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It’s a man’s world

My grandmother began teaching a few years after Federation. When she married my grandfather in 1917, she was forced to resign because the Commonwealth Public Service Act stated that a female officer had to resign on marriage.

Moving on a couple of decades, the Federal Cabinet decided in 1940, as a war measure for the duration of the war, that a female Commonwealth Public Service officer would be allowed to continue her employment in a temporary capacity.

With the War over, Cabinet reaffirmed, in 1946, the Regulation that female officers be required to resign on marriage with the exception of widows, divorcees and married women separated from their husband and not receiving financial support.

Cabinet specifically instructed the Department of Education that it must endeavour to reduce to the minimum the number of married female teachers in temporary employment.

For the following 20 years, the employment of married female teachers conformed to this policy. Married female temporary teachers were dismissed at the end of the year and, dependent upon the exigencies of the Department of Education, varying numbers were re-employed the following year. My mother, who began teaching during the 1940s and married in 1953, faced this uncertainty every year and did not receive entitlements like holiday pay and sick leave.

The video in the following link explains the dilemma facing women in the 60s.

In November 1966 Australia became the last democratic country to lift the legislated “marriage bar”, which had prevented married women from holding permanent positions in the public service for over 60 years.

From 13 February 1969, the permanent head of a State Department could recommend the permanent employment of married female public servants after a consideration of the requirements of the Service and the suitability of the officer. Female teachers were given the opportunity to apply for permanent or temporary status. Permanent status was dependent on the applicant’s efficiency related to experience.

As a result of the criteria applied, however, many of the women who applied for permanent status were refused. In 1970 about 30 per cent of those who applied were unable to gain permanent status. It was not until 1973 that a change in policy made it easier for women to receive permanent status.

In 1976 I enrolled at Sydney University, armed with my teaching scholarship, and blissfully unaware that being female was any barrier. Tony Abbott was very active in student politics and our paths crossed at times. I considered him an ignorant bully boy but he was not alone.

The video in this next link shows the attitudes at the time of Tony’s mentor B A Santamaria and other young men who could well have been Tony’s peers.

Santamaria explains his idea about the roles of people in a family. For him, there are ideally set out roles for the husband and wife. The husband ensures income to the family by participating in a public world, while the wife maintains the domestic or ‘private’ economy. These are the rules of the family system, or at least Santamaria’s idea of it.

In 1977, the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships was presented to the Commonwealth Parliament. The Report stated that women were discriminated against in employment and their work undervalued or underpaid. It also pointed out that work was predicated on men’s life patterns, on freedom from child bearing, and on ability to work; and that when women’s work patterns were broken because of child rearing, penalties were imposed on them.

Faced with an over-supply of teachers in 1978, State Cabinet decided to implement an order of priority in the employment of teachers. Consequently, married women with husbands who worked were placed third on the list of those applying for teaching positions.

In 1981, Cabinet decided that married female teachers would no longer be placed into a separate category for employment. Henceforth, a higher priority was given to a first income-earner, irrespective of sex.

In 1982, the Commonwealth Government announced that it would legislate to prevent discrimination against women. This was a consequence of its action in 1980 when it signed a United Nations declaration condemning such discrimination.

During the time of the Fraser government, Dr Gabriel Moens was appointed by the Human Rights Commission to prepare a report assessing the merits and demerits of affirmative action. He concluded that:

“ . . . the government’s acceptance of affirmative action proposals, initiated mainly by feminist groups, is part of a trend in which the ideal of equality of opportunity has been replaced by an ideal of equality of result. The Human Rights Commission, which is supposed to fight discrimination, seems to consider the anti-discrimination principle a thing of the past – it now appears to favour a distribution of benefits on the basis of sex, ethnicity and colour. This is a very disturbing development in our society.”

The report was dismissed by the Hawke government.

Both Tony Abbott and Dr Moens were great fans of Santamaria. In a speech in 1998 Tony Abbott described him as “a philosophical star by which you could always steer” and “the greatest living Australian”. Abbott has said that what impressed him about Santamaria was “the courage that kept him going as an advocate for unfashionable truths”.

