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

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


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
Title of host publicationHow the personal became political
Subtitle of host publicationthe gender and sexuality revolutions in 1970s Australia
EditorsMichelle Arrow, Angela Woollacott
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781003034421
ISBN (Print)9780367472528, 9781032173252
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Chapter first published 2018 in Australian Feminist Studies 33(95), pp. 61-80. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08164649.2018.1498734


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


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