Find her-story: part two

Feminism in Australia (1980s – today)
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The history of feminism in Australia between 1980 and today has been marked by significant milestones and ongoing struggles for gender equality. Brush up on the stories from 1900s to 1970s in part one

During this era, women began to hold positions of power. These included politicians, judges, union leaders and a Governor General. Search for the achievements of Joan Child, Jennie George, Lowitja (Lois) O’Donohoe, Julia Gillard, Mary Gaudron, Quentin Bryce and many others on Trove.  

Side-by-side photos of Julia Gillard and Quentin Bryce
Sam Cooper, Julia Gillard... at the National Press Club, Canberra, 24 February 2010, nla.obj-132074485; Lorrie Graham, Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Sydney, 2002, nla.obj-152764725 

1980s – 2000 

In the 1980s, the focus moved to reproductive rights, equal pay, and workplace discrimination. Women's rights organisations such as the Women's Electoral Lobby and the National Foundation for Australian Women played a key role in advocating for these issues and pushing for policy change. 

Group of women protesting in the rain, holding umbrellas and signs that say: 'Rape laws violate women' and 'abolish all sex laws enforce laws of assault'
Members of the Womens Electoral Lobby protest outside Parliament House..., 1975,  

In 1984, the Sex Discrimination Act was introduced, which made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, marital status, pregnancy, or the potential to become pregnant. This was a significant step forward for women's rights in Australia. 

The 1990s saw the emergence of third-wave feminism in Australia, which was characterised by a focus on diversity and inclusivity. This wave of feminism looked to address issues such as intersectionality, which recognises the ways in which different forms of oppression intersect. This includes the intersection between sexism and misogyny, and racism, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic inequality, age, and disability. Access research and reports on intersectionality in Trove

2000s – Today 

The 2000s and 2010s witnessed several milestones and significant events. Domestic violence, sexual harassment, and the gender pay gap became major focuses for the feminist movement.  

In 2010 the Paid Parental Leave scheme was introduced, which enabled eligible primary carers to receive 18 weeks of paid parental leave at the national minimum wage. You can read about the scheme and listen to public media responses in Trove. It was this same year, that Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was appointed. 

The international #MeToo movement in 2017 increased awareness of sexual harassment and assault. Millions of people shared their stories online using the #MeToo hashtag, sparking a global conversation. This led to changes in laws and policies around the world. In Trove, listen to ABC National Radio interviews relating to the movement

In 2019, GST- or the “tampon tax” – was removed from menstrual products. The argument for this change is “reported on” this satirical article published by The Chaser in 2000

On the 15 March 2021, Australian’s all over the country, took to the streets to protest gendered violence and promote gender equality. The March 4 Justice protests were a powerful display of solidarity and demand for change. View photographs from March 4 Justice protests in Trove. 

Large group of protestors standing in a square holding signs promoting women's rights. Many of the protestors are wearing face masks.
Toby Woolley, Crowd at the Adelaide Women's March 4 Justice protest, Tarntanyangga / Victoria Square, 15 March 2021,

The unpaid work of women has long been documented and can be looked back on through Trove. As one article from 1901 put it: “Unpaid work begins in the home”. A Canberra Times article from 1990 reports on a survey to be undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to assess "the value of unpaid work". This same article outlines some of the other key concerns of the time (and today), including the "critical necessity of child-care". 

This concern is still relevant today with a recent 2023 Status of Women report showing that in the five years following childbirth, women’s earnings drop by an average of 55%, while men’s earnings remain unchanged. Report findings also show the average woman aged 15-64 years does 55.4 hours of work a week with 34.7 hours of these unpaid. 

This same report also outlines that the gender pay gap in Australia appears immediately after graduation. And while the full-time gender pay gap is at a record low, women working full-time still earn on average 13.3% less, and when approaching retirement have 23.1% less superannuation. 

Discover the history of unpaid women’s work and the challenges of achieving pay equality in Trove. 

Tell Her-Story 

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