Before we can discuss the consumer habits of the Australian population in regards to the Adult Retail Industry, we must first examine two important liberation movements that took place throughout the 1960s and 1970s - as part of the broader 'Sexual Revolution' that challenged traditional codes of behaviour related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the western world - that of the 'Gay Liberation' and the 'Women's Liberation' movements. 

The changes that have taken place in society because of these movements have since indicated how sexual attitudes and ideas towards both the LGBTIQ community and women have evolved within the Adult Retail sector, including the way that products are designed, marketed and sold. 

Being homosexual in Australia: 

Research has indicated that homosexual behaviour has been prevalent in Australia (among Europeans) since colonisation in 1788. However archaic British laws, such as the Buggery Act of 1533, have meant that the sexual act of ‘buggery’ - described as sodomy and bestiality – was outlawed in Australia from 1788 up until 1975, or 187 years.  

Originally deemed a ‘capital offence', with the punishment being execution and the seizure of personal property, the crime of being a homosexual male was eventually reduced from execution to life in prison in 1899, and then in 1949, the state of Victoria downgraded anal sex from a crime punishable by death to a crime punishable by 20 years imprisonment.  

For over 180 years Australian authorities persecuted homosexuals with great intensity, with the police, as enforcers of the law and reflecting prevailing social attitudes, having little toleration for what they saw as 'perverts', 'degenerates', 'effeminates', and 'paedophiles'. 

Although 'lesbianism' was never illegal in Britain nor its colonies, including Australia, many women who identified as lesbians also suffered horrible persecution, due to their sexual identities. Not only did the 'sapphist' face potential rejection from her families, friends, and others, as a result of homophobia, but lesbians  or 'inverts' also faced concerns separate from men, including distinct physical or mental health concerns arising from discrimination, prejudice, and minority stress.

FUN FACT: Cross-dressing has existed since the time of the Greeks in 3000 BC. In Australia, there has been a history of cross-dressing since colonisation in 1788, with several cross-dressing /transgender characters being mentioned in historical documents, including:

  • John Wilson (Ellen Maguire), of Fitzroy - a notorious prostitute, whom many young men had paid for sex. Wilson was condemned to death by the courts in 1863
  • Edward De Lacy Evans (Ellen Tremayne or Tremaye - in 1879 was discovered to be a woman, but he had lived, dressed, worked and loved for many years as a man
  • Bill Edwards of Melbourne - discovered in 1905 to have been born a woman and became known in the sensational media coverage thereafter as Marion-Bill Edwards
  • Eugene (Eugenia) Falleni - an Italian-Australian transgender man convicted of the 1917 murder of his wife
  • Monte Punshon - a lover of women, and in the 1930s she mingled in a very camp world surrounded by her "homosexual boyfriends"
  • Neville McQuade - notorious for his habit of dressing in female clothing in the 1940s

          In 1958 the NSW police Commissioner Colin Delaney described  homosexuals as "the greatest social menace" facing the country. Subsequently thousands of men were convicted and imprisoned for homosexual offences. A special unit was even set up within the Victorian Police to deal with homosexuality; it comprised one-third of the vice squad.

          In addition to police harassment, the church has traditionally classed homosexuality as a "sin", and has shown little compassion for homo-erotically inclined men and women. Furthermore the medical profession allowed such barbarities as conversion therapy and psychosurgery to take place, before the American Psychiatric Association (APA) declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. 

          Although in 1957 The Wolfenden Report recommended that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence", British influences on Australian political culture were still noticeable well into the 1960s. 

          But by the end of the 1960s, with a radical counterculture emerging from the ashes of conservatism, homosexuals, who had been oppressed by physical violence and by ideological and psychological attacks at every level of social interaction, were at last becoming angry.

          Throughout recorded history, oppressed groups have organised to claim their rights and obtain their needs, and the new social movements of the sixties, such as the 'Black Power' and 'Anti-Vietnam' war movements in the US, and 'Women's Liberation' throughout the western world, inspired many gay activists to become more radical, and the 'Gay Liberation' movement emerged towards the end of the decade. This new radicalism is often attributed to the 'Stonewall Riots' of 1969, when a group of gay men, lesbians, and drag queens at a bar in New York resisted a police raid.

          In the late 1960s, gay and lesbian rights movement groups were being organised in Australia - the ACT Homosexual Law Reform Society, a humanist organisation based in Canberra was formed in mid 1969, and an Australian arm of the San Francisco lesbian rights organisation Daughters of Bilitis, also formed in Melbourne in 1969 - and are considered to be Australia's first gay rights organisations.


          However, it was a Sydney organisation, the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP), which was founded in Sydney in June 1970 that was to galvanise the early gay rights movement in Australia. John Ware (a male homosexual) and Christobell Poll (a lesbian) announced the formation of an organisation called CAMP in an article on the front page of the magazine section of The Australian newspaper on 19 September, 1970. Within about 12 months local CAMP groups had formed in each capital city and in many of the universities, soon creating an informal gay rights network around Australia.

          CAMP was broadly inclusive and took on all of the issues of the day, from law reform to coming out to living a gay life. The group also published a magazine called Camp Ink from 1970 to 1977. Camp Ink was a serious news magazine mainly aimed at gay people. However in the interests of public education, it also sought to attract readers from the wider society. In addition, Camp Ink was one of the few elements of the national gay and lesbian movement to bind the various state-based organisations with politics. 

