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Office for Women

Leadership and Participation

South Australia has always been a progressive State and was the first colony in Australia and the fourth place in the world where women gained the vote. In 1894 when all adult women were given the right to vote, there was no restriction by age or marital status unlike other countries where women had the vote. In fact, since 1861, women who owned property and paid council rates had the right to vote in local council elections. Women were also given the right to stand for Parliament in 1895, the first place in the world.

Building on this strong history, the South Australian Government is committed to enabling women to reach their potential as leaders in every field while recognising, honouring and celebrating the achievements of our women leaders.

Boards and committees

Boards and committees

The Office for Women works towards ensuring that more women are able to make a contribution as leaders and key decision makers in the South Australian community. One way to achieve this is to increase the number of women members of boards and committees.

The Business Case

Premier's Women's Directory

The Premier's Women's Directory was established to assist the South Australian Government to increase women's participation in leadership positions through membership on boards and committees. The Directory is an online database containing the details of skilled and experienced women who have nominated as being interested in serving on boards and committees.

Women who are considering a board career are encouraged to register for the Directory.

Password access to search the Directory is provided to government, community and private sector organisations who can demonstrate that they are seeking to increase the number of women on their board and/or committee.

Gender Equality in Leadership in the Public Sector

Gender Equality in Leadership in the Public Sector

There is clear evidence to demonstrate that better outcomes are achieved across the spectrum of priorities when women are represented in the top tier of organisations.

As at June 2017, approximately 48% of all public sector executives were women despite women comprising 69% of the sector. Further, women only comprise 41.7% of the South Australian Executive Service.

The Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment has released a strategy for Gender Equality in Leadership in the South Australian Public Sector. 

Download Gender Equality in Leadership (PDF) 6MB

For more information on initiatives under the strategy visit the Office for the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment website.

Inspiring South Australian Women's Award

Inspiring South Australian Women's Award

The Inspiring South Australian Women's Award (formerly known as the Women Hold Up Half the Sky Award) recognises an outstanding woman who has made a significant contribution to the community.  The award was established in 2011 and took its former name from the well-known work of internationally recognised South Australian artist, Ann Newmarch.  The award recognises the outstanding contribution women make, in a voluntary or paid role, in advancing and enriching our society. The award is designed to acknowledge those women who have previously not been publicly recognised for their work and service to the community.

The award categories are:

  • Inspiring SA Women's Award
  • Emergin Leaders Award

A Commendation Award may be bestowed to encourage the future potential of the nominee.

The award is part of the Australia Day Awards and honours and is jointly coordinated by the Australia Day Council of South Australia and the Office for Women.


Visit the Australia Day Council of SA website to make a nomination and find more information about the award.

2019 award winner

Emmah Evans
This year’s Women Hold Up Half the Sky Award recipient is Emmah Evans, a woman who lives with Cystic Fibrosis but is a also a renowned public speaker and advocate for people with cystic fibrosis. Emmah is an inspirational role model who is committed to changing lives for the better and is proof that a disability should not define you.

Congratulations Emmah!

From left to right: Chair of the Australia Day Council of SA Houssam Abiad, Minister for Human Services the Hon Michelle Lensink MLC, winner of the 2019 Women Hold Up Half the Sky Award Emmah Evans, and His Excellency the Hon Governor Hieu van Le AC.

Previous winners

Pat Waria-Read (2011)
A proud and well-respected Ngaduri Elder, Pat has been a catalyst for the rights of Aboriginal women on a community, state and national level, ensuring their voices are heard, acknowledged and respected.

Katrine Hildyard (2012)
As Branch Secretary of the Australian Services Union, Katrine led a union campaign to ensure that workers in the community sector are paid appropriately.

A Special Commendation went to Stephanie O'Connor, an 18 year old woman acting as primary carer in her household since she was 13 years old.

Lucy Evans (2013)
A Narunga woman from Port Pirie, Lucy has worked in the area of Aboriginal health for over 10 years and has been instrumental in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal people.

Tam Boakes (2014)
Tam Boakes participates actively in the support and development of music in South Australia by providing performance opportunities for local bands and artists as well as investing in and giving back to the industry in many ways.

Michelle Sibbons (2015)
When Michelle's daughter was born with the rare disorder Congenital Melanocytic Nevus, a potentially life threatening condition, she began the Australian Nevus Support Group to provide information and an online community for other parents and children living with Congenital Melanocytic Nevus.

A Special Commendation went to Karyn Bradford for her ongoing commitment to the community of Milang and the hard work she puts into creating a vibrant, supportive community.

Tara Fatehi (2016)
Tara is a Kurdish born PhD medical student and youth charities ambassador. Since migrating to South Australia from Kurdistan at age 3, Tara has been determined to give back to her community by using her education, knowledge and experience to help migrants and refugees build a better life in South Australia.

A Special Commendation went to Judith Wirtz for her 25 year voluntary commitment to the Warradale Branch of Meals on Wheels.

Sandra Dann (2017)
Sandra has made a career of advocating for the rights of women at work, as Director of the Working Women's Centre SA and as part of numerous committees, panels and advisory groups including being a founding member of, and adviser to, the Board and staff of the Working Women’s Centre in Timor-Leste.

A Special Commendation went to Councillor Lisa Lumsden of the Port Augusta City Council. Lisa has played a key role in advocating for children’s services and for greater community involvement in council decision-making.

