Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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Exhibitions

  • From Lady Denman to Katy Gallagher: A Century of Women's Contributions to Canberra

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Women's Studies Program, Australian National University (1976 - )

Australian National University

From
1976
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Occupations
Tertiary education institution
Alternative Names
  • Centre for Women's Studies

Summary

The Women's Studies Program was established at the Australian National University in 1976 as the result of activism and political pressure applied by students who were connected to the Women's Liberation movement. In the first instance, the program's key aims were to explore the position and representation of women in Australian and other societies, the forces producing female subjectivity and women's experiences of femininity. Moving the examination of these questions into the academy was an important step in the development of a feminist critique of existing disciplines and institutional structures and the development of feminist scholarship in general.

Details

The introduction of the Women's Studies Program was approved by the Faculty of Arts and the Board of the School of General Studies at the Australian National University in 1974 as an interdisciplinary course for advanced-year students. In January 1976, Dr Ann Curthoys was appointed as a Lecturing Fellow to develop and teach the course as a full-year single unit. It was described at the time as 'concerned with the study of women in society, and the biological, psychological, social, cultural, political and economic dimensions of gender differentiation' (ANU Calendar, 1977). The Program was administratively attached to the History Department.

After two years of teaching the course, Curthoys transferred to the University of Technology Sydney in February 1978 (she returned to ANU as Professor of History in 1994) and Dr Susan Magarey succeeded her as lecturer. The early years of the program featured a number of lecturers from a range of departments such as History, English, Psychology, Philosophy, Demography, Sociology and Anthropology, as well as guest lecturers Senator Susan Ryan, Sara Dowse (who had been head of the Women Affairs Unit in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 1974-77) and Jenny Macklin (later a Labor minister). Magarey was later joined by Julia Ryan as a temporary lecturer (1981-82). In 1983, Magarey went to the University of Adelaide as the founding Director of the Research Centre for Women's Studies.

In 1984, Dr Dorothy Broom (Department of Sociology) was appointed lecturer and convenor of the program. Dr Jill Julius Matthews (Department of History) was also appointed lecturer in 1984, becoming convenor in 1987, a role which alternated between them. By the late 1980s, the program offered four annual and two semester units, a 4th year honours program, a Graduate Diploma, a Master of Letters and higher degrees by research. It also supported a Resource Unit on Women and Gender which developed teaching bibliographies to inject gender issues into other Faculty of Arts courses.

After a period of financial cutbacks and uncertainty about the Program's longevity, a review of the Program resulted in the ANU Council resolving in September 1995 that the Program be designated the Centre for Women's Studies, with Matthews as Director (she had been promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1991 and Reader in 1994). Dr Jan Jindy Pettman (Department of Political Science) was appointed Director and Reader from the beginning of 1997. At that time, there were four lecturers: Dr Jill Matthews, Dr Rosanne Kennedy, Dr Fiona Paisley and Dr E Wilson.

In 2001, the 25th anniversary of the Women's Studies Program was celebrated with a seminar featuring current and former staff including Ann Curthoys, Susan Magarey and Liz O'Brien. In recent years, Women's Studies was been taught as a Gender, Sexuality and Culture major in the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, and as Gender and Cultural Studies in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. In 2011 the ANU Gender Institute was established as a cross-campus virtual institute to bring together researchers in this field.

Sources used to compile this entry: From Lady Denman to Katy Gallagher: A Century of Women's Contributions to Canberra, Australian Women's Archives Project, February 2013, http://www.womenaustralia.info/exhib/ldkg; Rebecca Devitt and Melinda Mawson, What's in a Name? 25 Years of Women's Studies at the ANU, http://arts.anu.edu.au/gender/page2.html.

Related entries

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Archival resources

Australian National University Archives

  • Council minutes, 1995 - 1996, AU ANUA 198; Australian National University Archives. Details
  • Records of Professor Jill Matthews, 1966 - 2008, AU ANUA 424; Australian National University Archives. Details
  • Records of the Women's Studies Program, AU ANUA 22; Australian National University Archives. Details
  • Records of the Women's Studies Program, AU ANUA 102; Australian National University Archives. Details

Maggie Shapley

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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ISSN 2207-3124