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Florence Bjelke-Petersen

Florence Isabel Bjelke-Petersen (nee Gilmour; 11 August 1920) is a former Australian politician and writer. She was a member of the Australian Senate from 1981 to 1993, and is the widow of the longest-serving Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. She is usually known as Lady Bjelke-Petersen.[1]

Florence Bjelke-Petersen
StateLibQld 1 102284 Joh and Flo Bjelke-Petersen on their wedding day, 1952.jpg
Senator for Queensland
In office
12 March 1981 – 30 June 1993
Preceded by Glen Sheil
Personal details
Born Florence Isabel Gilmour
(1920-08-11) 11 August 1920 (age 97)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Political party National
Spouse(s) Joh Bjelke-Petersen (m. 1952–2005)
Children 4



Florence Isabel Gilmour was born in Brisbane and was employed as private secretary to the Queensland Commissioner for Main Roads when she met Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, who was then a Country Party member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland.[2] They were married on 31 May 1952.[3]

Bjelke-Petersen was preoccupied with home duties until well after Joh Bjelke-Petersen became Premier in 1968. In the 1970s, however, she assumed an increasingly public role, as part of the Queensland National Party's increasing promotion of a Bjelke-Petersen "personality cult". Her homely sayings and her recipes for pumpkin scones were quoted in the media.[citation needed]

At the 1980 federal election, against the wishes of party president Sir Robert Sparkes, Joh Bjelke-Petersen arranged for his wife to be placed in the number one position on the National Party's Queensland senate ticket, ensuring her election. Her term was due to commence on 1 July 1981, however, on 6 February 1981, Queensland Senator Glen Sheil resigned, creating a casual vacancy.[4] She was appointed on 12 March 1981 for the remainder of Sheil's term, and then continued into her own term. It was speculated that her husband, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, intended entering federal politics, and that at some point Florence would resign from the Senate to allow Joh to be appointed to the vacancy. But Joh Bjelke-Petersen's federal aspirations ended with the failed "Joh for Canberra" campaign in 1987.[citation needed]

When Joh Bjelke-Petersen was knighted in 1984, Flo Bjelke-Petersen became Lady Bjelke-Petersen, and was officially known as "Senator Lady Bjelke-Petersen". She was frequently, but incorrectly, referred to as "Lady Florence" or "Lady Flo". This usage is for the daughter of a peer, not the wife of a knight. Although the name "Lady Flo" is incorrect, it has been almost universally used in the media and among the general public.

She was re-elected at the 1983 and 1987 elections (both double dissolutions), and her term expired on 30 June 1993.[5]

In Canberra Lady Bjelke-Petersen was well liked by politicians of all parties, even those who loathed her husband. Her speeches were usually about local Queensland issues and seldom political in content.[citation needed]


She has published a cookbook which included her recipe for her trademark pumpkin scones.[6]


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