Equal gender representation in the Senate


With the swearing-in of Sarah Henderson on 12 September 2019 to the Senate to fill the casual vacancy created by the resignation of Mitch Fifield (Lib., Vic.), the Senate now comprises 38 women and 38 men. This is the first time in the Senate’s history that it has had equal gender representation. Senator Henderson is the former Liberal Member for Corangamite (Vic., 2013–19).

Twenty years ago (as at 1 July 1999), 28.9 per cent of senators were women. Over the years this figure has increased gradually, rising to 39.5 per cent by the commencement of the previous (45th) Parliament on 30 August 2016. When the new senators in the current (46th) Parliament took their seats on 1 July 2019, the percentage of women rose by almost ten per cent to 48.7 per cent—now reaching 50 per cent with the appointment of Senator Henderson. If a woman fills the vacancy that arises due to the anticipated resignation of Arthur Sinodinos (Lib., NSW), the majority of senators will be women.

In the House of Representatives 30.5 per cent of members are women, the highest proportion in that chamber to date. At the commencement of the previous (45th) Parliament on 30 August 2016, women comprised 28.7 per cent of members of the House of Representatives. Twenty years ago (as at 1 July 1999), 22.3 per cent of members of the House of Representatives were women.

Of the eight state and territory parliaments, women form the majority in two: Tasmania (in both the Legislative Council, the House of Assembly and the parliament as a whole) and the Australian Capital Territory (which has a single chamber).

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