The Governor General in Australia and gender equality

Kate Gleeson, Vito Breda

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This article takes the appointment and term in office of Governor General of Australia, Dame Quentin Bryce (2008-2014), as the basis for a discussion about the potential role of the Governor General in promoting progress on issues of gender equality and minority rights protections. The article adopts a multidisciplinary methodology, combining law and feminist political science to analyse different receptions of the post when it is occupied by men and women engaged in debates concerning different minority populations. It makes a brief comparison with the institution of the President of the Republic of Ireland as functionally equivalent to that of the Governor General, in their respective roles promoting national identity and unity. With this comparison in mind, the article contends that the Governor General’s constitutional mandate presents no barrier to the holder of the office advocating for gender equality and minority rights protection. In fact, such advocacy, as exemplified by Quentin Bryce’s controversial public support for marriage equality during her term in office, is desirable, because equality is a key normative element of modern democracy. The article then critiques—from the perspective of feminist institutionalism—the gendered nature of the office of Governor General and considers how the office can and may in future evolve away from its gendered foundation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-30
Number of pages21
JournalThe Royal Studies Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2020

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  • Governor General
  • Australia
  • marriage equality
  • gender equality
  • feminist institutionalism


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