Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

Skip to content
  • Click to view this Image

    The Honourable Joan Kirner

  • Click to view this Image

    The Honourable Joan Kirner, 13 March 2003, courtesy of AWAP Collection.


  • Carrying on the Fight: Women Candidates in Victorian Parliamentary Elections
  • The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia

Use Trove to find more resources by/about this Woman

  • Trove

Kirner, Joan Elizabeth (1938 - 2015)

The Honourable, AM

20 June 1938
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
1 June 2015
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


In 1990 Joan Kirner was elected the first woman Premier for the State of Victoria. She held the position for two years but her legacy will extend for much longer. As the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews said in a statement after her death:

"Through her decades of advocacy for gender equality, [Joan Kirner] fundamentally changed [The Victorian ALP] and our society. In the process, she raised a generation of Victorian Labor women - one of whom became Prime Minister...
She fought every day for fairness. Our state is stronger for her service and our lives are greater for her friendship. She was our first female Premier and because of her work, she won't be the last."


Kirner entered the Victorian Parliament in 1982 as an MLC (ALP) for the Province of Melbourne West. Between 1985 and 1988 she was Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands. In 1988 she moved to the Lower House as the member for Williamstown and was appointed Minister for Education (1988-1990) and Minister for Ethnic Affairs (1990-1991). She served as Deputy Premier from 1989-1990 and in 1992 became the Leader of the Opposition.

Kirner resigned from parliament in 1994. That same year, she was appointed Chair of the Employment Services Regulatory Authority (which position she held until 1996), and Chair of the National Committee to Celebrate the Centenary of Federation. In May 2001, as a member of the Victorian Committee for the Centenary of Federation, she organised the Women Shaping the Nation event and presentation of the Victorian Honour Roll of women in the Victorian Parliament with 756 women present.

Kirner's interest in social justice, equity for women, the arts and landcare was lifelong. With Moira Rayner, she co-authored the best selling Women's Power Handbook, published in 1999 and illustrated by Judy Horacek. Kirner was a co-convenor of Emily's List, a Board member of the Australian Children's Television Foundation, and a member of the Playbox Theatre Board. She supported a variety of organisations including the Living Museum of the West, the Women's Circus and Positive Women.

Sources used to compile this entry: Dow, Aisha, 'Victoria's first female premier Joan Kirner dies aged 76', The Age, 2 June 2015,;, accessed 03/04/2002. The current site for the APESMA (Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia) Professional Women's Network is Statement from the Office of the Premier, Daniel Andrews, 1 June, 2015.

Related entries

Related Exhibitions

  • Women in Australia's Working History (2002 - )

    The life of Joan Kirner features as one of the case studies in the exhibition A Lot On Her Hands, the first stage of the Women in Australian's Working History project being undertaken at the Australian Workers Heritage Centre.

Digital resources

The Honourable Joan Kirner


The Honourable Joan Kirner
13 March 2003
AWAP Collection


Anne Heywood and Nikki Henningham

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

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

© Copyright in The Australian Women's Register is owned by the Australian Women's Archives Project
and vested in each of the authors in respect of their contributions from 2000

The Australian Women's Register is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

The Australian Women's Register is published quarterly by the Australian Women's Archives Project
ISSN 2207-3124