Women's Groups 2013 - Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL)

Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL)

Purpose of the group

WEL WA was part of a national, independent, non-party political, feminist lobby group established to ensure the rights of Australian women were protected. WEL WA lobbied politicians, unions, employers, educationalists and others on behalf of women seeking to change attitudes and practices that discriminated against women.

WEL’s aims were to work towards creating a society where women’s participation and potential were unrestricted, acknowledged and respected and where women and men could share equally in society’s responsibilities and rewards.

WEL promoted the election of candidates whose policies were considerate of women’s needs and also sought to educate the electorate about issues that advanced the aim of equality for women. WEL aimed to influence governments and politicians to recognise inequalities and introduce legislation that enabled women to have equal opportunities and economic independence, as well as the services they needed.

Time period

WEL was established in Victoria in 1972 and became an official organisation in WA in 1973. WEL WA was inaugurated at a well-attended public meeting—120 people signed the attendance register—at 8pm, 20 March 1973 at the Nurses’ Association Meeting Hall in West Perth. At the first general meeting on 8 April 1973, a caretaker executive was established with Pat Giles the first convenor. A constitution was drawn up in 1974 and amended in 1980 when WEL became an incorporated body.

The national WEL and some other state WEL groups still exist but WEL WA was wound up in 2008.

Key achievements

WEL’s first project in WA was a 1973 survey of politicians on price control, amid concern about the rising cost of food.

A series of fundraising luncheons was held in 1973–74 with a wide range of guest speakers discussing contentious issues such as censorship, rape and the incarceration rates of Aboriginal women.

The first State conference held by WEL WA was at the Wollaston Conference Centre in Mount Claremont, attended by 84 members and observers. The topics discussed included feminism, WEL as a lobby group, sexuality and future directions for WEL. State conferences were subsequently held most years and national conferences were also attended by WEL WA members. The fourth national conference was held in Perth in 1976. In 1983, a national and state conference was held at Murdoch University with speakers Dr Barbara Thiering, Margaret Smith, Joan Winch, Sister Veronica Brady, Diana Warnock, Senator Pat Giles and Associate Professor Cora Baldock.

WEL WA held a significant demonstration against the Miss Universe contest held in Perth in 1979.

WEL WA began lobbying for a women’s adviser in 1976. After the election of the Burke Labor Government in 1983, a meeting was held with the Premier to discuss establishing a Women’s Advisory Council. The council was announced in September 1983 and eight of the 20 inaugural members had a connection to WEL. In May 1984, WA’s first women’s adviser was named as Liza Newby, a member of WEL.

WEL picketed the campaign openings of both Liberal and Labor parties during the 1983 election, promoting issues such as refugee funding and the need for a women’s adviser. Soon after the election, the Burke Labor Government set up a women’s interests division within the Premier’s Department, Women’s Advisory Council, women’s information and referral service and equal opportunity legislation. WEL founder Dot Goodrick was the WA Women’s Advisory Council’s first president.

WEL worked closely with other individuals and organisations to achieve equal opportunity legislation, community child care centres to be established, abortion law reform and other women’s equality issues.

WEL was instrumental in getting the Women’s Information and Referral Exchange (WIRE) established in the 1980s. The lobby collaborated with other women to establish women’s refuges and a women’s health care house. It was instrumental in getting the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages changed to enable women to have a choice of surname for their children without having to omit the father’s name on the register.

Key people and positions in the group

  • WEL had an informal structure with a rotating leadership. WEL WA members who became public figures are Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson, former MP Wendy Fatin, former MP Patricia Giles (inaugural convenor) and Diana Warnock, former MP and broadcaster.
  • There were many women who were prominent in public life and many who were not—but they worked hard behind the scenes to improve the status of women.
  • At WEL WA’s inaugural public meeting, the chair was Dorothea Squires from the Women’s Service Guild and speakers were Wendy Fatin (described as mother, student and nurse), Bob Hetherington (University of WA politics lecturer), Leslie Anderson (journalist), Rosalind Denny (King Edward Memorial Hospital matron) and Irene Greenwood.
  • Other significant people included Margot Boetcher, Val Marsden and Ruth Greble.

