Debbie Brennan, a member of the socialist feminist organization
Radical Women, visited Mills College in her crusade to raise
awareness about the political oppression that women in Australia
Brennan said the growing gap between the rich in the poor is the
fourth largest in the world. Those most affected by this growing
gap are women and people of color.
She further explained the similarities between inequalities
towards women, as well as the indigenous populations of Australia.
“Women earn two- thirds of what men earn and unemployment among
aboriginals is 50 percent more than any other population,” said
Beyond working against class inequalities, Brennan spoke about
issues regarding reproduction that solely affect women.
“Australia is one of two countries without maternity leave, the
other country being the United States. Instead, mothers are given a
maternity allowance of $5,000 forcing women back into the
In addition she said, “Abortion is still considered a crime and
is only allowed under special conditions, which have to be approved
by a doctor.”
Although Australia comes from a long history of imperialism,
Brennan attributes current repressive conditions to the Howard
administration, a highly right wing government that has been in
power since 1996 in Australia. Brennan said that the Howard
government’s main goals are in direct opposition with the interests
of the Union movement and the Aboriginal movement. ,with the
majority of these movements being made up of women.
The only government assistance provided by the government is the
Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), which is
the government division that provides programs such as health care,
welfare, and education, among other services.
However, since the Howard government has been in power,
government assistance has been effectively reduced. Brennan
referred to the term “coconuts” which is a reference to
bureaucratic sellouts, brown on the outside, white on the
“The mentality then became that aborigines [and the working
class] should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and this in
turn gutted the welfare system.”
She also noted that Australia was one of the first countries to
back the Bush administration’s War on Iraq with $14 billion for the
war and $800 million towards the occupation.
In the meantime, activism in Australia is going strong in the
face of the repressive Howard government, said Brennan. On a
regular basis activists are working on resistance towards corporate
globalization, disruption of world economic services, refugee
rights, and the anti-war movement.
“What you find is that the liberal feminists are hiding away in
academe. It’s the young women who want change and their attitude is
kick ass,” said Brennan.
Brennan hopes for a future of unified struggle, which is a large
part of her motivation to raise awareness about issue in her native
land across borders. “What we need is a movement that is
multi-issued. I think we have a lot to learn across global borders
and I think we are moving towards global solidarity.”