I’m Australia’s first female Prime Minister.
And I didn’t get here alone.
Today I think of all the women who made my journey possible, all the women who made our journey possible:
A lifetime of support from colleagues and family, mentors and friends like Joan Kirner. A century of activism by women of matchless courage and resolve. Some have an honoured place in history like Edith Cowan and Catherine Helen Spence, but there are also the unknown, unnamed women who through countless acts of defiance affirmed the right of every woman to a life of opportunity, freedom and choice.
They did these things inspired by faith in women they would never know and a future they would never see. We are those women. We are that future. Today we speak for the women of a thousand generations.
We owe them a debt of gratitude, and we owe to them a responsibility: a responsibility to build on their foundations; to do more, to be more, and to make life better for the women who will come after us; to say and do in our own time the things that were once held to be unthinkable and unachievable.
Friends, April 25th has a sacred place in the Australian imagination. But 19 years before Gallipoli, it was already a significant day in our nation’s story. It was the day Australian women first cast their vote. The place was South Australia, a laboratory of progressive social change in the late Victorian era.
The Adelaide Advertiser expressed its faith that women would not “leave their electoral privileges unexercised for fear of losing the bloom of their delicate and retiring femininity.” While the Adelaide Observer pointed out the “air of responsibility” on the faces of the newly enfranchised voters. That was how our journey in Australian political life began.