Achievements and milestones for Queensland women

International Women's Day (IWD) is recognised globally on 8 March each year. This iconic international day is the most significant annual event for the women's sector in Australia and is an ideal platform to celebrate the achievements of ordinary women in creating a society that is fair to all and the issues that many women still face, both here and around the world.

The year 2011 marked the centenary of IWD and provided an opportunity to reflect on the achievements for women during the past 100 years and the challenges that remain as barriers to their full participation in society.

The IWD Everyday women, extraordinary lives online tribute gallery was launched as part of 2011 IWD celebrations to recognise everyday women's extraordinary contributions to communities in Queensland.

The women featured in the tribute gallery follow a long line of women who have worked hard for other women and their communities and who have advocated for women's rights throughout the past 100 years. As a result, there have been many significant achievements for and by Queensland women.

  • 1889—The first suffrage group, the Queensland Women's Suffrage League was formed.
  • 1891—Dr Lilian Cooper arrived in Brisbane from England and, for ten years, was the only woman practicing medicine in Queensland.
  • 1891—The Married Women's Property Act, 1890 came into effect in Queensland on 1 Jan 1891, allowing married women to both acquire and dispose of property and other investments independent of their husbands. Under the Act, women who acquired property and/or investments prior to a marriage were entitled to retain sole ownership of that property after marriage and to administer and execute upon it.
  • 1905—Queensland women achieved the right to vote in State elections.
  • 1907—Queensland women voted in their first state election.
  • 1915—Women won the right to be elected into Queensland Parliament.
  • 1922—The Maternity Act of 1922 (Queensland) was introduced and provided for the establishment of maternity services including hospitals, clinics and other pre- and post-natal care services in Queensland. The Act also established specialised training for midwives and nursing staff and extended the focus of these services to encompass the treatment of diseases specific to women.
  • 1922—Equal divorce rights were instituted so that women were able to be granted a divorce on the same grounds as men.
  • 1923—As a result of amendments to the Queensland Jury Act, the state initiated the introduction of jury service for women, becoming the first Australian state to do so.
  • 1929—Irene Longman, Queensland's first woman parliamentarian was elected.
  • 1931—Women were accepted into the Queensland police force however were not sworn in as police officers until 1965.
  • 1938—Brisbane Women's Hospital was opened.
  • 1942—The Australian Women's Land Army (AWLA) was formed in Queensland.
  • 1950—The female rate of pay was set at 75 per cent of the male rate in the Commonwealth Basic Wage Case.
  • 1955—Deidrie Mary Vance was the first female in Queensland to be awarded a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil). It was awarded by the University of Queensland.
  • 1961—Oral contraceptive pills became available in Australia.
  • 1965—All Indigenous Queenslanders, women and men gained the right to vote in State elections.
  • 1966—Indigenous Queenslanders voted in their first state election.
  • 1966—Naida Haxton admitted as a Barrister and becomes the first woman to practise as a barrister in Queensland.
  • 1966—Dr Margaret Valadian AD MBC was the first recognised Indigenous woman to graduate from university.
  • 1967—Australians voted 'Yes' in a referendum to alter sections of the Constitution that discriminated against Indigenous Australians meaning that all Indigenous women and men hold the same citizenship rights as all other Australians.
  • 1969—The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission determined the principle of 'equal pay for work of equal value'.
  • 1969—The ban on married women as permanent employees in the Queensland State public sector was abolished. However, women required departmental approval to continue to work after marriage until 1973.
  • 1970—Women were no longer excluded from drinking in public bars in Queensland.
  • 1980—The federal government signed the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women which was ratified in 1983. There are 30 articles to the Convention, which sets an agenda for national action to end discrimination against women, and promotes equality.
  • 1984—The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 was passed by the federal government, making it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of sex, marital status, family responsibility and pregnancy, and established dismissal of an employee on the basis of their family responsibilities as being unlawful.
  • 1985—Sallyanne Atkinson AO became Queensland's first female Lord Mayor (1985-1991) when elected to the Brisbane City Council.
  • 1987—Justice Mary Gaudron became the first woman appointed to the High Court.
  • 1989—The Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 was proclaimed in Queensland, aiming to provide safety and protection for people in domestic relationships who are victims of domestic and family violence.
  • 1990—Grace Kruger became the first woman appointed as a Stipendiary Magistrate.
  • 1990—A women's policy unit was established in the Queensland Government.
  • 1990—The first women police officers were promoted to inspector level in the Queensland Police Service.
  • 1991—The Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 was proclaimed in Queensland, promoting equal opportunity for all members of the community by protecting them from unfair discrimination and sexual harassment in certain areas of life.
  • 1992—Leneen Forde AC was commissioned as the first female Governor of Queensland.
  • 1992—The Queensland Government passed the Equal Opportunity in Public Employment Act 1992providing equal employment opportunities in the public sector.
  • 1996—Joan Sheldon AM became the first female Deputy Premier and Treasurer of Queensland.
  • 1999—The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 was introduced into parliament on 22 September, replacing the Affirmative Action Act 1986 to target discrimination in the private sector by promoting merit in employment and equal employment opportunity, and by encouraging consultation between employers and employees on these issues.
  • 2000—Queensland born Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic flame and won gold in the 400m track event at the Sydney Olympics.
  • 2001—Queensland Parliament attained the highest proportion of women representatives of any Australian parliament and one of the highest proportions in the world with 33 of the 89 elected members being women.
  • 2002—Queensland architect Brit Anderson was the first woman to receive the annual Gold Medal from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.
  • 2003—Queensland Government released the State's first five-year plan for Queensland women - the Women in Smart State Directions Statement 2003-2008.
  • 2004—Ms Loris Williams became Queensland's first Indigenous archivist.
  • 2007—Gardasil—immunisation against cervical cancer—was made available for young women and girls.
  • 2007—Anna Bligh was appointed as the first female Premier of Queensland.
  • 2008—Her Excellency Quentin Bryce AM was sworn in as Australia's twenty-fifth Governor-General and was the first woman to take up the office.
  • 2009—Anna Bligh became the first female Premier in Australia to be popularly elected.
  • 2009—The Queensland Government's Strategy to Reduce Domestic and Family Violence was released.
  • 2010—Australia's first female Prime Minister, the Honourable Julia Gillard MP was elected.
  • 2010—Queensland-born Megan Davis, was the first Indigenous woman to be elected to a UN body (United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues).
  • 2011—Australia's first national Paid Parental Leave scheme commenced.
  • 2015—Annastacia Palaszczuk was sworn in as the second female Premier of Queensland.
  • 2015—Leeanne Enoch was appointed Queensland's first Indigenous female MP as Minister for Housing and Public Works and Minister for Science and Innovation.