take pride when they see outstanding people represent
outstanding Australians are often discovered in
Australian events. These events serve as a focal
point in the tapestry of time, and generate pride
which is the fibre that creates the fabric of
the Australian persona. One event that became
a traditional part of this Australian picture
was the ‘Miss Australia Quest’.
‘Miss Australia Quest’ was the most
successful public event held in Australia’s
first Australian beauty contest was held in 1908
and was officially named the Miss Australia Contest.
One thousand women participated annually in the
Quest throughout the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and the
1980s. In this time, the Quest raised over 90
million dollars in charity. Despite its massive
success, the last Miss Australia, Miss Sheree
Primmer, was crowned in 2000.
late 2007 The Miss Australia Quest was purchased
by an Australian consortium.
search for a new Miss Australia will begin in
2008/9. In 2008/9, on its 100th year Anniversary,
the next Miss Australia will be crowned.
Australia is the title for the winner of the Miss
Australia Quest/Awards, which ran from 1954 until
2000, when the last Miss Australia was named.
title of Miss Australia had existed since 1908,
although it was not until 1954 that it became
associated with The Spastic Centres of Australia.
The Miss Australia Quest was sponsored and organised
from 1954 until the early 1960s by the lingerie
manufacturer, Hickory, until Dowd Associates transferred
the ownership to the Australian Cerebral Palsy
Association (now CP Australia) in 1963.
1926 the program operated under the name of The
Miss Australia Quest until 1992 when it was changed
to The Miss Australia Awards to reflect changing
Australia raised money for The Spastic Centres
of Australia through her family and friends. She
was judged on merit, as well as raising the monies
for children and adults with cerebral palsy.
of Miss Australia
is what Australians take pride in when they see
outstanding people represent their country. Whatever
the event, it serves as a focal point in the tapestry
of time, whereas the pride which we feel is the
fibre that creates the fabric of the Australian
persona. One event that became a traditional part
of this Australian picture was the ‘Miss
Australia Quest’. But how many Australians
know when and where it began and what it achieved?
first Australian beauty contest in 1908 was sparked
off by an American Newspaper claim that Miss Margaret
Frey, winner of one of the first US beauty contest,
must be "the most beautiful woman in the
refused to concede this and set about finding
a girl to answer such a challenge on behalf of
local womanhood. The result was Miss Alice Buckridge
who wore boots, scorned make-up and weighed 70
second beauty contest was staged in 1911 at the
Sydney Stadium, however the winner Miss Millicent
Mahy, never got around to collecting her prize
- a Venus statue valued at £100.
contests were few and far between in those days
and the next national competition did not take
place until 1928 when Miss Beryl Mills became
was the first to be officially named the Miss
organisations have intermittently promoted a Miss
Australia Quest. Some reasonably successful fundraising
ventures under the Miss Australia Quest banner
were conducted, particularly during and immediately
following the Second World War.
Miss Australia Quest again captured the public
interest in 1926, when it was introduced by Joynton
Smith, owner of the Daily Guardian and Smith’s
Weekly as a means of boosting newspaper circulation.
In those early times, selection started primarily
as a beauty contest and contestants were chosen
from photographs. The final judging was held in
contest lapsed until 1953, when it was revived
by Bernard J. Dowd, Managing Director of Dowd
Associates, marketers in Australia of the American
Hickory garments, to promote their products. Basically,
the selections involved only newspaper advertisements
seeking photographs of young girls from which
a panel of judges, appointed by Hickory in each
state, would privately select a winner. Then each
state winner would then travel to Melbourne where
a judging panel, again appointed by Hickory, selected
1954, during a lunchtime conversation, Mr Colin
Clay, the Queensland Spastic Welfare League Executive
Director, asked Mr G. Moore, the Queensland Director
of Hickory, if the Quest could be used as a means
of fundraising for ‘spastic children’
(children with cerebral palsy). This was prompted
by the tremendous public interest generated by
the judging of Miss Queensland. This conversation
took place the day before the proposed selection
of Miss Queensland. Everyone wholeheartedly gave
their co-operation and the first £200 was
raised through the Miss Australia Quest. Thus,
instead of being used solely as a commercial promotion,
the Miss Australia Quest was turned into a worthy
benefit to the community.
