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Honourable Joan Kirner AC

In 1990, Joan Kirner became the first female Victorian Premier.

Inducted:
2001
Category:
Honour Roll

Joan Kirner was born on 20 June 1938 in Essendon, Victoria. She went to Aberfeldie Primary School, Penleigh Presbyterian Grammar School and University High School. Following this she went to the University of Melbourne on a studentship and graduated with a BA, Dip. Ed. Joan married, had three children and became active in Croydon North Primary School Mothers' Club from 1965-75.

Joan became involved in the development of the Victorian Federation of State School Parents Clubs and the Australian Council of State School Organisations. She became President of the former from 1973-78. She was involved in numerous committees related to education during the 1970s. In 1982, she entered state politics as Labor MLC for Melbourne West, continuing her efforts to shape education policies. Joan was a strong supporter of State education and also believed in the value of parent participation in education.

In 1986, along with Heather Mitchell, Joan Kirner initiated Landcare, a community-based movement working to care for the land. At the time, Joan was Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands while Heather Mitchell was President of the Victorian Farmers' Federation. Together they created a network of groups from different walks of life which could work together to achieve land restoration, with departmental assistance. It proved to be a very practicable grass roots movement and, by 1990, 70 Landcare groups had formed. It then spread to other states whereupon a National Landcare Program was developed. This was assisted by a historic partnership between the National Farmers' Federation and the Australian Conservation Foundation. Bob Hawke declared the 1990s the 'Decade of Landcare'.

By early 2000 there were over 4000 Landcare groups in Australia. Some groups consist of neighbouring farmers working together to solve common problems, while other more complex projects work to tackle problems at the catchment or regional level. Conceived by two women, Landcare has created numerous opportunities for women's participation. The Landcare model has been adopted in New Zealand, and is being introduced in the United States, Iceland, Canada and parts of Asia.

Joan moved to the Lower House in 1988 as the Member for Williamstown and the following year became the deputy leader of the ALP. Following John Cain's resignation in 1990, Joan became Premier but lost office in the 1992 elections. Carmen Lawrence had become Premier of Western Australia in the same year. Joan was the first woman Premier of Victoria and the second in Australia. In 1993, she resigned as leader of the Labor Party and was elected president of the Victorian branch of the ALP. In 1994, she resigned from her seat in parliament.

Joan continued to be active in community affairs, particularly in organisations related to women and educational issues. She was co-convenor of EMILY's List, a political, personal and funding network to elect more women into parliament. She also was Chair of the Centenary of Federation's 'Women Shaping the Nation' Steering Committee.

Reviewed 27 May 2022

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