Patricia Giles

Senator for Western Australia

ALP, 1981–1993

Patricia Giles (left) with Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, at Sindh House in Islamabad in 1989.

Image courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Prior to her entry into politics Patricia Giles was a nurse and trade unionist, credited with becoming the first woman on the executive of the Trades and Labor Council of Western Australian. After six years as an organiser for the Hospital Employees’ Union she was elected as an Australian Labor Party senator for the state of Western Australia in 1980, a position she held for 12 years.

In the Senate, Senator Giles spoke at length on issues relating to health, social security and disability services and was chair of the Select Committee on Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes. She also extolled the value of education, particularly its role in providing employment opportunities for young people and the disadvantaged, including women. Her dedication to improving the status of women was reflected in her strong support of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and her role as leader of a number of government delegations to Commonwealth and United Nations (UN) forums on women’s affairs. In 1988 she became the first woman to chair the powerful Senate Privileges Committee.

After retiring from the Senate in 1993 Giles continued her activism at an international level and was for a time chair of the UN Global Commission on Women’s Health. She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2010.