By Melanie Sjoberg
ADELAIDE — More than 100 women participated in a general meeting on June 27 to discuss the rebuilding of the women's liberation movement here. The meeting was organised by activists who felt that the large attendance at IWD and Reclaim the Night marches, as well as a general disgust with the cutbacks to women's services, reflected a need for a more unified response and assessment of how women have been organising.
The meeting opened with a panel of speakers outlining the past, present and thoughts on the future of the movement.
Connie Frazer, from the Tuesday Afternoon Group, stated that the movement had been hampered since 1972 by the ALP taking over the agenda. She reminded the meeting of the original demands of the movement, such as free, safe available contraception; equal pay; free 24-hour child-care; socialised housework and a minimum income for all. She said that these had still not been met and needed to be fought for.
An activist at Flinders University, Pam Achiabelco, provided an insight into how newly radicalising women find the movement. She referred to her experiences at the 1992 NOWSA conference as an opportunity to learn and become empowered through solidarity with other women. She thought the movement needed to become more visible, more accessible and develop the framework in which we can also share our experiences with men.
Monica Chiappe, a member of CISLAC and Casa Chile, said that women's liberation was not a matter of interest only to women in developed capitalist countries. She told of the peasant and indigenous women fighting for human rights in Latin America and of the difficulties for women trying to organise under extremely oppressive conditions.
President of the Trades and Labour Council Lena Sudano described the influence of feminism on the gains of nurses under the present system. She said that nurses
have double the level of unionisation of women in the rest of the work force and have managed to achieve national rates of pay and career structures.
General discussion identified the fragmentation of the movement, yet acknowledged that women were still active around many issues. There was also a sense that it would be necessary to rebuild the movement without making the mistakes of the past.
Speakers suggested the need for united campaigns to resist the current anti-feminist backlash. The ALP was identified as the progenitor of attacks on services and women's jobs and therefore the movement needed a strategy that challenges this. It was also acknowledged the lesbians had played a central role in building the movement.
Several specific issue groups were projected, and it was agreed that the organising collective would plan another meeting for Sunday, Aug 1 .