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Audio Joan Kirner recalls her time as Victorian premier, 2008

TLF ID R9536

This is an edited sound recording of Joan Kirner (1938-) reflecting on being the first female premier of Victoria. She tells how she believed she could be an effective leader despite taking on the position at a time when Victoria was undergoing severe economic difficulties, and without any real role model to follow. Kirner also describes how she dealt with lampooning by Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper. The recording was made in July 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • In this interview the first woman premier of Victoria describes some of the difficulties she faced as a woman at a time when women were exceptionally rare in such high office in Australia. Only the second female premier of any state, she took up the post in August 1990, a mere six months after Carmen Lawrence (1948- ) became the first female state premier in Australian history as premier of Western Australia.
  • Kirner was appointed to the position of premier following the departure of John Cain (1931-), who resigned in the face of turmoil in the state's finances. A world economic downturn had occurred at a time particularly damaging to some of the economic policies of the state Australian Labor Party (ALP) government. The sale of the State Bank of Victoria and the collapse of the Victorian Economic Development Corporation created a crisis during which the ALP parliamentarians appointed Kirner to lead the state.
  • Describing herself as a committed feminist, Kirner suggests that it was 'challenging for the community' to come to terms with the fact that a woman was leading the state. She refers to 'daily' cartoons in Melbourne's popular newspaper, the Herald Sun, which depicted her as a suburban housewife in a polka dot dress, holding her up to ridicule in a way that implied that the very fact that she was a woman made her laughable in such a powerful position.
  • Kirner indicates in this recording that both she and Carmen Lawrence saw themselves as having a responsibility to perform well as female leaders for the sake of female politicians who would follow. Kirner sought to listen to and bind the community together, reflecting what she sees as particular strengths of female politicians. Since leaving politics, Kirner has remained a prominent player in an ongoing campaign to improve female political representation in Australia.
  • Kirner served as the ALP member for the seat of Melbourne West from 1982 to 1988 and then Williamstown from 1988 until 1994. She was minister for conservation, forests and lands, and for education, before serving as premier from 1990 to 1992. As well, Kirner served as opposition leader and shadow minister for women's affairs and ethnic affairs. Appointed to head a government already in crisis, the ALP was defeated at the next election, in 1992.

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Joan Kirner
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
  • Audio
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.