Meredith Burgmann was born at Beecroft on 26 July 1947, the daughter of Victor Dudley Burgmann (son of Ernest Henry Burgmann, Anglican Bishop of Canberrra-Goulburn) and his wife Lorna Constance Bradbury. She attended Blackfriars Correspondence School and Abbotsleigh School in Sydney, where she was head girl. She married Glen Batchelor in 1985 and they had a son in 1986. They divorced in 1990. Her niece, Verity Firth, is a former MP and councillor at the City of Sydney.
Occupation & interests
Meredith Burgmann attended the University of Sydney and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in 1969, majoring in English and Government. She received a Master of Arts in 1973 specialising in Foreign Policy. In 1981 she completed her doctorate on Industrial Relations at Macquarie University.
Meredith is a former President of the NSW Legislative Council. She was a tutor and lecturer at Macquarie University from 1974, and became a senior lecturer there in 1989. She taught Industrial Relations and Politics, and remained in that role until 1991. She eventually became the first woman President of the Academics Union of NSW. She is an activist and a writer, and has published several books.
Her interests include equal pay, labour history, feminist writing and watching cricket. She has described herself as ‘an unashamed socialist feminist.’ Meredith was radicalised at university by the events of the Vietnam War, and later described the struggle of the people of Vietnam as affecting her transformation ‘from an unthinking North Shore schoolgirl who believed that Sir Robert Menzies was a great man into a socialist internationalist who believed that Sir Robert Menzies had probably misled the nation on a number of important issues.’ Her ASIO file began during her time at university. Meredith was one of the leaders of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and received a two month gaol sentence for disrupting a Springbok match in 1971.
Meredith Burgmann has been a prominent activist since her time at the University of Sydney. She is a long-time Civil Libertarian and activist for LGBTIQ rights. She marched in the first Mardi Gras in 1978 and was active in the early environmental movement.
Meredith has written several articles and chapters in books on equal pay, environmentalism, Aboriginal rights, foreign policy and on environmental activism and the NSW Builders Labourers’ (co-authored with her sister, Verity Burgmann). As president of the Legislative Council, she reportedly removed the Queen’s portrait from her office and replaced it with a painting by an Aboriginal artist.
She is a founding member of the National Pay Equity Coalition and Emily’s List and a founder (1993) of the Ernie Awards for sexist behaviour.
Meredith Burgmann joined the Australian Labor Party in 1971, and has held significant political positions. She was a Labor Member of the Legislative Council of the NSW parliament for 16 years, and President of the Legislative Council of NSW from 1999 to 2007. She was involved with the Industrial Relations Committee from 1990 until 1995, and the Foreign Affairs Committee from 1986 until 1990.
Honours & awards
Meredith was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2000 and the Order of Timor L’Este 2016. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2020.
Local government service
Meredith Burgmann was a City of Sydney Councillor from 2008 to 2012.
Turner, Ann, Interview with Meredith Burgmann, January and May 2001, National Library of Australia, ORAL TRC 4656
Burgmann, Meredith and Burgmann, Verity, Green bans, red union: the saving of a city (2nd edition), NewSouth Publishing, Coogee, NSW, 2017
Burgmann, Meredith (ed), Dirty secrets: our ASIO files, NewSouth, Sydney, New South Wales, 2014