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The Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) is a feminist, non-profit, self-funded, non-party political, lobby group founded in 1972 during height of second-wave feminism in Australia.[1] WEL's mission is to create a society where women’s participation and potential are unrestricted, acknowledged and respected and where women and men share equally in society’s responsibilities and rewards.[1]

WEL is credited with major achievements for women in Australia in relation to anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation, equal pay decisions, the funding of women’s and children’s services.

WEL Australia is currently focusing on the 2010 Federal Election, and trying to push feminist issues on the agenda.[2]


The Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL) was formed in 1972 just prior to a Federal election of that year.

According to Joan Bielski, "In May 1972, Beatrice Faust, a Melbourne academic and abortion law reform advocate, addressed a meeting in Sydney at the house of Julia Freebury, the Sydney organiser of the Abortion Law Reform Association, about forming a women's lobby for the purpose of interviewing all candidates for the 1972 federal elections about their attitudes to issues being enunciated by the Women's Liberation Movement. Such a lobby group had already formed in Melbourne. After discussion, Caroline Graham, June Surtees (now Williams) and Wendy McCarthy agreed to become co-convenors."[3]

From those roots, WEL has grown to being a national lobby group with branches in all States and Territories.

Achievements of the Women's Electoral Lobby

WEL has played a significant role in important policy changes such as the:

  • Passing of equal pay legislation in 1972, which saw women awarded the male rate of pay, no matter what job they performed;
  • Legitimisation, policy development, legislative reform and community education programs on issues such as equal opportunity, sexual harassment and domestic violence;
  • Drafting and implementation of state anti-discrimination and federal sex discrimination legislation; and
  • Rape law reform, which has gradually led to significant amendments to the NSW Crimes Act.

Structure of the Women's Electoral Lobby

The structure of WEL mirrors Australia's federal political system. There are WEL branches in each state and territory, which focus on state policy and a national WEL branch that focuses on federal policy. Because of the overlapping nature of state and federal policy areas and feminist concerns, state and national branches of WEL often work together on projects or to lobby for policy change.

At WEL's 1978 national conference, a decision was made to set up a national office in Canberra, which was originally set up in the laundry of Canberra Women's House in O’Connor.[4]

It was also decided at the conference that WEL would employ a part-time National Communications Officer to ensure communication and information-sharing between WEL branches and to better engage in federal government and politics. This role was at first restricted to supporting national campaigns.[4]

According to the WEL History Project's report on WEL National Convenors, "the position evolved into a more professional lobbyist position... In 1987 Jane Elix, former national co-ordinator, made a powerful plea at a WEL conference for the holder of the position to be authorised to be a media spokeswoman. Elix observed that although founding WEL members believed in non-hierarchical structures and opposed specialisation of roles and functions, in practice this made it difficult to compete in the political arena of the 1980s. While WEL groups clearly did not want to lose power to 'Canberra', often WEL members were in sensitive jobs and were unable to speak publicly on policy."[4] This illustrates an ongoing tension in WEL, which aims to respond quickly to make the most of the media cycle and the political climate whilts still maintaining a de-centralised member-driven structure.

The ANU's WEL History Project[5] documents name changes to the coordinator position and who held that position as follows:

1978 national communications officer

1982 national co-ordinator

1997 executive officer

2000 national co-ordinator

Date Who
1978 Maria De Leo
Feb 79–Sept 82 Yvonne Carnahan
Oct 82–March 84 Pamela Denoon†
March–Sept 1984 Lorelle Thompson
Oct 84–Dec 84 Jo Morgan
Jan–Feb 1985 Lynne Gallagher
March 85–July 86 Jane Elix
Sept 86–March 87 Lynn Lee
May–Sept 1987 Glenys Rogers
Sept 87–Feb 88 Lynn Lee
March–Nov 1988 Joy Taylor
Dec 88–April 89 Nooshin Guitoo
June 89–Feb 91 Anne-Marie Mioche
March 91–Dec 94 Ann Wentworth
June–Aug 1992 Julie McCarron-Benson
Jan 95–April 96 Ingrid McKenzie
April 96–Jan 97 Rivera Morton-Radovsky
April 97–Sept 98 Lyn Peryman
Sept 98–April 2000 Helen Leonard†
June 00–Aug 01 Erica Lewis
Sept 01–02 Vacant

Feminist Policy Framework

In 2010, the Women's Electoral Lobby Australia dispensed with its usual process of researching and writing individual policies on a range of policy areas in the lead up to the election. Instead, WEL has developed a Feminist Policy Framework, which sets out a critera to test and rate the policies of political parties.
WEL's feminist framework tests how well policies:

  • Ensure the benefits and outcomes are fairly distributed between women and men, as well as between different groups of women
  • Value and reward fairly people’s different skills, experiences and contributions
  • Recognise the value of caring and supporting roles, whether paid or unpaid
  • Recognise and rectify past and current inequalities and between men and women; and
  • Enhance opportunities for both women and men to take on equal rights and responsibilities in all aspects of society: politics, community, employment and social life[6]


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