Jill Jackson was chosen as Miss Queensland and
represented the state at the national judging
in Melbourne the following week. Miss Shirley
Bliss from New South Wales became Miss Australia
Mr Clay devised and submitted a plan to Mr Dowd
which would allow fundraising by entrants within
the Miss Australia Quest structure. In the following
year, the plan was fully discussed by Mr Dowd
and Mr Kenneth Mitchell, Chairman of the Queensland
Spastic Children’s Appeal Committee. Mr
Dowd was particularly keen that whatever was organised
should be on a national basis with all Spastic
Centres in Australia participating. A telephone
hook-up around Australia resulted in the co-operation
of The Spastic Centres in each state and the Quest
launched in a national format.
Quest, while it was sponsored by Mr Dowd and Hickory,
it was conducted in each state by The Spastic
Centres and the funds those centres raised provided
care and welfare for children with cerebral palsy
in that state. The co-operation of that fundraising
effort was under the auspices of the Australian
Cerebral Palsy Association – the Federation
of Australian Spastic Centres. In 1963, Mr Dowd
gave to the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association
the full rights of ownership of the Miss Australia
each state, the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association
owned the Miss Australia Quest as a business enterprise
and has the various titles – Miss Queensland,
Miss New South Wales, etc. – registered
in its name. Also registered were the Charity
Queens/Fundraisers titles associated with each
Region and State.
thousand women participated annually in the Quest
throughout the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and the 1980s.
1992, the Miss Australia Quest was changed to
the Miss Australia Awards to reflect more closely
the attitudes, achievements and aspirations of
young Australian womanhood and attracted renewed
appreciation for their skills, talents and contribution
to community life. The trappings traditionally
associated with beauty contests such as the sceptre,
sashes and crowns were relegated to the archives
in 1991 – Helena Wayth being the first Miss
Australia to be awarded a title and not crowned.
Australian Cerebral Palsy Association recognised
that a major barrier to the rights of people with
disabilities lies in community attitudes. Every
effort was made to create public awareness, acceptance
and understanding of people with cerebral palsy
as contributing members of the community. Like
each and every Miss Australia entrant, people
with disabilities are people with hopes, dreams
and aspirations. The Quest did not represent an
individual image, but rather it symbolized a combined
concept of participation, striving, helping and
achievement. This is what each entrant did when
she entered Miss Australia.
October 1998, the Miss Australia Company announced
that in February 2000 it would cease to operate
this great Australia icon. There were magic moments,
even episodes that created national controversy.
This was the longest running quest in Australia,
and can take pride in knowing that the Miss Australia
Quest/Awards have forged a place for itself in
the living history of Australia.
2000, the final Miss Australia, Miss Sheree Primmer,
was selected and announced for the Australian
Cerebral Palsy Association.
critics gave the Quest a lifetime of no more than
two years, but their predictions were proven incorrect.
Miss Australia was successfully conducted for
45 years as a major fundraising medium for The
Spastic Centres of Australia. Over its duration
entrants, their families, committees, sponsors
and the general public of Australia raised in
excess of $87 million.
note:'' From 2001, Australia has been represented
in international contests by Miss Universe Australia.
This title has sometimes been erroneously labeled
Miss Australia by the media – and this has
caused some confusion.
“Miss Australia Quest – Brief History”,
author The Spastic Centre.
2. “Would Miss Australia Please Come Forward”,
author The Spastic Centre, c1987.
