Jean Melzer
Women in Federal Parliament

Jean Melzer

Senator for Victoria

ALP, 1974–1981

In 1974 Jean Melzer became the first woman elected to the Senate to represent Victoria. She was a passionate advocate of the need to protect the disadvantaged and campaigned relentlessly for the rights of women. In 1978 she was the first woman appointed as Secretary of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party (Caucus).

Much of Senator Melzer’s career was spent highlighting issues relating to the detrimental treatment and living conditions of the institutionalised, pensioners, migrants and Aborigines. She also sought to encourage projects and policies that would eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and raise their profile as decision makers not only in the community but in the Parliament as well.

Jean Melzer was defeated at the 1980 election but in 1984, in line with her passionate and dedicated opposition to uranium mining, she attempted re-election to the Senate as a representative of the Nuclear Disarmament Party, albeit unsuccessfully. Melzer continued to serve the community after she left the federal parliament through her work in coastal environment protection and her active participation in the University of the Third Age (U3A) in Victoria. In 2004 she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Jean Melzer on a visit to Casey Station, Antarctica, with the Parliamentary Works Committee in February 1981.

Image courtesy of Australian Antarctic Division © Commonwealth of Australia.