By Ashleigh Leck
Women’s rights in Australia. On the surface, one may assume Australia followed in the steps of the big powers like England and America but as you dig deeper you realise that Australia was in fact one of the earliest countries to recognise women as equals. In fact, Australia was the 2nd country in the world to grant women the right to vote. Women in Australia, with the exception of Indigenous women, were granted the right to vote and to be elected at federal elections in 1902.
Women like Edith Cowan made their mark on Australia, through her work of advocacy for the rights and welfare for women and children. In 1894, Cowan was one of the founders of the Karrakatta Club (the first women's social club in Australia). She later helped to found the Children's Protection Society (in 1906) whose lobbying resulted in the creation of the Children's Court the following year. In 1921, Cowan was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia as a member of the Nationalist Party, becoming Australia's first female to serve as a member of parliament. Her impact on Australia remains prominent as she features on the $50 note (since 1995) and in 2001 she was one of the first women to be included in the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.
On the 24th of June 2010, the next step of Australian women’s right was yet again taken with the election of the 1st female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Her election marked a turning point in Australia’s history, with Gillard serving as the longest Prime Minister since John Howard.
In the future, who knows where women will take this country and even the world. We, as a community, should use our education to go out into the world to make a difference. Let’s make history.
“there is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish” (Michelle Obama)