Dr Carmen Lawrence’s parliamentary career began in State politics when in 1986 she won for the Australian Labor Party the Western Australian Legislative Assembly seat of Subiaco, held by the Liberal Party for the previous 27 years.
She was promoted to the State Government Ministry in 1988, in her first term of office, following two years as an active backbencher serving as Deputy Chairman of committees and taking part in government and parliamentary committees. As Minister for Education she helped steer Western Australia’s education system through a major overhaul.
She was re-elected to Parliament in 1989, representing the seat of Glendalough which was created in a State-wide electoral redistribution. Following the State Labor government’s re-election her responsibilities were increased with the addition of the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio.
In a leadership change on 12 February 1990, Dr Lawrence made history by becoming Premier of Western Australia and Australia’s first woman Premier.
Following Labor’s narrow defeat at the 6 February 1993 State election, Dr Lawrence became Western Australia’s first woman Opposition Leader. She also held the positions of Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Employment and Federal Affairs.
Dr Lawrence entered Federal politics by winning the Federal seat of Fremantle in a by-election on 12 March 1994, achieving an historic swing towards an incumbent Government. She was appointed Minister for Human Services and Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women on Friday 25 March 1994.
Following the defeat of the Keating Government in the March 1996 general election, Dr Lawrence was appointed Shadow Minister for the Environment; the Arts; and Assistant to the Leader of the Opposition on the Status of Women, posts she held until April 1997. In September 2000 Dr Lawrence was appointed as the Shadow Minister for Industry, Innovation and Technology, and Shadow Minister for the Status of Women.
Dr Lawrence also held the Reconciliation, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Affairs; the Arts, and Status of Women Portfolios until December 2002.
Dr Lawrence was born Carmen Mary Lawrence on 2 March 1948, one of a family of seven children raised in the small wheatbelt town of Morawa, 365km north of Perth.
Most of her schooling was completed in the country and she matriculated in 1964 with distinctions in six subjects, a General Exhibition for Academic Achievement and a Special Subject Exhibition in economics.
She graduated from the University of Western Australia as a Bachelor of Psychology with First Class Honours in 1968, having won five prizes including the prize for the most outstanding graduate throughout the faculties of arts, economics and commerce, law, architecture and education. She was Senior Student of Saint Catherine’s College.
Dr Lawrence won two scholarships for Ph.D. studies in psychology and continued with post-graduate research, achieving the Doctorate of Philosophy in 1983. She tutored and lectured at the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and the University of Melbourne. She was the course controller in behavioural science applied to medicine at the University of Western Australia from 1980 - 1983, after which she became the research psychologist in the Health Department’s psychiatric services unit.
Dr Lawrence has one son.
Author's website: Carmen Lawrence's home page