Feminism in Australia: A History
Feminism has been defined as “the belief that women are, and should be, treated as equal to men in all spheres of life” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2015). The feminist movement has fought for women’s rights and equality for over two hundred years, and whilst considerable progress has been made, the fight is far from over. In Australia, the feminist movement has a long and complex history which can be traced back to the early days of European settlement.
2. Early Feminism in Australia
The first wave of feminism in Australia was characterised by a focus on obtaining political rights and equality with men. This wave began in the late 19th century and lasted until the early 20th century. One of the key figures during this period was Louisa Lawson, who was a writer, publisher and social activist. Lawson was a strong advocate for women’s rights, and her newspaper The Dawn was instrumental in raising awareness of issues such as domestic violence, child marriage and unequal pay.
During the early 20th century, Australian women gradually won some key political rights which had previously been denied to them. In 1902, the Commonwealth Franchise Act was passed, which gave white women the right to vote in federal elections. In 1908, Aboriginal women were also given the right to vote in federal elections. In 1911, the first woman was elected to federal parliament – Mary Derbyshire. In 1949, Australian women finally gained equality with men in regards to voting rights, with all women over the age of 21 being given the right to vote in state and federal elections.
3. Late-20th Century Feminism in Australia
The second wave of feminism in Australia began in the 1960s and continued until the 1980s. This wave was characterised by a focus on issues such as reproductive rights, sexual liberation and workplace discrimination. One of the key figures during this period was Germaine Greer, who is an Australian writer and academic. Greer’s book The Female Eunuch is widely regarded as one of the most influential feminist texts of all time.
During the late 20th century, Australian women made significant progress in achieving equality with men. In 1984, Sex Discrimination Act was passed, which made it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of their gender. In 1986, The Family Law Act was passed, which gave women equal rights to men in relation to divorce, property settlement and child custody. In 2002, The Equal Opportunity for Women in Employment Act was passed, which aims to promote gender equality in the workplace.
Feminism is an important movement which has fought for women’s rights and equality for over two hundred years. In Australia, the feminist movement has a long and complex history which can be traced back to the early days of European settlement. The feminist movement has made significant progress in achieving equality for women in Australia; however, there is still a long way to go before true equality is achieved.