Recording 100 years of women in Queensland local government

Published: 22nd May 2020

LGAQ Visiting Academic Denise Conroy is currently completing an important task – by the end of 2020 she will have created a record of all the women that have ever been elected or appointed as a councillor, chairman (chairperson) or Mayor in Queensland local government. 

2020 is a significant year for women in Queensland local government – it marks the 100th Anniversary since the electoral system was changed to allow women to stand for local government.   

In 1920 the Queensland Government passed an amending Act to change the electoral system so that, for the first time, eligibility to stand for local government elections was given to all persons on the State electoral roll. 

That is, the eligibility to stand and vote in local government elections was changed from property ownership to adult franchise (all those aged 21 years and over). Thus there was a ‘level playing field’ for women (and men) to contest local government elections. 

Nellie Elizabeth Robinson OBE (1915 – 19 September 1992) was elected Queensland's first woman mayor in 1967.

Nellie Elizabeth Robinson OBE (1915 – 19 September 1992) was elected Queensland's first woman mayor in 1967.

Before this time, only male persons aged 21 years of age and over, natural-born or naturalised subjects of the King and ratepayers of the local authority area, were qualified to be elected or appointed to a council.  

Voting qualifications extended to both males and females aged 21 years and over, natural-born or naturalised subjects of the King, whose name appeared in the ratebook as the owner or occupier of rateable land within the area. Either the owner or occupier of the property could vote, depending on who paid the rates. 

So, not only did the changes to the 1920 Act enable all women aged 21 years and over to vote, it also applied to the election of councillors and the election of a Mayor ( City/Town)  or Chairman ( Shire). It also established the triennial election of the whole council instead of the previous method of the annual election for one-third of councillors retiring each year.  

Two attempts to record information have been undertaken at the national level by ALGWA- the Australian Local Government Women’s Association – one in 1975 and another in 1992 (1). Apart from now being ‘dated’ , these attempts were undertaken by mail and some personal contact via ALGWA State Branches. Neither are complete ( i.e.. not all authorities were included due to lack of contact or response) and they contain some errors due to misinformation at the time of completion.  

Can you help out? 

Let us know if you can help with this project. If you have any press cuttings and/or obituaries on previous women councilors or information that might help us. Please contact Denise at to find out more.  

Image: Nellie Elizabeth Robinson OBE (1915 – 19 September 1992) was elected Queensland's first woman mayor in 1967.