Rosemary Follett

Rosemary Follett AO (born 27 March 1948) is a former Australian politician who was the inaugural Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, serving in 1989 and again between 1991 and 1995. She was the first woman to become head of government in an Australian state or territory.[1]


Rosemary Follett

1st Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory
In office
11 May 1989  5 December 1989
DeputyPaul Whalan
Succeeded byTrevor Kaine
In office
6 June 1991  2 March 1995
DeputyWayne Berry
Preceded byTrevor Kaine
Succeeded byKate Carnell
Member of the ACT Legislative Assembly
In office
4 March 1989  18 February 1995
Preceded byfirst Assembly
Succeeded byMulti-member multiple constituencies
In office
18 February 1995  12 December 1996
Preceded byMulti-member single constituency
Succeeded bySimon Corbell
Personal details
Born (1948-03-27) 27 March 1948 (age 73)
Political partyLabor Party
Alma materCanberra College of Advanced Education
OccupationPolitician, activist

Early life

The daughter of a court reporter, Aubrey Follett, an Anglican, and his wife, Judith (née Lusby), a Roman Catholic, she was born in Sydney in 1948, and moved with her family to Canberra in 1952.[2] She attended Canberra Catholic Girls' High School. She joined the Australian Public Service after leaving school, and travelled to Darwin and Sydney. She returned to Canberra with the public service, but was made to resign when she married, as was the policy at the time. She studied stenography, and worked as a secretary for various politicians over the next ten years.[2]

The 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government inspired Follett to join the Ginninderra branch of the Labor Party, serving as its president between 1983 and 1984. In the meantime, she returned to university, studying arts and administration at the Canberra College of Advanced Education, and rejoined the public service.[3] Prior to her election to the Assembly, Follett was an elected Member for Fraser in the representative advisory ACT House of Assembly, serving between 1985 and 1986;[3] and became President of the ACT branch of Labor in 1987.[2]

Political career

Preselected to lead Labor in the period before the 1989 inaugural general election, Follett was elected to the inaugural ACT Legislative Assembly and, on 11 May 1989, was elected by the Assembly as the inaugural Chief Minister.[4] The first Assembly was characterised by a hung parliament and significant political instability.[5]

Confidence was waning in the minority Follett Labor government. On 5 December 1989, Bernard Collaery, leader of the Residents Rally group (with four members in the Assembly) moved the following motion in the Assembly:[6]

That this Assembly no longer has confidence in the Chief Minister of the ACT and the minority Labor Government and has confidence in the ability of Mr Kaine to form a government.

Bernard Collaery

The vote was resolved in affirmative (10 votes to 7 votes), and Trevor Kaine was elected as the second Chief Minister. After another motion of no confidence was passed, this time against Kaine, Follett returned to office in 1991 and she led Labor to victory at the 1992 general election. Defeated by the Liberals under Kate Carnell at the 1995 general election. Follett continued to lead the ALP until the following year 1996. With a caucus of six members, Follett stood down as leader after she was tapped on the shoulder by Andrew Whitecross, the man who would become her successor and two of their colleagues. Follett then resigned from the ACT Legislative Assembly in December 1996. Simon Corbell was elected to fill the casual vacancy. [citation needed]

Later career

Since leaving politics, Follett has been Deputy Vice-chancellor at the University of Canberra; Chair of the Vocational Education and Training Authority; a member of the University of Canberra Council; member of the Sentence Administration Board and chair of the board of Senior Secondary School Studies.[2] She led a trade mission to Japan and was instrumental in bringing about the ACT's sister-city relationship with Nara and was a member of the Milk Authority of the ACT in 1996, and the Canberra Labor Club, Canberra Tradesmen's Club and the Australian Fabian Society. Follett was the ACT's Sex Discrimination Commissioner from 1996 to 2004.[2] On 14 April 2014, Follett received an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra. [7]

See also


  1. Australian Electoral Commission (15 April 2015). "Electoral Milestones for Women". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  2. "Follett, Rosemary (1948 - )". The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia. Australian Women's Archives Project. 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  3. "Members of the First Assembly" (PDF). Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory. September 1990. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  4. "Debates of the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory" (PDF). ACT Hansard. ACT Legislative Assembly. 11 May 1989. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  5. "20 Years of Self Government". Stateline. Australia: ABC TV. 8 May 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
  6. "Debates of the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory" (PDF). ACT Hansard. ACT Legislative Assembly. 5 December 1989. pp. 2987–93. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
  7. Comino Kristyn, Monitor Online, 14 April 2014, 'Honorary degree for first ACT Chief Minister'
Political offices
New title Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory
Succeeded by
Trevor Kaine
Preceded by
Trevor Kaine
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory
Succeeded by
Kate Carnell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Trevor Kaine
Opposition Leader of the Australian Capital Territory
Succeeded by
Trevor Kaine
Preceded by
Kate Carnell
Opposition Leader of the Australian Capital Territory
Succeeded by
Andrew Whitecross
Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly
New title Member of the ACT Legislative Assembly
Served alongside: Berry, Collaery, Connolly, Duby, Grassby, Humphries, Jensen,
Kaine, Kinloch, Maher, Moore, Nolan, Prowse, Stefaniak, Stevenson, Wood, Whalan
Succeeded by
Multi-member multiple constituencies
New title Member for Molonglo
Served alongside: Carnell, Connolly, Cornwell, Humphries, Moore, Tucker
Succeeded by
Simon Corbell