          View all editions of Camp Ink HERE

          In January 1971, the Melbourne-based gay rights organisation Society Five was formed, inspired by CAMP, and was to become the largest gay organisation in Australia during the 1970s. 

          Gay Liberation in Australia:

          1971 saw the publication of Dennis Altman’s book Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation. Described as "the definitive text of the gay liberation period" (ALGA), Altman was an Australian academic and gay activist who had been in New York in the 1960s researching the emergent gay liberation movement there, while also witnessing the spectacular rise of gay and lesbian political activism after the Stonewall Riot of 1969. The book had a significant impact both overseas and in Australia.

          Consequently the Australian Gay Liberation movement began in Sydney in 1971, to where Altman had by this time returned, as a small sub-group of CAMP. However, disagreements between the Gay Lib group and the rest of CAMP led to a very public separation announced by Dennis Altman at a Sexual Liberation forum at Sydney University in January 1972. 

          Shortly after this announcement Gay Liberation groups were established independently in Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Newcastle, with the Melbourne group forming in February 1972 following a visit by Altman.

          The Melbourne Gay Liberation group met initially at the University of Melbourne before moving its headquarters off-campus to Carlton at the end of 1972, in an effort to break out of the student milieu and into the wider society. However it continued its presence on campus through the pages of student newspaper 'Farrago'.

          The group soon started to distribute leaflets on and off campus, run a stall in the union foyer, hold dances, collect money, run consciousness-raising groups, and hold ‘the big discussions’ in regular Friday night meetings in the Student Union building. 

          The Melbourne Gay Liberation group was committed to a radical version of the then-emerging gay politics. Most of its members were committed to socialism, feminist politics and solidarity with all oppressed groups. Melbourne Gay Liberation also conducted their own demonstrations, while making it a point to join other demonstrations where there was an overlapping interest.

          These young homosexual activists – now calling themselves 'gay' and 'lesbian' – were campaigning openly, proudly, and confidently demanding that society change – laws, attitudes, professional and public opinion. Driven by the power of people 'coming out', students and non-students alike began to speak and protest publicly as socially enforced, oppressive silence and shame gave way to their growing gay pride.

          On December 1st 1972, Melbourne Gay Liberation held one of its earliest public demonstrations at the City Square. The demonstration was an assertion of the place of homosexuals in a public space, with the flyer promoting the event including the following information:

          Gay Lib is a group of homosexuals who are open about their homosexuality, under the belief that it is better for our own wellbeing, and ultimately points out the way in which we carry a heavy load in society, and means with which to overcome this. Showing ourselves in public is a step in creating confidence from our homosexuality. If you are camp, your presence as a participant will give us added support; your presence as an onlooker will give you a spectacle that is guaranteed to relieve the dreariness of Friday night shopping.” (Culture Victoria)

          Later the group proceeded along Collins St and Elizabeth St towards the GPO, chanting and singing, then continued their stirring in Myers.

          Gay Lib also published the Melbourne Gay Liberation Newsletter from 1973 to 1978. After publication of the newsletter ceased, the club rooms were maintained until the organisation formally dissolved in 1978. 

          Source: Reason in Revolt and ALGA

          See the full history of Melbourne Gay Liberation and Gay Pride Week: HERE

          Gay Pride Week (Melbourne):

          Ho Ho Homosexual!                                                             2, 4, 6, 8 Gay is just as good as straight                                1, 2, 3, 4, We don't want your Fucking Law
          (Gay Pride Week chant - Sydney)

          Gay Pride Week was held in Melbourne in September 1973 and was in many ways the high point of the first wave of Gay Liberation activism in Australia.

          The Week aimed to “change the mind of the prejudiced, the fearful, the conditioned, the sexually repressed, all those who in oppressing us oppress themselves.” (Culture Victoria) 

          Although the gay liberation movement had exploded onto the scene in Australia in 1970, by 1973 many activists were gripped by a sense that the best days were behind them. Gay Pride Week was organised at the suggestion of Sydney Gay Liberation, as a way of shaking off this mood. Liberationists in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide took up the proposal enthusiastically. The intention was to draw upon the full repertoire of activism – celebratory demonstrations, militant zaps, educational activities, coming out, flaunting it.

          Targeted were: "all the institutions of our oppression: the police courts, job discrimination, the bigoted churchmen and politicians, the media, the psychiatrists, the aversion therapists, the military, the schools, the universities, the work-places... It will also seek to change the mind of the prejudiced, the fearful, the conditioned, the sexually repressed, all those who in oppressing us, oppress themselves." 

          It was also intended that it: "will say to gay and straight alike: gay is good, gay is proud, gay is aggressively fighting for liberation. It will say to gays: come out and stand up. Only you can win your own liberation. Come out of the ghettos, the bars and beats, from your closets in suburbia and in your own minds and join the struggle for your own liberation." (Gay Pride Week, Melbourne Gay Liberation Newsletter)

          Melbourne organised graffiti paint-ups, a demonstration of some 250 people, a dance and a Schoolday (to talk to high school students) and a parents of gays evening. Members appeared on television programs twice and on a radio talkback show. The centrepiece of the week was a 'gay picnic' in the Botanical Gardens, attended by one hundred and fifty lesbians and gay men. 

