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'Australian and International Feminisms 1975 - 2005 Where We've Been and Where We're Going'

This special edition of the journal Social Alternatives will be co-launched by Hon Cath Cusack and Hon Meredith Burgmann at the Jubilee Room, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney this coming Thursday 1st September at 6.00 pm.

Reports of the death of Feminism are greatly exaggerated. In fact She appears to be thriving and multiplying, with Feminisms being the term now used to embrace the ways and means that empowerment by and for women is continuing into the 21st Century.

The Australian and International Feminisms (A&IF) Conference at the Women’s College within Sydney University, 12-14 December 2004, had its origins in the (Other) Feminisms Conference at Queensland University’s Women’s College, 12-16 July 2003. At the 2003 Conference Dinner Susan Magarey of Adelaide University and editor of Australian Feminist Studies pointed out that the interdisciplinary feminist journal HECATE, edited by Carole Ferrier since its inception, would turn 30 in 2004. The first-founded and longest lasting of the extant Australian feminist scholarly publications warranted a special conference in celebration of that achievement.

One hundred and fifty women registered from across four continents and over 104 individual papers were delivered in five parallel sessions, as well as the opening and closing panel plenaries. The first day was designed to develop the A&IF Conference esprit. Delegates were welcomed to the Country by Mrs Sylvia Scott of Metro Land Council, and to the City by the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore MP. Irina Dunn of the NSW Writers Centre convened a poetry performance session, Sappho’s Sisters, and one of these sisters, Jeni Nixon, has orchestrated a selection of their poetry for this publication.

The editors have brought together this volume of Social Alternatives (itself a veteran forum for social justice issues and also a journal most worthy of celebration as it enters its 28th year) with a choice of papers that represents the diversity of issues raised at the A&IF 2004 Conference. This process also gave particular attention to the concerns of constituencies of women that have been under-represented - and have often perceived themselves as having been silenced - by Feminism forums in the past.

Veteran second-wave feminist activist and former NSW educational femocrat, Joan Bielski, gave the closing summary address at the A&IF 2004 Conference, and she has since refined her speech to provide the initial overview for this collection of where we’ve been in the last 35 years – as well as providing her perceptive forecast of what might also prove useful where we’re going in Feminisms’ continuing agenda.

**The debate on sex-trafficking has been contentious and obviously in need of border crossings. From Monash University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Crimonology, Marie Segrave and Sanja Milivojevic bring a fresh and immediate perspective to the economic issues involved in gendered migration and globalisation, and Maria McMahon, of the Scarlet Alliance opens the perspective further with her exposition of the complexity of transnational sex-workers’ realities.**

**With Elena Jeffreys "In Defence of Prostitution" and Janelle Fawkes on "Sex Working Feminists and the Politics of Exclusion", the three Scarlet Alliance papers go some way to redress that omission which Joan Bielksi regrets when she notes that, in the past, … ‘we have failed to consult with or listen to sex workers and be guided by them about their preferred law reforms.’ An on-going and inclusive dialogue has at last begun.**

New Zealander Prudence Fisher’s research as a clinical psychologist with adolescent girls in Auckland is opening up a Pandora’s box of fraught issues in the sexology of women’s liberation and gender identity.

From Queensland University of Technology, Sue Carson looks at new perspectives on literary critical studies as she inquires into the conflicting demands of feminism and nationalism just as - in the writerly and academic corridors beyond the bamboo curtain - East met West in the production of women’s literature.

Feminist Theologist, Elaine Lindsay, gives a wise and measured critique of the consequences for women and for society overall - vis a vis western society’s dominant legal, judicial, social and cultural institutions - of the ‘outright rejection of things religious by secular feminists’ of the second wave women’s movement.

UK social-scientist Katherine Johnson looks at 30 years of transgender studies and shows how transsexualism has raised issues relating to key feminist analytic categories of sex, gender, sexuality and the body.

The Australian Lesbian Medical Association (ALMA) representatives, Ruth McNair, Carol Booth and Liz Rickman, outline the emergence of this now powerful national lobby group that is achieving integration and empowerment for both medical practitioners and patients at local, national and global levels.

From Melbourne University, Jennifer Oriel’s "Feminist Declaration Of Sexual Rights" has, at its core, ‘the belief that the suppression of sexual equality is the most important political issue facing society today.’ It is a powerful document, and we are certain that it will be conveyed from these pages into many public forums and into many secondary and tertiary classrooms.

Victorian State President of the NTEU Jeannie Rea’s state-of-the-nation essay on women and unions is a must-read and must-use in every educational venue where debate can be generated regarding worker participation in the policies and structures that deal with workers’ rights. We are at a critical point in the history of unionism and feminism. As Jeanie Rea asks: ‘If unions didn’t matter, then why would the Government and big business be so intent on their destruction?’

Finally, Judy Lattas, Director of the Institute for Women’s Studies at Macquarie University, takes us to the brink of American gun-culture and examines the proposition that, for many in the USA. ‘… the gun has come to symbolize the opportunity to embrace one’s freedom. Libertarian feminism requires, for young women in the new era, what I call "the supplement of the gun".’ What do young Australian feminists think?

We hope this publication will lead to much feedback and to the widening of the debate on the issues raised at the Australian and International Feminisms 2004 Conference. Eds.


Launch Event RSVP: Michelle Lawson, Parliament House TEL: 9230 2915


Contact the Editors:

Professor Elizabeth Webby, University of Sydney: TEL: 9351 6835 or Marilla North: TEL: 4784 3442 Mob: 0424 782 125

To interview individual Contributors for contact details- please ring Marilla as above or email