In 2009 Dr Moens gave a speech on the occasion of the inauguration of the B.A. Santamaria Library at Murdoch University in Perth. It was titled “MEN AND IDEAS: Bob Santamaria’s role in Australia’s culture wars.” In his speech Dr Moens said

“Encouragement for the vocation of homemaker is described as a particularly odious form of sexism. Instead, feminism, preferential treatment, alternative lifestyles, infidelity and politically correct speech, just to name a few, are variously described as desirable or even liberating orthodoxies. These new orthodoxies, which are often aggressively promoted by well-funded lobby groups, create a climate of intolerance and instil a sense of genuine fear into a great number of decent people.”

Remember, he said this less than 5 years ago.

And here we are today, with people like Fred Nile and Corey Bernardi in positions of power making decisions about how our country should be run, ably assisted by the likes of George Pell. Not content with that, they also want to run our lives, be our moral compass and our spiritual guides. We have a plethora of men dictating to women what their role should be. Sadly, there aren’t any of us who merit a position in these powerful circles, so we have a misogynist as the Minister for Women, a man who infamously said

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

So ladies and gentlemen, gird your loins and pick up your placards – this fight still has a way to go!

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  1. john921fraser


    I would like to think that my gravatar fits in nicely with this article from Kaye Lee.

    And i will make sure that I do not "Comment" in any way as to embarrass Australia's first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

    And i do like the photo and I do want to keep it in front of the Australian public to remind them of just how Good Prime Minister Julia Gillard was.

    John Fraser

  2. Andreas Bimba

    A really important observation of a stupid patriarchal world. I could tell a similar story about my father meeting a glass ceiling for his career in the public service (Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works) because although he was a naturalised Australian citizen being from a non Anglo country he wasn’t considered to be a British Subject. At that time only British Subjects could advance up the management hierarchy.

  3. Kaye Lee

    I am sorry that our country is so bigoted Andreas. You are right to point out discrimination has not been confined to gender 🙁

  4. diannaart

    Simply not a joke:

    What is the difference between Bob Santamaria and Tony Abbott?

    Abbott still lives.

  5. Geoff Of Epping

    This is a shocking indictment on men and their attachment to power at all costs.
    The last three years of our National Parliament is proof positive of that. The disrespect heaped on a sitting female Prime Minister by mostly men was brutish, unwarranted and cowardly. Sub human behaviour.

  6. Matters not.

    Here is a link to the situation in Queensland schools between 1940 and the early 80s.

    Perhaps in your piece Kaye more emphasis might’ve been placed on the unequal pay rates as well.

    At least two factors bolstered this situation and blocked
    females from other positions of authority. Firstly, seniority
    was tied to the rates of pay and the female rate in all
    categories was lower than the male rate. Secondly, females
    had to resign on marriage and become temporary teachers.
    These factors also discouraged many females from acquiring
    necessary further qualifications50

    It’s really good history written in a departmental section that was abolished under Goss. A bad decision!

  7. doctorrob54

    I agree, Unfortunately.

  8. Marfi

    Eric Abetz sounds creepily like Santamaria. Do you think he is channeling him? Scary thought.

  9. rossleighbrisbane

    The difference between Abbott and Santamaria? One constantly was still ramming his sexist, outdated views down peoples’s throats in the eighties even though he seemed like he was stuck in a time warp, the other is dead!

  10. Kaye Lee

    Matters not,

    Every time I publish a story I think to myself I could and should have included so many more things. Thankfully the people who comment here can be relied on to add so much more to the discussion. 🙂

  11. Sue Lofthouse

    If only we could have a Q&A with our PM…

    Mr Abbott, as Minister for Womens’ Affairs would you please tell us what work you have done on this portfolio since the election?

    Can you tell us some of the women-specific issues that will be addressed during the rest of your term?

    How are you better equipped than any of your female colleagues to deliver positive outcomes for the affairs of women?

    How do you intend to measure the efficacy of your management of this portfolio?

  12. trevor vivian

    At Murdock Uni during Aboriginal Studies I came upon the following which is the basis for Australia the country being settled as a “White workers paradise”, or the reason for the “invasion” and subsequent “genocide” of the countries previous inhabitants was to create a mythological “White workers paradise.

    At the head of the list sits “GOD” then “white” males and under them come “other” males of “colour”, then animals and then come “women”.

    This was the orthodoxy at the granting of statehood in Western Australia.

