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A celebration of Anglican women’s history in the Diocese of Brisbane

Long before the Diocese was established, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were nurturing the land and the spirit. We honour their legacy and pay respects to those who follow in their foot steps. 

Largely unsung, Anglican women have played significant roles in church and society and contributed vitally to the development of Brisbane. From building churches to championing women’s rights, Anglican women made, and make, significant contributions to our social and political lives. We trace the evolving position of women in the diocese—from the kitchen to the boardroom, and from laity to clergy.

From prescribed functions of biscuit makers and fundraisers, women pursued new paths as educators, missionaries, and activists throughout the 20th century. The latter half of the century saw the establishment of the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW). As a result, women were ordained deacons in 1988 and priests in 1992. Changes were then made in 2008 allowing women to be bishops. The first woman to hold the office of bishop in Brisbane was the Right Reverend Alison Taylor, consecrated in 2013 as bishop for the Southern Region.

So we move from biscuits to bishop.


From Biscuits to Bishops is a powerful and creative celebration of Anglican women – specifically, faithful women who have shaped, supported, challenged and inspired the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Brisbane since its formation in 1859. In this multimedia presentation, the historic progress of the place of women in the life, mission and leadership of the church is vividly depicted and carefully detailed as a tribute to what has been accomplished, and as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done.

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From Biscuits to Bishops is intertwined with my own story, for it was in the Diocese of Brisbane that my spiritual journey led me back home to Anglicanism and the church in which I would respond to God’s call, again and again. It is therefore a cause for concern that some recent shifts and movements within the Anglican Communion and our national Church limit the scope and space for other women to similarly respond to God’s call. From Biscuits to Bishops offers a timely and encouraging voice of resistance, and a rousing appeal to advance the progress that has already been made with regard to women’s participation and leadership in church and society.

It is my hope and prayer that the memories, stories, images and displays of this digital exhibition will effectively convey the faith and legacy of the lay and ordained women who have been part of that marvellous journey ‘from biscuits to bishops’.

The Most Reverend Kay Goldsworthy AO
Archbishop of Perth


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Exhibition Working Group
Dr Gwenneth Roberts
The Rev’d Kate Ross
Lyn Moorfoot
Crisia Constantine

Research assistance
Michael Rogers (Diocesan Archivist)

Video Material
Dr John Roberts

Website Design and Content Management:
Dean Peter Catt
Sarah Malherbe

Logo Artwork (Biscuits to Bishop):
Mary Roberts


Roles for church women were prescribed in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Such roles included clergy wife, Sunday school teacher, philanthropist and fundraiser,
the latter especially through the ladies’ bazaar.

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Women achieved new roles mid-century.
They became teachers, missionaries, pastoral carers and continuing philanthropists.
Women found themselves to be activists through increasing leadership roles available,
in particular in missionary work. 

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There is no doubt that the women’s movement of the late 1960s
had a role in emerging calls for an improved status for women in the church.
The heart of the women’s ordination issue,
however, was that exclusion from the priesthood did not accord with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

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The ordination of women as priests did not end the struggle for Anglican women.
Equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women bishops,
transgender women and those in governance roles remained live issues.
Women are still underrepresented in the church hierarchy.

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