Natasha Stott Despoja

Senator for South Australia

AD, 1995–2008

Natasha Stott Despoja with her son in her office in Parliament House in 2005.

Image courtesy of Newspix/Ray Strange.

In 1995 Natasha Stott Despoja entered Parliament as an Australian Democrats senator for South Australia and as the youngest female parliamentarian. Although initially chosen by the South Australian parliament she was elected in her own right for two more terms. By 1997 she was Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats before becoming leader in 2001, the youngest person of any party to hold such a position.

During her parliamentary career she introduced many bills on issues including social justice, young people, education, privacy, paid maternity leave, pregnancy counselling, the republic and space and science issues. Although none of her proposals were passed, her stem cell research bill motivated a government senator to put forward a successful private senator’s bill to allow therapeutic cloning.

Senator Stott Despoja was well known for her ability to take politics to young people through new technologies and mass media. In 1997 she was the first person to submit an electronic petition to Parliament. She campaigned for the introduction of captioning for the deaf and hearing impaired and in 2003 instigated a change to Senate standing orders to allow women to breastfeed in the Senate.

In 2007 she retired as the longest ever serving Democrats senator. She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2011.