The Hon. Amanda Vanstone
Women in Federal Parliament

The Hon. Amanda Vanstone

Senator for South Australia

LIB, 1985–2007

The Hon. Amanda Vanstone moving office in Adelaide in 1985.

Image courtesy of Newspix/News Limited.

In 1984 the Hon. Amanda Vanstone was elected as a South Australian Liberal Party senator, declaring in her first speech her support for capitalism and the adversarial parliamentary system. During her parliamentary career she pursued her desire to tackle issues of welfare, employment, education, and indigenous affairs and maintained her belief in the power of ‘individuality’.

Her time in the shadow ministry from 1987 was punctuated by her successful negotiations to televise proceedings of parliament and her involvement in committee inquiries into significant legislation such as the Native Title Bill 1993.

When the Coalition formed government in 1996, Senator Vanstone was appointed to Cabinet as Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. During this time she introduced significant reforms to employment programs and the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS).

In 2001, after spending several years as Minister for Justice and Customs (1997–2001), she returned to the Cabinet and implemented welfare reform in her roles as both Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women.

From 2003 Vanstone held immigration and multicultural and Indigenous affairs portfolios and was responsible for the management of migrant detention centres and the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). When she left the ministry in 2007 she was the longest serving female cabinet minister since Federation.

In April 2007, after 22 years of service, she resigned from the Senate and took up a posting as the Australian Ambassador to Italy, a position she held until 2010.