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    Elizabeth Reid, courtesy of Australian National University (ANU). Photographer unknown. Used with permission..


  • From Lady Denman to Katy Gallagher: A Century of Women's Contributions to Canberra
  • The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia
  • Women Who Caucus: Feminist Political Scientists

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Reid, Elizabeth Anne (1942 - )


3 July 1942
Taree, New South Wales, Australia
Consultant, Educator, Political scientist, Public speaker and Researcher


In 1973 Elizabeth Reid became the first adviser on women's affairs to a head of state, being appointed in this capacity for Australian Labour Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Reid went on to work as an adviser, administrator, consultant, educator and researcher in an international setting on issues of women and development, health and population. She is currently based in Canberra, a Visiting Fellow, State, Society and Governance Program, College of Asia and the Pacific, at the Australian National University, and an analyst, programmer, consultant and trainer in development and humanitarian assistance.


Elizabeth Reid graduated Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in Philosophy from the Australian National University, Canberra in 1965. She went on to Somerville College, Oxford University, England where she gained a Bachelor of Philosophy in 1970.

She returned to the Australian National University as a Philosophy tutor and with Murray Goot published Women and Voting Studies: Mindless Matrons or Sexist Scientism? in 1975, based on a paper presented to the Australasian Political Studies Association conference in 1973. She was campaign manager for an Aboriginal woman candidate in the 1972 Federal election which installed Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister.

Reid then applied and was selected as an adviser to Whitlam in the women and child welfare area. During her work with the Whitlam government, Reid oversaw the Australian Government's arrangements for International Women's Year 1975, convening the IWY National Advisory Committee. She also led the Australian delegation to the Mexico World International Women's Year Conference, 1975, and was the Australian Representative to the United Nations forum on the Role of Women in Population and Development, 1974.

Reid helped resource community initiatives and women's services such as women's refuges, rape crisis centres, women's health centres, child care, and working women's centres. She brought in new policies in equal opportunity, training, employment and housing. Reid emphasised the need for all Cabinet submissions to include an assessment of their impact on women.

From the time of her appointment, Reid and her work came under extreme pressure, both in the way of accolades and criticism. She attracted a high profile in the media, as well as the hopes, expectations, scrutiny, gratitude and criticism of feminists and women all over Australia. Political scientist Marian Sawer suggests Reid as women's adviser took on 'quasi-ministerial status', receiving more letters than anyone except the Prime Minister (Sawer, 1996). Reid resigned in October 1975, moving on to become Adviser to Princess Ashraf Pahlavi of Iran on policy formation and implementation for women (1975-76).

From this time on Reid began working in development and humanitarian assistance, both for the United Nations and in other organizations. She was the founding director and project manager of the United Nations Asian and Pacific Centre for Women and Development (1977-1979). She then worked as Principal Officer in the United Nations Secretariat for the 1980 World Conference of the Decade for Women. From 1981-1984, Reid worked for USAID and for the Peace Corps, based in Zaire, Burundi, Rwanda and Thailand. From 1985-1989 she worked as a consultant largely on HIV and AIDS strategies, education and policy in Australia, Zaire and the Pacific.

From 1989 to 1997 Reid worked out of New York in the United Nations Development Programme, originally as Programme Director for Women in Development, then as Policy Adviser to the Administrator on HIV/AIDS and Development, and from 1992 was Director of the HIV and Development Programme. In 1996 she was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. From 1998-2000 she was Resident Coordinator of the United Nations, and Resident Representative of the UNDP in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Reid has addressed many conferences as keynote speaker, and her speaking engagements and extensive publication record have been focussed particularly in the areas of HIV education and women in development.

In 2001 Reid was made an Officer of the Order or Australia for work nationally and internationally on women and on the HIV epidemic; in the same year she was also named on the Centenary of Federation Honour Role of Women: Firsts and Founders, Victoria.

Since 2002 she has worked as a Consultant to many countries, churches and other faith based organisations in the Asia Pacific region and in Africa. Her focus has been on assisting with health programs related to the treatment of HIV/AIDS. From 2002-07, she was Senior Adviser, The Collaboration for Health in PNG a Public Private Partnership for Health. From 2005 she has acted as a consultant to faith based organisations and churches in PNG and the Pacific.

From 2006-10 she served as Senior Adviser, HIV and Development, the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP). From 2009 she has worked as an Evaluation Consultant in the Review of the national Nursing Program in Timor-Leste.

In 2006 the Australian National University awarded her a Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa.

She is currently Executive Trustee, Serendipity Educational Endowment Fund (SEEF) for the education of children touched by the HIV epidemic in PNG and Board Member of Oxfam Australia.

Sources used to compile this entry: From Lady Denman to Katy Gallagher: A Century of Women's Contributions to Canberra, Australian Women's Archives Project, February 2013,; Women Who Caucus: Feminist Political Scientists, Australian Women's Archives Project, July 2017,

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  • Migrant Women Workers Project (1974 - 1975)

    Elizabeth Reid supported the Fitzroy Ecumencial Centre's applications for funding to conduct research into the plight of women workers in 1975. Given her role as Prime Ministerial advisor on women's issues, the significance of her support cannot be under estimated

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Archival resources

National Archives of Australia, National Office

  • National Advisory Committee files, single number series with 'W/NAC' (Women's/National Advisory Committee) or 'NAC' prefix, 1974 - 1976, A4223; National Archives of Australia, National Office. Details

Digital resources

Elizabeth Reid
Australian National University (ANU). Photographer unknown. Used with permission.


Portrait of former women's advisers Rosemary Calder, Sara Dowse and Elizabeth Reid, 6th August 2005
Bob Givens
National Library of Australia, vn3573575. Used with permission.


Clare Land, Rosemary Francis and AWAP Project Team

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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