No. 3 - Women in the Senate

Women throughout Australia have had the right to vote in elections for the national Parliament for more than one hundred years. For all that time, they have also had the right to sit in the Australian Parliament.

Australia was the first country in the world to give most women both the right to vote and the right to stand for Parliament when, in 1902, the federal Parliament passed legislation to provide for a uniform franchise throughout the Commonwealth. In spite of this early beginning, it was 1943 before a woman was elected to the Senate or the House of Representatives. As of January 2023, there are 58 women in the House of Representatives and 43 of the 76 senators are women.

The Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 stated that ‘all persons not under twenty-one years of age whether male or female married or unmarried’ would be entitled to vote in federal elections. (The Act excluded Aboriginal women and men unless they were eligible to vote under state law). One of the qualifications for candidates for election to Parliament is that they are eligible to vote in federal elections. The removal of the requirement that voters be male, which had been carried into the first federal elections in 1901 by all states except South Australia and Western Australia, also removed that qualification on eligibility to stand for the federal Parliament. Once women had the right to vote in federal elections, they had the right to become members of Parliament. This issue was barely discussed in parliamentary debates on the Franchise Act in 1902.

There was a lot of public discussion, however, when, in December 1903, at the first federal election following the passage of the Act, four women nominated for election. Vida Goldstein (Victoria), and Nellie Martel and Mary Ann Moore Bentley (New South Wales), stood for election to the Senate, and Selina Anderson stood for the seat of Dalley (New South Wales) in the House of Representatives. They were the first women nominated for any national Parliament within what was then the British Empire; none of them were elected.

Women as federal candidates

Australia was one of the first countries in the world to give full political rights to women, but was one of the last western countries to elect women to its national Parliament (refer to the table on page 6).

There were limited opportunities to vote for women before the end of the Second World War, as few women stood for election. Between 1903 and 1943 only 26 women in total nominated for election for either house.

No woman was endorsed by a major party as a candidate for the Senate before the beginning of the Second World War. Overwhelmingly dominated by men, the established political parties saw men as being more suited to advancing their political causes. It was thought that neither men nor women would vote for female candidates.

Many early feminists distrusted the established parties, as formed by men and protective of men’s interests. Those who presented themselves as candidates did so as independents or on the tickets of minor parties. Vida Goldstein, for example, refused to align herself with the Labor Party, which shared many of her sympathies, and so denied herself possible back-up and support. In 1903 she wrote:

Women should carry on the fight and the campaign by means of their own organisations, and not by means of any existing ones controlled and directed by men. If they do the latter, they must adopt men’s methods and men’s aims, and simply help in perpetuating the old order of things. The right of the franchise will have been bestowed on them for no purpose.

Australian Woman’s Sphere,10 July 1903

During the Second World War, while many men were in the armed services, women were employed in jobs that had previously been reserved for men. It became more common for women to work outside the home, and to actively participate in aspects of public life, such as politics.

Social changes affecting women brought about by the war appear to have contributed to the election of the first two women to the federal Parliament in 1943. While only eight women in total nominated for election to the Senate between 1903 and 1943, five women nominated in 1943 alone. Where previously the maximum number of women to nominate at any election for the House of Representatives had been four (in 1934), nineteen women nominated in 1943.

In August 1943 Dorothy Tangney, the first woman to gain endorsement for the Senate by the Australian Labor Party, managed to gather enough preferences to fill an extra vacancy caused by the death of a Western Australian senator. At the same election, Dame Enid Lyons, well-known as the widow of former Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, won one of the five House of Representatives seats for Tasmania for the United Australia Party. In New South Wales, Jessie Street won the highest number of primary votes for the seat of Wentworth, but was defeated on preferences.

Election of women to the Senate

Ten women stood for the Senate election of December 1949, and two were elected. This was the first election in which a system of proportional representation voting was implemented for Senate elections. This system requires that multiple candidates obtain a proportion of the votes cast, rather than a majority. (See Electing Australia’s Senators, Senate Brief No. 1). Proportional representation is thought to be more favourable than other systems to the election of women because it represents electors and their interests inclusively, and because it encourages the election of members of small parties and minority groups, which women have often sought to represent.

