To eliminate colour prejudice: The WCTU and decolonisation in Australia

Alison Holland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


From the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in Australia played a key role in the articulation and development of human rights for Aborigines. They provided practical and political support and scaffolding while developing an important ideological base, and they formed alliances across class, gender, race, religious, and political lines to achieve their goal of racial equality. Their activism coincided with the period associated with decolonisation. It has been argued that, in Australia, the end of empire coalesced with the rise of the labour movement in the 1940s. However, this article argues that as a means of understanding WCTU involvement in defending and shaping an Aboriginal rights agenda, the rise of labour is an important but partial explanation. It downplays the role of gender and religion in formulating an ideological position while masking its political implications. Here, I explore the politics of WCTU reform, particularly connections between gender, religion, and race, and trace the Union's defence of Aboriginal human rights in post war Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-276
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Religious History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


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