ENG: Quentin Alice Louise Bryce, AC, (born 23 December 1942) is the 25th and current Governor-General of Australia (the first woman to hold the position) and a former Governor of Queensland. Born in Brisbane, Queensland as Quentin Strachan, she spent her first years in Ilfracombe, with her family subsequently living in a number of country towns around Australia. She attended the University of Queensland, where she completed a Bachelor of Arts and a degree in Law, becoming one of the first women accepted to the Queensland bar.
In 1968 she became the first woman to be a faculty member of the Law school where she had studied, and in 1978 she joined the new National Women's Advisory Council. This was followed by a number of positions, including the first director of the Queensland Women's Information Service, the Queensland director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner in 1988. Her services to the community saw her appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1988, and a Companion of the Order of Australia and Dame of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in 2003.
Bryce was appointed the Governor of Queensland in 2003. Although some concerns were raised during her time in the position, her five-year term was to be extended until 2009.
However, on 13 April 2008, before the completion of the initial five years, it was announced that Bryce was to become the next Governor-General of Australia. The decision was generally well received, and on 5 September 2008 Bryce was sworn in, succeeding Major General Michael Jeffery, becoming the first woman to be the Governor-General.
Quentin Strachan was born on 23 December 1942, in Brisbane, the second of four daughters. Her parents, Norman Strachan and Naida Wetzel, had taken up residence at Ilfracombe in 1940, where her father had accepted a position as the manager of the local wool–scour. Her mother was employed as a schoolteacher before marrying Strachan, and Quentin—along with all of the children in her family—was home-schooled, rather than attending the local State school. Her family left the area in 1949, initially relocating to Launceston in Tasmania, where they remained for approximately a year.
Returning to Queensland, her family moved to Belmont, where her father was engaged to open a new wool–scour. It was when living in Belmont that she attended the Camp Hill State School, and it was there that she first met her future husband, Michael Bryce.
During the period that they were residing in Belmont, her father purchased a property near Tenterfield in New South Wales, where he took up sheep farming. In 1956 Quentin Strachan started attending boarding school at Moreton Bay College, Wynnum, Brisbane, while her parents managed "a couple of stations out west". Upon graduating from high school she undertook studies at the University of Queensland; initially enrolling in a social work and arts degree, but transferring to Law in her third year at the institution. She graduated from the university with a Bachelor of Arts in 1962 and Bachelor of Laws in 1965.
She married Michael Bryce in 1964. In 1965, she was one of the first women to be admitted to the Queensland bar, although she has never practised professionally.
After spending some time in London, Bryce returned to Australia and accepted a part-time tutoring position at the T. C. Beirne School of Law at the University of Queensland in 1968, thus becoming the first woman to be appointed to the faculty. In 1969 she took up a lecturing position at the law school, and she continued to teach at the university until 1983.
In 1978 the Fraser government formed the National Women's Advisory Council, and Bryce was "vaulted to prominence" with her appointment to the council, taking on the role of convener in 1982.
In 1984 she became the first director of the Queensland Women's Information Service under the umbrella of the Office of the Status of Women, and was appointed as the "women's representative on the National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation". Then in 1987 she became the Queensland director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).
Over a five-year period (1988-1993) Bryce served as Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner during the time of the Hawke Labor government. Her time in the role was a busy one, with around 2,000 complaints being handled by the commission each year, and the work was both difficult and complex. The period was also noted as being one of "galloping legal reform" for the rights of women, yet, as Sandra McLean described it, Bryce kept a firm grip on the "reins of change" during this time. Nevertheless, concerns were raised when in 1990 Alexander Proudfoot formally complained that the women's health centres in the Australian Capital Territory were operating in breach of the Sex Discrimination Act. This culminated in 1994 when Bryce faced an HREOC hearing after being accused of discriminating against Proudfoot – and ended when the commission found in Bryce's favour and dismissed the complaint, stating that the behaviour in question "did not reflect on the way Ms Bryce discharged her duties".
After finishing her time as the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Quentin Bryce became the founding chair and chief executive officer of the National Childcare Accreditation Council, where she remained for three years, before changing direction between 1997 and 2003 when she became the principal and chief executive officer of The Women's College within the University of Sydney, New South Wales.
The move was said to have "stunned her political and legal acquaintances", but Bryce saw it as bringing "together all the life skills and attributes" that she had acquired, as well as providing an opportunity to have an influence on the student's futures.
In other roles, Bryce has been the chair of the National Breast Cancer Advisory Council and sat on the Australian Women's Cricket Board, and has been a member of organizations such as the YWCA, the Australian Children's Television Foundation and the Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital.
On 13 April 2008 it was announced that, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Queen had approved her appointment as the next Governor-General of Australia. The decision was generally well received: current and previous State Premiers supported her selection, and both the then Leader of the Opposition, Brendan Nelson, and the leader of the Australian Greens, Bob Brown, spoke in favour of the decision. From the wider community, Patricia Edgar described Bryce's selection as an "inspired choice", while Jill Singer in the Herald Sun stated that the decision signalled "an important about face for Australia".
Nevertheless, there was some opposition to the appointment, in particular from columnist Des Houghton, who argued that she would bring a "fair bit of baggage" to the role (in reference to the controversies surrounding her time as the Governor of Queensland), and that she had failed to live up to her promise to be outspoken during her time at Government House. Concerns were also raised in August 2008, when it was revealed that Bryce intended to replace Malcolm Hazell, who had been the Official Secretary for both Major General Michael Jeffery and Dr. Peter Hollingworth, with Stephen Brady. Kevin Rudd defended Bryce's decision, arguing that she had the right to appoint a new Official Secretary.
Bryce was sworn in on 5 September 2008. On 23 September 2008 she granted her first interview as Governor-General with Kerry O'Brien for The 7.30 Report on ABC1.
Bryce has not escaped criticism in her role as Governor-General. Greg Sheridan in the national newspaper, The Australian suggested that Bryce is risking "politicising and misusing the office". Sheridan was commenting on Bryce's planned trip to Africa, on behalf of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, to lobby for a seat for Australia in the United Nations Security Council. He further stated that Bryce's "feigned interest in Africa will be seen cynically by Africans". Sheridan added that the Governor-General should travel overseas "only rarely and for ceremonial purposes" and "they have no right to engage in foreign policy debate, at home or abroad". Professor David Flint, National Convenor of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, expressed concern about Bryce, and supported Sheridan's opinion. He stated, "The Governor-General must act on advice, except in relation to her most important role, that of constitutional guardian. She may advise against a state visit, but if ministers insist, must go. In that event, she must not of course act as an advocate, although she may inform the foreign government of the Australian government's policy." Flint warned that Governor-General Bryce must be seen to be above politics otherwise she would lose the confidence of the Australian people.