Margaret Guilfoyle, an immigrant who became Australia’s first female cabinet minister, dies at 94

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hailed Dame Margaret Guilfoyle as holding a special place in Australia’s history.

Dame Margaret died on 11 November aged 94, but news of her death was only made known on Thursday.

“Dame Margaret holds a special place in the history of our country – as the first woman in cabinet with a ministerial portfolio, the first woman senator in cabinet, and the first woman to hold a major economic portfolio,” the prime minister said.

He said she opened doors for Australian women that will never be shut again.

“This is her great legacy.”

Dame Margaret Guilfoyle receives the Order of Australia from Governor General Michael Jeffery in September 2005.


She was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 15 May, 1926 and her family came to Australia two years later.

Her father died when she was 10, leaving her mother, a teacher, to raise three children.

Her first term in the Senate began in July 1971, retiring from her Victorian seat in June 1987.

During the Fraser government, Dame Margaret held the education, social security and finance portfolios.

In the 1970s she fought for the extension of maternity leave for all women and oversaw major reform of the national child endowment scheme, switching from tax rebates to cash payments.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Dame Margaret was a “trailblazer”.


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