    It took some 20yrs for statehood to be granted in Western Australia due to the depravity of the invaders in their relations with the “first Australians”.

    The Labor Party in WA in the early 1900,s (Hansard) argued against employment for all except “white” males because to employ “others” would dilute the dream of a white workers paradise and threaten the hegemony of the “white” man.

    The Liberal party since its existence has argued the place of a woman is as a domestic worker or a whore.

    The beginning begets the ending.

    This country was set up as a race and gender defined autocracy designed to support the minority at the expense of the majority.

    White Australia has a bloody black history which it chooses to ignore..

    And today we have the spawn of the depraved minority as PM.

  13. Buff McMenis

    That’s it! I cannot take any more of this!! The end is nigh and I shall do something about it! I shall wheel over the barriers which surround me (like kerbs, for instance) and knock Abbott in the knee-caps! With my steel foot-plates! It is a purple wheel-chair and I shall wear a red hat. Seriously, Kay Lee and all the others who have agreed … it is too much! We must get rid of these people somehow, whether bodily or by drowning out their foolish rhetoric! How, I don’t know .. but I am open for suggestions! By the way, john921fraserjohn, I so totally agree with you and I like your picture! Did you see her new appointment as the UN Education lady for all the poor kids in the world? Oz shall be one of them if Abbott keeps on with his trickle-down economics and lack of support for jobs .. we shall get her back or way or another! 🙁

  14. Kaye Lee

    Buff, whilst I love the idea of a guy in a purple wheel chair with a red hat on taking to the streets to express his displeasure, do so with a placard rather than a target….we need people like you helping, not locked up.

  15. olddavey

    I read somewhere that Ecca sounds like Darth Vader without his helmet.

  16. olddavey

    Am I going ga ga or did the previous article disappear?

  17. Abbie Noiraude

    Oh oh how close to the bone is this
    1 My father was in the NSW State public service and could hire his secretaries. He told me he always chose single women. ‘They need the job’ he said. “Married women were ok”.
    2 I joined the Navy in the 1970’s just at the time when they decided not to ask women to leave if they married.
    3 I remember tromping the streets of Brisbane to help my girlfriend out ( who wanted a divorce from her abusive husband) to ask for signatures for ‘no fault divorce’ from Lionel Murphy. (1976?)
    4 To top it all off, after all my writing letters and tramping streets, I was vilified because WE decided that I should be the primary carer for our three children.
    5 When our daughter ( from our little country town) was accepted into Sydney University we drove her down. I walked into the Quad and said; Do you realise this was the first Aust uni who accepted women? How amazing that you are here. She stared at me like I was mad ( I was never given the choice of ‘further education’.)

    Can’t win. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I hope young women realise it is a right of ‘choice’ that can be taken from us so very easily.

  18. Kaye Lee


    I empathise with you. Sometimes we women are our own worst enemies. Liberation was all about CHOICE – the choice to do what suited you and your family circumstances best. I guess there will always be people who try to impose their choice on you, or judge you for yours. Don’t let them. We fought hard to have that choice and we are still fighting to maintain it.

    On a lighter note (if it wasn’t so true)….

    Three young women are competing to make partner in a law firm and the cut-off date is approaching. They’re equally talented and ambitious -but there’s only room for one new partner. So a senior partner devises a test. One day, while all three are out to lunch, he places an envelope containing $500 on each of their desks. The first woman returns the envelope to him immediately. The second woman invests the money and returns $1,500 to him the next morning. The third woman pockets the cash. So which one gets the promotion to partner?

    The one with the biggest breasts!

  19. Matters not.

    Kaye Lee said:

    could and should have included so many more things

    Indeed! The possible ‘inclusions’ are virtually endless. It’s why ‘educated’ people speak about A History rather than THE History of anything.

    ‘Good’ history and the teaching of same is certainly about the ‘what’ and ‘when’ (rote learning?) but for it to be really ‘educational’ it must, at a more important and significant level, include the discussion as to the ‘how’ and ‘why’ (intellectual reflection?).

    Pyne et al simply don’t get that. But they are not alone.

