Lee Rhiannon
Women in Federal Parliament

Lee Rhiannon

Senator for New South Wales

GRN, 2011–2018

Lee Rhiannon.

Image taken by Susie Gemmell.

Before her election to the Senate, Lee Rhiannon viewed Parliament as ‘a place where we went to protest, not to get a job’. She first visited Parliament as a teenager in 1968, travelling from Sydney with fellow students to rally against the war in Vietnam. For the self-described ‘accidental politician’, it marked the start of fifty years of activism in the environment, peace and social justice movements. It led Rhiannon to stand for the NSW Legislative Council in 1999, where she spent over a decade before moving to the federal arena.

During six years in the Senate, Rhiannon introduced 16 private bills, including a number to ban the live animal export trade and testing cosmetics on animals. She also tried to tighten laws governing political donations, arguing greater transparency would be ‘a significant step towards restoring public confidence in our democratic institutions’.

Rhiannon was Australian Greens spokesperson for several portfolios, among them housing, gun control and international aid and development. She also spoke up for asylum seekers and refugees and the rights of workers. Rhiannon said a highlight of her parliamentary career was working on committees, particularly on the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters whose recommendations led to changes to the Senate voting system.

Rhiannon left the Senate saying she wasn’t quitting politics and looked forward ‘to returning to the streets’.