Big interest in feminist ideas


The F Conference, a historic conference given the long gap between such gatherings, drew a diverse, non-separatist, multi-generational crowd . About 500 gathered at NSW Teachers' Federation over April 10-11 to discuss feminist ideas and campaigns.

The conference affirmed that the struggle for a more socially just world was far from over. Women are yet to achieve equal pay for equal work, we are yet to win full control over our bodies (with 19th century criminal laws still in place in NSW and Queensland), and the job of raising the next generation of workers is still privatised within the family unit.

These and many other topics were discussed by people from across Australia, including high school women.

Activists hosted workshops on a range of issues. However, with a few notable exceptions, they were not invited to address the plenary sessions.

Plenary speakers included 2001-'02 Corporate Business Woman of the Year Elizabeth Broderick, who argued for more women in the corporate world, and the Nature Conservation Council's Cate Faehrmann, who called for the "feminisation" of the corporate culture and advocated support for women's businesses.

A more radical view was presented by Larissa Behrendt, professor of law and director of research at the UTS Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, who criticised the government's NT intervention, and Elena Jeffreys, from Scarlet Alliance, who delivered an impassioned plea to support legal protections for sex workers.

Sally McManus, state secretary of the Australian Services Union, encouraged community support for the union's pay equity campaign, particularly the national day of action on June 10.

Radical voices in the audience were well received. Criticism of the description by Women's Electoral Lobby's Eva Cox of grass roots activism as "rescue work" was well received. Her pleas not to be "too hard" on women MPs and her assertion that the important thing for women was to "to get behind the government and write policy" were also challenged.

Workshops discussing the next steps in the campaign for abortion rights and trans people's rights were well attended.