Any benefit was slow to be felt, however, as the proportion of women in the Senate did not improve, and even regressed, over the next 25 years. While more women were being nominated for election to the Senate throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the major parties continued to withhold their support, in the belief that women could not poll well in federal elections. Women were endorsed by the major parties, but invariably for elections for difficult or even unwinnable seats. In July 1971, there were still only two women senators, and seven women in total had served in the Senate since Federation. During much of this period there were no women in the House of Representatives.

While improvement in their parliamentary representation was slow to eventuate, Australian women made important gains in political, civil and economic rights during this period. In the 1960s, the bar on married women in the Commonwealth Public Service was lifted, women were granted equal pay for equal work, and increasing numbers of young women gained access to university studies. Reforms such as this gathered into a tide of feminism, which was fuelled by the foundation of the Women’s Electoral Lobby in 1972. In the 1970s and 1980s the Commonwealth Parliament enacted a number of laws to promote the status of women, provide them with equal opportunities and prevent discrimination against them and, ultimately, to implement affirmative action to remove barriers to equality.

Women senators played an important role in these improvements to the equality of Australian society for women. The introduction by Senator Susan Ryan in 1981 of a private senator’s bill on sex discrimination was particularly significant. Although this bill did not proceed, Senator Ryan introduced an amended version in 1983 when she was Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. The bill was passed and became the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. Other Acts resulting from Senator Ryan’s original 1981 bill were the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986, the Public Service Reform Act 1984 and the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987.

Women began to seek political office more actively, and the political parties at last began to recognise the value and justice of encouraging female candidates. The Australian Labor Party first adopted an affirmative action program that set quotas to be achieved in the endorsement of female candidates for parliamentary elections in 1981. Since 2012 Labor has maintained a quota system guaranteeing both women and men no less than 40 per cent of public office preselection positions, including for seats currently held by the ALP, for winnable seats and for all other seats. The Liberal Party has used women’s networks within the party to recruit, mentor and train women to stand and campaign for election, and the National Party maintains a Women’s Federal Council to contribute to decision-making and party policy. The Australian Democrats were represented in the Senate between 1977 and 2008 and there were several female Democrats senators in every Parliament during that period. Since July 1990, the Australian Greens have had female representation in the Senate. Of a total of twenty-five Greens senators, sixteen have been women. At the start of the 47th Parliament, 8 of the 12 Greens senators were women.

During the 1980s and 1990s the number of women in parliaments Australia-wide increased steadily. In the Australian Senate, by July 1991, there were eighteen women senators, and by July 1996 there were 23, equal to a little over 30 per cent of Senate membership. As of January 2023, women make up 58 per cent of the Senate.

Perceptions of women in politics

Women senators have made an immense contribution to changing public perceptions of the role of women in politics. While throughout the years a number have been active in areas traditionally associated with women’s interests such as health care, education, the arts and family and community matters, there are now no areas of public policy in which female senators are not engaged. It would be difficult to detect a bias in the subject matter of the wide range of Senate committees on which women presently serve and chair.

In 1946 an amendment to section 51 of the Australian Constitution gave the Commonwealth the right to legislate on a wide range of matters affecting social security, and after that time the Commonwealth began exercising power in relation to laws affecting family and domestic matters. In the past fifty years, such issues have assumed more status and political significance. The first ministry held by a woman, in 1966, was Housing (Annabelle Rankin), and the first Senate legislative and general purpose standing committee to have a female Chair, in 1970, was the Health and Welfare Committee (Ivy Wedgwood).

Women have assumed other leadership roles in the Senate. In 1986, Senator Janine Haines became the first woman in Australia to lead a political party when she took over the leadership of the Australian Democrats. Five subsequent Democrats leaders were women, and as leaders of a party that frequently held the balance of power in the Senate, all played a central role in negotiations for the amendment and passage of important legislation.

Senator Margaret Reid was elected President of the Senate in August 1996, and presided over business in the Senate for six years. In this prestigious position she was to many the public face of the Senate, who acted as its representative in dealings with the executive government and persons outside Parliament.

