About us

Australian Women’s History Forum
incorporating Women’s History Month

The Australian Women’s History Forum (AWHF) aims to enhance understanding of the role of women in the history of Australia.

The AWHF website provides resources for teachers, students and others keen to know more about women’s history. A key activity of AWHF is the celebration each March of Women’s History Month.

The Australian Women’s History Forum
PO Box 362, Curtin, ACT, 2605

The AWHF website is a gateway to online information on women who have shaped Australian history.  It is being developed as a useful resource for teachers, students, media professionals, travellers, professional historians, family and local historians, writers and filmmakers, librarians, archivists, curators and collectors.

The AWHF reference group provide specialist advice on website content.

Participation guidelines

The aim of the website and blog is to furthered our knowledge and understanding of women’s contributions to Australian history.

Comments are moderated. The first one is pre-moderated. Subsequent comments are post-moderated. We encourage robust discussion, but expect people to be respectful of other viewpoints. We reserve the right to delete spam, irrelevant or offensive comments.

AWHF Patrons

The Hon Margaret Reid AO

AWHF Committee

Convenor: Pamela Harris

History Advisor: Lenore Coltheart
Media:  Sandy Forbes
Researchers: Libby Coates & Pauline McDonough

AWHF Reference Group

Dr Pat Clarke
Dr Lenore Coltheart
Professor Marilyn Lake
Professor Ann McGrath
Ms Ros Russell
Professor Marian Sawer
Dr Ann Summers
Dr Tikka Wilson
Dr Clare Wright

AWHF Sponsors

Di Johnstone
Dr Romaine Rutnam

About us

Ms Pamela Harris (Convenor) lives in Canberra. She worked for nearly a decade as a law librarian in the High Court of Australia. Having completed  a Master’s Degree in Public Policy at ANU she then worked in various public sector positions relating to income support, aged care, health and the environment. In early 2000, Pamela was awarded a Public Service National Australia Day Achievement Medallion for work on negotiating the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Later in the same year she received a Centenary of Australia Public Service Award for contributions to the work of Environment Australia. Now retired, Pamela continues an active involvement in social policy issues, with a particular focus on women’s history.

Ms Libby Coates  (Research) is an Hons graduate in History and Geography from University of Melbourne. She was a teacher librarian for 20 years in Papua New Guinean and Canberran high schools. She then transferred to the APS as a librarian.

Much of her work has been in libraries of cultural organisations e.g. AIATSIS and NMA and involved both research and the development of webpages. In retirement she works as a volunteer in the library of the National Portrait Gallery.
Born in UK but brought to Australia as a “tiny tot” (heading for picture in Melbourne Argus when she arrived) her interest in history was fostered by her father who was an official War Historian. Her understanding  of the neglect of the role of women was encouraged by her mother who, while a highly qualified nurse, never forgot that her father had considered university was “not suitable for a girl” even though she had won a scholarship.

Sandy Forbes (Media) is a retired journalist and journalism educator, with more than 40 years’ experience in print, radio and TV – and in teaching and training journalists in Australia, Canada, England, southern Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. Among other things, she has been the national head of training at the ABC and has held senior editorial posts at The Canberra Times. At the ABC, she spearheaded an AusAID-funded project from 1994 to 1997 to train broadcasters, journalists and managers at the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Like many “new chums” (Sandy was originally Canadian), she has an insatiable curiosity about Australian history. She has had a long association with Manning Clark House, based at the Canberra home of the historian. On contracts to the public affairs unit of the National Museum of Australia she promoted its activities, and she has been on its Friends committee for many years. She is a committee member of the Friends of the Albert Hall, Canberra’s historic assembly hall. A hard-headed manager, Sandy maintains a soft-hearted interest in refugees (through Canberra Refugee Support and Oxfam Australia), international development (mainly through Australian Business Volunteers) and the Australian wine industry (as a director of the newly created Forbes Wine Company).

Dr Lenore Coltheart taught political history in Australian universities for 25 years and held research fellowships at the Australian National University and at Newnham College at Cambridge University, before moving to Canberra in 1997. From 1997 to 2003 Lenore worked with the National Archives of Australia on projects including the Documenting and Democracy and Australia’s Prime Ministers websites. Lenore has a long-standing interest in the role of women at the League of Nations, which led to her interest in feminist internationalist Jessie Street. She published Jessie Street: A Revised Autobiography in 2004 and is currently working on a biography of Jessie Street.

Dr Tikka Wilson is a managing editor specialising in website editing. She has worked at the United Nations in Geneva, the ANU, the National Archives of Australia and is currently the Multimedia & Web manager at the National Museum of Australia. She has worked on teams developing public history websites since the late 1990s including  Documenting a DemocracyUncommon LivesAustralia’s Prime MinistersCook’s Pacific Encounters and, most recently, Collaborating for Indigenous Rights. In the mid-1990s she worked with Link-Up (NSW) Aboriginal Corporation on their submission to the National Inquiry on the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from the Their Families and, located in Women’s Studies at ANU, wrote her PhD thesis on the subject of Aboriginal Stolen Generation autobiography.

Contact us



+612 62814919

8 thoughts on “About us

  1. Nice to see the great improvement in the WHM site. Congratulations!
    I was a participant in the WHM Steering Committee during 1999-2001 (see http://www.triviumpublishing.com/womenshistorymonth/about.html). The Trivium site, which hosted first online Australian, in large part through the efforts and US contacts of Gillian Pollack, contains a record of discussions/chats among women, which I hope will be archived in this new site.
    I would like to point out the large gap in the historical record of WHM, in relating contributions of immigrant and refugee women of non-Anglo Celtic origin (variously labelled ‘non-English speaking background or ‘NESB’, or ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ or ‘CALD’, ‘multicultural’ ,,, I wonder what the next label will be … I hope to see recorded, for example, the emergence of ANESBWA and more recently NIRWA in mobilising women of non-English speaking origins to become active in the Australian women’s movement.

