The Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL), a non-party political lobby group formed in Adelaide in 1972, played a leading role in South Australia in campaigning for social services and legislative reforms on behalf of women. Following the example of the Melbourne group, established a few months earlier, in August 1972 members questioned candidates for the forthcoming federal election on their attitudes towards issues such as contraception, children’s day-care, equal pay and the status of women. Membership peaked at 1000, including such key figures of South Australian feminism as Deborah McCulloch, Mary Beasley, Carol Treloar, Joan Russell, Jackie Cook and Janine Haines.

Branches opened throughout the metropolitan area and in some country towns, attracting pensioners, working-class mothers, academics and office girls. WEL has prepared submissions on many issues, including sexism in education, the media and the workplace, the age of consent, use of school facilities outside school hours, the needs of women on welfare (particularly Aboriginal women), teaching of English to migrant women, divorce and abortion law reform, rape within marriage, prostitution, and environmental and consumer issues. Still active in 2001, the group has borne out the prophetic words of its founders: ‘We are here to stay’ (Fresh Evidence, New Witnesses, p. 256).

By Carol Bacchi

This is a revised version of an entry first published in The Wakefield companion to South Australian history, edited by Wilfrid Prest, Kerrie Round and Carol Fort (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2001). Revised by the author. Uploaded 27 May 2015.

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