125th anniversary of Suffrage in New Zealand

Ann Hercus becomes first Minister of Women's Affairs

26 July 1984

Ann Hercus (right) with other female Labour MPs (Te Ara)

Ann Hercus became New Zealand’s first Minister of Women’s Affairs following the election of the fourth Labour government. She was also appointed Minister of Social Welfare and Minister of Police, becoming the first woman to hold the latter portfolio. Hercus was tasked with establishing Women’s Affairs as a stand-alone ministry at a time when there was opposition to the development of an independent agency focusing on women’s issues.

Hercus used her leadership skills and standing in Parliament to advance women’s interests. She contributed to a number of policy achievements that benefited New Zealand women, including provision for part-time employment in the public service and schools; changes to sexual violence legislation and increased funding for women’s refuge centres; child protection and parental leave legislation; and increased recognition for unpaid women workers.

Hercus was Minister of Women’s Affairs until 1987. She later served as New Zealand's permanent representative to the UN (1988-90) and as Head of Mission for UN Forces in Cyprus (1998-99). In the 1988 New Year’s Honours List, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George for her public services.

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