International Women's Year, 1975 – Fact sheet 237
Government support for women’s issues
Following a decade in which the women’s movement had succeeded in making ‘women’s liberation’ a household term, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 1975 International Women’s Year (IWY).On International Women’s Day (8 March) 1974, the Australian Government announced its own program to mark IWY.
The Whitlam Labor government, which had demonstrated its commitment to women with the appointment of Elizabeth Reid as the special adviser to the Prime Minister on women’s issues, allocated $2 million for 1974–75 and a further $1.3 million in the 1975–76 budget for International Women’s Year activities. A National Advisory Committee was established in September 1974 with Reid as convener. Its role was to publicise and coordinate the government’s IWY program, and to allocate funding to individuals and groups for projects that supported the three objectives: to change attitudes, reduce discrimination and encourage women’s creativity. The National Advisory Committee was supported by the IWY secretariat which was located within the Department of the Special Minister of State.
IWY projects and activities in Australia
Funded projects included Joan Long’s feature film, Caddie, a study of the working conditions of migrant women in Victoria, and the establishment of various women’s centres and refuges across the country.
An international conference was held in Mexico in June 1975. Elizabeth Reid led the Australian delegation, which also included Margaret Whitlam (the wife of the Prime Minister) and Susan Ryan (a member of the IWY secretariat and later a senator and federal minister).
One of the major IWY projects was a conference on ‘Women and Politics’ that took place in Canberra in September 1975. In the wake of critical media coverage of the Canberra conference and the government’s financial woes, a United Nations Interregional Seminar on ‘Women, the Media and the Arts’ planned for late November was cancelled.
In October 1975 Elizabeth Reid resigned from her position as special adviser to the Prime MInister, following the decision to transfer it from the Prime Minister’s office to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Records about International Women’s Year
The National Archives holds a range of records of the National Advisory Committee and the IWY Secretariat, including submissions for grants to fund projects, and records of committee meetings. Records of other Australian Government agencies with an involvement in IWY activities are also held. A selection of these records is listed below.