The roles and visibility of women in Brisbane's social protests 1967-1982

Jennifer O'Dempsey

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis will examine the roles and visibility of women in Brisbane during
the social protests between 1967 and 1982. The thesis begins by exploring the
situation of women in the city of Brisbane, and more broadly in the state of
Queensland. A search for secondary reading material on Queensland women,
and their protest activities, provided a limited number of secondary sources.
As sources on Australian women’s activities, for the period of interest,
focused on the southern states, a gap was identified in the history of protest
and political activities in Brisbane. This gap has provided an opportunity to
add this original contribution, a work of social history, to the historical
narrative of women’s experiences.
The thesis will argue that women played a central role in activism in
Brisbane during the period studied. Through this activism, they changed
Queensland society in important ways. I will argue that the current
historiography has overlooked the roles and visibility of politically active
women in 1960s and 70s Brisbane, leaving the historical narrative
incomplete. I will identify women who played important roles, and the
challenges they met.
Protest activity in Brisbane took on a different flavour from activities
in other Australian states and internationally. Brisbane had its own, local,
concerns that saw protest activity develop and continue over the fifteen years
of this study. A particular and peculiar state government with a focused
agenda set on economic progress, a conservative society dominated by
patriarchy, a climate that encouraged languor and torpor, and underlying hints
that all was not quite as it seemed brought a very localised series of issues to
the forefront in Queensland. This led to political unrest and activism.
From 1967, political activity was dynamic in the city and, indeed, the
period saw a significant increase in the number of women who took up
activist roles. An outbreak of protest activity began in Brisbane when the
federal parliament passed the National Service Act, in 1964, conscripting
soldiers who would be sent to the Vietnam War. Since this decision mostly
affected young people, they mobilised quickly, and were joined by the Old
Left, and organisations committed to peace.
The period covers the Vietnam War and the 1967 Civil Liberties
campaign. In 1971, the Springbok rugby union team visited, and parallel to
that a range of local issues led to battles between the Left and the Queensland
Government. The Women’s Liberation movement emerged, and the younger
generation of women enthusiastically embraced its promise.
I have interviewed women involved in the protest activity and their
testimony, included in the thesis, provides significant primary source material
not captured elsewhere in the literature about the period. Women in Brisbane,
between 1967 and 1982, moved from being almost silent in the background,
to initiating and undertaking their own activism, an activism that would
identify, understand, progress, and improve the status of women in the state
of Queensland.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Wallace, Joy, Principal Supervisor
  • Villar, Oliver, Principal Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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