Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Celebrating a Centenary of Suffrage on International Women’s Day – 8 March 2002

Each year on 8 March, International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the achievements of Australian women.

This year we have a unique reason to celebrate because the 12 June 2002 marks the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage in Australia.

It is one hundred years since the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 came into effect thereby allowing Australian women the right to vote and to stand in a Federal election for the very first time.

Australia was the first nation in the world to give most women (with the exception of indigenous women in some States) these rights.

Eighteen months after the Act was passed, women exercised their new voting entitlements when they participated in the Federal election of 16 December 1903.

The Centenary of Suffrage in 2002 highlights the inspirational efforts of those Australian women who through their bravery and vision moved Australia forward. Their work has been subsequently recognised internationally for its contribution to the suffrage movement.

Among the women who created a new legal and political identity for women in Australia and abroad were Vida Goldstein, Catherine Helen Spence, Maybanke Wolstoneholme (Anderson) and Rose Scott.

The courage of these pioneers of the women’s suffrage movement exemplifies the spirit of International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day 2002 provides us with an opportunity to look at how far we have come over the past one hundred years.

I am pleased that under the Howard Government we have made real advances for women including increases in real wages for women, over four million Australian women in the paid workforce, more funded places in child care, increases in family assistance, more women on Commonwealth Board positions and increases in higher education participation, traineeships and apprenticeships.

On 8 March 2002, International Women’s Day activities across Australia give women and men a chance to join together and to celebrate women’s enormous contribution to society.