The Hon. Dame Margaret Guilfoyle AC DBE

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Dame Margaret Guilfoyle AC DBE.

Dame Margaret holds a special place in the history of our country – as the first woman in Cabinet with a ministerial portfolio, the first woman senator in Cabinet and the first woman to hold a major economic portfolio.

Dame Margaret opened doors for Australian women that will never be shut again. This is her great legacy.

During the Fraser Government, Dame Margaret was Minister for Education, Minister for Social Security and Minister for Finance. Her reputation has only grown with time – in terms of her place in history and her achievements as a senior minister.

As a minister, the then Senator Guilfoyle was meticulous, confident and unflappable – and she would become a role model for the many women who would follow.

The late Susan Ryan, re-appropriating her own election slogan, said of Margaret Guilfoyle “If anyone’s performance should have established that a woman’s place was in the Cabinet, it was Margaret Guilfoyle’s.”

Dame Margaret was a child of the Great Depression. Her father died when she was just 10 years old and her mother raised three children alone. Understanding the importance of education to economic security, she undertook secretarial and accounting studies while holding down a full time job.

In the 1970s she fought for the extension of maternity leave for all women, not just Commonwealth employees.

As Minister for Social Security, the welfare of women was central to her. She reminded her colleagues often that 83 per cent of the payments made through her department were made to women.

Margaret Guilfoyle oversaw major reform of the national child endowment scheme switching from tax rebates to cash payments. She ran the Office of Child Care and presided over a major expansion of government support for preschool, child care and after-school care.

In 1980, Dame Margaret took on the role of Finance Minister, a role that she called “the chief accountant for the country”.

Dame Margaret left the Liberal Party a legacy that we are beckoned to live up to. In her words: “Equal participation of women in the Parliament, in the whole of community life, can only lead us to a better understanding of humanity and to the fulfilment of the aspirations that we would have for a civilised society.”

On behalf of all Australians, I extend our condolences to her husband Stan and her family.

Source: Thanks