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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Milestones for Tasmanian Women

Pre White Settlement

Aboriginal people inhabited Trowunna (Tasmania) for up to 40 000 years before white settlement and practised a hunter and gatherer economy.  Aboriginal women were recorded by the first French and British explorers as being outstanding hunters, harvesting a variety of seafood, birds, eggs and small land animals.  The Tasmanian Aborigines had a rich cultural and social tradition, made unique by their isolation from mainland tribes.  Colonisation by the English changed the landscape of Tasmania and almost destroyed the original inhabitants of Tasmania.  The resilience of Aboriginal women is shown by the continuity of their culture and we pay tribute to the women of Trowunna.

1792Marie Louise Victoire Girardin the first European woman (disguised as a man) to visit Van Diemen's Land when she arrived at Recherche Bay with the Bruny d'Entrecasteaux expedition. 
1803The Albion and the HMS Lady Nelson arrive in Van Diemen's Land to create a white settlement at Risdon Cove.  Martha Hayes (partner of Lt John Bowen), aboard the Albion, was the first English woman to set foot in Van Diemen's Land.  There were also two convict women in the party - Mary Hayes and Mary Lawler. 
1810Salome Pitt and an Aboriginal companion, Miss Story, first women known to have climbed Mt Wellington.  Aboriginal women would have accessed the mountain over many generations.
1822Women's Convict Goal or 'George Town Female Factory' begins operation.

Women's Convict Goal or 'Cascades Town Female Factory' begins operation.

Orphan Schools (King's Orphan Schools, Queen's Orphan Schools, Queen's Orphan Asylum) were established, leading to the establishment of the New Town based Orphan School.


George Town Female Factory closes.

Women's Convict Goal or 'Launceston Female Factory' opened.

1848Women's Convict Gaol or 'Ross Female Factory' opened. 
1853Convict transportation ceased - the last female convict transport ship to Australia was the Duchess of Northumberland.

Women's Convict Gaol or 'Female Factory' at Launceston closed and was administered as a gaol until the early 20th century.

Women's Convict Gaol or 'Female Factory' at Ross closes.


1 January - Official change of name from Van Diemen's Land to Tasmania takes effect.

Cascades Female Factory proclaimed a gaol and transferred to local authorities (Sheriff's Department).


The Education Act passes, making Tasmania the first state in Australia to introduce a compulsory State education system.

St Mary's College opened as a Catholic girls school in Hobart.  Established by the Presentation Order, which was founded in Ireland to educate poor and disadvantaged children, especially girls.

1875Nightingale system of nurse training introduced to Hobart  Hospital providing the first professional nurse training in Tasmania.
1879The Orphan Schools closed with children going to the Kennerley Boys Home and St Joseph's Orphanage. 
1882The British Married Women's Property Act 1882 gave married women equal property rights to those of unmarried women.  Married women were able to retain ownership of property which they may have received as a gift from a parent, rather than their husband taking control of the property. 
1884Louisa Swan and Maria Evans founded a sketching club (later the Arts Society of Tasmania).

Women's Christian Temperance Union established in Tasmania.

The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) became active in Hobart and welcomed all women, particularly young workers, to its activities.  Its main achievement was running hostels, at a time when finding respectable accommodation was often a problem for women.


The Methodist Ladies' College opened in Launceston and was aimed at providing girls with the same educational advantages offered boys at Horton College, Ross.

Death of Lucy Beeton who established first Aboriginal school on Gun Carriage Island, NE Tasmania.

1888 The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) became active in Launceston.
1890Constance Stone (b.1856 Hobart) first woman to be registered with the Medical Board of Victoria, and first woman registered as medical practitioner in Australia (having studied and trained overseas).

The Hobart District Nursing Association developed from the Amateur Nursing Band of the Young Women's Christian Temperance Association.  The Launceston District Nursing Association was founded in 1893.  Initially funded by donations and subscriptions, both associations shared the aim of helping the aged, the incapacitated and the chronically ill through simple home-nursing, bed-making, cooking for invalids and home maintenance generally.

