Today Australian politicians remember Joan Kirner, Victoria’s first female premier and Australia’s second, who made a significant influence to the women of  Australian politics for the last 25 years.  The state funeral for Mrs Kirner, who passed away earlier this week is being held today at the Williamstown hall and many high profile female leaders are expected to be in attendance to remember and celebrate Joan’s contributions to Australian politics.

Mrs Kirner was first elected to parliament in 1982 as a member for Melbourne West and then in the legislative Assembly seat of Williamstown in 1988. She then became the  the state’s first female premier in 1990 after John Cain. She held office for two years and in this time education, health and the advancement of women became her primary political focus.

However it was once she retired that she truly cemented her credibility as a female advocate, through establishing EMILY’s List Australia- an organisation independent of the ALP that supports the election of progressive women.

EMILY’s List originally started in the USA and functioned outside the Democratic Party to assist pro-choice Democratic women to be elected to Congress, the Senate and Governorships around the country. The organisation has helped to promote a record number of women serving in the United States and is currently campaigning to see America elect its first woman President in 2016.

Mrs Kirner and a number of labour politicians saw the good work EMILY’s List was doing in America and decided to adapt the U.S model to Australia  to assist progressive Labor women in their campaigns. Furthermore this organisation was chosen to exist outside the ALP in order  to ensure the women were in control  of their own finances. Initially  EMILY’s List Australia acted as a watchdog over the ALP’s implementation of the ‘Affirmative Action Rule’ ensuring the Party was reaching it’s target of 35% women by 2002.

From there EMILY’s list continued to champion the belief that democracy and the ALP would be best served when there was an equal representation of women and men. This belief spurred on the ‘Lift the Target’ campaign which promoted a rule change to 50/50 representation of women and men. Although this target wasn’t reached, a 40/40/20 rule by 2012 was enshrined as ALP policy.

Organisations like EMILY’s List are integral to the advancement of women, as a gender balanced government sets the tone for corporate companies and organisations to follow suit. Furthermore, the election of female MPs across Australia has and will continue to lead the way to progressive reforms and policy regarding paid maternity and child care schemes and equal pay principles. These changes in policy have a flow on effect within industry and help to ensure the progression of workforce diversity and women in leadership.

Currently the percentage of female Australian MPs is at 40%, however  EMILY’s list have announced that they are seeking to increase Labour women’s representation to 50% by 2020, in honour of Joan Kirner.

To find out more about this quota proposal or to get involved with EMILY’s List, visit their website below: