2017 Dr Gill Hicks MBE
Topic: Peace – Who Cares?
Gill has dedicated her life to building peace. In 2012 she returned to Australia where she operates nationally and internationally through her not-for- profit MAD (Making a Difference) for Peace network.
Gill has said that her rescuers saved her from living in a state of perpetual anger. The urgency of working for peace has led Gill to what she calls her second life, built on her lived experience from survival to rehabilitation as a double amputee.
2016 Guest speaker: Tanya Hosch
Tanya Hosch, who was Joint Campaign Director and the public face of RECOGNISE and is now General Manager, Inclusion and Social Policy at the AFL was the guest speaker at the 2016 Annual Luncheon. RECOGNISE is the movement to raise community awareness and support to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution and deal with the racial discrimination within it.
Tanya examined the life of Jessie Street and her commitment to many progressive causes including the campaign which led to the successful 1967 amendment to the constitution. She told us about the importance of RECOGNISE, which she felt sure Jessie would have supported.
2015 The Honourable Quentin Bryce AD CVO
Quentin Bryce reminisced on the history of the Library (she was Library Chair from September 1996 to September 1998) and then talked about the scourge of domestic violence in Australia and the work of the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, which she convened in 2014. The Taskforce’s report, Not Now, Not Ever – Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, was presented to the Queensland Government in February 2015 and Ms Bryce has agreed to head a Council to fast track the remaining recommendations not yet implemented.
2014 Dorothy Hoddinott AO
Dorothy is the Principal of Holroyd High School in Sydney’s Western suburbs. Holroyd High is a disadvantaged school: over 90 per cent of students are of non-English speaking background, almost half of them in Australia for less than three years. Approximately 60 percent are young refugees. Dorothy reminded us of the decline in human rights that had transpired over successive Federal governments, especially with the rights of children. She gave us examples of students at her school who, with support and encouragement, had gone on to university. This was the ideal we should be working towards instead of incarceration at detention centres.
2013 Dr Anne Summers AO
Anne spoke about the misogyny factor, an entrenched system of attitudes and practices which can exclude women from public and private institutions in this country or demean them if they do gain entry. Anne then went on to describe what she calls the Equality Project. The three criteria to measure success for the Equality Project are inclusion, equality and respect. The principal objectives are financial independence, control of fertility and the elimination of violence against women. Australia falls short against inclusion, equality and respect. Anne considers respect perhaps the key success criterion and the ‘bullying from office’ of Australia’s first female Prime Minister is ample proof Julia Gillard did not receive appropriate respect. Subject to unprecedented villification and abuse, in any other workplace Julia Gillard would have a case for sex discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying.
2012 Professor Larissa Behrendt
Larissa emphasised the point that women are the main change agents in cohesive Aboriginal communities. She expressly spoke to the schoolgirls present, praising Jessie Street as a marvellous role model. Contrasting their opportunities with the persistence of Aboriginal disadvantage despite generations of professed white determination to wipe it out, she shared her reflections on attacking this problem.
2011 Professor Kerryn Phelps AM
Using her own work and life choices as examples of obstacles women need to overcome, Kerryn talked about her time as the first married and pregnant intern at a teaching hospital and then later as a young GP committed to empowering patients with information. She explained her medical philosophy which is encapsulated in a textbook on general practice which looks outside western conventional medicine directed at best practice whole of patient care.
2010 Ann Sherry AO
Introducing her talk with praise for Jessie Street, Ann talked about what had defined her public and working life from her days at the University of Queensland as a student activist to her time in England as a scholar. Her career took her from the trade union movement, to policy development to First Secretary in the Office of the Status of Women to Westpac and eventually to the CEO of Carnival with work in Indigenous communities on this journey.
2009 Adele Horin
Adele talked about the changing nature of newspapers with new social and other media eroding the readership and advertising base. She was concerned that without good journalism the ability to uncover corruption and government waste and highlight social maladies would be diminished. She reflected on the role newspapers and broadcasting media had publicised the women’s movement through their broad and comprehensive reach through a wide audience. She stressed that good journalism was an essential bulwark for democracy.