Julia Gillard pushed the boundaries for women in politics further still when she became the first female Deputy Prime Minister in 2007 and Prime Minister of Australia in 2010. 

One hundred years after Vida Goldstein and others faced a hostile public, press and Parliament, women have overcome most of the obstacles which made their entry to Parliament difficult. According to the Australian Electoral Commission, 191 out of 421 (approximately 45 per cent) nominations for the Senate in the election of May 2022 were for women.

Speaking at the Women’s Constitutional Convention in June 2002, Senator Amanda Vanstone said:

One hundred years ago, women got the right to vote and to stand for Parliament … These rights having been fought for by women and men are meant to be used and used not in part but in full. We cannot say that has happened until we have something like 50 per cent representation in federal Parliament. And when we have 50 per cent of the Parliament, we should be aiming for 50 per cent of the Ministry and Shadow Ministry and 50 per cent of the Cabinet.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

In 2007 Sarah Hanson-Young became the youngest woman elected to the Senate at the age of 25.
Image courtesy of  DPS AUSPIC

Seven pioneer women in the Senate

Dorothy Tangney

Dorothy Tangney, the first woman senator, was elected to the Senate for Western Australia for the Australian Labor Party in August 1943. She was thirty-six years old at the time of her election, and she remained in the Senate for twenty-five years. Although she was conscious that she bore the honour of being the first woman senator, Senator Tangney saw her responsibility as being far more than just the representation of women. In her first speech to the Senate, she said:

Dorothy Tangney

I … realise my great honour in being the first woman to be elected to the Senate. But it is not as a woman that I have been elected to this chamber. It is as a citizen of the Commonwealth; and I take my place here with the full privileges and rights of all honourable senators, and … with the full responsibilities which such a high office entails.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, 24 September 1943

During her time in the Senate, Senator Tangney was committed to an agenda of social reform which included extending federal government responsibility for social services and instituting Commonwealth assistance in education. In a crucial period between 1943 and 1946, she was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Social Security, which made influential recommendations to the government on such matters as child endowment, invalid pensions, and medical and hospital benefits. She was a champion of the rights of ex-service men and women, deserted wives, civilian and war widows, and the mentally ill. A supporter of the establishment of the Australian National University in Canberra, she was a member of the Council of that University for many years.

Annabelle Rankin

Annabelle Rankin

The second woman senator was Annabelle Rankin, Senator for Queensland from 1947 to 1971. Senator Rankin, a member of the Liberal Party, was particularly interested in housing, health and communications issues. In 1947 Senator Rankin was appointed Opposition Whip in the Senate, the first woman in the Parliament to hold a whip’s position. She was the Government Whip for fifteen years from 1951. As Minister for Housing she became, in 1966, the first woman responsible for the administration of a government department. After retiring from the Senate in 1971, Dame Annabelle Rankin became Australia’s first woman ambassador, when she was appointed High Commissioner to New Zealand.

Women who entered the Senate after Senator Rankin have acknowledged that her strong presence and manifest ability paved the way for a greater acceptance of women in leadership roles by their Senate colleagues and by the public in general.

Ivy Wedgewood

Ivy Wedgwood

Ivy Wedgwood represented the state of Victoria in the Senate from 1950 to 1971. She was a foundation member of the Liberal Party. She was the first woman to chair a Senate committee when, in 1968, she was elected Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs. The developing Senate committee system provided many opportunities for Senator Wedgwood to pursue her interest in and responsibility for social welfare issues. In 1970 she was Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare when it presented a landmark report on mentally and physically handicapped persons in Australia. For more than fifteen years, Senator Wedgwood was a member and sole woman on the powerful Joint Committee of Public Accounts, a joint parliamentary committee with authority to examine the financial affairs of government authorities such as the Audit Office.

Agnes Robertson

Agnes Robertson

Agnes Robertson was elected to the Senate for Western Australia for the first time in 1949, at the age of sixty-eight. She came to the Senate as a representative of the Liberal Party, after formidable experience as a leader of women’s political associations in Western Australia. When the Liberal Party declined to re-endorse her for election in 1955 due to her advanced age, she successfully stood for election for the Country Party. She was the first woman to represent the Country Party in the Parliament.

