Hanging with the Queen, a portrait of trailblazer Wendy Chapman

Cultural Heart People of Adelaide

South Australia is well-known as a leader when it comes to gender equality, being the first state in Australia to introduce legislation giving women the right to vote and stand for parliament.

In a nod to that leadership, the City of Adelaide has commissioned a portrait of its trailblazing first female Lord Mayor, Wendy Chapman AM.

Former lord mayor painting chapman

Former Lord Mayor, Wendy Chapman AM and current Lord Mayor, Sandy Verschoor with the commissioned portrait

Wendy Chapman AM was elected Lord Mayor of Adelaide in 1983, making history as the first woman to hold the position in any Australian capital city. Current Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor is only the third female Lord Mayor in 178 years, with Jane Lomax-Smith being the second from 1997 to 2000.

The 125th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in South Australia in December 2019 created momentum to proactively honour the leadership and achievements of women within the City of Adelaide.

“Historically, the City of Adelaide council chamber has had no representation of female leaders through its civic collection artworks,” said current Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor.

“In fact, the only female in the council chamber is a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The existing collection has primarily paid tribute to the contributions of men who were of significance to the city and state since its inception.

“We want to celebrate the women who have made a significant and unique contribution to the city by raising their profile and showcasing them within the Adelaide Town Hall, specifically in the council chamber."

- Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Sandy Verschoor

“Wendy made history as the first woman to hold the position of Lord Mayor in any Australian capital city and that should be acknowledged. It’s an honour to unveil this stunning portrait, painted by another talented woman, Tsering Hannaford.”

As well as serving as Lord Mayor, Mrs Chapman served the City of Adelaide as a Councillor from 1977, an Alderman between 1981 to 1983 and was a trained nurse, a company director, and served on several boards.

Mrs Chapman was the inaugural chairman of the South Australian Tourism Industry Council and lobbied to secure the rights for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, which raced throughout the city between 1985 to1995. She was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 1986 for service to local government and to the community.

“I am extremely proud to have been honoured with the Council choosing to have a portrait painted to be hung in the Council Chamber... Queen Elizabeth has graced the chamber for many years, and I am humbled to be the next woman to join the gallery.”

- Wendy Chapman AM, First female Lord Mayor of Adelaide

Celebrated Adelaide-based artist Tsering Hannaford painted the portrait. Tsering has been shortlisted six times in the Archibald portrait exhibition, was presented with the highly commended Portia Geach Memorial Award in 2014 and was a semi-finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. Tsering has undertaken many significant portrait commissions and has a reputable career as a realist portrait painter.

“My intent for the portrait was to portray the warm and approachable character of Wendy Chapman as well as capture important details of her mayoral dress and Order of Australia medal,”

- Tsering Hannaford, Artist

“The portrait was commissioned to increase representation of female leaders throughout the City of Adelaide’s civic collection artworks. With a focus on examining the experiences of women and highlighting inequalities between the genders in my own work, I am honoured to have been approached for this piece which helps bring balance to the city’s collection.”

Looking to the future, the current Lord Mayor would like to see more women step forward.

“I would encourage any woman who wants to represent their business or residential community to run for local government. I love local government and I think it is served well by female representation,” she said.

“The more we can share the stories of those extraordinary women who are making Adelaide a better place, who have taken the time to work with their local communities and who are making a difference, the more we can encourage women to step forward.

In the coming years, Wendy Chapman's portrait will be joined by a series of paintings commissioned of women leaders to tell the story of our city.

The City of Adelaide has a public art collection that is made up of commemorative monuments, sculptures and installations, with a growing collection of contemporary artworks that help to tell the story of the city both past and present.

Find out more about the city’s public art and where you can see it at the public art webpage

Article by

Paula Stevens

Paula Stevens

Discovering the unfamiliar in the familiar

Paula has called Adelaide home her entire life and has spent many years exploring its nooks and crannies. She is excited and inspired when uncovering a new story, a hidden place, and hearing the stories of people who add to the colour and life of the city.