In 1973 Elizabeth Reid became the first adviser on women's affairs to a head of state, being appointed in this capacity for Australian Labour Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Reid went on to work as an adviser, administrator, consultant, educator and researcher in an international setting on issues of women and development, health and population. She is currently based in Canberra, a Visiting Fellow at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University, and an analyst, programmer and trainer in development and humanitarian assistance.
Elizabeth Reid gained a B.Phil from Somerville College, Oxford University, England in 1970, following a B.A. (Hons) First Class in Philosophy from the Australian National University, Canberra in 1965.
She was a tutor in the Philosophy Department of the Australian National University when she applied and was selected as adviser to Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, in the women and child welfare area. She had been campaign manager for an Aboriginal woman candidate in the 1972 Federal election which installed Whitlam.
During her work with the Whitlam government, Reid oversaw the Australian Government's arrangements for International Women's Year 1975, convening the IWY National Advisory Committee. She also led the Australian delegation to the Mexico World International Women's Year Conference, 1975, and was the Australian Representative to the United Nations forum on the Role of Women in Population and Development, 1974.
Reid helped resource community initiatives and women's services such as women's refuges, rape crisis centres, women's health centres, child care, and working women's centres. She brought in new policies in equal opportunity, training, employment and housing. Reid emphasised the need for all Cabinet submissions to include an assessment of their impact on women.
From the time of her appointment, Reid and her work came under extreme pressure, both in the way of accolades and criticism. She attracted a high profile in the media, as well as the hopes, expectations, scrutiny, gratitude and criticism of feminists and women all over Australia. Political scientist Marion Sawer suggests Reid as women's adviser took on 'quasi-ministerial status', receiving more letters than anyone except the Prime Minister (Sawer, 1996). Reid resigned in October 1975, moving on to become Adviser to Princess Ashraf Pahlavi of Iran on policy formation and implementation for women (1975-76).
From this time on Reid began working in development and humanitarian assistance, both for the United Nations and in other organizations. She was the founding director and project manager of the United Nations Asian and Pacific Centre for Women and Development (1977-1979). She then worked as Principal Officer in the United Nations Secretariat for the 1980 World Conference of the Decade for Women. From 1981-1984, Reid worked for USAID and for the Peace Corps, based in Zaire, Burundi, Rwanda and Thailand. From 1985-1989 she worked as a consultant largely on HIV and AIDS strategies, education and policy in Australia, Zaire and the Pacific.
From 1989 to 1997 Reid worked out of New York in the United Nations Development Programme, originally as Programme Director for Women in Development, then as Policy Adviser to the Administrator on HIV/AIDS and Development, and from 1992 was Director of the HIV and Development Programme. From 1998-2000 she was Resident Coordinator of the United Nations, and Resident Representative of the UNDP in Papua New Guinea.
Reid has addressed many conferences as keynote speaker, and her speaking engagements and extensive publication record have been focussed particularly in the areas of HIV education and women in development.
In 2001 Reid was made an Officer of the Order or Australia for work nationally and internationally on women and on the HIV epidemic; in the same year she was also named on the Centenary of Federation Honour Role of Women: Firsts and Founders, Victoria.
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Australian Women's Register