily News and was aligned

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GIBBS, Brenda (1947–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Queensland, 1996–2002 (Australian Labor Party)</span>

GIBBS, Brenda (1947– )
Senator for Queensland, 1996–2002 (Australian Labor Party)

Brenda Gibbs’ term as a senator for Queensland began in the wake of a bitter pre-selection contest and the death of her 28-year-old son. In a way, it finished as it began, as the result of a factional quarrel over the federal seat of Petrie. In the interim, the senator was a strong advocate for the vulnerable and disadvantaged. Born on 3 September 1947

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GILES, Patricia Jessie (1928–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Western Australia, 1981–93 (Australian Labor Party)</span>

GILES, Patricia Jessie (1928– )
Senator for Western Australia, 1981–93 (Australian Labor Party)

Pat Giles was born Patricia Jessie White, daughter of Eustace Frederick White, car salesman, shop keeper and accountant, and his wife Marjorie Eva, née Norris, schoolteacher, on 16 November 1928 at Minlaton, South Australia. The family moved to Melbourne, but the marriage was ‘violent and unhappy’. Marjorie and Pat returned to Adelaide in 1931, shortly before Marjorie gave birth to her second daughter. Marjorie

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GUILFOYLE, Dame Margaret Georgina Constance (1926–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Victoria, 1971–87 (Liberal Party of Australia)

GUILFOYLE, Dame Margaret Georgina Constance (1926– )
Senator for Victoria, 1971–87 (Liberal Party of Australia)

Margaret Guilfoyle would have been an unusual candidate for any political party when she stood for election to the Senate in 1970. Decades before such arrangements became commonplace, flexible working hours allowed Guilfoyle to combine her career as an accountant with raising her three children. Her qualifications and experience later boosted Guilfoyle’s chances of obtaining a seat in Parliament, and gave her skills that

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HAINES, Janine (1945–2004)<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for South Australia, 1977–78, 1981–90 (Australian Democrats)</span>

HAINES, Janine (1945–2004)
Senator for South Australia, 1977–78, 1981–90 (Australian Democrats)

Janine Carter, later Haines, was born in Tanunda, South Australia, on 8 May 1945, the eldest of three children. Her father, Francis Claude Carter, a policeman, was posted to various South Australian country towns and later joined the Commonwealth Public Service; her mother, Beryl Madge Carter, née Winton, became a primary school teacher during the 1950s. Janine was educated at six primary schools; the

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HEARN, Jean Margaret (1921–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Tasmania, (1980–85) (Australian Labor Party)</span>

HEARN, Jean Margaret (1921– )
Senator for Tasmania, (1980–85) (Australian Labor Party)

Jean Margaret Button (later Hearn), was born in Launceston, Tasmania, on 30 March 1921. Jean was the eldest of four children of Elton Roy Button, a draper, and his English-born wife Emily Gertrude, née Barrow. The family lived at Smithton on the north-west coast. Jean attended the local primary school and then Methodist Ladies’ College (now Scotch Oakburn College), Launceston. On 28 September 1940,

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JENKINS, Jean Alice (1938–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Western Australia, 1987–90 (Australian Democrats)</span>

JENKINS, Jean Alice (1938– )
Senator for Western Australia, 1987–90 (Australian Democrats)

Jean Jenkins was born Jean Alice Elliott on 16 March 1938 in Bristol, England, to Ernest Elliott and his wife Alice Elizabeth, née Jones. She was brought up by adoptive parents Daniel and Blanche Jones in Swansea, Wales. Jean attended Swansea Girls High School and completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in languages at the University of Reading, majoring in Italian, French and German.

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KERNOT, Cheryl (1948–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Queensland, 1990–97 (Australian Democrats)</span>

KERNOT, Cheryl (1948– )
Senator for Queensland, 1990–97 (Australian Democrats)

Cheryl Kernot was born Cheryl Paton in Maitland, NSW on 5 December 1948, the eldest of four children of Mervyn Roydon Paton, a purchasing officer for the Maitland City Council, and his wife Zena, née Hunter. To help with the family budget, Merv took a second job as manager of the Princes Theatre in East Maitland. Although their parents were not regular churchgoers, all

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MARGETTS, Diane Elizabeth (1955–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Western Australia, 1993–99, (Greens WA)</span>

MARGETTS, Diane Elizabeth (1955– )
Senator for Western Australia, 1993–99, (Greens WA)

Dee Margetts was a senator for one term between 1993 and 1999 during which she shared the balance of power in the Senate with other minor party and independent senators. The way she dealt with this situation was influenced heavily by her previous activities and experience as an environmental and peace activist. Diane Elizabeth (Dee) Margetts was born on 5 March 1955 in Fremantle,

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MELZER, Jean Isabel (1926–)<br /> <span class=subheader>Senator for Victoria, 1974–81 (Australian Labor Party)</span>

MELZER, Jean Isabel (1926–)
Senator for Victoria, 1974–81 (Australian Labor Party)