Sarah Gun (2018)

Sarah is a passionate advocate and social entrepreneur who established Gogo Events as a social enterprise with the explicit aim of training homeless and disadvantaged people to produce décor items and event materials, then employ these trainees to install their events. Through her work with Gogo Events Sarah goes to significant lengths, by committing to environmental and socially sustainable practices in all areas of event design. Gogo Events are a pathway to employment partner and in the first 6 months of 2016-17 together with the Hutt Street Centre created 100 plus paid work opportunities. Through Sarah’s work and the partnerships she has created, Sarah is changing lives and empowering people to build their confidence and capacity.

Sarah as a Committee member organised Gogo Events 7th Big Lunch, raising funds for the Big Issue. She acts as a broker between corporate clients who value corporate social responsibility, the agencies supporting disadvantaged women and has been instrumental in creating paid and meaningful work for people experiencing homelessness. It is Sarah’s desire to create lasting social change in the event industry and tackling entrenched disadvantage that has been inspirational.

2018 Commendation - Margaret Hempel

Margaret has been an outstanding contributor to the South Australian Country Women’s Association (SACWA). Margaret has been a member for over 60 years and has been a key member of the Loxton district, state wide and the Pacific region through the associated activities of the association and SACWA’s Women of the World activities.  As State Treasurer for SACWA  in 1996, she was the overseer of a complete overhaul of the organisation’s financial structures to ensure the increased efficiency and financial coherence of the organisation so it could more readily respond to women and children across the State.

More information

Australia Day Council of SA

Local Government

Local Government

Susan Grace Benny was Australia's first woman politician in elected office, becoming a member of SA's Brighton Council (now City of Holdfast Bay Council) in late 1919 — only weeks after Nancy Astor's celebrated election to the British Parliament.

At the 2014 elections, a record percentage of women stood for and were elected to local government:

  • 28.5 per cent of nominees were women;
  • 205 women have been elected out of 702 positions; 29.02 per cent of Councillors are now women.

Local Government elections will be held next in 2022. Information on how to nominate is available at the Local Government Association website.

South Australian Women’s Honour Roll

South Australian Women’s Honour Roll

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — please be aware this website may contain names, images and voices of deceased persons.

The South Australian Women's Honour Roll is an important part of an ongoing strategy to increase formal recognition of women who contribute to the South Australian community. Held biennially, the Honour Roll acknowledges and celebrates the diversity of women in our community and their commitment to effecting change to ensure that we live in a safer and more inclusive society.

2019 Women's Honour Roll

Nominations for this year's Roll have closed.

Previous Honour Roll inductees and nominees

The International Women's Day Committee (SA) Inc developed the first Honour Roll for South Australian Women (PDF 5.0 MB) in 2001.

Summary list of nominees

SA Women's Honour Roll nominees 2008 to 2017 (PDF 72.7 KB)

SA Australian of the Year

Outstanding women included in the SA Women's Honour Roll are nominated for the Australian of the Year Awards each year to provide national recognition for the contribution they make to the community.

  • Vicky Welgraven, was a finalist in the SA Australian of the Year 2019 category and was included in the Honour Roll in 2015. Vicky was recognised for her advocacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and activism to end domestic and family violence.
  • Patricia Buckskin PSM, was awarded the 2017 SA Senior Australian of the Year award and was included in the Honour Roll in 2015. Patricia was recognised for her lifelong passion for Aboriginal education and her instrumental role in setting up the Kaurna Plains Aboriginal School.
  • Lavene Ngatokorua, a Davenport community champion inducted into the SA Women's Honour Roll in 2015, was a finalist in the South Australian Australia's Local Hero 2016 category.
  • Dr Gill Hicks MBE, was awarded the 2015 SA Australian of the Year award and added to the Honour Roll in the same year. Gill was recognised for her work as founder of M.A.D. for Peace and her work to end violent extremism.
  • Dr Felicity-ann Lewis, winner of South Australia's Australian of the Year Award 2014, was included in the SA Women's Honour Roll in 2008. Felicity-ann won the 2014 award in recognition of her passion for creating a better, healthier and more inclusive Australia.

Other awards for women

Other awards for women

RIRDC Rural Woman of the Year Awards

The RIRDC Rural Women’s Award is Australia’s pre-eminent Award for rural women. The Award identifies and supports emerging women leaders who have the desire, commitment and leadership potential to make a greater contribution to primary industries and rural communities.

The Award supports women both financially and professionally. Each state and territory winner will receive a $10,000 financial bursary to implement their Award vision. Each winner also has the opportunity to participate in the Australian Institute of Company Directors Company Directors Course and will be supported to develop an individual integrated leadership plan.

The National winner will be given an additional $10,000, and the National runner-up will be given an additional $5,000 bursary to assist in meeting national commitments such as speaking engagements.

2017 Winner

Simone Kain, from Penola, was the 2017 South Australian award winner for for her work educating children. Simone's book George the Farmer and characters George and Ruby have helped teach kids about agriculture and where their food comes from. She plans to use her $10,000 bursary to develop George and his partner Ruby into two free educational children's curricula — one for preschool and one for primary school. The guides will look at women's roles in agriculture retrospectively and help to cement in people's minds the great contribution that women have played in Australian agriculture over the years.

More information

Australian of the Year

Australia Day Council of SA

RIRDC Rural Women's Awards

It's an Honour

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Provided by:
Department for Communities and Social Inclusion
Last Updated:
16 May 2017
Printed on:
14 Oct 2019
The Office for Women website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. © Copyright 2016