Joan Elizabeth Kirner AM (born 20 June 1938), Australian politician, was the 42nd Premier of Victoria, the first woman to hold the position, which she held for two years prior to a landslide election defeat.
She is an avid supporter of the Essendon Football Club.
While Minister, and in association with Heather Mitchell from the Victorian Farmers' Federation, Kirner was instrumental in the formation of the first Landcare groups.
At the 1988 election Kirner shifted to the Legislative Assembly, becoming MP for Williamstown, and was promoted to the Education portfolio. In this portfolio Kirner carried out a series of controversial reforms aimed at reducing what Kirner saw as the class-based inequity of the education system, culminating in a new system of assessment, the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE).
By this time the Labor government was in deep crisis, with the some of the state's financial institutions on the brink of insolvency, the budget deficit unsustainably high and growing and the Labor Party deeply divided on how to respond to the situation. The party hoped that the elevation of a popular woman as its new leader would improve its position, but Kirner never succeeded in gaining control of the crisis into which the state had plunged.
Some Melbourne press reacted with hostility to a Premier from the Socialist Left, dubbing her "Mother Russia" and other pejorative names. She was lampooned alternatively as a sinister commissar and as a frumpy housewife in a polkadot dress. She seemed unfazed and gradually won some respect, although she was unable to restore the government's standing.
During 1991 and 1992 Kirner took several decisions to cut government spending and raise revenue to some extent. Some of these were actively opposed by trade unions and some members of the government. Among her advisers at this time was Steve Bracks, who later succeeded her as MP for Williamstown and who became Premier in 1999.
In October 1992 Kirner faced an election which the opinion polls gave her no chance of winning. She remained personally more popular than the Liberal Opposition Leader, Jeff Kennett, but the electorate accepted Kennett's campaign theme that Labor was the "guilty party" for Victoria's financial woes, and the Liberals won a huge majority. Kirner stayed on as Opposition Leader for a short period, then resigned. She retired from Parliament in 1994.
Since January 2006, Kirner has been the Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Victorian Communities.
Kirner is also a board member of Museum Victoria, operators of Melbourne Museum, Royal Exhibition Building, Scienceworks Museum and Immigration Museum in Melbourne.
In 1993 she famously appeared on The Late Show with colleague David White, MLA, in a musical skit performing Joan Jett's I Love Rock 'N Roll. This brief performance was covered nationally by the media.