A teacher in Western Australian schools for many years, Senator Robertson spoke frequently in the Senate on the subject of education, and on the health and welfare of children. She was also active in the area of international affairs, and from February 1956 was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs. She retired from Parliament in 1962 at the age of eighty.

Nancy Buttfield

Nancy Buttfield

In 1955, Nancy Buttfield, representing the Liberal Party, became the fifth woman to enter the Senate, and the first woman to represent South Australia in the federal Parliament. She was the first woman nominated to fill a casual vacancy in the Senate.

As a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, she took part in inquiries relating to social services entitlements, ultrasonic aids to the blind and rehabilitation services for the disadvantaged, as well as chairing an inquiry into repatriation. She was also a member of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse and a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. Nancy Buttfield served a total of sixteen years in the Senate.

Marie Breen

Marie Breen

The sixth woman elected to the Senate, Marie Breen was elected as a Liberal Party senator for Victoria and served from 1962 to 1968. In her public speeches, Senator Breen placed considerable emphasis on the importance of family life, as affecting all other areas. She was an active supporter of Australia’s role in the provision of economic and humanitarian assistance to developing countries in the region. She chaired the Senate’s Printing Committee.

Margaret Guilfoyle

Margaret Guilfoyle

Margaret Guilfoyle entered the Senate to represent Victoria for the Liberal Party in 1971. In a parliamentary career which spanned sixteen years, she served, at various times, as Minister for Education, Minister for Social Security, Minister for Finance, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Child Care Matters. She took an active interest in a wide range of issues including taxation, Aborigines, social welfare, international affairs, immigration, health and industrial relations. She was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations which examined matters relating to repatriation, death duties, income tax, superannuation, Australian foreign aid and all aspects of television broadcasting. Other committee service in which Senator Guilfoyle was engaged included the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control of Australian Enterprises, and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.

When the Maternity Leave Bill was debated in 1973, Margaret Guilfoyle argued for the extension of maternity leave to all women, not just Commonwealth employees. She was acutely aware of the importance of child care and the need to provide women with a choice as to how they interpreted their role as parents.

Achievement of Women's Political Rights - National Legislatures

Country Right to Vote Right to Sit First Woman Elected
New Zealand 1893 1919 1933
Australia 1902a/1962b 1902a/1962b 1943
Finland 1906 1906 1907
Norway 1907/1913 1907/1913 1936
Denmark 1915 1915 1918
United Kingdom 1918/1928 1918 1918
Germany 1918 1918 1919
Czechoslovakia 1918 1918 1920
Austria 1919 1919 1919
Canada 1919 1919 1921
Netherlands 1919 1917 1918
United States of America 1920 * 1917

a Women from the states of South Australia and Western Australia voted at the first federal election held in 1901 because it was conducted under the electoral laws of the six states. The Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 provided for uniform franchise for all persons from the age of twenty-one. Section 4 provided for disqualification of coloured races, unless they were already entitled to vote under state law.
b Aboriginal women and men were not enfranchised on a national basis until 1962.
* The 19th Amendment to the American Constitution gave women the right to vote in every state. In many states, women had been voting and participating in government for years before the passage of the Amendment in 1920, and there was nothing to prevent women from entering Congress before then. Jeanette Rankin entered the House of Representatives in 1917 as the first female member of Congress.

Achievement of Women's Political Rights - Australian States

States Right to Vote Right to Sit First Woman
South Australia 1895 1895 1959
Western Australia 1899 1920 1921
New South Wales 1902 1918 1925
Tasmania 1903 1921 1948
Queensland 1905 1915 1929
Victoria 1908 1923 1933

Women in Australian Parliaments - July 2023

Parliament Lower House
Lower House
Upper House
Upper House
Commonwealth 59 151 44 76
New South Wales 38 93 20 42
Victoria 40 88 21 40
Queensland 29 93 - -
South Australia 16 47 11 22
Tasmania 12 25 8 15
Western Australia 29 59 14 36
Northern Territory 12 25 - -
Australian Capital Territory 13 25 - -


