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Week for Women Event
11th Pamela Denoon Lecture

1999 Marilyn Lake - Tuesday 9 March, 8pm, Coombs Lecture Theatre, Australian National University. The title is 'A Republic for Women?' Entry free, supper after. Marilyn has been a critic of the masculine dynamics of republicanism and will provide a powerful vision of what a feminist republic would look like Contact Marian Sawer or Ann McKenzie

Background

The Pamela Denoon Lecture was inaugurated in 1989 as a tribute to the memory of Pamela Denoon and as a reminder that the gains that have been made by women over the years have only been possible because of the enormous dedication of women like Pamela.

Pamela Denoon (1942-1988) was born Pamela Tod in Toowoomba and graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Queensland University. She worked as a biochemist in Cambridge, UK, where she met her husband Donald Denoon. From 1966 until 1972 she lived in Uganda, where she worked at Makere University and where her three children were born.

In 1972 the Denoons moved to Port Moresby where Donald became professor of history and Pamela studied politics and sociology at the University of Papua New Guinea. Her experiences of racism in Makerere and Port Moresby fuelled her interest in these subjects. She graduated in 1977 with a BA Hons and worked in the Papua New Guinea Planning Office. She later took out an MA in Sociology from the London School of Economics, becoming well-read in feminist theory, in addition to her strong personal commitment to issues of social justice.

In 1981 the Denoons came to Canberra, where Pamela worked for the Abortion Counselling service. In 1982 Pamela was appointed National Co-ordinator of Women's Electoral Lobby, a position she held until 1984. Her background and personal qualities ideally suited her to the work involved. She played a major role in co-ordinating the campaigns for the ratification of the UN Women's Convention (CEDAW) and for the passage of the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act. She built up the WEL National Office, itself a sensitive task, and enabled it to handle the unprecedented number of requests from the new federal Labour government for submissions to inquiries and consultations.

Her tact and good humour and the enormous amount of work she put in behind the scenes were crucial importance to coalition building within the women's movement. She had the ability and patience to bring together often strong-minded women to work for a common goal, although this did take a toll of her. She gave unstintingly of herself, taking responsibility for the problems and never taking any of the limelight for the success.

She worked hard for the WEL team at the Economic Summit in 1983, and in putting together the coalition supporting the Sex Discrimination Act. After she left WEL she worked briefly for the Urban Research Unit at the ANU and then in the Office of Local Government. She continued to shoulder considerable responsibility for WEL, including lobbying for the Affirmative Action Act, helping prepare the National Women's Tax Summit in 1985 and the National Agenda for Women Conference in 1986. Her work in the public service enabled her to promote equal opportunity in local government, for example, the funding of the Getting the Numbers study by Amanda Sinclair of which she was particularly proud.

Pamela was forced to retire from the public service by illness but her commitment to the women's movement was undiminished by her hard struggle with leukaemia. One of her final preoccupations was the planning of a feminist foundation for which she left $50,000 in her will. She wanted to develop a foundation that would be controlled by feminists and which would promote the equality of women through providing independent research and policy work. This became the National Foundation for Australian Women. She also left $50,000 for a separate Pamela Denoon Trust, the interest of which is used for special projects. These have included a donation to the Ryan/Conlan fund dedicated to women and enterprise bargaining, the provision of bursaries for young PNG women and sponsoring the electronic networking of national women's organisations ('Pamelas-List').

The Pamela Denoon Lecture has become one of the highlights of International Women's Day in Canberra. It is picked up by electronic and print media and is an occasion for feminists and friends to meet and renew energies.

Text of Past Lectures are on the Women's Electoral Lobby Web

  • 1999 Marilyn Lake
  • 1998 Kathy Bail
  • 1997 Christine Milne
  • 1996 Heather O'Connor
  • 1995 Eva Cox
  • 1994 Helen Maxwell
  • 1993 Justice Elizabeth Evatt
  • 1992 Quentin Bryce
  • 1991 Patricia Brennan
  • 1990 Pat O'Shane
  • 1989 Senator Pat Giles
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