Jean Isabel Melzer, the first woman in the Australian Labor Party to be elected to the Senate from Victoria, was born in the Melbourne suburb of Elsternwick, on 7 February 1926. She was the eldest of the three daughters of George Kenneth McLeod and Lilian Rosa, née Ford. Jean was educated at state schools at Ormond and Ormond East, Gardenvale Central School, and from

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NEWMAN, Jocelyn Margaret (1937–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Tasmania, 1986–2002 (Liberal Party of Australia)</span>

NEWMAN, Jocelyn Margaret (1937– )
Senator for Tasmania, 1986–2002 (Liberal Party of Australia)

Jocelyn Margaret Mullett (later Newman), was born in Melbourne on 8 July 1937, the eldest of three surviving children of Lyndhurst Mullett, solicitor, and his wife Margaret, née Maughan, a comptometrist. She was educated at Mont Albert Central School and Presbyterian Ladies’ College. At the University of Melbourne she was active in student politics, co-edited the student newspaper, Farrago, was elected ‘Miss University’ in

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POWELL, Janet Frances (1942–2013)<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Victoria, 1986–93 (Australian Democrats, Independent)</span>

POWELL, Janet Frances (1942–2013)
Senator for Victoria, 1986–93 (Australian Democrats, Independent)

Janet Frances McDonald (later Powell), was born in Nhill, Victoria, on 29 September 1942, the second of three children of Colin George McDonald and his wife Frances May, née Kilpatrick. Her parents were wheat and sheep farmers at the small town of Propodollah in north-western Victoria. Janet attended the local primary school until it closed, then continued her education at Nhill Primary School, Queen’s

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RANKIN, Dame Annabelle Jane Mary (1908–1986)<br /> <span class=subheader>Senator for Queensland, 1947–71 (Liberal Party of Australia)</span>

RANKIN, Dame Annabelle Jane Mary (1908–1986)
Senator for Queensland, 1947–71 (Liberal Party of Australia)

Annabelle Jane Mary Rankin, the second woman to sit in the Senate, was born at South Brisbane on 28 July 1908, elder of two daughters of Colin Dunlop Wilson Rankin and his wife Annabelle Davidson Rankin, née Thomson, both born in Scotland. The family lived first near the small Queensland town of Childers where Colin was a sugar grower, and Annabelle rode her pony

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REYNOLDS, Margaret (1941–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Queensland, 1982–99 (Australian Labor Party)</span>

REYNOLDS, Margaret (1941– )
Senator for Queensland, 1982–99 (Australian Labor Party)

Margaret Reynolds, activist, educator and author, was born Margaret Lyne, in Hobart on 19 July 1941, the only child of Walter Rodis (Rod) Lyne and his wife Jess, née Montgomery, a teacher. Rod Lyne, who worked on his father’s farm before serving with the Australian Army in New Guinea, died in 1947. During the war Jess took Margaret to Launceston to live near her

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ROBERTSON, Agnes Robertson (1882–1968)<br /> <span class=subheader>Senator for Western Australia, 1950–62 (Liberal Party of Australia; Australian Country Party)</span>

ROBERTSON, Agnes Robertson (1882–1968)
Senator for Western Australia, 1950–62 (Liberal Party of Australia; Australian Country Party)

Agnes Robertson Keay was born at Stepney, Adelaide, South Australia, on 31 July 1882, only daughter of David Kelly Keay, stonemason and building contractor, and his wife Mary Ann, née Thomson. A lone girl among seven brothers, Agnes soon learnt ‘to fight’ her way ‘with them all’. Her father was a well-read social commentator and regular contributor to contemporary journals. He revelled in controversial

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RYAN, Susan Maree (1942–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Australian Capital Territory, 1975–88 (Australian Labor Party)</span>

RYAN, Susan Maree (1942– )
Senator for Australian Capital Territory, 1975–88 (Australian Labor Party)

Susan Maree Ryan was born on 10 October 1942 at Camperdown, Sydney, the third of four children of Arthur Francis Aloysius Ryan, a clerk in the state public service, and his wife Florence Ena, née Hodson, who worked as a sales assistant. Growing up in Maroubra, Susan was educated at its Brigidine Convent, where she completed the Leaving Certificate. Although she was to move

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SOWADA, Karin Nicole (1961–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for New South Wales, 1991–93 (Australian Democrats)</span>

SOWADA, Karin Nicole (1961– )
Senator for New South Wales, 1991–93 (Australian Democrats)

Karin Nicole Sowada was born in Sydney on 1 November 1961, the daughter of migrant parents: Helen, born in England, and Valentin, a Swiss photojournalist. Her parents had first met in Sydney in 1957. By Sowada’s own account, while her parents were not involved in party politics, they ‘were intimately concerned with political issues’, which were discussed around the table at night. In 1975

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SULLIVAN, Kathryn Jean Martin (1942–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Queensland, 1974–84 (Liberal Party of Australia)</span>