1902 The Commonwealth Franchise Act is passed, enabling all women (with the exception of Aboriginal women in some states) to vote for the federal Parliament. From this time, women are also able to sit in Parliament. 
1903 Four women are candidates for the federal election: Nellie Martel, Mary Ann Moore Bentley and Vida Goldstein for the Senate, and Selina Anderson for the House of Representatives.
1921 Edith Cowan is elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Western Australian Parliament, thus becoming Australia’s first woman parliamentarian.
1943 Dame Enid Lyons, representing the United Australia Party, and Senator Dorothy Tangney, representing the Australian Labor Party, are elected to the federal Parliament.
1947 Senator Annabelle Rankin, representing the Liberal Party, becomes Opposition Whip in the Senate, the first woman in the Parliament to hold that office. 
1949 Dame Enid Lyons is the first woman to hold Cabinet rank when she becomes Vice-President of the Executive Council in the Liberal–Country Party coalition ministry of Prime Minister Robert Menzies.
1951 Senator Annabelle Rankin becomes Government Whip.
1966 Senator Annabelle Rankin becomes Minister for Housing, and thus the first woman to administer a government department. 
1970 Senator Ivy Wedgwood chairs one of the first of the Senate’s new legislative and general purpose standing committees, the Health and Welfare Committee. The Committee’s report, concerning an inquiry into handicapped persons in Australia, was the first to be tabled by these influential committees. 
1976 Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, who was appointed Minister for Social Security in 1975, becomes the first woman to be a member of the Cabinet and also administer a government department. 
1983 Senator Susan Ryan is the first Labor woman federal minister. As the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, Senator Ryan introduces the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.
1986 Mrs Joan Child MP, representing the Australian Labor Party, becomes the first woman to be Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

Carmen Lawrence becomes the first female Premier of an Australian state (Western Australia) in February. Later in the same year, Joan Kirner becomes Premier of Victoria.

Senator Janet Powell becomes the first woman member of either house to have a private bill passed by both houses, the Smoking and Tobacco Products Advertisements (Prohibition) Act 1989.

Carolyn Jakobsen MP is elected chair of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party (the caucus), the first woman to hold this position.

1996 Senator Margaret Reid becomes the first woman elected as President of the Senate.
2001 Jenny Macklin MP becomes Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition. 
2007 Julia Gillard MP becomes Deputy Prime Minister. 
2008 Quentin Bryce becomes the first woman appointed Governor-General. 
2010 Julia Gillard MP becomes first female Prime Minister. 
2019 Senate achieves gender parity with 38 female senators.

