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South Australia heads national investigation into lack of women politicians

18 September 1993 Media release by Rosemary Cadden

South Australia has been put in charge of a national project to investigate ways to counteract the low numbers of women entering both Federal and State Parliaments.

The responsibility comes on the eve of South Australia celebrating its centenary in 1994 as the first place in the world to grant women the right to stand for Parliament and at the same time, the right to vote.

The project has been applauded by members of the Women's Suffrage Centenary Committee which includes women in the political arena in SA from all major parties.

The project aims to pinpoint strategies to improve women's participation as election candidates and as voters in public life - after exploring the possible reasons why women are not generally elected to powerful decision-making positions.

It will result in a major discussion paper being presented at a national conference in Adelaide next year for all Ministers in Australia and New Zealand responsible for the Status of Women.

The proposal was successfully put to the recent conference of the Ministers by the Minister responsible for the Status of Women in South Australia, Ms Anne Levy.

Mr Jayne Taylor, Women's Advisor to the Premier in SA and a member of the Women's Suffrage Centenary Steering committee, will head the team of Women's Advisors from throughout the country overseeing the consultancy for the project.

The South Australian centenary celebrations in 1994 aim to refocus women's participation in today's society, to highlight issues of current concern and to focus on the ongoing struggles for equity and democracy.

Effective participation in political processes and all areas of public life is considered a key step towards achieving women 's equality.

Female politicians from around the world, in Canberra this week for the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, have received new survey results which highlight the continuing low percentage of women politicians internationally.

The United Nations Commission for the Status of Women also considers this situation as one of concern and requiring attention.

The international survey shows that, although the number of women Federal politicians in Australia is increasing while the international figures are dropping, the nation is still outside the top 10 internationally - and is behind such countries as Mozambique, Bulgaria and Mexico.

It wasn't until 1943 that Australia elected its first Federal female politician.

While South Australia celebrates in 1994 the centenary of being the first place in the world to grant women the right to stand for Parliament, South Australia was actually the last Australian State to elect a woman-in 1959.


Following on from the national project on the lack of women politicians in Australian parliaments, Women and parliaments in Australia and New Zealand: a discussion paper was prepared by Coopers & Lybrand for the Commonwealth/State Conference on the Status of Women. (Australia : s.n. , 1994?). Following the election of the Liberal Government, the new Minister for the Status of Women in South Australia, Hon Diana Laidlaw, took up the project with equal enthusiasm, proposing a Joint Committee of the South Australian Parliament be set up. A long extract from its Report on women in Parliament is included here.

Then the federal Office for the Status of Women published Every woman's guide to getting into politics prepared by Kate Tully for the Office of the Status of Women. (Barton, A.C.T.: The Office, 1995). Another useful publication is Women parliamentarians in Australia 1921-1996: a register of women members of Commonealth, State and Territory Parliaments in Australia by David Black.(Perth : Western Australian Parliamentary History Project, 1996).

Copies of each of all these publications are held in the Bray Reference Library.


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