Australia's first female head of state
April 13, 2008 8:20 PM   Subscribe

Quentin Bryce has been chosen as Australia's new head of state from next month. As the first Australian female in the role she joins a growing list (currently 48) of international national leaders. Bryce previously served as the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner and director of the Queensland Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission prior to her role as Queensland governor. Replacing a highly decorated ex-soldier, who cut a low profile, who had himself replaced a controversial clergyman, Bryce has the opportunity make a significant mark on the country. She will join the list of first holders of political offices, and bring us closer to to a situation where the appointment of women to positions of power is no longer remarkable.
posted by bystander (28 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I applaud the decision, but let's not anoint her Australia's "national leader" - the role of Governor-General is an appointed one, not an elected position. Also your title about the Head of State is wrong - Australia has had a female head of state since 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II was coronated. And while QE2 is merely a figurehead monarch in relation to the running of the country, she is still the Head of State. The Governor-General is her representative in Australia.

I am happy that the position has been filled by someone who Bryce's abilities and background; that she is the first woman in the position is significant - but it's not the whole story.
posted by crossoverman at 8:32 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, the appointment begins in September, not next month.

The news deserved a FPP, but two wiki links and three links about previous Governors-General and other quibbles... it deserves a better FPP.
posted by crossoverman at 8:40 PM on April 13, 2008

As pointed out by crossoverman, you are not quite correct with your wording. Also, I am not sure how the G-G can really make a significant mark on the country these days, unless we have another dismissal fracas, and I can't see that happening. I don't see this as really being a big deal (and I am a woman and a Queenslander).
posted by Megami at 8:43 PM on April 13, 2008

Sorry, my link to explain the dismissal disappeared:
posted by Megami at 8:44 PM on April 13, 2008

Huzzah! This pointless window-dressing is long overdue!

Also: God Save the Queen.
posted by pompomtom at 8:48 PM on April 13, 2008

More notable is the fact that there's a good chance she'll be Australia's last Governor General.
posted by stammer at 8:55 PM on April 13, 2008

With a name like Quentin, maybe the thought they were appointing a man.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:59 PM on April 13, 2008

More notable is the fact that there's a good chance she'll be Australia's last Governor General.

Let's hope!
posted by crossoverman at 9:00 PM on April 13, 2008

stammer: let's just hope you're wrong.
posted by pompomtom at 9:00 PM on April 13, 2008

(tears up latte- and chardonnay-license cards....)
posted by pompomtom at 9:02 PM on April 13, 2008

We've been littered with female Governors-General here in Canada. Jeanne Sauve was the first in the 1980s, and she was followed more recently by Adrienne Clarkson and Michaelin Jean, both of whom were born outside of Canada. Female immigrant heads of state is pretty cool, even if the post itself is barely hanging on.

But unlike Australia, we have had a female Prime Minister. Kim Campbell held the job as a kind of summer gig back in 1993.

But anyway, good on you, Aus...nice to have you all catching up to the rest of the Commonwealth...
posted by salishsea at 9:03 PM on April 13, 2008

Will she become Australia's first female Chief Scout too?
posted by tellurian at 9:31 PM on April 13, 2008

If she doesn't put Whitlam back in then she's just as rotten as all the rest.
posted by 1 at 9:36 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

The news deserved a FPP, but two wiki links and three links about previous Governors-General and other quibbles... it deserves a better FPP.

I actually announced it in a totally unrelated MetaTalk thread earlier today, because I just couldn't see any way of making the post any more interesting than "woman appointed to prominient role" newsfilter.

We're about to get our first female Anglican Bishop, too, which adds a bit to the story.

There's a bit of nice symbolism in the appointment, though. Howard chose an ex-general as Governor General, showing his stodgy, conservative take on who the pillars of society are.

Bryce, on the other hand, was the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner and director of the Queensland Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission - two institutions that Howard surely hated. For a time, they even renamed HREOC as the "Human Rights & Responsibilities Commission" along a kind of "work for the dole" ideological approach to rights.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:47 PM on April 13, 2008

Michaelin Jean

Michaëlle Jean, just for the record.
/Canadian derail.

posted by blacklite at 10:58 PM on April 13, 2008

Lovely lady. I have met her a number of times and although you wouldn't know it from her appearances on TV, she's actually really lovely. That said, she is (to all intents and purposes) a politician so she's bound to try and be as affable as possible when she meets you. Give that she dosen't need to stand for reeelection every few years, though, I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt.

And, may I also add that I dearly hope it comes to pass that our first female G-G is also our last ever G-G. I call dibs on the Presidency!
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:10 PM on April 13, 2008

attn: future Constitutional Commission
cc: Australian Electoral Commission

Let the record state that I hereby witness Effigy2000's first dibs on the Presidency.

I understand that Effigy2000 has not been disbarred from dibbing, and nor has he dibbed on any foreign Presidencies.

I therefore see no formal objections to this dib & advise that it should stand.

Yours, on Her Majesty's Service,

posted by UbuRoivas at 11:36 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I hope that's your Republican Irish Arse, Ubu.

