Anna Maria Bligh (born 14 July 1960) is an Australian politician and was the 37th Premier of Queensland, being in office from 2007 to 2012. Bligh was an Australian Labour Party member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland seat of South Brisbane from 1995 to 2012.
Bligh was the first woman to be appointed Premier of Queensland, the third female Premier of an Australian state, and the sixth female head of government of an Australian state or territory. She led Labour to victory in the 2009 Queensland state election, becoming the first woman elected in her own right as a state premier in Australia.
Bligh attempted to win a second full term as Premier in the 2012 state election. However, her party suffered the worst defeat of a sitting government in Queensland history, winning only seven seats. In the wake of the loss, Bligh announced her immediate resignation as leader of the Queensland Labour Party. She also announced that she would resign from parliament and retire from politics, effective 30 March 2012.
Bligh was born in Warwick, Queensland and grew up on the Gold Coast. Her parents separated when she was 13. She attended Catholic schools until Year 9 and considered becoming a nun. One of her aunts became a nun and another had entered a convent. However the church’s attitude towards divorced people (her mother was no longer permitted to take Communion) reportedly estranged her and her mother from the church.
Studying at the University of Queensland from 1978, Bligh gained a Bachelor of Arts. Bligh traces her politicisation to her first year at University, observing a right-to-march rally in King George Square where people were being hit over the head by the police. Bligh’s first involvement in activism was student protests against the Vice-Chancellor Brian Wilson’s controversial administrative restructuring within the university. She then went on to be involved in the Women’s
Rights Collective which campaigned for legalised abortion against the anti-abortion policies of the Bjelke-Petersen government. Bligh’s next role was as Women’s Vice-President of the Student Union.
She subsequently worked in a number of community organisations, including child care services, neighbourhood centres, women’s refuges and trade unions as well as in the Queensland Public Service.
During her governance as the Premier of Queensland, Bligh announced the privatisation of five government owned corporations:
- Queensland Motorways Limited (Operating the Gateway Bridge and Logan Motorway tolling systems)
- The Port of Brisbane Authority
- Forestry Plantations Queensland
- Abbot Point Coal Terminal
- Coal carrying rail lines, currently owned by Queensland Rail (QR Passenger services will remain nationalised).
Bligh is also well-known for her management of the Queensland floods during the 2010–2011 Queensland floods which was widely approved
Bligh is married to Greg Withers, a senior public servant, with whom she has two sons. She is a descendant of Cornishman William Bligh who is famous for the Mutiny on the Bounty and being the 4th Governor of New South Wales.
On 8 June 2013, Bligh announced that she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.