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Airdate: Ms. Represented

Annabel Crabb looks at Australia's landmark move to give women the vote & right to be elected and 150 years since.

Annabel Crabb’s new series, previously announced as Women in Parliament, has a name: Ms Represented.

The four-part series will premiere in mid July with all episodes available to binge on ABC iview. It includes viewpoints from Julia Gillard, Julie Bishop, Penny Wong, Linda Burney, Bronwyn Bishop, Amanda Vanstone, Natasha Stott Despoja and more.

“Australia was the first independent nation in the world where women could both vote and run for Parliament,” says Crabb. “But it took us a long time to actually elect any women, and when we did, we expected them to fit into the system that was already there. The struggle of female parliamentarians to be heard, to be respected, and to prosper in our federal Parliament is a thrilling and inspiring one, full of extraordinary stories that our cast tell with grace, humour and the deep authority of experience.”

“This is not ancient history. Many women who are “firsts” in politics are still actually in parliament. The first Indigenous woman in the House of Representatives was born into a country where her father’s people still could not enrol to vote. The story of women in parliament is a living, changing thing. In Ms Represented, we’ve captured a draft of it.”

Powered by intense interviews with an unprecedented cast of female “firsts”, Crabb investigates the experience of women in Parliament, from early struggles for the most basic of facilities to the persistent problems of harassment that plague the system to this day.

Structured around themes rather than chronology, Ms Represented ranges across four episodes visiting key events, like the 1894 South Australian parliamentary vote in which a strategic blunder gave SA women not only the right to vote, but the right to stand for parliament too – a world first. Or the secret deal cut by male legislators in 1996 that barred women from accessing the abortion drug RU486 for nearly a decade, before it was undone by an unprecedented cross-party grouping of women. Or the tense battle behind the passage of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984.

We hear the stories: the women who were told by party officials to change their names, or stop wearing short skirts. The candidate who faked up a campaign cookbook so as to seem more “womanly”. The woman who – desperate for campaign childcare – engaged Germaine Greer as a babysitter. The women who stood up against their own parties. The women who endured drunken gropes and abuse even within the walls of the parliament. The women who were elected to the parliament and found that there weren’t toilets for them to use.

But the heart of the series is the women themselves. Proud, angry, determined, sad, hilarious; they speak about their lives in politics with rare candour.

Ms Represented is an ABC Production.

Series Creator & Writer: Annabel Crabb, Director/Producer: Stamatia Maroupas, Producer: Geraldine McKenna, Executive Producer: Frances O’Riordan, Head of Entertainment: Nick Hayden, Head of Drama, Entertainment & Indigenous: Sally Riley.

Tuesday 13 July at 8pm on ABC.

A 6 part companion podcast hosted by Annabel Crabb and comedian Steph Tisdell will be available in the ABC listen app on Tues 13 July.

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