Australian Women's Register

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

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Foot, Rosemary Irene (1936 - )


2 April 1936
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Director and Politician
Alternative Names
  • Ashton, Rosemary (maiden name)


Rosemary Foot is an outstanding woman, who became the first woman to hold a leadership position in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales: she was elected to the seat of Vaucluse in 1978 and re-elected in 1981 and 1984. She was appointed an AO in 1999 for her services to the community.


Rosemary Foot was born in Sydney and grew up in the country. She was educated at Frensham School, Mittagong and the University of Sydney (BA), where she lived at Women's College. She graduated in 1959, having been a director of the Women's Union 1954-55.

From 1972 she has been a company director and investor. She entered Parliament in 1978 and was in the Shadow Ministry two years later. Between 1980 and her retirement in 1986 she held shadow portfolios in Employment, Consumer Affairs, Women's Affairs, Youth and Community Services. She became Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal party in 1983, then the most senior position ever held by a woman in the Legislative Assembly of NSW. After her retirement from politics she worked in England as a management consultant 1986-88.

She has held executive positions on numerous organizations including NSW Association for Mental Health, Sydney Home Nursing Service, Australia Council, Law Foundation, Australian Institute of Political Science, NSW Tourism Commission, National Trust Conservation Fund Advisory Board, Eastern Sydney Area Health Service, Royal Hospital for Women Foundation, Library Council of NSW, CARE Australia and the Australian Heritage Commission. She has been a director of Art/Omni (New York) since 1992.

Rosemary Foot married R.P.Foot in 1960, (diss 1972) and Bernard A.J.Arens (dec.2000). She has two daughters. Her grandfather was a Minister in the Carruthers and Wade governments.

Sources used to compile this entry: Annable, Rosemary (ed.), Biographical register : the Women's College within the University of Sydney, Council of the Women's College, Sydney, 1995, 269 pp; Who's Who in Australia 2005; Sydney Morning Herald, 28 June 1979.

Annette Alafaci

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