Making it WEL for Women

An excerpt from Sandy Killick’s report on the WEL National Conference, December 2000

(Sandy is a member of WEL NSW and currently on the WEL National Management Committee)

The opportunity exists for women to take a lead role in constitutional reform and the centenary year of Federation could be a great time to build on existing momentum. Sarah Brasch from Women for an Australian Republic suggested convening women’s conventions as a way of renewing interest in constitutional debate. It could also encourage others to press for the promise of further Con Cons to be held in the three to five years following the 1998 Constitutional Convention as promised. Women can also take the initiative by drafting changes to the Constitution and then throwing the door open for responses. Incremental change is important and the women’s movement could capitalise on it s attraction. Perhaps in the future, referendums will produce the progressive development of the Constitution intended by the original drafting team!

Building separate institutions like Women for an Australian Republic, are seen as vital to keeping the agenda moving as well as supporting women in government, trade union and employer groups. Marian Sawer also put this in the context of the growing trend away from gender policy, warning women against accepting women in leadership as a trade off for substantive equality for all women. Other speakers walked us through issues such as legislative (Bill of Rights) versus constitutional equality provisions and WEL’s capacity to educate women about constitutional reform. Women of all ages are equipped now to tackle these issues.