I believe it is important that we acknowledge the women who stood for parliament in earlier days when the challenge to be heard in an almost all male environment must have been extremely difficult.

Margaret Guilfoyle was in every sense of the word a trailblazer. Dame Margaret was the first woman to serve as a federal cabinet minister and the first woman to hold a major economic portfolio. It took 70 years for a prime minister to recognise that women should be part of a federal cabinet! Malcolm Fraser, prime minister of the day, must be acknowledged for the part he played in making that happen.

After the Whitlam government was dismissed in 1971 Guilfoyle became the education minister overnight, in the caretaker Fraser Government.

After Fraser’s election victory Dame Margaret was made social security and later, finance minister.

Dame Margaret oversaw the major reform of the child endowment scheme, replacing tax rebates with cash payments. Dame Margaret also presided over the Office of Child Care and the expansion of government support for pre-school, childcare and after-school care, all of which became critical in allowing women to return to work while parenting young children.

Margaret Guilfoyle was the mother of two children, a qualified accountant and later completed a law degree. She took on the responsibilities for encouraging other women to join the Liberal Party by setting up the Liberal Women’s Forum.

Susan Ryan who only recently died and was the first female Labor cabinet minister, paid homage to Dame Margaret, when she praised Dame Margaret for her performance in cabinet, stating that Dame Margaret certainly justified the faith placed in her by her prime minister.

In Dame Margaret’s words ‘Equal participation of women in 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’.

They are words that should be imprinted on the brain of all male politicians and leaders of industry!

Ref: Women’s Agenda

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