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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2013

8 - Gender Studies and Social Analysis



Women's Studies arrived late at the University of Adelaide. In mid-1981, rumblings of concern about the position of women in the University finally gained a hearing. Four women — Amanda Cornwall, representing the Students' Association; Fay Gale, Professor of Geography and the only woman in a senior position on the teaching staff; Alison Mackinnon, a full-time Tutor in the University's Education Department; and Jill Thomas, Personal Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor — presented a discussion paper on the subject to the University's Executive Committee. Executive Committee debated the paper. It began to appear that the women's concerns would disappear into a cloud of confusion. But then Professor Gale, dramatically, lost her temper: she thumped the table and raised her voice. The effect was dramatically instantaneous. Executive Committee established a working party to examine the position of women, and it invited submissions. By the middle of 1982, the University Council had accepted most of its far-reaching recommendations — including an excellent case against Sexist Language, which deserves revisiting — and appointed an implementation committee.

In this process, the Faculty of Arts secured one-off funding to establish a Research Centre for Women’s Studies. Late in 1982, it advertised for a Director for this new body, the first of its kind in Australia. In 1983, Susan Magarey — a graduate of both the University of Adelaide and the Australian National University — accepted the position, and moved from Canberra where she had been teaching an undergraduate major in Women’s Studies since 1978.