          In 1973, the Australian Medical Association also removed homosexuality from its list of illnesses and disorders.

          "The year 1973 marked the beginning of a new type of gay activism: in Melbourne, gay student activism moved into the Australian Union of Students; there was greater willingness on the part of the Whitlam federal government and the state governments to consider homosexual issues for reform; commercial ventures such as clubs and bars opened up new social opportunities; and activism splintered into a multitude of single-issue action groups." (Graham Willett)

          In 1975, under the Dunstan Labor government, South Australia became the first Australian state or territory to legalise sexual conduct between males. 

          That same year a gay newspaper appeared on the shelves of Australian newsagents called Campaign. It was to prove the most enduring such publication in Australian history and The paper’s name itself captured this ambiguity, playing on ‘camp’ as the still widely-used alternative term to ‘gay’ and ‘campaign’ in the  political sense. 

          In content, it was a mix of news, good-looking men, bar photos and gossip, political manifestos, venue and event listings,  polemic, classifieds, advertisements, book and film reviews and celebrity interviews. A short-lived Campaign bookshop also opened in Pitt St, Sydney. The newspaper would end up being sold in sex shops as well as newsagents, and subscriptions were also mailed out in plain brown envelopes. 

          Additional gay rights organisations, including The Gay Teachers Group and The Homosexual Law Reform Coalition started in the late 1970s.

          Mardi Gras:

          On the 24th of June 1978, the Sydney Gay Solidarity Group responded to a call from the US for an international day of action - to commemorate the famous Stonewall Riots of 1969 - and to demand the end of discrimination against homosexuals in employment and housing, an end to police harassment and the repeal of all anti-homosexual laws  

          The group organised a colourful street parade or 'mardi gras' in Oxford Street, Sydney, which was already beginning to overshadow Kings Cross as the centre of 'Gay Sydney'. More than 500 people gathered on Oxford Street, with the figure rising to around 2,000 as revellers out for the Saturday night at Oxford Street bars and clubs responded to the call "Out of the bars and into the streets!"

          Although the organisers had obtained permission, this was revoked, and the parade was broken up by the police. After the parade was dispersing in Kings Cross, 53 of the participants were arrested. Although most charges were eventually dropped, The Sydney Morning Herald published the names of those arrested in full, leading to many people being outed to their friends and places of employment, and many of those arrested lost their jobs as homosexuality was still a crime in New South Wales (NSW) until 1984.

          Only two people who were arrested were fined. The rest were released without bail and the charges dismissed. The police response to a legal, local minority protest transformed it into a nationally significant event which stimulated gay rights and law reform campaigns. This was the unlikely beginning of the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras, which would later become known as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

          The first gay Mardi Gras opened up a whole new period in Australian lesbian and gay politics, with gay and lesbian hotels, discos, nightclubs, booksellers, porn shops, saunas, fuck bars and other sex-on-premises venues emerging in the major cities through the 1970s and beyond to cater to gays and, to a lesser extent lesbians. 

          Lesbian Independence Day:

          On the 2nd of September 1978, Lesbian Independence Day was celebrated in Sydney, with a march, picnic and games. Campaign newspaper reported that 40 to 50 people participated in the march, which almost didn't go ahead as they hadn't received a police permit. The Lesbian Feminist Collective, which organised the march, put out press releases noting their predicament, and the press followed up with police who indicated that the permit was in the post, leaving the Collective with only 24 hours to finalise the celebrations. The reference to the 25th anniversary in the title was tongue in cheek.

          The Kiss-In:

          Finally in October 1979, to end what can only be described as a radical decade for Australian gay and lesbian activists, University of Melbourne PhD student Terry Stokes had been arrested after a policeman saw him kiss his boyfriend, Darren Turner, outside the Woolshed Bar at the Hotel Australia on Collins Street in Melbourne. He was fined $75 in default of 7 days in gaol. But when the case hit the newspapers his University residence, Graduate House, moved to evict him. The move sparked protests including a mass “kiss-in” by about hundred men and women outside the Woolshed, and a stop-work meeting by University Cafeteria workers. 

          Police record of William Smith, 1880 - Sentenced to 12 months for 'Attempting to Commit Sodomy' - Source: Dictionary of Sydney

          Eugene (Eugenia) Falleni was an Italian-Australian transgender man convicted of the 1917 murder of his wife. c. 1917 - Source: Wikipedia

          Mug shot of Neville McQuade (18) and Lewis Stanley Keith (19), North Sydney Police Station, 1942 - McQuade was notorious for his habit of dressing in female clothing - Source: Dictionary of Sydney

          Marsha P. Johnson, one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall riots, 1969 - Source: ati

          FUN FACT: 'Camp' was the word mostly commonly used by Australian homosexuals for themselves before the arrival of 'Gay' from USA in 1972. 

          From the early 1970s new meanings of gay and lesbian came into the language of the liberation movement. 'Queer' has been in use as an umbrella label or identity of its own from the mid-1980s onward (having been a term of abuse in the 1950s), whilst 'LGBTI', which stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Gender Diverse, Intersex has come to reflect the inclusive language of respect, integrity and human rights. LGBTI (and LGBTIQ) promotes an alliance between those who have faced (and who continue to face) exclusion, marginalisation and discrimination .

