By Tracy Sorensen
DARWIN — When the Country Liberal Party Northern Territory government announced it would axe Darwin's Women's Information Centre, feminists here began two courses of action: a campaign in defence of the centre, and a plan to create an independent centre of their own.
The first tack failed when the NT government's Expenditure Review Committee (which has also closed schools and cut funding for Aboriginal services) forced the WIC to close on December 31. But by then, an office in the Chin Arcade in Cavenagh Street called the Women's Embassy had already been open for three months.
"We can't replace the WIC, and we don't have any intention of doing so", embassy collective member Sue Leigh told Green Left. The WIC had provided professional services for women, while the embassy would function, as its brochure says, as a "place for information seekers and sharers and a place for people to work in and act from".
The premises had already been a focus for Darwin's progressive community when they had been used by Darwin Residents Against War during the Gulf War. When the Women's Embassy took over from DRAW, it decided to function on the same financial basis: weekly pledges from about 50 supporters (women and men) of between $2.50 and $10.
Three discussion groups are currently meeting — on public transport, pornography and the portrayal of women in the media — with a view to starting up others.
In conjunction with the Environment Centre, the Women's Embassy ran a "bus day" on November 25, which focussed on the need to improve public transport for the sake of the environment and women's mobility and safety. (Darwin is a particularly car-dependent place, where to get on a bus is virtually viewed as a social embarrassment.)
"The women's disco and newsletter collective also meets here. And there is talk of starting up a women's writing group, and maybe a women's health group. It's only three months down the track. It's a matter of women coming to this group and organising from this office", said Sue Leigh.
The embassy is currently open on Wednesdays 1-5 p.m. For more information phone (089) 81 3141.