I had to google AOOB though. Magnificent bunch of bastards by the sound of it.
posted by GeckoDundee at 1:59 AM on April 14, 2008

I don't really know much about Ms Bryce, nor care too much about the politics of monarchy vs republicanism(1) but I almost met her a few years ago in her role as Governor of Queensland and was very much struck by her graciousness. Each Australia Day weekend the Governor's residence has an open day with tours of the house and picnics on the grounds and bands and hours hourly firings of the cannons ect. A few years ago we took my then, two year old daughter along. Late in the afternoon of what had been a very hot day most people had gathered in the shade on one of the lawns listening to a military band (kilts, hats and red coats inappropriate for the colonies, that sort of thing). My little girl, the extrovert, thought this was wonderful and was dancing and clapping up a storm in the little bit of open ground between the band and the crowd proper. I, the introvert, was cringing to myself but since she wasn't in anyones way and only clapping at the end of the songs, and the band seemed at least outwardly pleased at her enthusiasm, I didn't go get her. But when the band finished, before I could call her to me, she ran the other way to where two proper looking women were sitting on folding chairs at the edge of the people. I didn't know she was the Governor, she was just on the lawn with the rest of us and didn't look particularly official(2), just that she was well dressed. My girl was about to put her grubby hands on a white floral print that was definitely past mere dressness and was somewhere in frock territory. I was too far away to hear what she said to my daughter but she was smiling warmly having intercepted my girls hands and holding them in her lap before turning her around and sending her back to me. Of course, that she didn't seem to mind at all this invasion of her personal space didn't stop me being completely mortified when she took to the riser and thanked us all for coming and how glad she was that she could open her home to us and I realised who she was. Anyway, I think, were I the Queen, she is the sort of representative I would want(3).

(1) I like Australia's take on the westminster system. So long as our head of state remains an all but powerless figure head I don't mind if they represent the Queen or not.

(2) That there were no stern looking men in suits to interfere in this little tableau... well I'm glad there are some things to feel nationalistic pride about.

(3) Normally I'd say what a terrible way to judge the merit of someone, but since she's going to be a figure head charm counts for more than usual, so this time it's probably fine.
posted by adamt at 2:02 AM on April 14, 2008

Crappy post. Good government.
posted by Wolof at 5:01 AM on April 14, 2008

I like Australia's take on the westminster system. So long as our head of state remains an all but powerless figure head I don't mind if they represent the Queen or not.
Bingo, adamt. Although I think it'd be an important and welcome symbolic step for Australian government to stand on its own two feet, free of Mother England, it's also good to know that supreme executive power rests with a moistened bint lobbing scimitars nice enough old lady half a world away who's totally uninterested in wielding it.
posted by Pinback at 5:23 AM on April 14, 2008


SHE was a fiesty, two-fisted federal official whose no-nonsense approach to her gubernatorial duties ruffled feathers in the highest levels of government.

"Goddammit, Bryce! I told you to exercise vice-regal authority in accordance with the strict limitations relating to the Royal Prerogative!"

"Prerogative THIS, Rudd. My approach gets RESULTS in this constitutional monarchy".

HE was a wet-behind-the-ears Prime Minister whose disapproval of her tough-as-nails tactics masked a secret longing.

"I oughta take away your Governorship, Bryce. You've gone too far this time!"

"Button it, Rudd. Or I'll tell your wife why you made me your Sex Commissioner".

Australia needed a hero - one who wouldn't crumble in the face of constitutional crisis. A hard-hitting, jaw-busting action hero who would take the notional role of the Head of State's representative by the scruff of the neck and run with it. They chose the best: and then they gave her the authority to take action. Her name? Her authority?


For more information relating to the matters outlined in this Press Release, please contact the Office of the Media Spokesperson, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, One National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600 Australia.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:00 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is great! I wish her all the best.
posted by goo at 8:05 AM on April 14, 2008

On afterthought: if you count the Queen, the new Governor General, and the Deputy PM, three of the four highest positions in the executive branch of the country are held by women.

And you can make that three and a half out of four if you consider that Kevin Rudd is a big girl's blouse.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:49 PM on April 14, 2008

Ubu, Queen and G-G are supra-executive. Executive starts with the PM. (pedant).

And first female head of state was either 1837, or 1 Jan 1901, not 1953. (ultra-pedant).

But yeah, two cheers for kev for doing this.
posted by wilful at 5:16 PM on April 14, 2008

Okay, call me a cynic, but do people really believe that having a female G-G (after having women premiers, state govenors, pretty much ever level of leadership in Australian society) is all of a sudden going to 'inspire' women and girls? As in 'you know, I never really thought I could achieve anything as a female in Australian society, I have never had any examples to emulate, but hey, now we have a female G-G I am feeling empowered!'

Frankly, why not just say that this gives Queenslanders something to strive for - a Queenslander as PM, as G-G, as Treasurer, who knows what else.
posted by Megami at 5:29 PM on April 14, 2008

wilful - i was trying to come up with some formulation that said that women held three of the four highest positions in the country, whilst glossing over the fact that they're under-represented in the judiciary & in the legislative branch in general. "executive" wasn't the best wording.

and Megami - since the retirement of Joey Johns, i'm pretty sure that Darren Lockyer is universally acclaimed as the greatest rugby league player in the world today. surely an inspiration to all Queenslanders who dream of playing State of Origin or winning a premiership with the Broncos.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:59 PM on April 14, 2008

Dibs on liquorice for Chief Justice of the High Court!
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:57 PM on April 15, 2008

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