Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

Australia in the 1990s


In 1990, Joan Kirner became Victoria's first female premier, and Australia's second.

In 1990, for the first time women in Australia's defence forces were allowed to take part in combat-related duties. Women sailors were on board HMAS Westralia when it was sent into a combat zone in 1991. Women served as medical personnel in Iraq, Rwanda and Western Sahara in the early 1990s.

In 1992, Sharelle Quinn became Australia's first female international captain with Qantas Airlines.

In November 1999, 440 women were part of the Australian force of 5,500 deployed to East Timor.

In February 1991, Dame Roma Mitchell became governor of South Australia. She was the first woman to hold vice-regal office anywhere in Australia. A keen advocate of women's rights, she was the first woman to be made a Queen's Counsel, the first to be made a Justice of a Supreme Court (1965) and first to be a chancellor of an Australian University (University of Adelaide, 1983–90).

In March 1992, the first Anglican women were ordained as priests when ten women were ordained at St George's Cathedral in Perth.

A snapshot of 1998

  • February
    • A Constitutional Convention was held in Old Government House, Canberra, and gave in principle support to Australia becoming a republic.

  • April
    • Patrick Stevedores sacked its workforce on the Australian waterfront, thus beginning the Waterfront Dispute with the Maritime Union of Australia.

  • May
    • The first Sorry Day was held on 26 May to commemorate the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families.

  • June
    • In Queensland's state election, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party won 23 per cent of the vote and 11 seats.

  • July
    • The Senate passed the Native Title Act Amendment Bill 1998 (Cth) after a debate lasting 105 hours.


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