Mary Crawford was a high school teacher for 20 years during which time she taught in Australia, UK and Cyprus. In 1987 she was elected to the House of Representatives as the MP for Forde and remained there as a member of the government until 1996. During her time in the Australian Parliament she led the Crawford Committee which developed and implemented a National Policy on Child Care and established the Child Care Accreditation Council. She was instrumental in ensuring child care centres became part of tertiary institutions in Australia on University and TAFE campuses.
Dr Crawford was also responsible for the ‘Sticks and Stones’ Report which examined violence in schools and sought to establish a National policy. Her work also led to the implementation of the National JET (Jobs, Education, and Training) scheme for women re-entering the workforce and she developed and implemented the first 'women only' job clubs in Australia. These gave individual case workers for women entering or re-entering the workforce.
From 1994-1996 she was also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for Local Government.
In 1997 Dr Crawford was employed at Queensland University of Technology as a Lecturer in Government/Business relations in the School of Management within the Faculty of Business. She developed and redesigned courses for students in both Undergraduate and Postgraduate programmes. She also taught for QUT in China, in both Suzhou and Hong Kong.
She was awarded her PhD in 2008 for work on ‘Gender and the Australian Parliament’ where she explored the way in which the Australian parliament is gendered as male but much of its processes and practices remain hidden.