St Michael's Collegiate School was founded in Hobart by an Anglican religious order, the Sisters of the Church, which drew its leadership and teachers initially from England.  Their aim was to 'afford a thoroughly good education' for girls.

1893The Launceston District Nursing Association was founded and shared the same aims as the Hobart District Nursing Association.
1896Eliza Helen Wilson first woman to graduate from the University of Tasmania (Bachelor of Arts).
1897 Queen Victoria Hospital for Women opened in Launceston (one of the first such institutions established by a group of Australian women).  Established by the citizens of Launceston and Northern Tasmania in commemoration of the 60th year of the reign of Queen Victoria.

The cylinder recordings of Fanny Cochrane Smith singing Aboriginal songs.  They are the only audio recordings of any Tasmanian Aboriginal language.
(May contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people)

Founding of National Council of Women by Emily Dobson.


Tasmania became a state under the newly formed Federation of Australia.

The Midwifery Nurses Act (1901) was the first in Australia and was enacted to raise the quality of midwifery.  Midwives living within three miles of a doctor had to register and prove their qualifications, which could be gained through training, experience or passing an examination.

1902Changes to Constitution Act gave women in the four states without female suffrage (including Tasmania) the right to vote in Federal elections and the right to sit in Federal Parliament. Elections for the Second Commonwealth Parliament were held on 16 December 1903.
1903The Tasmanian Women's Suffrage Association formed by Jessie Rooke.  Ida McAuley became the first president and at their first annual meeting they changed their name to the Tasmanian Women's Political Association as the Upper House had assented to vote for women.

All Tasmanian women became eligible to vote in House of Assembly elections after 1903 Constitution Act changed the eligibility term from "man" to "person". Franchise for Legislative Council for owners of freehold of 10 pounds annual value or leasehold of 30 pounds extended to women.

Legal Practice Act allows women to be admitted to legal practice.

1905The Queen Alexandra Hospital for Women was established at Hobart in 1905 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902 on a site in Hampden Road, Battery Point.
1907Gertrude Halley appointed to the School Medical Service and first woman doctor in Hobart.
1908The first day nursery or creche opened in Hobart

Bush Nursing order formed in Launceston

Free Kindergarten Association founded by Emily Dobson, providing poor children with pre-school education.

1911Lady Barron, wife of the governor, established Girl Guides in Tasmania.
1913Alicia O'Shea Peterson first woman to stand for election to Commonwealth Parliament in Tasmania.
1914Bush Nursing order formed in Hobart.


Kate Campbell became the first woman to join Tasmania Police when she was sworn in as a probationary Constable on 20 October 1917.

Child Welfare Association established through the work of the Women's Health Association.


The first child health clinic established in Hobart.

First meeting of Graduate Branch of University Women's Unions (affiliated with Australian Federation of University Women in 1922).


Amy Rowntree first woman to be appointed Inspector of Schools.

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom established in Australia - the Tasmanian Branch was established soon after and continues today.

1920Women who had served as nurses in the First World War eligible to vote in Legislative Council elections.
1921Women eligible to stand for the Tasmanian House of Assembly.
1925Tasmanian born Pauline Curran married Prince Maximilian Melikoff of Russia in Hobart and assumed the title Princess Melikoff.

Christine Walch (graduated University of Sydney 1925) establishes medical practice in Macquarie Street, Hobart.

First meeting of the Nurse's Registration Board held, marking an important step towards professional growth and regulation of nursing.

1928Edith Lowenstein first full time woman lecturer appointed by University of Tasmania.
1931Helen Ida Dunbar first woman to graduate from University of Tasmania Law School.
1932First International Women's Day march in Tasmania - about 250 women and children marched through Hobart to the Domain.
1933Ida Birchall, one of the first Tasmanian woman to study medicine within Australia, graduates from Sydney University. First Tasmanian member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1936.
1934Federated Association of Australian Housewives established in Tasmania.  The Federation would become the largest mass organisation of women in Australia, with membership peaking in the 1960's.

Nancy McPhee first woman admitted to practice Supreme Court of Tasmania.

Married Women's Property Act 1935 gives married women who own property the same rights as men and single women.

