First female State Premiers – Carmen Lawrence, and Joan Kirner.

State Library of Western Australia

In a leadership change on 12 February 1990, Dr Carmen Lawrence made history by becoming Premier of Western Australia and Australia’s first woman Premier.

Following Labor’s narrow defeat at the 1993 State election, Dr Lawrence also became Western Australia’s first woman Opposition Leader and held the positions of Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Employment and Federal Affairs.

Dr Lawrence entered federal politics by winning the federal seat of Fremantle in a by-election on 12 March 1994. She was appointed Minister for Human Services and Health, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women in March 1994.

Joan Kirner served as Deputy Premier of Victoria for a year in 1989 before serving as Premier for two years to 1992. Following the Labor Party’s defeat in 1992 she became Leader of the Opposition. She resigned from parliament in 1994. She said of her time in the ‘top job’:

“My being premier, whatever people thought of my government, showed that a woman, a feminist, can be premier and win the respect of business, unions and the community.

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