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In 1943 two women became the first to win seats in Australian parliament, with Enid Lyons joining the House of Representatives and Dorothy Tangney elected to the Senate.

Now, in 2022, more women than ever have been chosen to represent their electorates with a large number of seats previously held by conservative men being taken over by more progressive female candidates.

The votes are still being counted, but at least 14 women have been elected to the lower house – three have lost their seats – while the Senate is set to have a majority of women.

In 1943 Enid Lyons (left) became the Member for Darwin (in Tasmania) in the House of Representatives and Dorothy Tangney (right) was elected to represent Western Australia in the Senate.
In 1943 Enid Lyons (left) became the Member for Darwin (in Tasmania) in the House of Representatives and Dorothy Tangney (right) was elected to represent Western Australia in the Senate. (Fairfax Archive)

Allegra Spender won the previously Liberal-held seat of Wentworth in Sydney’s inner-city, and fellow independent Monique Ryan unseated Josh Frydenberg in the Melbourne seat of Kooyong.

In the western Sydney seat of Reid Sally Sitou claimed victory returning it to Labor, while Zoe Daniel, another independent, has claimed victory in Goldstein over Liberal MP Tim Wilson.

Independent Zali Steggall held onto her seat in Warringah on Sydney’s Northern Beaches after beating former prime minister Tony Abbott at the last election.

Also on the Northern Beaches Sophie Scamps has beaten Liberal Jason Falinski in the seat of Mackellar.

In the senate, Penny Wong was reelected and appointed as the new foreign minister in Anthony Albanese’s government.

Former Liberal frontbencher Julie Bishop, whose old seat of Curtin in Western Australia went to independent Kate Chaney, said this huge shift means the party needs to do some soul searching.

“When the Liberal Party carries out the post-election analysis, they must address the issue of women in the party,” she said on Nine’s election night coverage.

In the western Sydney seat of Reid Sally Sitou claimed victory returning it to Labor.
In the western Sydney seat of Reid Sally Sitou claimed victory returning it to Labor. (Alex Ellinghausen)

When were women allowed to vote in Australia?

“So many Liberal women told me they did not see their concerns, their interests reflected in the party that was led by Scott Morrison and in Coalition with Barnaby Joyce.

“They just didn’t see them as having any empathy for the concerns of women.”

She also invoked the impact of Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins.

“They exposed an ugly side to the workplace in Canberra,” Bishop said.

“We make the laws for every other workplace in Australia yet women were saying it was not a safe place to work.”

NOTE: Senate votes are still being counted but these figures are accurate up to the 2019 election.

Former Labor politician Kate Ellis also weighed in from Nine’s election night panel.

“I absolutely agree about the change that has occurred when it comes to women and women’s issues in the last couple of years and we do need to see more women in parliament. 

“But it’s not just that. We need to see more of a focus on the issues which affect women’s lives each and every day.

Allegra Spender won the previously Liberal-held seat of Wentworth in Sydney's inner-city.
Allegra Spender won the previously Liberal-held seat of Wentworth in Sydney’s inner-city. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

“I would send a message to all the men in the parliament as well: It is your job to advocate for the women out there who are struggling,” Ellis said.

“It is your job to make sure that we see a decrease in the levels of violence women are experiencing. It’s your job to fight for secure housing. 

“We’ve seen a massive increase in the number of women in the House of Representatives. That is a good thing.

Liberal and Labor HQs tell two different stories

“But it is my tip Australian women are angry and we don’t just want to change the government, change the prime minister, we want to change the agenda and the outcomes and that work will be ongoing no matter who’s in government,” she added.

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