          From a journal article by Brian Woodward in William and John (magazine) No.8, 1973 - Source: Reason in Revolt

          Camp Ink, Vol. 1. No. 1. 1970 - Source: Pride History Group

          Dennis Altman’s book Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation, 1971 - Source: Culture Victoria

               Click on any image below to view a photo gallery
               Gay Liberation Movement in Melbourne, 1972 - 1975 -
               Source: Culture Victoria and ALGA

          Out of the Closets, Into the Streets, filmed and edited by Barbara Creed, 2016 - Source: Culture Victoria and Youtube

          Gay Pride Week Melbourne, 1973 - All photos by Rennie Ellis - Source: La Trobe Journal and Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

          Premier Don Dunstan meeting with Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in Canberra, 1973 - Source: Wikipedia

          Campaign Newspaper, No. 38. 1978 - Source: Pink Ink: The Golden Era for Gay and Lesbian Magazines

          Homosexuals demonstrate in the morning march in Sydney before a street parade that would eventually evolve into the Sydney Mardi Gras, 1978 - Photo by Fairfax Media - Source: The Leader

          Mardi Gras origins: Protest outside Central Court of Petty Sessions, 1978 Photo by Fairfax Media - Source: The Leader

          Stations of the X 280, Mardi Gras Redux - Source: Youtube

          Lesbian Independence Day poster, 1978 - designed and printed by Yvonne Gudgeon - Source: Poster Collection, ALGA

          Demonstrators kiss and embrace in protest outside the Hotel Australia in Collins Street, 1979 - Source: Farifax Media

          For a definitive timeline of LGBTIQ rights in Australia click HERE

          • Bongiorno, Frank (2012), The sex lives of Australians : a history. Black, Collingwood, Vic
          • Calder, Bill & Ebooks Corporation (2016). Pink ink : the golden era for gay and lesbian magazines. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne.
          • Reynolds, R., & Robinson, S. (2016). Gay and Lesbian, Then and Now: Australian stories from a social revolution. Carlton, Vic.: Black Inc.
          • Willett, G. (2000). Living out loud: a history of gay and lesbian activism in Australia. St Leonards: Allen & Unwin. 
          • Willett, G. (2002). From camp to gay: the homosexual history of the University of Melbourne, 1960-1976. Melbourne: History of the University Unit, University of Melbourne. 
          • Out of the Closets, Into the Streets, filmed and edited by Barbara Creed, 2016 - Source: Culture Victoria and Youtube
          • Stations of the X 280, Mardi Gras Redux - Source: Youtube
          • Sydney Golden City of the Gays, 1982 Four Corners - Source: Youtube
          PDF Resources:
          Towards Equality.pdf Towards Equality.pdf
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          In-Pursuit-of-Truth-and-Justice.pdf In-Pursuit-of-Truth-and-Justice.pdf
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          Type : pdf
          Homosexual Law Reform in Australia.pdf Homosexual Law Reform in Australia.pdf
          Size : 78.746 Kb
          Type : pdf
          Gay and lesbian public history in Australia.pdf Gay and lesbian public history in Australia.pdf
          Size : 2090.921 Kb
          Type : pdf

          Being a Woman in Australia:

          In 1945, with the end of World War II, women gave up their 'male' jobs to make way for the men they had replaced and returned to their 'traditional' roles of 'good wife' and 'mother'. Society expected women to conform to the idea of woman as homemaker, and from birth onwards, family, school, church and popular magazines trained girls to accept this view unquestioningly.

          The law reinforced women’s subservient role within marriage and within society by generally assuming that women required a male to look after their interests. The law provided little protection for women against males who failed to do so (in New South Wales, for example, rape within marriage did not become a criminal offence until 1981).

          However in the 1960s, Australian women began to rebel against this way of life and, at the same time, take up the ideas and debates of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Women wanted a permanent place in the paid workforce, equal pay and careers rather than just jobs. They campaigned to make people aware of how society denied women opportunities and key roles in its decision making.

          Women fought for and achieved improved education, representation in parliament and anti-discrimination legislation. They took control of their own lives and their own bodies, with some symbolically burning their bras to express their liberation.

          The Pill and Sexual Liberation:

          The release of the oral contraceptive pill Anovlar in Australia on the 1st of February 1961 ushered in a momentous change in women’s lives. Initially available only to married women, and burdened with a 27.5 per cent luxury tax, the introduction of the pill came just in time for the beginning of the 'Sexual Revolution'. Suddenly, women were able to enjoy their sexuality, free from the fear of falling pregnant. Some women were even beginning to experiment sexually with 'unconventional' practices as an alternative to the more traditional concept of marriage and monogamy.

          The pill was part of, and contributed to, many social changes that improved the status of women in the second half of the 20th century, including the right to control their fertility, better childcare, equal pay for equal work, and freedom from sexual violence and discrimination.

          The Feminine Mystique:

          In 1963 The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was published. The book depicted the roles of women in industrial societies, especially the full-time homemaker role which Friedan deemed stifling, and she asserted that women are as capable as men for any type of work or any career path against arguments to the contrary by the mass media, educators and psychologists.

