Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she’s lost “a role model” with the death of Joan Child, Australia’s first female speaker in the Federal Parliament, at the weekend.
Child was a role model for an entire generation of female politicians and a true trailblazer for Australian women. She proved it possible to achieve your career ambitions, no matter what age or stage of life you get started.
“She came to politics later in life, bringing remarkable gifts of common sense, good humor and peresistence against the odds,” Gillard said in a statement.
A widow and mother of five children who once worked as a cleaner, Child entered federal politics at the age of 53. Taking the Melbourne seat of Hently in 1974, she was only the fourth woman elected the house. She unsuccessfully contested the seat a few years later, before taking it back in 1980.
She served as speaker for three years under the Hawke government from 1986, before retiring from politics in 1990. We didn’t see another female speaker until Anna Burke stepped in after Peter Slipper’s departure last year.
Gillard said Child was a “true believer” of Labor, who paved the way for women leaders in the party and always championed the rights of women. And despite her achievements, Child always retained her sense of perspective: “Her hobbies — gardening, reading detective fiction, listening to her idol Elvis – kept her firmly grounded,” Gillard said.
“Joan Child will remain for me an abiding source of inspiration.”
Child was 91.