  20. Kaye Lee

    The best teachers are the ones who can engage their students – get them thinking and talking and asking questions. Teach them researching skills, make the resources available for them to research, give them a direction and encourage them to come back to you with their ideas. It’s a bit the same here…I may start the discussion but I learn so much from the comments others then make.

  21. Matters not.

    get them thinking and talking and asking questions.

    Asking questions? Really? If they waste their time ‘asking questions’, Australian students will never do well on international tests like PISA. Perhaps a bit more of Confucius?

    Only joking. Let’s get real, Gillard really was an empty educational vessel whose lack of insight was filled by Canberra bureaucrats, many of whom were appointed by Kemp. Her ‘goals’ for schools/education were stupid. Australia will never compete with Asian/Confucian ‘education’ nor should we even/ever try.

    Here’s a couple of reads you may find interesting.

  22. Kaye Lee

    Whilst having a look at the people employed by the IPA, I came across this little treasure.

    “Research Scholar, Foundations of Western Civilisation Program

    Stephanie is a Research Scholar at the Institute of Public Affairs with the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program. She completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honours at the University of Melbourne in 2013 in Classics and History. In her Honours thesis, she reconstructed a previously lost Byzantine chronicle dating to the period of the early Islamic conquests (7th-8th centuries AD), and included a translation of the entire chronicle from early-medieval Greek into English. While at University, Stephanie won a number of academic prizes and co-founded the Melbourne University Classics and Archaeology Students Society, of which she was President in 2012-2013. A key focus of Stephanie’s work at the IPA is the National Curriculum.”

    Stephanie is no doubt very clever. The fact that she only finished uni a few months ago and has NO teacher training OR experience should not be a problem with her advising on the National Curriculum. Which kid wouldn’t want to translate lost Byzantine chronicles. And if they don’t. they should!

  23. Kaye Lee

    Too tired to read the whole articles tonight Matters not, but the intro certainly got my attention.

    “This chapter looks at how China has made rapid progress, taking Shanghai and Hong Kong as examples of innovation. The main lessons include the government’s abandonment of a system built around “key schools” for a small elite and its development of a more inclusive system in which all students are expected to perform at high levels; greatly raising teacher pay and upgrading teacher standards and teacher education; reducing the emphasis on rote learning and increasing the emphasis on deep understanding, the ability to apply knowledge to solving new problems and the ability to think creatively. All of these are reflected in deep reforms to the curriculum and examinations. These changes have been accompanied by greater curricular choice for students and more latitude for local authorities to decide on examination content, which in
    turn is loosening the constraints on curriculum and instruction.”

    Wonder if our Minister for Education has read this.

  24. Kaye Lee

    As US education scholar Dr. Yong Zhao notes:

    “Standardised testing rewards the ability to find the “correct answer” and thus discourages creativity, which is about asking questions and challenging the status quo. A narrow and uniform curriculum deprives children of opportunities to explore and experiment… which is the foundation of entrepreneurship. Constantly testing children and telling them they are not good enough depletes their confidence, which is the fuel of innovation. So, by any account, what policymakers have put in place in American schools is precisely what is needed to cancel out their desire for creative and entrepreneurial talents.”

  25. Andreas Bimba

    I can’t see that Abbott has anything good to offer. As for Bob Santamaria I think he was one of the greats of Australia’s political history, an excellent debater and a man of principal. A dogged opponent of the left but through reason and not by bluster, he also opposed greedy heartless capitalism. A complicated man who was never a man of the centre, the left or the right but always a man who was true to his principles. And yes some of those principals would today make many of us cringe and yes he was a patriarchal throw back determined to constrain women to the traditional role. Now to avoid the hail of abuse I better get out of here.

  26. Kaye Lee

    Andreas you will get no abuse from me. Santamaria had a certain view that he had the courage to enunciate and stick to. Tony Abbott, on the other hand, has to read the polls and ask Peta what his opinion is. He is a populist whose opinion is for sale.

  27. Wombat

    history from the mid 1980s
    Just when we thought that there was progress in the gender wars, there was the meeting of the clergy of one church (maybe the Church of England but my memory is failing me) who didn’t want women to be ordained priests nor to move higher in the church bureaucracy because “It would upset the careers plans of the men, and the men would find it harder to compete against all those talented women” (I have paraphrased from memory).

    I am not making this up.

