The Hon. Joan Child
Women in Federal Parliament

The Hon. Joan Child

Member for Henty (Vic.)

ALP, 1974–1975

Member for Henty (Vic.)

ALP, 1980–1990

The Hon. Joan Child, Member for Henty (Vic.), 1974–75, 1980–90, was the first woman from the Australian Labor Party to be elected to the House of Representatives and the first female Speaker of the House.

As a widow who raised five sons, Child said that she regarded ‘life experience’ as her qualification to be a parliamentarian. In the House her interests were varied, with a particular emphasis on health, housing, education, social welfare and customs and tariffs. In 1981 she took the Speaker to task for referring to ‘honourable gentlemen’ instead of ‘honourable members’.

Child served as Speaker of the House of Representatives (1986–89) and Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees (1984–86). As Speaker she co-sponsored, with President of the Senate Douglas McClelland, the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 which defined the powers, privileges and immunities of the two houses of Parliament. She chaired a number of committees including the House of Representatives House Committee, the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings and co-chaired the Joint Standing Committee on the New Parliament House. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1990.

The Hon. Joan Child at the launch of The Parliament Pack, educational materials on the federal parliament, in King’s Hall, Parliament House in 1987.

Image courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.