About the Project
Women lawyers stand at the forefront of women's participation in Australian civic life.
As Mary Jane Mossman writes of the first women lawyers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while 'the role of women doctors could be explained as an extension of women's roles in the 'private sphere'; by contrast, women lawyers were clearly 'intruding on the public domain explicitly reserved to men'.
This 'intrusion' is far from complete. The last 100 years show many new women at the 'rolling frontier' of the Australian legal profession, entering previously male-only areas of practice, adopting new ways of practicing, taking up elite legal positions and entering the profession from increasingly diverse socio-political, ethnic and religious backgrounds.
'The last 100 years show many new women at the 'rolling frontier' of the Australian legal profession, entering previously male-only areas of practice, adopting new ways of practicing, taking up elite legal positions and entering the profession from increasingly diverse socio-political, ethnic and religious backgrounds.' Read more
This exhibition showcases the experiences of women nominated for the Australian Research Council funded oral history project on Trailblazing Women and the Law. The project, seeded by a pilot project between the National Library of Australia and the Australian National University (ANU) in 2010, evolved into a joint project of the ANU and the University of Melbourne from 2013. It drew upon the support of Australian Women Lawyers, the peak body for women lawyers' associations throughout Australia, the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Court of Australia, the National Foundation for Australian Women and the National Library of Australia.
Over the past six years, hundreds of women were nominated as possible interviewees for the project.
As the project was funded for a finite (45) oral history interviews and those interviews were driven by the research objectives of the academic investigators of the project, it was determined that it was important to showcase in different ways all the women nominated up until June 2016, as having made a significant contribution as women lawyers to Australia. The exhibition has also identified lawyers already on the Australian Women's Register .
This is in no measure a full account of Australian women lawyers who have made wonderful contributions to our society and there are no doubt many more who haven't been identified in this exhibition. That is purely due to the constraints of setting up something as ambitious as this project is with its limited resources. It is also testament to how important it is to immediately mark the contributions so far brought to the project's attention!
Professor Kim Rubenstein, November 2016