  28. Stephen Tardrew

    There are so many issues her that warrant attention. Santamria was a bigot full stop, a persistent one admittedly. When I first laid eyes, and unfortunately ears, on Abbot, in some deep visceral sense, I could see the same irrational misogynistic animal.

    I look at the price of fashion and makeup for women there to satiate males demand for some idealized sense of beauty that drives many young women, who cannot afford the latest fashion and do not fulfill the body perfect, to feel inadequate and ugly. And what about health care products. Working with homeless youth demonstrates how clearly girls are discriminated against by their male peers.

    Equal pay, and representation, glass ceilings, religious sexism and bigotry, etc. while the metaphors and archetypes of male supremacy are so deeply wedded into culture and language many children grow up unknowingly complicit in sexism and racism. Philosophers who attempt to produce meta-languages free from prejudice cannot, for the moment, compete in a social context so deeply influenced by religious dogmatism and historical systems of power and control. I am not against religion per se however the basis of religion should be love, compassion, empathy and equity for all men and women and children. That women cannot be ordained is a blight upon ideologies. Better find some more intelligent metaphysical foundation if they fail the measure of love and equity. And that is a problem in and of itself.

    Kaye there is certainly a long way to go until women have true equality. The videos are truly cringe worthy.

  29. Maureen Walton (@maureen_walton)

    My biggest nightmare, does look like it will come true. I remember bits of Santamaria not good at all. And if Tony gets his way, all the little women will be going to church with hats on the head and gloves in the hand every Sunday. Then being good wife running home to cook the Sunday roast. Making sure she looks after her man. And still cleaning the house etc all the week till the next church visit and Sunday roast..

  30. john921fraser



    Old Bob wanted much more than that from woman and none of it was advanced.

  31. Paul Raymond Scahill

    I personally do not remember Bob Santamaria, although I am certainly old enough, if he had anything worthwhile to remember. I do unfortunately remember most of what this current creep has to say and do, I must say that I do not like anything about him. Anything! He is probably the only person/being whatever on this earth whom I actually wish harm to. The sooner the better. Good riddance Tony, take most of your mates with you.

  32. Kerri

    I can recall as a new, young teacher having regular arguements with my conservative and ill educated catholic mother, who held the fervent belief that a married man should be paid more than a single man, a single woman or a married woman because he had more dependants. My response, as a developing feminist, was that if a person does the same job, it is no business of their employer to judge by their personal situation, which, after all, was frequently their choice, what they should be paid. I can also recall citing a neighbour who was a war widow with three children. Mum held her beliefs and possibly still does today. It has never been in the interest of the conservatives to accept affirmative action as a means of “catch up” for women in the workforce. Their belief is that it is an artificial and undeserved “leg up” for women. A principal I worked under once slyly admitted that when the separate male and female registers of Victorian teachers were merged to form one continuous list (ranked according to years of service/experience) she leapt to position 6 in the state. Another D.P. I had worked with prior to that appointment was ranked number 2 so I was of the opinion that the aforementioned principal would have easily been ranked number 1 by the time I met her 2 years prior to her retirement at 55+. Her elevation was by no means artificial. She had worked as hard as any male Principal. She had worked as long as any male Principal. She was the recipient of an Order of Australia medal for services to Education and just to please my mother and the rules mentioned in Kaye Lee’s article, she was the sole carer for a dying father and intellectually disabled brother. Yes. Women have always had to fight to achieve equal rights in work and still fight to achieve even the slightest semblance of equality in the home.

  33. Philip

    My only point of contention is that you posted The Voice youtube video to underline that the fight continues, a commercial program I have zero interest in BUT I take your point. And for all the reasons that have been mentioned and a host of others, this man Tony Abbott scares me unlike any other human being. Quite likely a destroyer of worlds. I just don’t want our to be one of them.

  34. Kaye Lee

    Hi Philip,

    I actually chose that clip because of my admiration for Karise Eden. Aside from having a great voice she has shown amazing courage. She lived in refuges for homeless youth from the age of 12 and didn’t really go to high school. To enter this competition was terrifying for her in so many ways. For me she is an example of a young woman facing huge adversity with little help but her perseverance and guts paid off.

  35. trishcorry

    I know I’m late to the show, but bloody brilliant. Right up my street. Loved it!

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