Shirley Walters
Women in Federal Parliament

Shirley Walters

Senator for Tasmania

LIB, 1975–1993

Shirley Walters became the first female Tasmanian senator when she was elected to the Senate for the Liberal Party in 1975. A large portion of her parliamentary career, including two years as Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, was spent as an advocate for health, welfare and social issues. As chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare she was instrumental in producing landmark reports into youth homelessness and the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Her, albeit unsuccessful, Regulation of Video Material Bill 1992, prohibiting X-rated videos and reducing violence in M and R-rated videos, was indicative of her efforts to respond to community concerns, particularly on issues of violence and the degradation of women. In introducing the bill she was adamant that it was every senator’s obligation to do everything in their power ‘to make Australia a safer place for our women and men, and their families’.

Unafraid to stand up for her principles, Senator Walters crossed the floor on 14 occasions including in 1977 when she opposed legislation to provide for simultaneous elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives. After 18 years of service she retired in 1993.

Shirley Walters opening letters of congratulations after her election to the Senate in 1975.

Image courtesy of Newspix/News Limited.