Many of Australia’s most distinguished women number in the ranks of our champions; each has made a valuable investment in the women’s movement and to women and their futures.
Marie Coleman AO PSM
‘For me, the love is of good public policy, not politics. And somehow, I seem to find the energy to keep arguing for it.’
Awarded an AO for distinguished service to the advancement of women, Marie Coleman’s name has been synonymous with the women’s movement in Australia for the past 60 years. She maintains her indignation at the gender pay gap, and has championed everything from universal access to childcare to paid maternity leave. ‘A lot of these issues take tremendous persistence’, she says.
Marie was the first woman in Australia to head a statutory authority when she chaired the Whitlam Government’s Social Welfare Commission in 1973. She had a long and distinguished career in public service, being awarded a Public Service Medal in 1990 and a Centenary Medal in 2011.
She was a founding member in 1989 of the NFAW and chaired the Social Policy Committee until early 2020. The SPC plays a leadership role for women’s organisations nationally in the research and analysis of the impacts of policies on woman. She is also a committee member for the Australian Woman’s Archives Project.
She has been inducted into the Victorian Parliament’s Honour Roll of Women and the ACT Honour Roll of Women.
NFAW Patron: The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO
BA. LLB (Qld). Hon LLD (Macquarie). Hon DLitt (Charles Sturt). Hon DUniv (Griffith). Hon DU (QUT). Hon LLD (Qld). Hon DUniv (JCU). Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) (Syd). Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) (UWS). Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) University of Melbourne
Quentin Bryce was born in Brisbane in 1942 and spent her early years in Ilfracombe, a small town in Central Western Queensland. In 1965, she graduated with the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws from The University of Queensland and, in the same year, was admitted to the Queensland Bar.
She has since enjoyed a rich and distinguished career as an academic, lawyer, community and human rights advocate, senior public officer, university college principal, and vice-regal representative in Queensland, and now Australia.
Ms Bryce’s former roles – some, among firsts for women in this country – include:
• Lecturer and Tutor in Law, The University of Queensland, 1968-1983
• Convenor, National Women’s Advisory Council, 1982-1984
• Inaugural Director, Queensland Women’s Information Service, Office of the Status of Women, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 1984-1987
• Director, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Queensland, 1987-1988
• Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1988-1993
• Founding Chair and CEO, National Childcare Accreditation Council, 1993-1996
• Principal and CEO, The Women’s College, University of Sydney, 1997-2003
• Governor of Queensland, 2003-2008
• Governor-General of Australia 2008-2013
Quentin Bryce’s contribution to advancing human rights and equality, the rights of women and children, and the welfare of the family was recognised in her appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1988 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2003. Also in 2003, she was invested as a Dame of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. On 25 March 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Ms Bryce had become a Dame in the Order of Australia.
Ms Bryce has been recognised by the award of honorary doctorates from seven Australian universities.
In her civic role as Governor of Queensland, Ms Bryce continued her work with women, families and young people while extending her influence across the State’s broad and diverse spectrum, including the rural, regional, aged, indigenous, migrant, and disability sectors.
As a mother and grandmother, Ms Bryce is a role model and mentor to women at every stage of their lives. She values and encourages women’s capacity to form strong and enduring bonds of friendship, intellectual and emotional enrichment, and mutual support in their roles within the family, workplace and community.
On 5 September 2008 Quentin Bryce was sworn in as Australia’s twenty-fifth Governor-General and occupied this role until late 2013. As the first woman to take up the office, she remains a pioneer in contemporary Australian society, and yet one who brings more than forty years of experience in reform, community building and leadership to the role.
Quentin Bryce and her husband, Michael, were married in 1964.