Women in the Australian Senate

Name Party State Period of Service
Tangney, Dorothy Margaret ALP Western Australia 1943–68
Rankin, the Hon. Annabelle Jane Mary LP Queensland 1947–71
Robertson, Agnes Robertson LP; CP Western Australia 1950–55; 1955–62
Wedgwood, Ivy Evelyn LP Victoria 1950–71
Buttfield, Nancy Eileen LP South Australia 1955–65; 1968–74
Breen, Marie Freda LP Victoria 1962–68
Guilfoyle, the Hon. Margaret Georgina Constance LP Victoria 1971–87
Coleman, Ruth Nancy ALP Western Australia 1974–87
Martin (later Sullivan), Kathryn Jean* LP Queensland 1974–84
Melzer, Jean Isobelle ALP Victoria 1974–81
Ryan, the Hon. Susan Maree ALP Australian Capital Territory 1975–88
Walters, (Mary) Shirley LP Tasmania 1975–93
Haines, Janine AD South Australia 1977–78; 1981–90
Hearn, Jean Margaret ALP Tasmania 1980–85
Bjelke-Petersen, Florence Isabel NCP; NPA Queensland 1981–93
Giles, Patricia Jessie ALP Western Australia 1981–93
Reid, the Hon. Margaret Elizabeth LP Australian Capital Territory 1981–2003
Crowley, the Hon. Rosemary Anne ALP South Australia 1983–2002
Reynolds, the Hon. Margaret ALP Queensland 1983–1999
Zakharov, (Alice) Olive ALP Victoria 1983–1995
Knowles, Susan Christine LP Western Australia 1984–2005
Vanstone, the Hon. Amanda Eloise LP South Australia 1984–2007
Vallentine, Josephine IND; GWA; NDP Western Australia 1985–1992
Newman, the Hon. Jocelyn Margaret LP Tasmania 1986–2002
Powell, Janet Frances AD; IND Victoria 1986–1993
Bishop, the Hon. Bronwyn Kathleen* LP New South Wales 1987–1994
Jenkins, Jean Alice AD Western Australia 1987–1990
Patterson, the Hon. Kay Christine LP Victoria 1987–2008
West, Suzanne Margaret ALP New South Wales 1987; 1990–2002
Dunn, Patricia Irene (Irina) NDP; IND New South Wales 1988; 1988–1990
Bourne, Vicki Worrall AD New South Wales 1990–2002
Kernot, Cheryl* AD Queensland 1990–1997
Lees, Meg Heather AD; IND; APA South Australia 1990–2005
Sowada, Karin Nicole AD New South Wales 1991–1993
Chamarette, Christabel Marguerite Alain GWA Western Australia 1992–1996
Margetts, Diane Elizabeth (Dee) GWA Western Australia 1993–1999
Troeth, the Hon. Judith Mary LP Victoria 1993-2011
Denman, Kay Janet ALP Tasmania 1993–2005
Neal, Belinda Jane* ALP New South Wales 1994–1998
Collins, Jacinta Mary Ann ALP Victoria 1995–2005; 2008–2019
Stott Despoja, Natasha Jessica AD South Australia 1995–2008
Mackay, Susan Mary ALP Tasmania 1996–2005
Lundy, Kate Alexandra ALP Australian Capital Territory 1996–2015
Allison, Lynette Fay AD Victoria 1996–2008
Coonan, the Hon. Helen Lloyd LP New South Wales 1996–2011
Ferris, Jeannie Margaret LP South Australia 1996–2007
Gibbs, Brenda ALP Queensland 1996–2002
Payne, Marise Ann LP New South Wales from 1997
Synon, Karen Margaret LP Victoria 1997–1999
Crossin, Patricia Margaret ALP Northern Territory 1998–2013
McLucas, the Hon. Jan Elizabeth ALP Queensland 1999–2016
Kirk, Linda Jean ALP South Australia 2002–2008
Moore, Claire Mary ALP Queensland 2002–2019
Nettle, Kerry Michelle AG New South Wales 2002–2008
Stephens, the Hon. Ursula Mary ALP New South Wales 2002–2014
Webber, Ruth Stephanie ALP Western Australia 2002–2008
Wong, the Hon. Penny Ying Yen ALP South Australia from 2002
Adams, Judith Anne LP Western Australia 2005–2012
Brown, Carol Louise ALP Tasmania from 2005
Fierravanti-Wells, Concetta Anna LP New South Wales 2005–2022
Hurley, Annette Kay ALP South Australia 2005–2011
McEwen, Anne ALP South Australia 2005–2016
Milne, Christine Anne AG Tasmania 2005–2015
Nash, Fiona Joy NATS New South Wales 2005–2017
Polley, Helen Beatrice ALP Tasmania from 2005
Siewert, Rachel Mary AG Western Australia 2005–2021
Wortley, Dana Johanna ALP South Australia 2005–2011
Boyce, Suzanne Kay LP Queensland 2007–2014
Fisher, Mary Jo LP South Australia 2007–2012
Bilyk, Catryna Louise ALP Tasmania from 2008
Cash, Michaelia Clare LP Western Australia from 2008
Hanson-Young, Sarah Coral AG South Australia from 2008
Kroger, Helen Evelyn LP Victoria 2008–2014
Pratt, Louise Clare ALP Western Australia 2008–2014; from 2016
McKenzie, Bridget NPA Victoria from 2011
Rhiannon, Lee AG New South Wales 2011–2018
Singh, Lisa ALP Tasmania 2011–2019
Urquhart, Anne ALP Tasmania from 2011
Waters, Larissa AG Queensland 2011–2017; from 2018
Wright, Penelope Lesley AG South Australia 2011–2015
Thorp, Lin Estelle ALP Tasmania 2012–2014
Ruston, Anne Sowerby LP South Australia from 2012
Lines, Susan ALP Western Australia from 2013
Peris, Nova Maree ALP Northern Territory 2013–2016
O'Neill, Deborah* ALP New South Wales from 2013
Lambie, Jacqui PUP; IND; JLN Tasmania 2014–2017
Reynolds, Linda Karen LP Western Australia from 2014
Rice, Janet Elizabeth AG Victoria from 2014
Gallagher, Katy ALP Australian Capital Territory 2015–2018
McAllister, Jenny ALP New South Wales from 2015
Lindgren, Joanna LIB Queensland 2015–2016
McCarthy, Malarndirri ALP Northern Territory  from 2016
Hanson, Pauline* PHON Queensland from 2016
Kakoschke-Moore, Skye NXT  South Australia  2016–2017
Hume, Jane LP Victoria from 2016
Kitching, Kimberley ALP Victoria 2016–2022
Gichuhi, Lucy IND; LP South Australia 2017–2019
Keneally, Kristina ALP New South Wales  2018–2022
Stoker, Amanda LP Queensland 2018–2022
Faruqi, Mehreen AG New South Wales from 2018 
Askew, Wendy LP Tasmania  from 2019 
Hughes, Hollie LP New South Wales  from 2019 
Davey, Perin NATS  New South Wales  from 2019 
McMahon, Sam CLP  Northern Territory  2019–2022 
Smith, Marielle ALP  South Australia  from 2019 
Green, Nita  ALP  Queensland  from 2019 
McDonald, Susan  LNP  Queensland  from 2019 
Chandler, Claire LP  Tasmania  from 2019 
Walsh, Jess  ALP  Victoria  from 2019 
Henderson, Sarah* LP  Victoria  from 2019 
Thorpe, Lidia AG; IND Victoria  from 2020 
Grogan, Karen ALP South Australia from 2021
Cox, Dorinda AG Western Australia from 2021
Allman-Payne, Penny AG Queensland from 2022
Liddle, Kerrynne LP South Australia from 2022
Nampijinpa Price, Jacinta CLP Northern Territory from 2022
Payman, Fatima ALP Western Australia from 2022
Pocock, Barbara AG South Australia from 2022
Stewart, Jana ALP Victoria from 2022
Tyrrell, Tammy JLN Tasmania from 2022
White, Linda ALP Victoria from 2022
Kovacic, Maria  LP  New South Wales from 2023

