Vale Dame Margaret Guilfoyle AC DBE

Media Releases

Date : 18 November 2020

Author: The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP



20 November 2020


We have lost a political giant and one of our finest Australians with the passing of Dame Margaret Guilfoyle AC DBE.

Dame Margaret was a true pioneer in Australian politics, being the first woman in Cabinet with a Ministerial portfolio.

Under the Fraser Government she brought her hardworking and meticulous style to the portfolios of Education and Social Security going on to become Minister for Finance.

In these portfolios Dame Margaret built a strong record of achievement, most notably the considerable expansion of government support for childcare. Her performance as a Minister was praised on all sides.

Dame Margaret was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1926 she came to Australia with her family, settling in Melbourne. At just 10 years old her father tragically passed away leaving her mother to raise a young family.

This had a major impact on Dame Margaret who became aware at a very early age how important education was in giving women opportunity and financial independence.

By 1946 Dame Margaret qualified as an accountant, having attended night school at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, whilst working during the day.

Successfully navigating a career and raising a family, she stood for preselection for the Liberal Party among a field of 20 candidates, where she secured second position on the Liberal Party’s Victorian Senate ticket for the 1970 Federal Election. Dame Margaret began her term on July 1, 1971 as the seventh woman elected as a Senator in Australia.

When Dame Margaret retired from the Senate in 1987 she told Parliament:

“It was said that I was the first to hold a Cabinet post and administer a department – that might be true – but it had to be very important that I was not the last … I will be even more interested in watching the women who follow in the future to see that their contribution is recognised and is not in any way segregated from the overall contribution that must be made by people handling extensive portfolio work.”

Dame Margaret enjoyed a strong partnership with her husband Stan Guilfoyle, who himself had a long and distinguished role in the organisational wing of the Liberal Party, beginning when they both joined the Camberwell South branch of the party in the 1950s.

Dame Margaret and Stan were proud Liberals and local constituents in Kooyong.

My condolences go to all of Dame Margaret’s family – particularly Stan and their children Georgina, Anne and Geoffrey.

May she rest in peace.


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