Numerous exceptional firsts have been made with the appointment of Australia’s government, with newly-elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's Ministry including a record number of women and the nation’s first two Muslim federal ministers. 

Women now make up almost 45% of the government's 30-strong leadership roles.

Among the government's 23 highest-ranking ministers, who sit within the cabinet, 10 are women. 

"This is the largest number of women who have ever served in an Australian cabinet,” Albanese said at a press conference Tuesday. “In addition to that, there are 13 women in the Ministry and 19 frontbenchers, a record number in all three categories for women's representation.”

Among the 10 women cabinet ministers is Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong, who is openly gay and Malaysian-born.

She is joined by Minister for Finance, Public Service and Women Katy Gallagher, while Tanya Plibersek will be Minister for the Environment and Water. Catherine King, meanwhile, will take on the role of Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.

Linda Burney is now the first Indigenous woman to serve as Minister for Indigenous Australians. 

Amanda Rishworth is Minister for Social Services, Michelle Rowland is Minister for Communications and Madeleine King is Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. Clare O’Neil has been appointed Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security and Jullie Collins will be Minister for Housing, Homelessness and Small Business. 

Ed Husic and Anne Ally have become the first Muslim ministers in Australia’s history.

The past year has seen a wave of allegations against Australia’s parliament for a toxic and sexist culture. 

In February, the nation’s top policymakers, including both party leaders and the Speaker and President of Senate, formally apologised for the bullying, abuse, sexual harassment and violence that exists, an apology brought about after the release of a damning report by Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins.

The report found half of those employed in Australia’s parliament have experienced bullying, harassment or sexual assault.

"I want [Parliament House] to be a place where young Australians, and young women, in particular, can follow their dreams and not have them crushed by brutality and the misuse of power,” then Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at the time. 

Sonia Palmeiri, a gender policy fellow at the Australian National University, said the election of so many women across parliament, especially Independent women outside the major Liberal and Labor Parties, marks a “huge opportunity” to change the culture. 

"Women made the deliberate choice not to run as candidates for the major political parties,” Palmeiri wrote for The Conversation. “And for good reason: Australian major parties have proven, time and time again, that their pre-selection processes are top-down, out of touch and impervious to increasingly loud calls for equality and diversity.”

Women now make up 38% of the parliament’s House of Representatives, the largest proportion in history.

The record number of women across the board will reverse a two-decade long decline in Australia’s international ranking for the number of women in parliament, Palmeiri explained. Australia now sits in 37th place, up from 57th when Morrison was Prime Minister.

Rwanda, Cuba and Nicuragua take the lists’ top three spots, followed by Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.  

Australia’s neighbour to the east, New Zealand, sits in sixth position.


Demand Equity

Australia’s New Government Makes History With Largest Number of Elected Women

By Madeleine Keck