          The Feminine Mystique challenged hegemonic sexism in US society and spoke to American women who soon began attending consciousness-raising sessions and lobbying for the reform of oppressive laws and social views that restricted women. The book became a bestseller, which many historians believe, was the impetus for the 'second wave' of the women's movement in the United States, and subsequently the rest of the western world.

          The Marriage Bar and the Public Bar:

          The ‘Marriage bar' was a bar on employment of married women which was introduced at the beginning of the 1900s, and was intended to keep women from "stealing" men's jobs and also to boost the birth rate. It meant that many women kept their marriages a secret.

          When married women teachers returned in considerable numbers during the Second World War, they were supported in their claim for reinstatement by women unionists in the Victorian Teachers' Union (VTU). In the 1950s married women, who were temporary teachers and members of the VTU, took up the fight, forming the Temporary Teachers' Club (TTC) to press home their claims. The TTC's 'cooperative campaign' would eventually force the Victorian Education Department to pass the Teaching Service (Married Women) Act, repealing the marriage bar in 1956.

          Almost 10 years later, in April of 1965, Merle Thornton founded the Equal Opportunities for Women Association in Brisbane. As President of the association, Thornton led a successful campaign for the removal of the 'marriage bar' in the Commonwealth and State Public Services. The end of the marriage bar was legislated on November 18, 1966, which meant that women employed by the government were no longer required to resign on marriage. 

          One month earlier, in March of 1965, Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bogner had adapted the tactics of the late nineteenth century suffragists  and chained themselves to the bar rail of the Regatta Hotel in Toowong, Brisbane as a protest to the exclusion of serving women in pubs. The women were refused service as serving them liquor would have resulted in a fine for the pub. However, “sympathetic male patrons” brought them beer. 

          We Can Do It! - An American World War II wartime poster produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric as an inspirational image to boost female worker morale - Source: Wikipedia

          'Sequens' contraceptive pill, Eli Lilly (Australia), c. 1963. Photo: Eloise Coccoli and Michelle Stevenson. Museums Victoria - Source: National Museum Australia              

          The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, 1963 - Source: Biblio

          Wedding of Keith Neale and Ivy Gallichan, Brisbane, c. 1942 - Source: ABC

          Rosalie Bognor and Merle Thornton chained to the bar at the Regatta Hotel, 1965 - Source: State Library of Victoria

          Women Rattle the Chain in Public Bars, 1965 - Source: ABC Education
          Not a place for the Gentler Sex, 1965 - Source: ABC Education

          Equal Pay:

          By the 1960s, the matter of equal pay for women was high on the agenda. More women had entered the workforce through the post-war boom and the Women's Liberation Movement was raising awareness about gender inequality.

          In the first federal equal pay test case, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) successfully tackled the law which allowed Australian employers to pay working women a minimum rate 25% lower than that of male employees. In the case of Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union & Others v Meat and Allied Trades Federation of Australia & Others (1969), the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission unanimously accepted the principle of equal pay for equal work. However, as it turned out, most women workers could not benefit because equal pay did not apply in cases 'where the work in question is essentially or usually performed by females.

          This was improved in December 1972 in the second federal test case when the Commission broadened 'equal pay for equal work' to 'equal pay for work of equal value'. However, research completed in time for the 1972 review of this decision noted that only 18 per cent of women were assessed as performing work equal to that of a man, therefore severely limiting the number of female workers who actually benefited from the part of the 1969 ruling that allowed for wage equality between the sexes.

          While the introduction of ‘equal pay for work of equal value’ was an important step towards equality between the sexes in the workforce, many changes were still required before Australian women moved closer to true pay equality. In 1973 a ruling by the commission finally granted an equal minimum wage to all Australians, regardless of their sex, and in 1974 the ‘breadwinner’ component of a male wage was removed in recognition of the fact that more Australian women were providing for their families.

          Winning legal equal pay in the early 1970s was probably the most important single step forward for women’s rights in Australia, because all aspects of women’s oppression are interwoven.

          The Female Eunuch:

          The Female Eunuch is a book written by Germaine Greer, that became an international bestseller and an important text in the feminist movement. Greer's thesis is that the "traditional" suburban, consumerist, nuclear family represses women sexually, and that this devitalises them, rendering them eunuchs. The book was published in London in October 1970. It received a mixed reception, but by March 1971, it had nearly sold out its second printing and has been translated into eleven languages.

          In The Female Eunuch Greer argues that men hate women, though the latter do not realise this and are taught to hate themselves. Greer also argues that change had to come about via revolution, not evolution. Women should get to know and come to accept their own bodies, taste their own menstrual blood, and give up celibacy and monogamy. Yet they should not burn their bras. "Bras are a ludicrous invention," she wrote, "but if you make bralessness a rule, you're just subjecting yourself to yet another repression."

          The Female Eunuch impelled many women into the socio-political activism that would become 'Women's Liberation'.

          The Women's Liberation Movement:

          The women's liberation movement was a feminist movement that started in the late 1960s and continued through the early 1980s. Their primary issue was autonomy for women in all spheres of life, including focus on child care centres, equal opportunity for and pay and employment, objectification of women, reproductive rights, sexuality and sexual abuse. Most importantly, they wanted a fundamental change in the way society perceived women. Women, liberationists participated in public protests, published information on issues, and held meetings to organise lobbying efforts.

