Australia in the 1960s

Equality for women

In 1965, while publicans still faced fines of between £10 and £20 if they served women in public bars, Merle Thornton (mother of Sigrid Thornton) and Rosalie Bogner chained themselves to the public front bar of Toowong's Regatta Hotel in Queensland to protest against gender segregation.

In 1969, feminist and political activist Zelda D'Aprano began working for the Meatworkers' Union. The meat industry was used as a test case for equal pay for women. When the case failed, D'Aprano chained herself to the doors of the Arbitration Court building to protest against the decision.

In December 1969, the Arbitration Commission granted women equal pay for equal work. The case established an important first principle that affected 18 per cent of women workers, mostly teachers and nurses.

A snapshot of 1968

  • January
    • Senator John Gorton becomes prime minister after the disappearance of Harold Holt, presumed drowned off Portsea, Victoria.
    • The Tet Offensive is launched during the Vietnam War. North Vietnamese troops attempt to take significant South Vietnamese strongholds in the one offensive action.

  • February
    • The Draft Resistance Movement is formed. They declare that the group not only opposes conscription, but intends to destroy it.
    • WC Wentworth is appointed the first minister for Aboriginal Affairs, although he has no department under his control.

  • May
    • A mineral investment boom begins on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).
    • The Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi visits Australia.

  • December
    • The breathalyser test for drink-driving is introduced in NSW.


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