Fahan School in Hobart opened as an independent, non-denominational, day and boarding school for girls.


The Country Women's Association of Tasmania (CWA) was founded in Launceston, with Mrs C. W. Peart as President.

Marguerite Grueber (later Pixley) of Hobart was one of the first two air hostesses in Australia recruited by Holyman Airlines.

1939Lady Gowrie Childcare Centres established - initially operated on kindergarten model.
1941Franchise for the Legislative Council extended to all "servicemen and women in any war" and the age limit reduced from 30 to 21 years of age.
1942The Australian Women's Land Army (AWLA) was established in 1942 as a national organisation, reporting to the Director-General of Manpower.  The aim of the AWLA was to replace the male farm workers who had either enlisted in the armed services or were working in other essential war work such as munitions.  The AWLA was not an enlisted service, but rather a voluntary group.
1943Enid Lyons standing for the electorate of Darwin (NW Tasmania) first woman in Australia to be elected to House of Representatives in Federal Parliament.

Lipscombe Child Care Centre opened.

Miss Keitha Findlay the first female architect in Tasmania employed by the Public Works Department, Hobart.

1945The AWLA was disbanded with the end of World War II.
1947Amy Padfield first woman appointed as a Council Clerk (Gormanston Council).

Margaret McIntyre first woman elected to Tasmanian Parliament, seat of Cornwall in Legislative Council.

Dorothy Edwards first woman Alderman - Launceston.

1949Enid Lyons appointed Vice-President of the Executive Council, the first woman to enter Federal Cabinet.

Ida West begins campaigning for Aboriginal women's health and social issues. Later becomes President of Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (incorporated 1973).

The female rate of pay is set at 75% of the male rate in the Commonwealth Basic Wage Case.

1951Jean Batt becomes first woman to sit on Professorial Board of the University of Tasmania.
1952Mabel Miller first woman Alderman - Hobart.
1954Spouses of property owners became eligible to vote in Legislative Council elections.

Mabel Miller and Amelia Best first women elected to Tasmanian House of Assembly.

The Miss Tasmania Quest was established as an annual competition to raise funds for children with cerebral palsy and heighten community awareness of disability issues.

1956Dorothy Edwards first woman Mayor in Tasmania (Launceston City Council) and one of the first in Australia.
1957The Lady Franklin Club was established in Launceston to provide a meeting place for country women (absorbed into the Launceston Club in 2002).
1959Enid Campbell returned to Tasmania and became the first female lecturer in the Law School, teaching political science.
1962All Aboriginals entitled to vote in Commonwealth elections.

Principle of equal pay for women in the Public Service recognised by Act of Parliament.

Abolition of the marriage bar [a discriminatory practice which prevented women in some sectors continuing with their employment after marriage] in the Australian Public Service.


Abolition of marriage bar in State Public Service.

Full adult franchise for Legislative Council for those over 21 years of age.

National referendum granted full citizenship rights for Aborigines.

Enid Campbell - first female Dean of a Law Faculty in Australia, Sir Isaac Isaac Professor of Law at Monash University.


Phyllis Benjamin - First woman leader of an Upper House in Australia. Longest serving woman member of any State Parliament (1952-1976).

Australian Local Government Women's Association formed.

1971 Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia Tasmanian Branch formed (Australian Breastfeeding Association since 2001).

The Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission adopted the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.

Commonwealth Child Care Act provides impetus for establishment of range of child care services.

The Family Planning Association of Tasmania formed.

The Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL), Tasmanian Branch established.

The Hobart Women's Action Group established.  The Group produced the women's liberation newsletter Liberaction from 1972 until the group disbanded in 1975.


Attorney General, Merv Everett appoints Kim Boyer as first female Coroner.

The first Family Planning clinics opened in Hobart and Launceston.

The Tasmanian University Child Care Centre established.


First women's refuge in Hobart opened by women's co-operative in Sandy Bay.

Hobart born Helene Chung [Martin] first non-white reporter on Australian TV.


First Family Day Care Scheme established by Glenorchy Council.

Shirley Walters first woman to represent Tasmania in the Senate.

Launceston Women's Shelter established.