          The Australian Women's Liberation Movement (WLM) began in Sydney in 1969 with small meetings of women in Balmain and Glebe.  

          In 1969, Martha Ansara, who had relocated after a divorce from the United States that year to Sydney, joined with Margaret Eliot, Sandra Hawker, and Coonie Sandford to form a discussion group about materials on the Women's Liberation Movement that she had brought from the States.  Talking to each other about experiences previously regarded as belonging only in the domain of  'private life' — such as rape, domestic violence, incest, and abortion — gatherings of women at 67 Glebe Point Road and very soon elsewhere, discovered the commonality of these experiences.

          That same year, Warren Osmond, a tutor at the University of Adelaide had read about the protest over the Miss America Pageant and wrote an article in On Dit, the student newspaper drawing parallels with the university's "Miss Fresher" Pageant. In March 1970, a group of Adelaide Women's Liberation adherents picketed the contest. By May, the first nationwide conference on Women's Liberation, profiling "Female Conditioning" was organised in Melbourne, spreading the movement quickly across Australia.

          These collective conversations about such previously taboo subjects became known as 'Consciousness-raising' and one of the key political differences between older forms of political organising and the new liberation movement. The understanding of women's experiences as universal and systemic, rather than individual and idiosyncratic, became summarised as 'The Personal is Political' and one of the key insights of the Women's Liberation Movement.

          Initially, men participated in the WLM in Australia, but in the period between 1970 and 1971, women began to oust men from their organisations because they tended to dominate the narrative and inform the women participants of how they should proceed.

          Lesbians Are Lovely:

          In 1960s Australia, there was still limited consciousness of 'lesbianism' as a sexual orientation or of 'the lesbian' as a distinct kind of person. Despite this, small groups of lesbians engaged in a social life centred on a few sites and organisations, often rubbing shoulders with men who were part of the camp and bohemian world.

          In 1970s Melbourne, there was a succession of lesbian organisations, groups, clubs and societies that provided an opportunity for women to socialise, discuss the issues affecting their lives and engage in 'consciousness-raising'.

          A more politically inclined movement for lesbian rights also emerged during the 1970s - initially alongside gay men in mixed-sex organisations - many of these women became increasingly dissatisfied with the sexism of some gay men, and many lesbians found themselves pushed into a subsidiary role and into being supportive to the men in their push for mainly homosexual rights changes. Male homosexuals, for their part, responded with complaints about 'moralistic' women and made unflattering and unfair comparisons between the attitudes of lesbians and Christian homophobes.

          Lesbians were also active in Women's Liberation, but had to deal with 'hostile heterosexuals' within their own feminist organisations. Some lesbians felt that Women's Liberation gave too little attention to their concerns, and even that they were stigmatised by heterosexual women. Yet lesbians provided much of the active membership of Women's Liberation, and they would in due course be prominent in staffing refuges and rape crisis centres.

          By 1972 lesbianism was generating its own organisational forms and 'women-centred culture'. A CAMP Women's Association (or CWA) - delightfully sharing the same acronym as the venerable and conservative Country Women's Association - was formed in Sydney, while in Melbourne a group calling itself the Radicalesbians, influenced by ideas emerging from Women's Liberation in London, appeared in 1973.

          Its members called for a 'genderless society', demanded 'liberation' rather than 'equality', and looked forward to the creation of 'a distinct feminist community'. But the Radicalesbian group, like many lesbian organisations, was short-lived as lesbians and their organisations often experienced considerable community hostility.

          By the 1980s new divisions were beginning to open up among Australian lesbians. The widest were between 'political lesbians', who remained closely associated with liberal and radical feminist campaigns around rape and pornography, and 'sex radicals', who saw themselves as `putting the sex back into lesbianism'.


          Since colonisation, abortion in Australia has always been regulated by state (previously colonial) law. Before the end of the 19th century, each colony had adopted the Imperial Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which in turn was derived from English laws from 1837, 1828 and 1803, which made abortion illegal under any circumstance. Since then, abortion law has continued to evolve in each State by case law and changes in legislation.

          Although the contraceptive pill had been available in Australia since 1961, it wasn't until 1972 that the newly elected Labor Government abolished the luxury tax on all contraceptives and add the pill to the National Health Scheme list (thanks to the lobbying efforts of Women's Electoral Lobby).  and even more widely available since 1972, many women were still at risk of unintended and unwanted pregnancies (often getting unsafe and illegal abortions was the only viable option available to them.  

          However, a landmark legal precedent concerning the legality of abortion was set in Australia in 1969, by the Menhennitt ruling in the Victorian Supreme Court case R v Davidson. The case concerned the trial of five people — a surgeon, an anaesthetist, an orderly, the person who referred the patients and the owner of the premises — who had been charged with "unlawfully using an instrument with intent to procure an abortion."

          The ruling determined that abortion was lawfully justified if "necessary to preserve the physical or mental health of the woman concerned, provided that the danger involved in the abortion did not outweigh the danger which the abortion was designed to prevent." The ruling was later largely adopted by courts in New South Wales, and Queensland, and was influential in some other states. Over time this has come to be broadly defined so as to include the mental health of the woman, to which unwanted pregnancy is interpreted as clinically injurious.

