The Hon. Dame Annabelle Rankin
Women in Federal Parliament

The Hon. Dame Annabelle Rankin

Senator for Queensland

LIB, 1947–1971

The Hon. Dame Annabelle Rankin was the second female senator in the federal parliament and the first from Queensland. Senator Rankin, a member of the Liberal Party, was particularly interested in housing, health and communications issues. After joining the Senate in 1947 she was appointed Opposition Whip, the first woman in the Parliament to hold a whip’s position. She was the Government Whip for fifteen years from 1951. As Minister for Housing she became, in 1966, the first woman responsible for the administration of a federal government department. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1957.

After retiring from the Senate in 1971, Dame Annabelle Rankin became Australia’s first female ambassador, when she was appointed High Commissioner to New Zealand. Women who entered the Senate after Rankin have acknowledged that her strong presence and manifest ability paved the way for a greater acceptance of women in leadership roles by their Senate colleagues and by the public in general.

The Hon. Dame Annabelle Rankin arriving at Government House, Canberra, prior to being sworn in as Minister for Housing in 1966.

Image courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.