A History of the Women's Electoral Lobby has been prepared at the Australian National University, with the assistance of a three-year grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC LRG A00104176 ).

The Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL) is a feminist political organisation founded in Australia in 1972 and New Zealand in 1975. It is a non-party-political and non-sectarian women’s political lobby.

It is the women's organisation most often referred to in parliament, the media and books on Australian politics. Many university theses have been written about it. For theses about WEL click here.

"WEL’s role as an advocate for Australian women is recognised in the political and social history of Australia. WEL has been at the forefront of the struggle for equal employment opportunity, access to quality child care, sex discrimination legislation, equal representation on boards and women’s election to Parliament. WEL continues to campaign for women’s access to reliable contraception, safe legal
abortion and fertility treatments." (WEL-ACT)

WEL-Diamond Valley in street march
photo by Sandy Turnbull


Despite everything that has been written by and about WEL no full-scale history had been written - until now.

The National Journal of the Women's Electoral Lobby             WEL Said Journal 1974                     National Bulletin Nov/Feb 1989

WEL-ACT 1976? Artist: Carol Ambrus         WEL-ACT for WEL-NSW 1972         Victoria Green and Margot Snyder screen printing  
    WEL-ACT 1972. Artist: Carol Ambrus       WEL-ACT childcare demonstration Parlt House 1974       WEL-Vic 1970s


Click here for photographs of WEL history
Click for further WEL history photos

The WEL History has 253 photographs spanning 30 years in its database. For discussion of these and other photographs, please see the PAPERS BELOW


The ARC funded history has been assessing WEL’s significance as a policy actor and its attempts to shape the public agenda over the last thirty years. It has looked at the ideas, strategies,
networks, actions and reactions.

It explores:

  • WEL’s influence on government policy and how it was achieved; and
  • the meaning of WEL for those involved and its impact on their lives.
It builds on the fine array of university theses (website ), local histories of WEL groups and memoirs published by WEL members,
as well as the plethora of WEL newsletters, submissions and other publications and the 4000 items in the WEL media database.

WEL also existed in New Zealand 1975-2004 and its history is recorded in Elspeth Preddy's book, The WEL Herstory: The Women’s Electoral Lobby in New Zealand 1975-2002 , Wellington, 2003.

The Project Team has created large data bases on the following aspects of the History:

  • The characteristics of WEL members (N=550) (website)
  • The media impact of WEL (n=4000) (website)
  • The pattern of WEL policy submissions (n=892) (website)

  • Other datasets are analysed in the Reports, Draft Chapters and Conference papers below:


    For WEL History Survey Report click here.

    For WEL History Survey Report: Appendix 2 click here.

    For Snippets from the History Survey Report click here.

    For WEL in the Media 1972-2002 click here.

    For location of WEL Groups 1974 click .

    For introduction to WEL submissions database click here.

    For WEL-Australia submissions 1970s click here.

    For WEL-Australia submissions 1980s click here.

    For WEL-Australia submissions 1990-2009 click here.

    For WEL-NSW submissions 1973-2008 click here.

    For WEL-Victoria submissions 1970s click here.

    For WEL-Victoria submissions 1980s click here.

    For WEL-Victoria submissions 1990-2006 click here.

    For WEL-Qld submissions 1973-2005 click here.

    For WEL-WA submissions 1973-2005 click here.

    For Report on WEL-WA submissions click here.

    For WEL-SA submissions click here.

    For WEL-ACT submissions 1972-2003 click here.

    For WEL-NT submissions click here.

    For Report on references to WEL in Hansard click here.

    For Report on WEL National Co-ordinators click here.


    Sydney, UNSW Press, 2008

    Sample chapters

    All draft material from Making Women Count is copyright and may not be quoted without express permission of the author, who can be contacted at: marian.sawer@anu.edu.au

    For Chapter 1 click here.

    For Chapter 8 click here.


    For Canberra Times review, click here.

    For Australian Historical Studies review, click here.

    For Labour History review, click here.

    For Australian Journal of Political Science review, click here.

    For Australian Feminist Studies review, click here.


    For Marian Sawer, "The Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act" click here.

    For Marian Sawer, "Writing WEL History" click here .

    For Gail Radford, 'WEL Women - then and now. A Progress Report on the WEL History Project" a presentation to the 17th WEL National Conference, Sydney 12-13 June 2004 (RTF & PDF )

    For Gail Radford "A History of WEL in Canberra" a presentation in Women's History Month 2004, (RTF & PDF )


    Depicted below is the project team as it was in 2003.

    LtR: Sarah Gardiner, Erica Fisher, PJ Aguilar, Marian Sawer, Gail Radford

    Those currently working on the WEL History Project in Canberra are:

    Marian Sawer

    Gail Radford

    Erica Fisher


    For further information please contact the WEL History Project Team, School of Politics and International Relations, CASS, ANU Canberra, ACT 0200, Phone: (02) 6125 2128.

    Last Updated: 1 July 2010
    Email: marian.sawer@anu.edu.au
    URL: http://wel.anu.edu.au