Truganini's ashes scattered in D'Entrecasteaux Channel in respect of her request at the time of her death in 1876.

Women's information and resource centre opened at Palfreyman's Corner North Hobart with International Women's Year Grant of $2000.

Kim Boyer appointed first Women's Adviser to a Premier in Tasmania. Initial appointment was with Bill Neilson, then Premiers Doug Lowe and Harry Holgate.

Family Law Court established in Tasmania (under the Federal Family Law Act) for handling of divorce cases.

1977Margaret Sing (Thurstans) appointed as the first Equal Employment Opportunities Officer for State Government Employment.

Karinya Young Women's Service - crisis accommodation for young women opens.


In August the Queen Alexandra Hospital closed its doors and moved into a new building on the Royal Hobart Hospital site.  Although retaining the name Queen Alexandra Hospital it was the maternity division of the Royal until closed in 1999.

Alison Anderson - first woman jockey to ride against men in Tasmania.

Gill James - first woman Minister in a Tasmanian Government.

Fiona McConnell becomes University of Tasmania's first woman Rhodes Scholar (following liberalisation of the Scholarship conditions in 1976).

Tasmanian Aboriginal Child Care Association incorporated in Launceston.


Bev Buckingham - as a second year apprentice became first woman in the world to win a State Jockey's Premiership, having ridden 63 winners in the season.

Heather Sculthorpe - first Tasmanian Aboriginal to obtain law degree, University of Tasmania.


Australia becomes a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Hobart born Helene Chung [Martin] first woman posted overseas by the ABC.

Tasmanian Government abolishes the Equal Employment Opportunities Offer position established in 1976.

1984Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)

June Sculthorpe, graduate of ANU, appointed as first Aboriginal Tutor/Counsellor at University of Tasmania.

Domestic Violence Crisis Service established.


Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986 (Cth).

Sexual Assault Support Service established in Hobart.

Doone Kennedy is elected the first woman elected Lord Mayor of Hobart  and serves the City of Hobart as Lord Mayor until 1996.


Margaret Reynolds (Senator for Queensland) first Tasmanian born woman to serve in Federal Ministry (Minister for Local Government and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women).

The Hobart Women's Health Centre established.


Women's Studies introduced as a subject by University of Tasmania.

Karadi (Aboriginal Women's Workshop) established.

Princess Melikoff Trust Fund established after her death.


Opening Aboriginal Children's Centre West Moonah.

Opening of Support, Help, Empowerment (SHE) counselling service.

Zonta International District 23 established in Australia.

1990Tasmanian Office of the Status of Women established by Tasmanian Government.  Elizabeth Little appointed as first Director.  Fran Bladel MHA was appointed Minister Assisting the Premier on the Status of Women.
1991 Survivors Women's Support Service opened 1991.  Name was changed to Yemaya in 2004.

The ordination of seven women as Anglican priests takes place at St David's Cathedral, Hobart.


Christine Milne - first woman to lead a political party in Tasmania.

Austra Maddox - first woman President of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council.

Gillian Biscoe - first woman appointed as Head of Agency in Tasmanian State Service (Department of Community and Health Services).

Mrs Jill Tabbart is commissioned as the first woman president of the Tasmanian Council of Churches.


Helen Lambert - appointed as first woman Magistrate.

Roger Groom introduced State Government Domestic Violence Policy.

The Working Women's Centre opened in Hobart.

Tasmanian Women in Agriculture war formed.  From a gathering of over 140 women from around the state, there is now a membership base of 1 000+.


Sex Discrimination Act of 1994 proclaimed and came into effect 1995.  Elizabeth Little appointed as first Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) was incorporated in 1995 and evolved from the National Women's Network within Disabled People's International Australia (DPIA), where it had been operating as an un-funded Network for some eight years.

The Queen Victoria Hospital for Women closed.


Sue Napier becomes the first female (Liberal) Deputy Premier.

Lara Giddings - Youngest woman elected to an Australian Parliament at age 23 years.


Annette Peardon delivers speech on behalf of the Stolen Generation to the Tasmanian Parliament from the floor of the Chamber.

