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In brief: Victoria’s first and only female premier passes away at age 76


Joan Kirner, Victoria’s first and only female premier, passed away yesterday after a two year battle with oesophageal cancer. The seventy-six year old devoted much of her life to fighting for gender equality, and was one of the dominant influences in the political life of Australia’s first female PM, Julia Gillard.

Ms Kirner hadn’t always been destined for politics, having originally trained and worked as a teacher. However, when she married she was automatically disqualified from taking on a permanent teaching role. Rather than accept the status quo, she made her way into politics, bringing with her a strong focus on gender equality, conservation and social justice. She became president of education lobby group Victorian Federation of State Schools Parents’ Club in 1971, and went on to become their executive officer in 1978 – the same year that she joined the Socialist Left faction of the Australian Labour Party. From there she became the Minister for Conservation in 1985, and in 1988 the MP for Williamstown in the Education portfolio. It was during this time that she introduced a new system of assessment, the Victorian Certificate of Education, which targeted the class inequality of the education system.

In 1990 she made history by becoming Victoria’s first female premier, though she lost her seat two years later, retiring from politics entirely in 1994. However, this did not stop her from continuing the fight for equality. The year after her retirement she helped to establish the Australian affiliate of EMILY’s List, an organisation dedicated to supporting women in politics. During the first seven years of EMILY’s List Australia, Ms Kirner worked tirelessly as the volunteer coordinator for the organisation.

Due to her lifetime of work for social and environmental issues, she was named a Companion of the Order of Australia on 11 June 2012 for her  ”eminent service to the Parliament of Victoria and to the community through conservation initiatives, contributions to gender equality, the development of education and training programs and the pursuit of civil rights and social inclusion.”’

Here at Lip we are deeply saddened to hear of Ms Kirner’s passing, but are glad that know that her legacy will continue on in the form of all of the women that she has inspired.


(Image credit: 1.)

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