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Page 12 C. WOMEN’S LIBERATION – THE TIMES OF ZELDA D’APRANO
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82. WHAT IS WOMEN’S LIBERATION?
Once upon a time there were lots of separate women living in separate houses and working at separate jobs, who were upset, all on their own, about their private problems. Then one day, they started talking to one another. Soon they discovered that their private problems were all much the same. It made sense that if the problems were all so similar, there must have been some common things causing them.
This was quite a cheery thing to find out. It meant that the women were not just silly or 'hung up', unreasonable or bitchy, funny or neurotic, but that they all shared an uncomfortable situation. It became obvious that one woman on her own can't make much difference, but that a lot of women together can make big changes.
Rivka Pile papers University of Melbourne See Appendix 5
83. WOMAN IS MOVING
In society, women and girls relate primarily to men: any organisation duplicates this pattern: the men lead and dominate, the women follow and submit. We close our meetings to men in order to try and break through this pattern, to establish our own leaderless groups and to meet each other over common experiences as women. If we admitted men, there would be a tendency for them, by virtue of their experience, vested interests, and status in society, to dominate the organisation.
We want, eventually, to be - and help other women to be - in charge of our own lives. Therefore we must be in charge of our own movement, directly, not by remote control. This means that not only those with experience in politics, but all must learn to make their own decisions, both political and personal.
For this reason, groups small enough for all to take part in discussions and decisions are the basic unit of our movement. We feel that the small group makes personal commitment a possibility and a necessity, and that it provides understanding and solidarity. Each small group is autonomous, holding different positions and engaging in different types of activity.
As a federation of a number of different groups, Women's Liberation is essentially heterogeneous, incorporating with it a wide range of opinions and plans for action.
Woman is Moving - A Herstory of the Women's Liberation Movement in Victoria, Zelda D'Aprano papers, State Library of Victoria See Appendix
It is apparent that the human species is in danger of extinction if no measures are taken to reverse not only environmental destruction, but also the destruction of society ...
Women have restricted themselves to the intensive care of husband and family for too long and this is suddenly no longer ethical, much less sane ...
Nan Chelsworth 1971? Ruth Berman papers University of Melbourne See Appendix 5
84. BACKGROUND TO RIGHT TO WORK AND EQUAL PAY DEMANDS
When making a study of industry at the turn of this (20th) century, we find that men began work in offices, clothing factories, textile factories etc. as apprentices, learning the basic knowledge of the industry in order to further their skills or move up the ladder of promotion.
As technology improved, women entered these industries at lower salaries learning the minimum of skills, only to remain in these same positions for life.
These industries in other words have become fragmented, with women being taught one or two basic skills down below, while men undertake the more serious tasks of management or higher skilled labour.
Because women have limited skills, they are aware that their bargaining power is minimal, and they fear for the security of their jobs. The employer class have always women as a labour reserve.
In a period of economic crisis, it is the women who are shunted out, and it is precisely because of this situation that the employers are reluctant to invest money in the training of women in higher skills. They enter the workforce and because of their passive conditioning (it's unladylike to fight the boss) plus their fear of insecurity, are averse to campaigning for higher wages or better conditions; with the result that as more women enter the workforce over a number of years, the wages in this particular industry fall behind.
Men drift out of the industry seeking more remunerative jobs, and men cease to enter the industry; resulting in the industry becoming "woman's work" at very depressed salary rates.
This factor deprived the vast majority of women in industry from obtaining wage justice from the "equal pay" judgement.
Zelda D’Aprano Paper presented at National Women's Liberation Conference in Melbourne August 1971 State Library of Victoria
The Working Women's Group was set up in the middle of 1972 by: Bon Hull; Patricia Filar; Helen Anderson; Barbara Jones; Pat Freeman; Barbara Van Meurs; Rivka Pile; Zoe Phillips; Kay Hamilton; Janey Stone; and Tess Lee-Ack.
WOMEN ON WOMEN - hear them speak
Vivien Brophy "Women in the family"
Zelda D'Aprano "Women at Work"
Myra Roper "Single Women"
Cheltenham Public Hall 8 pm Sat 5 May 1973
Organised by Women's Liberation, Chelsea
85. 1972 EQUAL PAY FOR WORK OF EQUAL VALUE
During 1972 the equal pay issue was again before the Arbitration Court. Almost sixty years of asking, begging and pleading, and women were still cheap labour.