          From the 1970s, feminist groups such as the Women’s Abortion Action Campaign in New South Wales lobbied for the repeal of all abortion laws, and “abortion at no cost, with no legal restrictions, no quotas in public hospitals, lots of good clinics run by women, plenty of information about abortion, contraception and sexuality, no guilt trips and no discrimination against young, black or migrant women.”

          In 1970 Adelaide Women's Liberation recognised the need for easily understood information about contraception and planned a pamphlet called What Every Girl Should Know about Contraception. Run off in early 1971 and reprinted several times, it was distributed widely to schoolgirls, working women and university students, among others.

          Equal Pay Protesters, Trades Hall, 1969 - Source: Victorian Women's Trust

          Equal pay activist Zelda D’Aprano chained to the front doors of the Commonwealth Building in Melbourne, October, 1969, to protest the pay inequity between men and women - D'Aprano was a communist and unionist before embracing women’s liberation.  She was a founder of the Women’s Action Committee in 1970 - Source: MOAD

          The ABC investigated the arguments for equal pay in a documentary feature produced in 1966 as part of the Impact series.

          The Female Eunuch cover, 1970 - Source: Harper Collins

          Abortion newspaper headline, The News, Adelaide, 1969 - Source: History Trust of South Australia

          1960s Abortion rally - Source: Sarah Warwick blog

          A repeal abortion from the Crimes Act protest at Sydney Town Hall, 1979 - Source: Green Left Weekly

          Abortion organisations and legal clinics:

          • The Victorian Abortion Law Repeal Association (VALRA) was an Australian pro-choice organisation that Beatrice Faust was president of in 1966.

          • In 1971 the Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) was formed in response to the deaths from the widespread practice of back-yard and self-induced abortion caused by unwanted pregnancies. The Association was campaigning to put an end to the legislation in Australia which enforced abortion as illegal. On the 19th March 1972, ALRA formed an organisation in Queensland to provide unplanned pregnancy counselling and assistance for women, to be known as Children by Choice.
          • The Women's Abortion Action Campaign was established in Sydney in 1972. Its main focus was to mobilize support for the repeal of abortion laws, which involved primarily public meetings, demonstrations and conferences. It also lobbied members of parliament before elections and disseminated information about the legal status and availability of abortion.
          • The Women's Abortion Action Coalition Melbourne (WAAC), established in 1972, was associated with the Women's Abortion Action Campaign Sydney. Using methods similar to those of the Sydney organisation, it held public meetings, demonstrations, conferences and lobbied members of parliament to campaign for support for repeal of the abortion laws in Victoria. The Women's Abortion Action Coalition attracted the participation of the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) women and reached the stage where between 1974 and 1976 almost all the members comprised SWP members. After a socialist feminist day held in early 1978, a new WAAC group emerged in Melbourne.
          • In 1972, feminist academic Dr. Jo Wainer and her husband Dr. Bert Wainer opened Australia's first legal abortion clinic, the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne, Victoria. 
          • In 1974 Dr Ian Edwards opened Preterm - the first non-profit pregnancy termination service in NSW – which operated independently from hospitals.

          I am Woman:

          'I Am Woman' is a song written by Australian musicians Helen Reddy and Ray Burton and appeared on Reddy's debut album I Don't Know How to Love Him, released in May 1971. A new recording of the song was released as a single in May 1972 and became a number-one hit later that year, eventually selling over one million copies. The song came near the apex of the counterculture era and, by celebrating female empowerment, became an enduring anthem for the Women’s Liberation Movement.

          Women's Electorate Lobby:

          The Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) is a feminist, non-profit, self-funded, non-party political, lobby group, which was founded during the height of second-wave feminism in Australia, and was concerned with political intervention rather than consciousness-raising.

          WEL began in February 1972 when 10 women met in the Melbourne home of feminist Beatrice Faust to discuss ways of playing a more influential role in the election planned for December of that year. These women then organised a survey to identify the attitudes of existing members of parliament (MPs) towards women’s issues.

          They designed the survey in the style of a racing form guide. A racing form guide provides an analysis of horses’ past performances in different conditions and other matters that may affect their current condition. This helps people judge which horses are likely to perform well in a particular race. 

          WEL surveyed election candidates to find out their attitudes to child care, education, knowledge of women’s issues, planned parenthood and workplace equality. They then ranked candidates on the basis of their responses as ‘risky’, ‘plodder’, ‘promising’ or ‘winner’.

          The results, when published in a national magazine, indicated that the MPs either:

          • Didn’t take women seriously, or

          • Had a very poor understanding of the issues which affected them.

          Membership of WEL grew rapidly, especially after a second, more comprehensive, survey demonstrated even more clearly the arrogant attitudes of some politicians towards women. WEL was heartened by the more understanding responses of some Labor Party politicians and so was glad to see Labor’s 1972 electoral victory. Four hundred women attended WEL’s first national conference in 1973.

          WEL's mission was, and still is, to create a society where women's participation and potential are unrestricted, acknowledged and respected and where women and men share equally in society's responsibilities and rewards.

