First female archbishop to head WA diocese

Sophie Moore
Anglican Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy has been elected to head the church in Western Australia.

Australia's first female Anglican Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy has been elected to head the church in Western Australia.

She will replace Archbishop Roger Herft, who stepped down a year ahead of schedule after admitting he had let down survivors at the royal commission into child sex abuse.

Bishop Goldsworthy said the Perth diocese had put in place a raft of policies and legislation to ensure protection for their most vulnerable members.

She said she hoped to rebuild and regain the trust of the community but her first concern was for survivors of abuse.

"There are people who have been badly affected and hurt, survivors who are incredible in the way they approach life," she told AAP.

"I think - how do we care for people, what do we do or say? Because we were caught up in something awful, how do we do what's best for our vulnerable?"

"The church I know is the one that heals."

Born in Victoria, she spent 27 years in Perth, first as chaplain of Perth College in 1988 before serving under Archbishop Heft where she was consecrated as Australia's first female bishop in 2008.

Breaking the glass ceiling was not always easy.

"Over the years it's been a mixed bag, both difficult and demanding, rough at times, but also hugely supportive being in a company of people with the same ideas."

She said she would like to see more women in church leadership roles.

Appointed to the Order of Australia this year, she was recognised for her distinguished service to religion and as a pioneering role model for women.

"What a surprise that was," she said.

"I had no idea at all, I thought I was being asked to write a reference."

Elected as bishop of Gippsland in 2015, she will not officially begin her new role until February 10, 2018.

"I am excited...the Dockers might do better next year. That would be the icing on the cake, " she joked.