Sylvie Shaw, with the assistance of Bon Hull, Alva Geikie and Libby Brook, had produced a document entitled Women in Employment. Much of this research was used when the Women's Liberation Movement decided to seek leave to place a submission in support of equal pay before the courts. Again the same women assisted Sylvie in her research.
The submission presented came in two parts; one in support of equal pay and the other seeking an equal minimum wage for women.
"The Women's Liberation Movement urges the Commission to award equal pay for work of equal value. We call for rates of pay to be determined according to job content, where the sex of the worker is irrelevant. However, it is not sufficient to grant equal minimum rates for particular job classifications...
We rely on the Commission to be consistent with Convention 100 and make an award, if legally possible, in terms which will prevent employers paying differential actual rates to males and females. Further, the Women's Liberation Movement supports the ACTU's claim to grant women the same minimum rate as men. At present the minimum wage applies only to men ...
The first step to enable women to participate in the workforce on an equal basis is to grant women: EQUAL PAY FOR WORK OF EQUAL VALUE
Zelda D’Aprano Kath Williams, the unions and the fight for equal pay Spinifex 2001 p210 See Appendix 5
Our submission ended with these words: “The Women's Liberation Movement believes in equality for women in all spheres of society. In the employment field we believe that women have the following rights:
1. The right to work.
2. The right to equal job opportunity.
3. The right to equal pay for work of equal value.
4. We feel that discrimination based on sex is a fundamental denial of justice to half the Australian population.”...
The bench brought down a decision granting women equal pay for equal work, but rejected our claim for an equal minimum wage with men ... so we again sought leave to place a submission before the Arbitration Commission when it resumed...
I was selected to present the submission and, after several discussions, the submission was prepared. It wasn't a very lengthy document, for what could we say at this type of case apart from pointing out the anomalies that would be created by an increase in the male minimum wage in reference to equal pay for women?
1. We support the ACTU claim for $11.50 to increase the total wage, and support regular adjustments to salaries;
2. We suggest that the Commission indicate in its decision that it still has an open mind to a further claim for an equal minimum rate, and the establishment of all rates, whether award rates or the minimum wage, without regard to sex. Thank you.
Zelda by Zelda D'Aprano Spinifex Press 1995 p.263-4 See Appendix 5
86. 1972 CHILDCARE
Child Care Centres - When ascertaining the right of women to choose whether or not to have children, we must not forget the large numbers of women who want the right to have children without penalty, without being relegated to the traditional subordinate and ancillary role motherhood has become.
At present, then, the raising of children is the responsibility of each competitive, isolated family, regardless of whether society provides the jobs or financial assistance necessary to do this.
Parents should not have to endure the tremendous strains imposed on them, especially women, in trying to provide for the physical and emotional well-being of their children. Nor should children have to depend on the limited resources of isolated families and of individual women.
Society as a whole should bear the responsibility of providing the best possible environment for the development of all children. In modern urbanised society, a system of free child-care centres, financed by the government but controlled by those who use them would appear to be the most equitable and practicable way to implement this goal....
The training of children of an early age in a social situation can help break down the competitiveness, selfishness, prejudice and authoritarian outlook which the structure of the patriarchal family system helps to promote.
Marilyn Wise Uni of Melbourne Women’s Liberation Archives See Appendix 5
The Prime Minister, Parliament House, Canberra – “Sir, There is an urgent need for government sponsored, free, day-care centres open to all children. Until these centres are established the government must allow the fees paid by working parents for child-care as a tax deduction. Yours etc.” Barbara Wishart about 1973, Women’s Liberation Archives Melbourne University
Fibremakers Child Care Holiday Centre from Fibremakers Mothers' Committee - The working mother faces a variety of problems, the worry of maintaining job and family, worrying about the whereabouts of the children after they leave school, coping with increased marital strains and the fear of dismissal if she is obliged to take time off the job for family reasons.
Each school holiday period brings with it cause for anxiety to the mother for the safety of her children while she works...
We would like to highlight ... the urgent need for Holiday Care Centres from 7.00 am to 5.00 pm situated in the factory municipality catering for age groups from five years to fifteen years.
Thelma Prior Union of Australian Women 1974 Booklet SLV
Mollie Dyer: We need special facilities for Aboriginal women, especially as they are producing the children. While the state keeps on taking the children away from us, placing them into white care or institutions, the system is just reproducing itself. The Aboriginal Child Care Agency is trying to stop this vicious cycle.