          WEL's Achievements:

          • The introduction of the equal pay for work of equal value principle in 1972, which said women should be awarded the male rate of pay, no matter what job they performed
          • Legitimisation, policy development, legislative reform and community education programs on issues such as equal opportunity, sexual harassment and domestic violence
          • Drafting and implementation of state anti-discrimination and federal sex discrimination legislation; and
          • Rape law reform, which has gradually led to significant amendments to the NSW Crimes Act.
          Click HERE to read: The History, Organisation and Achievements of WEL NSW that charts WEL's achievements up until 2004.

          I am Woman, sung by Helen Reddy, 1971: Source: Youtube

          The 45th anniversary of the Women's Electoral Lobby by Matadora Filmmakers - Source: Youtube

          No Fault Divorce Source: BLa

          Women's Liberation Movement - Source: ABC Education
          Indigenous Women:

          In 1970 the Victorian Aboriginal and Islander Women's Council was formedEstablished by Geraldine Briggs, Margaret Tucker, and Merle Jackomos, in conjunction with other prominent women of the time, the Victorian Aboriginal and Islander Women’s Council lobbied government on issues of specific concern to Indigenous women, such as cultural preservations, land ownership and the employment of Aboriginal welfare workers.

          In 1972 the National Council of Aboriginal and Islander Women was formed. Coming directly out of the Victorian Aboriginal and Islander Women’s Council, the national body gave Aboriginal and Islander women across Australia the ability to lobby and voice their concerns to government.  

          The annual conference of the National Council of Aboriginal and Islander Women, 1972 - Source: Victorian Women's Trust

          Additional Outcomes that emerged from the Women's Liberation Movement:

          • Federal Child Care Act passes This Act meant that centre-based day care facilities were funded for children of sick or working parents, soon followed by family day care, after school hours care and playgroups.
          • Single Mother's Benefit Introduced The benefit provided financial assistance to single mothers who were not eligible for the widows pension (eligible only to divorced women, or those whose husbands were in prison or a mental hospital). The benefit was later extended to include all single parents.
          • Government investment in new range of services - For the first time, significant government funding goes into women’s health centres, child care centres, working women’s centres, and Equal Employment Opportunity policies in employment, education, training and housing.
          • Women's refuges funded - Domestic and family violence against women and children was a central concern of second wave feminists. The issue was not recognised by the law, and there was little recourse for protection or escape for many subjected to abuse. In 1975, the Whitlam government funded the first handful of women’s refuges.
          • Women can file for no-fault divorce - The Family Law Act established the principle of no-fault divorce in Australian law. ‘No-fault’ means that a court does not consider which partner was at fault in the marriage breakdown.

          • UN World Conference of the International Women's Year - The first world conference on women was convened by the United Nations in Mexico City, June 19, 1975. Elizabeth Reid, who became the first adviser on women’s affairs to a head of state when appointed by the Whitlam government in 1973, led the Australian delegation.


          • Rape in marriage outlawed in South Australia - 

            South Australia began the process of abolishing the immunity of rape within marriage, in passing the Act which made marital or spousal rape a criminal offence.
          • Employment discrimination on the basis of gender and marital status outlawed - Victorian Equal Opportunity Act created the Equal Opportunity Board and the Office of Equal Opportunity Commissioner. The Act outlawed discrimination based on marital status and gender in employment, education, accommodation and provision of goods and services.
          • Reclaim the Night Rallies - The first Reclaim the Night marches were held to protest violence and sexual assault against women. Many of the protests were held in red light districts and focused particularly on violence against sex workers.
          • Unpaid maternity leave - Women employed on a long-term basis (i.e., 12 months or more) were entitled to 52 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Although, this did not include any maternity leave pay.

          • We Can Do It! - An American World War II wartime poster produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric as an inspirational image to boost female worker morale - Source: Wikipedia
          • 'Sequens' contraceptive pill, Eli Lilly (Australia), c. 1963. Photo: Eloise Coccoli and Michelle Stevenson. Museums Victoria - Source: National Museum Australia  
          • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, 1963 - Source: Biblio
          • Wedding of Keith Neale and Ivy Gallichan, Brisbane, c. 1942 - Source: ABC
          • Rosalie Bognor and Merle Thornton chained to the bar at the Regatta Hotel, 1965 - Source: State Library of Victoria
          • Abortion newspaper headline, The News, Adelaide, 1969 - Source: History Trust of South Australia
          • 1960s Abortion rally - Source: Sarah Warwick blog
          • A repeal abortion from the Crimes Act protest at Sydney Town Hall, 1979 - Source: Green Left Weekly
          • Women’s changing rights and freedoms in the post – WWll Period, Retroactive 2 Stage 5 Australian History And Cd Rom 2Nd Edition - Source: Harleys Educational
          • Bongiorno, Frank (2012), The Sex Lives of Australians : A History. Black, Collingwood, Vic
          • Women Rattle the Chain in Public Bars - Source: ABC Education
          • Not a place for the Gentler Sex - Source: ABC Education
          • Women's Liberation Movement - Source: ABC Education
          • The 45th anniversary of the Women's Electoral Lobby by Matadora Filmmakers - Source: Youtube

          PDF Resources:
          Rape Law Reform.pdf Rape Law Reform.pdf
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          welnsw-history.pdf welnsw-history.pdf
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          Type : pdf