  2. I am writing to say how excited I was when I recently discovered your blog and website. The history of women and their influence and role in everyday society is an area that I am very interested in. I have recently embarked on a small project, writing a blog on the history of the women in my family (The other half of my Tree – stories of my female ancestors) . This project is only in its infancy, however, I am very enthusiastic about its future. I must thank you for your informative site and its wonderful collection of resources, photos and stories.

  3. Glad to have found your website. Looks like you are doing great things.

    I am a retired US historian who specialized in Women’s History and African American History. The Australian Women Writers group has introduced me to Australia. Before I started reading novels on their lists, I knew virtually nothing about Australia. Now I am fascinated with the differences and similarities to what I have researched about the history of the US.

    Can you recommend a general women’s history of Australia or a recent social history. I’d perfer something that includes inforamtion of non-English women.

    • Hi there – great to receive your comment and enquiry. I have asked one of the history advisors in our group to put together some suggestions for you. But in the meantime I thought I’d mention a fairly recent book by Marian Sawer called ‘Making women count: a history of the Women’s Electoral Lobby’ which is a about how this organisation, created in 1972, completely changed the political landscape in Australia.

  4. Nice new website! Would you like to include the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre in Melbourne under your heading “Historic Places”? See my book about the campaign to save this old hospital building at barbaracameron.com.au, and visit qvwc.org.au.
    Regards … Barbara Cameron (barbara.cameron@bigpond.com)

    • We are happy to receive suggestions for additions to the website. What are the key features you think should be entered for your suggested addition?

  5. I’d love to see a Helen Proudfoot entry in here, under ‘Women with a plan’ perhaps. It’s hardly the last word, but below I’ll paste an obituary/appreciation of her I cobbled together from other sources. I posted this on the SYdney Morning Herald’s obituary/back pages – PROUDFOOT, Helen Colleen (1930 – 2011).
    Died on November 7, 2011, aged 81. Beloved wife of Peter and mother of Ann and Emma. Sister of Janette. Grandma of Matthew, Thomas, Claire and Leila.

    Helen Proudfoot (nee Baker) was a town planner and historian specialising in conservation history. She was a long-time contributor to history and heritage in NSW with a particular love of landscapes and gardens. After finishing an Arts degree she studied town planning at Sydney University and worked with the Cumberland County Council and NSW State Planning Authority (later the Department of Planning). Her interest in historic buildings led to an interest in their wider garden settings – she wrote and co-authored a number of studies which were then published, such as:
    – Historic Buildings – Windsor & Richmond (1967);
    – Old Government House: the building and its landscape (1971);
    – Campbelltown, Camden, Appin: Survey and Report on historic buildings and sites (1973);
    – Historic Buildings & Sites Parramatta – City Centre Study’ (with Mark Horn, 1975),
    – Colonial Buildings Macarthur Growth Centre – Campbelltown, Camden, Appin (with Alec Goodsell, Llewella Davies & Max Dupain, 1977);
    – A Guide to Historic Sydney (with Werner Bartel, 1980);
    – Historical and Prehistorical Study of NSW’s Rainforests (with Peter Prineas & Denis Byrne, 1984);
    – Exploring Sydney’s West (1987);
    – The Historic Buildings of Windsor and Richmond (1987);
    – Municipality of Ku-Ring-Gai Heritage Study (with Robert Moore, Penelope Pike, Lester Tropman & Associates, 1987); Cadman’s Cottage: Sydney Cove’s Oldest Building (1988);
    – Sydney Harbour: Paradise of Waters (1988);
    – Gardens in Bloom: Jocelyn Brown and her Sydney Gardens of the ‘30s and ‘40s (1989);
    – Victoria Park, Chippendale – a history and conservation plan (1990);
    – Australia’s First Government House (1990-91); &
    – Miss Traill’s House (1991).
    Helen completed a PhD in 1995 on the formation of Australian towns up to 1849 with an emphasis on Government Domains and open space in early town plans. Further to that she wrote:
    – The Australian metropolis: a planning history (with Stephen Hamnett and Robert Freestone, c2000);
    – the ‘Jocelyn & Alfred Brown’, ‘Coolibah’, ‘Domains’ and ‘Greenwood’ entries in ‘The Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens’ (2002); &
    Interwar gardens: a guide to the history, conservation and management of gardens of 1915-1940 (with The National Trust of Australia (NSW) Parks and Gardens Conservation Committee, c2003).

    Helen contributed articles to the Australian Garden History Society’s journal on Jocelyn Brown’s Sydney gardens (1(3)1-2); Hyde Park, Sydney (2(2)7); butterflies & hobs of flowers (7(3)9-10); 1950s gardens (8(2)18-19) and on Roman gardens.

    She contributed articles to a number of other journals, such as the Royal Australian Historical Society Journal (1979); Heritage (Australian Heritage Society) (1987), The Australian Planner (1991). This is quite a record of achievement and she will be sorely missed.

    Stuart Read

    • Stuart

      Thanks for your interest. We are still constructing the new AWHF site, part of which will have a permanent Who’s Who element to complement entries featured on our WHM Galleries. We will get back to you about Helen Proudfoot for more information regarding an entry once we have completed building the site.

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