Rivka Pile papers, University of Melbourne
87. 1956-75 WOMEN'S STRUGGLE TO BECOME TRAM DRIVERS IN MELBOURNE
As International Women's Year approached, planning Australia's contribution fell largely to the Union of Australian Women.
Among the organisers was Lorri Manning, a bus conductress attached to the North Fitzroy depot. Lorri was the first woman to stand for the position of union delegate and after three attempts became the first woman delegate on the Victorian Executive...
International Women's Year activities build up through 1975 and Lorri Manning called a meeting at the North Fitzroy depot to prepare a concentrated campaign to have the matter resolved before the end of the year. Women met on the 29th June. In July Joyce Barry and Cath Stone appeared before the National Committee on Discrimination, and by August the report was on its way to the Minister for action.
Campaigning stepped up in the depots...
On 5th September Joan Elkington, thoroughly frustrated by her efforts, resigned from her employment with the Board.
She had always felt intensely that women had a moral and legal right to train. A thoroughly competent driver of various machines, she was less concerned that "a tram driver with just over a year's experience could earn as much as a woman who spent 15 years working as a conductress".
To her the moral issue was all pervasive and its rejection devastated her. The Collingwood Town Hall was the venue for the next general meeting and the promised facilities were made available for discussion of a motion to rescind the 1956 ban.
Speakers were restricted to three a side and only allowed 5 minutes each. A conductress from Essendon spoke against rescinding (the ban), arguing that when women get into trouble they always call for a man. A driver used the existence of women bus drivers in NSW to make his point:
"What will be the situation when your sons are looking for jobs as bus drivers and can't get them because women are doing it? From the time a woman leaves the church or registry office, he is bound by law to support his wife and family. A woman is not. Given time, women will get a monopoly on this job of driving"...
The final count was declared as 267 for rescinding and 181 against. By this time women employed by the Tramways numbered only 270 in 4,500.
Although Preston and Essendon depots immediately took action to prevent women training at their depots, Joyce Barry, aged 52, became the first classified woman driver on 5 December 1975.
She had been a conductress for 27 years.
Margaret Bevege History of Women's Struggle to become Tram Drivers in Melbourne 1956-1975 paper presented at Women & Labour Conference 1975 Bon Hull papers University of Melbourne archives.
88. 1974 TRAMWAY WOMEN'S STRUGGLE BETRAYAL
The tramways male employees have persistently boycotted all meetings connected with the tramway's women's attempt to achieve equality; women are not allowed to train as drivers, nor can they generally rise above being conductresses.
The Women's Liberation Movement wholeheartedly support the women in their struggle.
Vashti's Voice July 1973 Melbourne University archives Women’s Liberation Archives
Letter from group of Melbourne tram conductresses,
9 September, 1974 :
Mr P Ryan, General President, Australian Tramway & Motor Omnibus Employees Association
“Dear Sir, We the undersigned female members of the Australian Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees Association ... believe we are being victimized by the branch members in Victoria and appeal to you as the General President of the Association to right this matter.
We are being deprived of the right to become tram drivers through a resolution passed at a stop work meeting in 1956.
We have been told that this resolution has to be rescinded before we can become tram drivers ...
We understand that our union ... believes in equal rights, equal opportunities and equal pay and therefore no discrimination of the sexes ...
We feel that if this matter is not resolved, the principle of unionism will be downgraded in the eyes of genuine members of the Trade Union movement.”
For Love or Money: a pictorial history of women and work in Australia Megan McMurchy, Margot Oliver, Jeni Thornley Penguin 1983
89. 1974 TAKING MEN'S JOBS? (Again)
Minimum Wage Case
Married women in the paid workforce are increasingly being accused of intensifying unemployment and of taking men's or young people's jobs.
These attacks also imply that women are responsible for the breakdown in social relations by the diversions of their energy from reproduction, nurturing and socialising functions within the family, primarily through their participation in the paid workforce. Consequently, they argue strongly that women should return to the home to take up the traditional maternal role.
These arguments insidiously work through women's liberationists' viewpoints of equal opportunity, claiming that liberationists and society deny women the choice and right to stay at home.
But while holding some truth in that the women who stay at home are financially exploited and given low status, they are based on the false assumption that an environment exists in which women can make a free choice of whether to work or not.
But the 1974 Minimum Wage Case established equal minimum wage for females and males. This was opposed by the National Civic Council and its offshoots.
Western Union Refuge Group University of Melbourne See Appendix 5
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