Sources

  • History of Women’s Electoral Lobby, Perth, WA 1973–1984. Unpublished report written by Pat Burnett.
  • Sawer, Marian. (2008). Making Women Count: A history of the Women’s Electoral Lobby in Australia. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. This history was prepared at the Australian National University with the assistance of a three-year grant from the Australian Research Council.
  • Webpage: http://wel.org.au/index.php/who-we-are/our-history.
  • Information provided by Val Marsden and Yvonne Henderson.


Article Index
Women's Groups 2013
Abortion Law Repeal Association/Association for the Legal Right to Abortion (ALRA)
American Women's Club of Perth (AWC)
Artemis
Association of Civilian Widows of WA Inc
Australian College of Midwives WA Branch (ACM)
Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA)
Beta Sigma Phi
Business and Professional Women Western Australia (BPW)
Catholic Women’s League of Western Australia (Inc)
Chrysalis House Women's Refuge
Cine-Matrix: Women in Film and Television WA
Cockburn Women’s Peace Camp
Combined Equal Pay Committee/WA Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity
Community Midwifery WA
Country Women’s Association (CWA)
Domestic Violence Action Group (Geraldton)
Emily’s List
Equal Opportunity Law Reform Coalition
Fremantle Women’s Health Centre (FWHC)
Girl Guides WA
Graduate Women Western Australia (GWWA)/Australian Federation of University Women (AFUW) Western Australia
Grapevine/Perth Wimmin’s Collective
Gretel Club of Perth (Inc)
Harvest Guild
Incest Survivors Association (Inc.)
Inner Wheel Australia
Inside Out Project
Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Centre
Kalgoorlie Auxiliary of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Karrakatta Club
Kinwomen
Labor Women’s Association
Lespar Library
Living Child Inc.—Safe Village Births
Lutheran Women WA
Marninwarntikura Fitzroy Women’s Resource Centre
Mining Mums
Modern Women's Club
Mothers’ Union Australia
Movement for the Ordination of Women
Muslim Women’s Support Centre of WA (Inc)
Nardine
National Council of Women of Western Australia (previously known as West Australian National Council of Women and Western Australian National Council of Women)
National Council of Jewish Women of Australia—WA section (NCJWA)
Nintirri Centre
Older Women’s Network (OWN WA)
Penguin Club
Perth Ionian Club
Polyhymnia Reading Group
Probus
Rape Crisis Line
Rural Remote Regional Women’s Network (RRR)
Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC)
Sibyl/University of Western Australia Student Guild Women’s Collective
Society of Women Writers WA
Soroptimist International of Western Australia
Starick Services Inc
Status of Women Committee WA—Australian Labor Party
Tradeswomen on the Move
UN Women Australia (formerly UNIFEM Australia)—Perth Chapter Young UN Women Perth Chapter
Union of Australian Women—WA Branch
V.I.E.W. Western Australia
West Australian Women’s Society of Fine Arts and Crafts
War Widows’ Guild
Warrawee Women’s Refuge
Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL)
West Australian Housewives’ Association (Inc)
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
Women in Media
Women’s Information Referral Exchange (WIRE)
Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of Western Australia
Women in Education Coalition
Women in Mining WA (WIMWA)
Women in Sailing (WIS)
Women in Sport Committee of the Western Australian Sports Council
Women in Technology WA (Inc) (WiTWA)
Women Lawyers of Western Australia (Inc) (WLWA)
Women with Disabilities WA Inc (WWDWA)
Women’s Action Alliance (WAA)
Women’s Advisory Council (WAC)
Women’s Broadcasting Cooperative
Women’s Committee of State School Teachers’ Union WA Executive
Women's Committee of the Waterside Workers Federation
Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services (WA)/Women’s Refuge Group of WA (WRG)
Women’s Health and Family Services/Women’s Health Care House/Perth Women’s Centre/Women’s Health Service
Women’s Information Service (WIS)
Women’s Interest Network
Women in Engineering WA (WIE WA)
Women’s International Zionist Organisation (WIZO)
Women’s Liberation
Women’s Service Guilds
Women’s Studies Group
Yanay Yanma
YWCA of Perth
Zonta International
Additional Groups
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