Until Tuesday last week, there were only 10 statues of real women in the state of Victoria. That’s 10 out of 580.
With the unveiling of the statue to commemorate Zelda D’Aprano this week at Victorian Trades Hall, there are now 11.
This monument is a further step in the right direction for Women’s visibility, recognition, equality and closing the gender gap.
It reminds us of the sacrifices Zelda D’Aprano and her contemporaries made, and that the Equal Pay they fought for is, sadly, still an ongoing issue today. She was at the forefront of the initial legal battles over Equal Pay.
After the Equal Pay test case failed in October 1969, she famously chained herself to the doors of the Commonwealth Building during her lunch break, with women who worked in the building supporting her.
Later that month she was joined by Alva Geikie and Thelma Solomon, and they chained themselves to the doors of the Arbitration Court, the same one which had dismissed the Equal Pay Case.
In 1970 they founded the Women’s Action Committee to get women more involved in activism.
“We had passed the stage of caring about a “lady-like” image because women had for too long been polite and ladylike and were still being ignored” (Zelda D’Aprano 1995).
They travelled around Melbourne paying only 75% of the fares, because women were only given 75% of the wage of men at the time. And because women weren’t allowed to drink in public bars of pubs, only in the lounges, they did pub crawls across Melbourne.
The work of women like Zelda D’Aprano to begin the long road to Equal Pay continues today, with the gender pay gap in Australia currently sitting at 13.3%.
Women continue to retire with significantly less superannuation than their male colleagues. Women are more likely to experience poverty and homelessness in their retirement years, even though they have worked their entire lives.
There is clearly still a lot more work to be done!
The Union Women’s Committee will meet again in June to discuss how to continue the important work that women like Zelda D’Aprano and others before her began.
The Union is proud to have contributed to funding the commissioning of the monument.
We wholeheartedly encourage you to pay Zelda D’Aprano a visit at Trades Hall on Lygon St, Carlton when you are next in the city.
Prompted by the unveiling, our colleagues at Trades Hall are now running Feminist History Tours.
The tour is a guided walkthrough of Trades Hall and covers the important and ongoing contribution Women have made to the Union Movement in Victoria and Australia wide.
Want to go check it out? You’ll find more information on tours of Trades Hall at https://www.weareunion.org.au/tours