Silvia Smith - first woman member to sit in both State Parliament (1997- 2003) and Federal Parliament (MHR Bass 1993-96).

Removal of operational subsidies for community-based childcare centres.

1998Paula Wriedt - youngest ever woman member of a Tasmanian Cabinet.

Anti Discrimination Act 1998 proclaimed.  Dr Joscelyne Scutt appointed the first Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

Handback of Wybalenna to the Aboriginal Community. Premier of Tasmania recognises the role of Aboriginal elders Aunty Ida West and Ruby Roughley in achieving this milestone.

Sue Napier - first woman leader of the Tasmanian Parliamentary Liberal Party.

Melanie Bartlett first woman President of the Law Society of Tasmania (established in 1888).

The Miss Tasmania Quest ends after 44 years fundraising for children with cerebral palsy.


The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) came into effect renaming and updating the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986.

State Industrial Commission ratifies pay equity principle.

Edyth Langham - First woman elected to Tasmanian Racing Club (established 130 years).


Introduction of paid maternity leave for State Government employees (12 weeks).

All women parliamentarians support legislation to clarify the Tasmanian law in relation to termination services and to remove legal uncertainties in relation to medical procedures.

Child Care Act 2001 ensures a professional level of child care in Tasmania.

Hon. Allison Ritchie MLC - youngest woman and youngest person ever elected to the Tasmanian Legislative Council. Elected to the seat of Pembroke.


Janie Dickenson - youngest ever woman to be elected Mayor in Australia at age 27.

Kathryn Hay - first Aboriginal elected to the Tasmanian Parliament.

Judy Jackson - becomes the first Tasmanian woman Attorney General.

2003Georgina Wallace - first woman president of Campbell Town Show Society (established for 165 years).

Tasmanian born Mary Donaldson married Crown Prince Federik of Denmark and assumes the title Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.

Marion Cooper - first woman Commodore of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (established for 125 years).


Shan Tennent first woman judge appointed to Supreme Court of Tasmania.

Family Violence Act of 2004 proclaimed.  the Safe at Home integrated response to family violence established with a range of services responding to victims and offenders.

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women established.

First Micro-credit program for Tasmanian women established.


 Closure of the Working Women's Centre in August 2006.

Laurette Thorp becomes the first female manager of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs.

Shirley Berger becomes the first female Leading Firefighter in the Tasmania Fire Service.


Lara Giddings MP becomes first female Deputy Tasmanian Premier.

Sue Smith MLC becomes first female president of the Legislative Council of Tasmania.

Senator Christine Milne becomes Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens.

Commander Donna Adams appointed first female Commander in the history of Tasmania Police.

Barbara Baker becomes the first Tasmanian woman to be appointed a federal magistrate.

2009Tasmanian-born Professor Elizabeth Blackburn was named joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine for her work on chromosomes and the enzyme telomarese, making her the first Australian woman to receive a Nobel Prize.


Cassy O'Connor MP becomes the first Greens Party Secretary to Cabinet in the Tasmanian Parliament.

Jan Davis appointed as the first female Chief Executive Officer of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association.

Tamara Jago - the first female lawyer in Tasmania to be awarded a Senior Counsel (SC)

Cassy O'Connor MP becomes the first female Greens Party member to become a Minister in the Tasmanian Parliament.


Centenary of International Women's Day celebrated worldwide on 8 March.

Lara Giddings MP becomes the first female Premier of Tasmania.

Donna Adams becomes the first female Assistant Commissioner of Tasmania Police.

2012Senator Christine Milne becomes leader of the Australian Greens in April 2012.
2013Jacqui Lambie, of the Palmer United Party, elected Senator for Tasmania with her Senate term beginning July 2014. Senator Lambie became an independent during her first term and formed her own party the Jacqui Lambie Network.

Elise Archer MP becomes the first female Speaker in the Tasmanian House of Assembly.

Vanessa Goodwin MLC becomes Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Minister for Correction and Minister for the Arts.

Jacquie Petrusma MP becomes Minister for Human Services and Minister for Women.

Professor Kate Warner AM to be sworn to office as the 28th Governor of Tasmania on 10 December 2014.