Traits and trends of Australia’s prime ministers, 1901 to 2015: a quick guide

Parliament Federal government Politicians Australia


  • This Quick Guide presents information about the backgrounds and service of Australia’s 29 prime ministers, from Edmund Barton to Malcolm Turnbull. It includes information about of their backgrounds (age, place of birth, gender and occupational background), period in office, experience in other parliaments, parties, electorates and military service.
  • The majority of Australia’s prime ministers have been Australian-born, middle-aged, tertiary-educated men with experience in law or politics, representing electorates in either Victoria or New South Wales. Only one woman has served as Prime Minister since Federation.
  • Australia’s prime ministers have ranged in age at the time of first taking office from 39 years to 67 years. The average age is 52 years, which reflects the age profile of Australian parliamentarians more generally (51 years).
  • Three-quarters of Australia’s 29 prime ministers (22) were born in Australia. Of those born overseas, all but one came from the United Kingdom (England, Scotland or Wales). The only non-British overseas-born Prime Minister was Chris Watson, who was born in Chile and raised in New Zealand. Of those born in Australia, the majority were born in either Victoria (nine) or New South Wales (eight).
  • Thirteen prime ministers have represented electorates in New South Wales, 11 in Victoria, four in Queensland and one each in Western Australia and Tasmania. There have been no prime ministers representing electorates in South Australia, the Northern Territory, or the Australian Capital Territory.
  • The length of service as prime minister ranges from over 18 years (Robert Menzies) to eight days (Francis Forde). Most have left office after defeat at an election, in the Parliament or in the party room.
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