Australia since Federation Defining Moments, 1901–present
Investigation 3: The development of Australian democracy
3.5 1984 Australian Parliament passes Sex Discrimination Act
Imagine that you and a friend both love flying.
You both want to be pilots.
One of you is a male, and the other is a female.
You go to the biggest airline in Australia and apply to be trained as pilots. You sit the test.
You both get exactly the same score.
However, the airline company only accepts one of you — the man. The other — the woman — is rejected. When asked why, the company says: because women are not strong enough to pilot planes. Also, there will be years of training, and they do not want the females to have all that training, paid for by the company, and then leave when they become pregnant and cannot fly.
How does the male feel about this?
How does the female feel about this?
Discuss your ideas, then see how something like this really did happen in Australia.
This was the situation faced by people in Australia in 1984. What did they do?
Read the information below and then use it to answer the questions that follow.
By 1984 women in Australia had won the right for equal pay for the same job, and equal pay for work that was of equal value. Far more women than ever before were now working. But there were still some jobs that they were not allowed to do. There were places that they were not allowed to go — for example, in some hotels and clubs.
Stopping sex discrimination
The Australian Parliament introduced a new law. It made it illegal to discriminate against women in jobs and education. This meant that you could not give a man a job just because he was a man, and you could not stop a woman from having a job because she was a woman.
Supporters and opponents
Many people supported this because it treated people equally, and was fair. Some others opposed it, because they thought women were not capable of doing some jobs (such as being a firefighter), or because women should be home-makers and family carers, not workers.
The Sex Discrimination Act was passed, and opened the way for women to do most jobs that men did and have careers as well as families.
Analysing a poster
What is the situation today?
The idea of sex discrimination laws is to help create equality and fairness.
Look at this poster about the situation in Australia today.
1. Which of these statements is True, False, or cannot be known from the information in the poster?
2. What was the event and what caused it to happen?
3. What changed as a result of this event and what were the consequences of this change?
4. Why was this Defining Moment so significant in Australian history?