Burning down the house?: feminism, politics and women's policy in Western Australia, 1972-1998

Jasmina Brankovich

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

This thesis examines the constraints and options inherent in placing feminist demands on the state, the limits of such interventions, and the subjective, intimate understandings of feminism among agents who have aimed to change the state from within. First, I describe the central element of a "femocratic" policy machinery as a three-tiered network of politicians, public servants, and women in community organisations and political lobbies, who were agents of a particular brand of feminism. I focus on the formation of a women's information service, passage of equal opportunity legislation, and a legislative decriminalisation of early abortion, as case studies where these networks were most effective in engendering change. Second, the politics of the 1970s Perth women's movement shared a heritage of peculiarly Australian tradition of social liberalism, where the state intervened to equalise the unequal social order. The "feminism" articulated within the state was influenced by social liberalism, but was also configured and reconfigured according to the specific Western Australian political context. Third, the material obtained in interviews with women politicians and senior bureaucrats constituted the most important source of the women's understandings of the politically volatile arenas of public life in which they worked. In particular, insights gathered in this material underscored and reinforced the complexities of feminist involvement with the state and the fragile, contraditory nature of feminist gains. This thesis makes a contribution to the under-researched field of Australian feminist political participation, spread across the conventional academic spectrum of disciplines, while bringing together an important body of relevant feminist analysis.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007

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