Feminism in Sydney's suburbs: 'speaking out', listening and 'sisterhood' at the 1975 Women's Commissions

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In 1975, Sydney women's liberation activists received an International Women's Year grant to organise a series of suburban 'women's commissions'. Close to 500 women attended events in Liverpool, Chatswood, Hurstville and Bankstown, many of whom came forward to reveal personal experiences of discrimination and violence. Modelled on previous events that had been based in the city's centre, including the well-known Sydney Women's Commission (1973) and the Women Against the Violent Society Forum (1974), the suburban commissions exemplify 1970s feminists' use of personal testimony as a strategy to connect the 'personal' to the 'political'. Yet the commissions also illuminate tensions that emerged in the process of both 'speaking out' and listening to other women's experiences and the limits of this format as a vehicle for building 'sisterhood'. In revisiting this surprisingly little studied episode in the history of Sydney women's liberation, this article provides new evidence of the movement's presence in the suburbs, at the same time as it illuminates wider feminist debates about diversity, the politics of participation and the ideals of 'sisterhood'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-80
Number of pages20
JournalAustralian Feminist Studies
Issue number95
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Feminism
  • Australian history
  • 1970s
  • International Women's Year
  • Sydney
  • Suburbia
  • Personal testimony


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