2008 The Hon Dr Meredith Burgmann
Meredith focused her talk on answering the question: Why Haven’t We Yet Achieved Women’s Rights? She explored some key indicators on domestic violence, sexual assault, housework and abortion as well as unequal pay and the lack of paid maternity leave for the bulk of women.
2007 Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Webby
Elizabeth focused in particular on two women’s reading groups, one in Sydney and one in Hobart. She provided an overview of the literary culture of the period using the groups, their members and their reading preferences to demonstrate their engagement with social issues of the time. This was an illuminating talk drawing a picture of the times.
2006 Helen Reddy
Helen talked about the fact that the planet was facing a crucial period and that there was a need to acknowledge the value of forward thinkers such as the Dalai Lama, Professor Yunus and Ghandi. She also acknowledged the work of a Catholic priest who in the 1970s started a system of peaceful co-existence between Arabs and Jews. She was an inspiring speaker with a broad world view.
2005 The Hon Susan Ryan AO
Susan spoke of the contribution of Australian women leaders at world forums and then turned to the campaign for a Human Rights Act for Australia and women and university education. She criticised the introduction of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) as adversely impacting on women’s participation and access to universities.
2004 Professor Marie Bashir AC, Governor of NSW
Her Excellency spoke about the legacy of Jessie Street, a lifelong advocate of human rights, for birth control, sex education and equal pay as well as her contribution to the mounting of the 1967 Referendum. She also acknowledged women who had influenced a whole generation of young women, in particular Betty Archdale.
2003 Faith Bandler AC
Faith spoke of the many and varied campaigns Jessie instigated but the most important was the one for the 1967 Referendum. She provided an overview of the campaign process which began almost a decade before the day of the Referendum with a petition to the Federal Government.
2002 Sandra Yates
Sandra, Chair of Saatchi and Saatchi, gave a frank, witty and inspiring account of her life from the gradual stages of an early marriage and the necessity to provide for two children to the heights of the corporate world.
Topic: Following Jessie
Maxine, as an ABC journalist, gave an inspiring address about the challenges faced by women today and what Jessie’s response might have been to those challenges. She stressed the need to encourage young women to become actively involved their communities and society generally.
Topic: Speak Up! Recording Women’s History
Julie’s talk was a hit as you would expect from a comedian but her working life is as a journalist, trainer and freelance consultant. She showed photographs of her mother and grandmother – ordinary women with extraordinary experiences – and wished she had known more about their lives and recorded their stories. She exhorted guests to keep their papers, letters, diaries, journals and donate them to the Library archives.
1999 Hazel Hawke AO
Hazel talked about the multicultural aspects of heritage and what preserving our heritage means to Australia. She used the example of the Ukrainian Women’s Association to highlight how various community organisations can become involved in exhibitions and oral histories.
1998 Professor Regina Graycar
Regina delivered a thoughtful and provocative address about the inferior position of women under the constitution which was followed by questions.
1997 Bronwyn Bancroft
Bronwyn spoke with warmth and much humour of her experience as an Aboriginal artist, textile designer and illustrator. During the talk, she displayed slides of her work which depicted her belief in women and the wonderful gifts of patience, endurance, love and tenacity they supply in their lifelong journey.
1996 Jennie George
Jennie gave a critical account of the Federal Government’s proposed industrial relations legislation. She pointed out that women would experience additional discrimination if the government removed provisions which observed International Labour Organisation conventions on over-award payments. As women were concentrated in low paid jobs, they lacked power in negotiating with employers. As President-elect of the ACTU, she was keen not to see women further disadvantaged in seeking industrial agreements.
1995 Nancy Bird Walton
Nancy delivered an entertaining talk about her endeavours and achievements in aviation. She also spoke about Jessie Street whom she had known.