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Women now make up 50% of the New South Wales (NSW) Labor cabinet, marking a momentous first for any government or opposition party in the Australian state’s history. 

Thirteen women feature in the refreshed ministry, compared to nine under the previous leader, Michael Daley. Half of the cabinet are also either new or have had significant promotions, including two former backbenchers, Trish Doyle and Jo Haylen, who will become the shadow minister for women and the shadow minister for transport, living, and seniors, respectively. 

"These women are in my team on merit, and that is important,” newly appointed Labor leader Jodi McKay told reporters. ”But I am incredibly proud that we have achieved this. Equality matters.” 

The ministry announcement comes just days after McKay defeated Chris Minns in a clear victory to obtain Labor leadership. Her appointment means NSW will see, for the first time, a woman appointed as both premier and opposition leader. 

In another first, women will also now hold three of the opposition party’s top four leadership positions. As McKay unveiled the history-making shadow ministry, she revealed Yasmin Catley would take on deputy leadership and Penny Sharpe would serve as deputy leader of the upper house.

Catley told the Newcastle Herald she was “humbled” by the appointment. 

"I'm a proud woman of the Labor Party and union movement,” she stated, before explaining that women’s participation in the party had substantially shifted since she attended her first Labor branch meeting in the Swansea electorate at age 19. 

"When I went to that branch meeting all those years ago, not for one moment did I think I was going to be deputy leader of this party," Catley stated. "At that branch meeting, I was the only woman in the room. There were a lot of white, large men."

Labor’s gender-equal cabinet is in contrast to the state’s Liberal government.

In March, voters in NSW elected a female premier, Gladys Berejiklian, for the first time ever. Despite Berejiklian’s win, her party features four other women out of 24 ministers — making up 21% of the cabinet. 

Alongside NSW, the elected government of South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia remain predominantly male. Queensland, however, features a gender equal government under Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk — the first Australian state to achieve the feat.

Likewise, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, and the Northern Territory have largely achieved gender equality across government functions.


Demand Equity

Women Now Make Up 50% of the New South Wales Shadow Cabinet in Historic First

By Madeleine Keck