SULLIVAN, Kathryn Jean Martin (1942– )
Senator for Queensland, 1974–84 (Liberal Party of Australia)

In her youth Kathy Martin aspired to be a lawyer or a police officer. Despite her best efforts the inherent gender discrimination of the 1950s and 1960s proved insurmountable and she would move into the more ‘acceptable’ field of education. Only a few decades later, her entry into Australia’s federal Parliament proved to be the ultimate irony. Instead of practising or enforcing the law,

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SYNON, Karen (1959–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Victoria, 1997–99 (Liberal Party of Australia)</span>

SYNON, Karen (1959– )
Senator for Victoria, 1997–99 (Liberal Party of Australia)

Karen Margaret Synon was born in Moe, Victoria on 15 September 1959 and attended Whitehorse Girls’ College and Blackburn South High School before completing a Master of Business Administration at the University of Melbourne. Prior to embarking on a parliamentary career, Synon worked in a range of community development and education roles and in a senior management role in the Victorian public service. In

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TANGNEY, Dame Dorothy Margaret (1907–1985)<br /> <span class=subheader>Senator for Western Australia, 1943–68 (Australian Labor Party)</span>

TANGNEY, Dame Dorothy Margaret (1907–1985)
Senator for Western Australia, 1943–68 (Australian Labor Party)

In 1943 Dorothy Margaret Tangney became the first woman senator and the first Labor woman in either house of the federal Parliament. Tangney was born in North Perth, Western Australia, on 13 March 1907, though either through misinformation or artifice she provided 1911 as the year of her birth. She was the third of seven surviving children of Irish-born Eugene Tangney, timber mill worker

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VALLENTINE, Josephine (1946–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Western Australia, 1985–92 (Nuclear Disarmament Party; Independent; Greens WA)</span>

VALLENTINE, Josephine (1946– )
Senator for Western Australia, 1985–92 (Nuclear Disarmament Party; Independent; Greens WA)

Josephine (Jo) Vallentine was born on 30 May 1946 in the wheatbelt town of Beverley, east of Perth, one of five children of Oswald Robert Vallentine, a farmer, and his wife Sylvia Cyclone, née Miles. Jo attributed her desire to make a difference in the world to several influences. She regarded both her grandfathers as ‘the types to make things happen’ and was impressed

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WALTERS, Mary Shirley (1925–2017)<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Tasmania, 1975–93 (Liberal Party of Australia)</span>

WALTERS, Mary Shirley (1925–2017)
Senator for Tasmania, 1975–93 (Liberal Party of Australia)

Mary Shirley Harrison (known as Shirley) was born in Sydney on 31 August 1925, the second of three daughters of Eric John and Mary Cook Harrison, née McCall. She and her two sisters grew up at the family home in the Sydney suburb of Rose Bay. Shirley had a comfortable childhood—her father was a successful businessman, managing a large textile factory, and in 1931

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WEDGWOOD, Dame Ivy Evelyn Annie (1896–1975)<br /> <span class=subheader>Senator for Victoria, 1950–71 (Liberal Party of Australia)</span>

WEDGWOOD, Dame Ivy Evelyn Annie (1896–1975)
Senator for Victoria, 1950–71 (Liberal Party of Australia)

Dame Ivy Evelyn Annie Wedgwood, accountant and magistrate, was a founding member of the Liberal Party, and was the first Victorian woman elected to the Senate. Ivy was born on 18 October 1896 in the Melbourne suburb of Malvern, the elder of two daughters of Elizabeth, née Evans, and her husband, Albert Drury, both Victorian-born. Ivy grew up in the Melbourne working-class suburb of

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WEST, Suzanne Margaret (1947–  )<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for New South Wales, 1987, 1990–2002 (Australian Labor Party)</span>

WEST, Suzanne Margaret (1947– )
Senator for New South Wales, 1987, 1990–2002 (Australian Labor Party)

Suzanne Margaret (Sue) West was born 21 September 1947, the daughter of Edna May, née Bennett, and her husband Timothy Henry (Tim) West, a grazier from Cowra. Tim was an unsuccessful ALP candidate at four state elections between 1976 and 1984 but earned an OAM for his services to the Cowra community. Sue was indelibly shaped by her local community. Living fifteen miles from

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ZAKHAROV, Alice Olive (1929–1995)<br /><span class=subheader>Senator for Victoria, 1983–95 (Australian Labor Party)</span>

ZAKHAROV, Alice Olive (1929–1995)
Senator for Victoria, 1983–95 (Australian Labor Party)

Throughout her life Olive Zakharov was a grassroots campaigner for human rights and social justice. She eschewed personal publicity and political advancement in favour of promoting the causes and issues that she believed in. Born in Kew, Melbourne, on 19 March 1929, Alice Olive Hay was the youngest of four daughters of Robert and Alice Anderson Hay, née Dobie. Scottish-born Robert Hay was a

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