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BALANCING OUT

Tasmania just gave Australia its first female-majority parliamentary state assembly

The Parliament House in Hobart, the capital of Australia’s smallest state Tasmania.
Barrylb/Wikimedia
Small state, big change.
By Steve Mollman
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Most parliaments in the world are dominated by men (pdf). That certainly holds true in Down Under, where nearly 70% of parliamentarians at the federal level are male. But change is afoot in Tasmania.

This month, voters in the island state sent 13 women and 12 men to the lower House of Assembly. That makes Tasmania the first state in the country with a female-majority parliamentary assembly. The election was held on March 3, with the results finalized this week.

Tasmania is no stranger to female leadership. In 2011, Lara Giddings became the state’s premier, the first woman to hold the position. Giddings, who bowed out of politics last year, said to ABC News of this week’s results, ”That just shows what a turnaround from when I was first elected back in 1996, when it was still a novelty to be electing women to parliament.”

The Australian Capital Territory elected a female-majority legislature in 2016, but unlike Tasmania, it’s not a state.

Tasmania, known for it rugged landscape, is the nation’s smallest state, with a population of about 520,000. Women will hold the majority in the lower house, not the upper one, which holds separate elections. Still, the outcome will likely serve as inspiration for more women to enter politics.

“This could become a fabulous case study,” Jenny Morris, head of Women for Election, told ABC. “If it can be done in Tasmania, it can be done elsewhere.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Lara Giddings was the first woman to serve as an Australian state premier. She was the first in Tasmania, but not the nation.

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