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Exhibitions

  • Unbroken Spirit: Women in Broken Hill

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Clarke, Jeanine (1959 - )

Born
1959
Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation
Administrator, Compliance Officer and Dental nurse
Alternative Names
  • Hibberd, Jeanine (birth)
  • Whitehair, Jeanine (former married name)

Summary

In 1981 Jeanine Clarke formally – and successfully – challenged union policy in Broken Hill preventing married women from working in certain professions. She was the first woman to do so.

Details

Jeanine Clarke was born and raised in Broken Hill. Both parents were heavily involved with local voluntary organisations and Jeanine, like her brother, was a member of several local sports teams. Her maternal grandparents, Tom & Billie Dickinson, owned and ran Broken Hill business Disposals. Her paternal grandparents, Les and Lillian Hibberd, were also well established in the town and Jeanine's grandfather worked in the mines for many years. After completing year eleven at Broken Hill High School, Jeanine began training as a dental nurse with the Town Dental Clinic and was awarded her dental assistant certificate. In 1980 she married her high school sweetheart, Mark Whitehair.

Union policy in Broken Hill dating back to the 1920s stipulated that married women in certain professions - primarily retail and administration - were barred from employment in order to keep jobs open for younger, unmarried women and to regulate the family living wage. Jeanine was told by her employers that she would have to resign. She refused, and was dismissed in July 1981. Seeking advice from the Anti-Discrimination Board established under premier Neville Wran, Jeanine was assisted by Carmel Niland (Councillor for Equal Opportunity), Irene Moss and June Williams. She took her case to the Sydney courts and by December 1981 had been reinstated. She chose to take up employment with the Broken Hill Hospital.

Though Jeanine lodged her case against her employer, the Town Dental Clinic, the result was an overturning of broader union policy long enforced by the Barrier Industrial Council of Broken Hill that had prohibited many married women from working. The policy had been designed in theory to protect the Broken Hill community, but by 1981 was out-dated, arbitrary in its administration (professionally trained women were exempt) and based upon an inaccurate assumption that all married women wanted to be at home raising a family. Jeanine's case opened the way for many women to marry without fear of dismissal.

After many years in Broken Hill, Jeanine moved to Canberra and now lives and works in Adelaide.

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Fighting for what's right', Barrier Daily Truth, 5 March 2009, p. 2; 'Jeanine looks back on a turbulent time', Barrier Daily Truth, 25 February 2009, p. 6; Hope, Deborah, 'Women Up Against the Barrier', Sydney Morning Herald, 4 July 1981.

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