Australian Biography: Joan Kirner


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2006, 26 Minutes

The first woman Premier of Victoria, Joan Kirner is a passionate believer in community action.

Born into a working class family who believed that a good education was the basis for building a future, Joan graduated from Melbourne University in 1958 and began working as a teacher.

She married in 1960 and had three children, and it was their education that started Joan on her political career. Through various parent organisations, she lobbied politicians, arguing for better conditions and greater parent participation in decision-making in government schools. She was appointed to the national Schools Commission and voted President of the Australian Council of State School Organisations.

In 1982 Joan entered Victorian Parliament. A member of the Labor Party, she served as Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands before attaining the Education portfolio, where she was able to pursue her reform agenda.

Joan Kirner became Deputy Premier in 1988 and Premier in 1990 - a role described by some as a “poisoned chalice”, which required her to make incredibly tough decisions as she led the state through troubled times.

After retiring from Parliament in 1994, Joan remained active in social justice, the arts, land care and gender equity - she had a consuming interest in enabling talented women to enter politics.

In this Australian Biography interview, the woman who wanted “in sisterhood” inscribed on her grave talks about politics, feminism and being a mum.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Free Teachers’ Notes - Download here

NB The Australian Biography series (1-11) are only available for sale within the territories of Australia and New Zealand.


Producer/Director: Rod Freedman

Interviewer: Robin Hughes

Year: 2006

Running Time: 26 Minutes

Classification: Exempt from classification

Curriculum Links: SOSE/HSIE, Civics & Citizenship, Legal Studies, History, Politics

SKU 200402207
Brand Film Australia

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