The Women of Miss Australia
1908 - Alice Buckridge
* 1926 - Beryl Mills
* 1927 - Phyllis Von Alwyn
* 1937 - Sheila Martin
* 1946 - Rhonda Kelly
* 1947 - Judy Gainford
* 1948 - Beryl James
* 1949 - Margaret Hughes
* 1950 - 1952 No Miss Australia as a result of
the dispute between Miss Australia 1949 and her
* 1953 - Maxine Morgan
its association with The Spastic Centres of Australia
1954 - Shirley Bliss
* 1955 - Maureen Kistle
* 1956 - June Finlayson
* 1957 - Janette Craig selected, but turned the
title down. Helen Wood chosen to replace her.
* 1958 - Pam Mackay
* 1959 - Joan Stanbury
* 1960 - Rosemary Fenton
* 1961 - Tania Verstak
* 1962 - Tricia Reschke
* 1964 - Jan Taylor
* 1965 - Carole Jackson
* 1966 - Sue Gallie
* 1967 - Margaret Rohan
* 1968 - Helen Newton
* 1969 - Suzanne McClelland
* 1970 - Rhonda Iffland
* 1971 - June Wright
* 1972 - Gay Walker
* 1973 - Michelle Downes
* 1974 - Randy Baker
* 1975 - Kerry Doyle
* 1976 - Sharon Betty
* 1977 - Francene Maras
* 1978 - Gloria Krope
* 1979 - Anne Sneddon
* 1980 - Eleanor Morton
* 1981 - Leanne Dick
* 1982 - Jenny Coupland
* 1983 - Lisa Cornelius
* 1984 - Maryanne Koznjak
* 1985 - Maria Ridley
* 1986 - Tracey Pearson
* 1987 - Judi Green
* 1988 - Caroline Lumley
* 1989 - Lea Dickson
* 1990 - Rebecca Noble
* 1991 - Helena Wayth
* 1992 - Suzanne Lee
* 1993 - Joanne Dick
* 1994 - Jane Bargwanna
* 1995 - Margaret Tierney
* 1996 - Suzanne Haward
* 1997 - Tracy Secombe
* 1998 - Suellen Fuller
* 1999 - Kathryn Hay
* 2000 - Sheree Primer
its association with The Spastic Centres of Australia
to be known as Miss Universe Australia
2000 - Samantha Frost
* 2001 - Michelle Argiro
* 2002 - Rosie Ryan
* 2003 - Wagon Pattivina
* 2004 - Jennifer Hawkins
(Miss Universe 2004)
* 2005 - Michelle Guy (universe) Denae Brunow
(World) Ann Maree Bowdler (Earth)
* 2006 - Erin McNaught
(Universe) Sabrina Houssami(World)Elinor Lascelles
* 2007 - Kimberley Busteed
(Universe) /Caroline Pemberton(World)
of the most famous Miss Australias was a woman
named Tania Verstak. She was born in China of
Russian parents, and when she won "Miss Australia"
in 1961, she was the first woman of immigrant
background to win the Title.
first Aboriginal woman to win the Miss Australia
title was Kathryn Hay in 1999.
The Role Of Volunteers in Miss Australia
Australia: A Nation's Quest.
Miss Australia in International Beauty Pageants
are now multiple competitions using Miss Australia
in their title. To differentiate amongst the official
national preliminaries to international competitions,
the franchise name is added to Miss Australia.
example, Australia's Miss Universe contestants
never came from The Spastic Centres Association
Miss Australia. A local modelling agency selected
representatives through small beauty pageants
2002 Jim Davie revived Miss Universe in Australia
by setting up the Miss Universe Australia organisation.
This contest, which exclusively sends contestants
to Miss Universe, was made famous by Jennifer
Hawkins's victory in the 2004 Miss Universe pageant
in Quito, Ecuador. Jennifer became only the second
Australian woman ever to win the international
title, following Kerry Anne Wells who won the
pageant in 1972.
the Miss World contest, a Miss World Australia is
chosen through screenings. In previous years, titleholders
from the original Miss World Australia contest were
sent to Miss World. However, this was not the case
in 2006, when the national contest was cancelled and
Sabrina Houssami was conroversially
crowned the winner. Penelope Plummer became Australia's
first Miss World in 1968. (Credit: