Between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s (the 'Labor Years'), financial independence among Australian women increased. In this paper we investigate the changing characteristics of working age women, focussing on their financial independence. We combine an examination of policy and institutional changes that occurred in Australia during the 1980s and 1990s with an analysis of income survey microdata for the years 1982 and 1996-97. We argue that demographic changes (relating to marriage and fertility) and public policies in the fields of childcare and social security helped many women achieve financial independence during the 1980s and 1990s but the effects of restructuring and deregulation in the labour market dominated. Not all women gained equally. Young women in particular lost out, while older women made substantial advances. Single mothers profited mainly because of improvements in social security payments, while partnered mothers were increasingly able to engage in paid (though part-time) employment. We look at how policies and institutional change combined to produce these results, and also assess the possible impact on women's financial independence of policy changes that have occurred since Labor lost power in 1996.