Women’s work still undervalued

Zelda D’Aprano (right) outside Melbourne trades hall, 1969.

A group of women teamed up at Tram Stop 1 on the corner of Bourke and Spencer streets on July 22 to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of a protest against women’s unequal pay by women’s liberationists Zelda D’Aprano and Bon Hull.

D'Aprano and Hull boarded a tram but refused to pay the full fare.

The “equal pay team” talked to commuters on the busy city tram and shared views on why women are still receiving unequal pay in Australia.

In 1912, women’s pay rates were set by law at 54% of men’s. In 1972, the principal of equal pay was enshrined and confirmed by the 1999 Equal Opportunity Act. Yet still, there is no equal pay for men and women in 2011.

For more than 40 years various governments have ignored the disparity between the wages of women in various working sectors.

Women are still paid less than men and bear the brunt of childrearing and housework in family situations.

Last month, an the equal pay rally in Melbourne, up to 5000 female unionists chanted “Parity, not charity” as they marched up Bourke Street to demand increased government funding for pay rises in the community and social services sector.

Women can become commercial pilots, work after marriage or work part-time. We even have a female prime minister and we are constantly assured by the media that we have equality in politics.

However, if you scratch under this veneer there are still many questions to be asked — such as why after 40 years are we still seeking equal and fair pay for women?

D’Aprano has spent much of her life fighting for women’s rights and equal pay. She famously chained herself to the commonwealth government doors in 1969 with a sign that read: “No more male and female rates, one rate only.”

Speaking from the stage at the June equal pay rally, D’Aprano said: “The gap is still there — and all because our work is under-valued. If the women of Australia all refused to sell their skills … if we withdrew our skills all over Australia, our country would close down.”


Why is it in 2011 we now do not have fair treatment of couples who choose to have children. If you are working, when you leave work for the birth of a new baby, there is no longer maternity leave. You can claim parenting payment from centrelink. But if you claim parenting payment you cannot claim the baby bonus. You are given a choice parenting payment or baby bonus. So you can no longer relax and enjoy the arrival of a new baby, you now have the added expenses and financial pressure due to the new arrival and reduced weekly pay.

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