* Also served in the House of Representatives

AD—Australian Democrats
AG—Australian Greens
ALP—Australian Labor Party
APA—Australian Progressive Alliance
CLP—Country Liberal Party
CP—Country Party
GWA—The Greens (WA)
IND LAB—Independent Labor
JNL—Jacquie Lambie Network
LP—Liberal Party of Australia
NATS—The Nationals
NCP—National Country Party
NDP—Nuclear Disarmament Party
NPA—National Party of Australia
NXT—Nick Xenophon Team
PHON—Pauline Hansons’ One Nation
PUP–Palmer United Party

Further reading

Australian Electoral Commission, Senate nominations by gender.

Lyn Holihan, Where Have All the Women Gone? Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1988.

Marilyn Lake, Getting Equal: the History of Australian Feminism, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, NSW, 1999.

Kirsten Lees, Votes for Women: the Australian Story, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, NSW, 1995.

Arend Lijphart, ‘Australian democracy: modifying majoritarianism?’ in Marian Sawer and Sarah Miskin (eds), Representation and Institutional Change, Department of the Senate, Canberra, 1999 (Papers on Parliament No. 34.)

Ann Millar, Trust the Women: Women in the Federal Parliament, Department of the Senate, Canberra, 1993 (2nd edn, 1994).

Ann Millar, ‘Feminising the Senate’, in Helen Irving (ed.) A Woman’s Constitution? Gender & History in the Australian Commonwealth, Hale & Iremonger, Marrickville, NSW, 1996.

Marian Sawer and Marian Simms, A Woman’s Place: Women and Politics in Australia, 2nd edn, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW, 1993.

Gavin Souter, Acts of Parliament, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Vic., 1988.

Updated July 2023