Tasmania elects majority of women in Australia state first

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Tasmania's opposition leader Rebecca White and her deputy, Michelle O'ByrneImage source, TASMANIA LABOR
Image caption,
Tasmania's opposition leader Rebecca White (left) and her deputy, Michelle O'Byrne

Tasmania has become the first state in Australian history to elect a majority of female MPs to its legislature.

The state, Australia's smallest, held its election on 3 March, but counting was not finalised until this week.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), which is not a state, also elected a female-majority legislature in 2016.

Thirteen women and 12 men were elected to Tasmania's lower House of Assembly. Local politicians said the milestone was "overwhelmingly exciting".

"It demonstrates to young women that a political future and leadership roles are attainable," Michelle O'Byrne, deputy leader of the opposition Labor party, told the BBC.

The Tasmania and ACT legislatures have a higher proportion of women than Australia's federal parliament, where almost 70% of parliamentarians are men.

The World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Index found that women comprised 28% of parliamentarians worldwide.

Australia was ranked 35th in terms of female representation, the World Economic Forum said.

Ms O'Byrne said affirmative action policies had played a part in seven of her party's 10 seats being occupied by women.

"It does show that if you want to change the make-up of parliament, then putting in the rules also helps change the culture that encourages women to be involved in politics," she said.

Australian election analyst Kevin Bonham said only nine women were elected at Tasmania's previous election in 2014.