Vale Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, Australia's first female cabinet minister

Vale Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, Australia’s first female cabinet minister

Dame Margaret

Former Liberal politician Dame Margaret Guilfoyle died on November 11, aged 94.

Dame Margaret was a trailblazing female politician and the first woman to serve as a federal cabinet minister and the first woman to hold a major economic portfolio.

During her time in the Fraser Government, Dame Margaret was Minister for Education, Minister for Social Security and Minister for Finance.

A Victorian Senator, Dame Margaret was first elected to federal parliament in 1971, and following the dismissal of the Whitlam Government, she became education minister overnight in the caretaker Fraser Government. She beat 17 men and two other women in the preselection battle for her senate seat.

Following a subsequent Coalition election victory, she was made social security minister and later, finance minister. During her time in office, Dame Margaret was responsible for the major reform of the national child endowment scheme, switching the scheme from tax rebates to cash payments.

She also ran the Office of Child Care and presided over an expansion of government support for preschool, childcare and after school care.

Before entering parliament at age 45, Dame Margaret was a mother, and worked as an qualified accountant. She also completed a law degree, and in 1993, she became the chair of the Liberal Women’s Forum, set up by John Hewson to encourage more women into the Liberal party.

“Dame Margaret opened doors for Australian women that will never be shut again. This is her great legacy,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement on Thursday.

“As a minister, the then Senator Guilfoyle was meticulous, confident and unflappable – and she would become a role model for the many women who would follow.

“Her reputation has only grown with time – in terms of her place in history and her achievements as a senior minister.”

The late Susan Ryan, who followed in Dame Margaret’s footsteps and became Labor’s first female cabinet minister, said: “If anyone’s performance should have established that a woman’s place was in cabinet, it was Margaret Guilfoyle’s”.

In Dame Margaret’s words: “Equal participation of women in the Parliament, in the whole of community life, can only lead us to a better understanding of humanity and to the fulfilment of the aspirations that we would have for a civilised society.”

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