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Quentin Bryce, First Woman to Be Appointed Australia’s Governor-General

December 23, 2009
by Jen O'Neill
For more than 100 years, since the position was established, the governor-general of Australia has always been a man. On September 5, 2008, Quentin Bryce changed all that.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced in April 2008 that Queensland Governor Quentin Bryce would succeed Major General Michael Jeffery as governor-general after he retired. A largely symbolic role, the governor-general serves as Queen Elizabeth II’s official representative in Australia.

Born on December 23, 1942, Bryce has had a much-lauded career as a public servant. She spent 14 years as a legal academic and has held roles on many public committees, been involved in various human rights and activism groups, and helped to create Australia’s childcare accreditation standards.

An editorial in Australia’s newspaper The Age asserts that Bryce’s appointment “creates a first of inescapable significance to womanhood and a last that, while not yet realized, is highly significant to this country's nationhood.”
Prime Minister Rudd says that appointing Bryce “captures the spirit of modern Australia.” In an interview with Kerry O’Brien of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the new governor-general discussed the challenges facing modern women, and her own struggles to balance family and work life.

“For a very long time now I’ve been saying to young women, you can have it all, but not all at the same time … It’s very tough for a lot of women teetering on that tight rope of balance and balancing too many responsibilities,” Bryce said.

Bryce also talked about her priorities as governor-general, saying that she plans to focus on promoting human rights, especially for indigenous Australians, and to increase her knowledge of water and land-use sustainability issues.

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