Diane Alley has worked consistently for over 5 decades to promote the principles set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was elected president of the National Council of Women of Victoria 1977–1980 and then of the National Council of Women of Australia 1982–1985. Both periods saw new challenges to NCW's representative status emerging from second-wave feminist organisations and conservative reactions to them. Alley worked though the Councils and in a range of other organisations, including the National Status of Women Committee, United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA), in order to ensure equal opportunity for women and to achieve social justice for all members of the community, both in Australia and internationally. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1981 for her community work and was among the first group of women admitted to the Victorian Women's Honour Roll in 2001.
Diane Alley was born on 12 December 1927 in Ballarat, Victoria, the daughter of Dr Frederick Duke, medical practitioner, and his wife Eva (née Collins). Dr Duke practised in Holbrook, NSW, and died in 1932 at the height of the Depression when Diane was only 4 years old. Diane attended Clarendon Presbyterian Ladies' College, Ballarat, while living with her aunt. She then attended the Methodist Ladies' College in Melbourne and, after her mother remarried, Girton Church of England Girls' Grammar School in Bendigo. She gained a BA Hons in English language and literature from the University of Melbourne in 1948. She later completed a Diploma of Criminology in 1976. Her marriage in 1949 to Stephen Alley, a law student, produced two sons and two daughters. Stephen became a judge and deputy president of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Diane Alley joined the National Council of Women as a delegate from the Janet Clarke Hall Society. In her association with NCW, Diane contributed notably to the fields of family and child welfare, the status of women, women's rights and issues of international justice, as well as serving in various executive roles: honorary secretary of NCWV 1968–1975, president of NCWV 1977–1980, president of NCWA 1982–1985, and convenor of the Child and Family Committee at state, national and International Council of Women levels. She has travelled overseas to represent the NCWA at conferences of the ICW.
Diane has played a positive role over many years in times of great change in the women's movement, working hard to maintain existing networks and create new ones, and all the while retaining a focus on women's rights issues both in Australia and overseas. Both state and national governments have appointed her to advisory bodies: the Victorian Premier's Equal Opportunity Advisory Council 1978–1982 and the National Women's Consultative Council 1984–1986. She was also personally selected by Dame Ada Norris to succeed her as chair of the National Status of Women Committee, United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) from 1980, and was patron of the UN International Year of the Family in 1994. She received the UNAA Founders Award in 2007.
Alley played a significant role in relation to the equal pay campaigns of the 1960s, in Victoria and at the national level, and has continued to advocate for the implementation of UN Conventions, especially those of relevance to women and children including the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women and its Optional Protocol. She was a supporter of the Melbourne Working Women's Centre from its inception in 1975.
When government funding was given by the Hawke Labor government to establish a self-managed national body to which all women's organisations could affiliate, Alley was again actively involved, regularly participating in the meetings of the new grouping, CAPOW (Coalition of Australian Participating Organisations of Women).
Later, under the Howard government's minister for women's affairs, Senator Jocelyn Newman, a new mechanism for consultation with the women's sector was established. One of three funded secretariats was led by the National Office of YWCA, with a charter for women's organisations to work together to help establish a voice with government for the young, for Indigenous women and for immigrant and refugee women. It took the name 'WomenSpeak'. Diane Alley played a particularly significant role within this secretariat or alliance, for example encouraging younger participants to engage fully with the CEDAW shadow report process, and advocating for Australia to accede to the CEDAW Optional Protocol. Alley was also a significant member of Women's Rights Action Network of Australia, WRANA, in 1999–2000, bringing to it insights into organisational process, historical perspectives on the women's movement nationally and internationally, and a strong and committed sense of justice for women.
Alley has also worked to support child and women's welfare. She was the chair of the Victorian Consultative Council of Social Development (1985–1986) and on its Family Policy Sub-committee from 1979 and the National Advisory Council on Social Welfare (1983–1985). She was an honorary magistrate of the Children's Court from 1972 to1984, and vice-president of the Children's Protection Society from 1980. She was a state executive member & convenor of the project committee for the UN International Year of the Child 1979 and provided support for UNIFEM (UN Women), for the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition, and for the Australian National Centre for Refugee Women at the University of NSW.
Diane Alley served on the Fairlea Women's Prison Council 1979–1983, and was also an official prison visitor to Pentridge and metropolitan prisons. To equip herself appropriately for the demands of these offices, Alley undertook a Diploma of Criminology. Her other positions include membership of the executive of the Free Kindergarten Union 1960–1975, committee membership of Lady Gowrie Child Centre 1970–, board membership of the Adult Deaf Society 1981, the La Trobe University Brain-Behaviour Research Institute 1984–1992, the University of Melbourne Social Biology Research Unit 1984–1992 and, since 2003, the Committee of the Friends of the Victorian College of the Arts. From 1990 to 2010, she served as a member of the Social Development Panel of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (Victoria).
In 1981, Diane Alley was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of service to women's affairs. In 1993, she received a testimonial from the United Nations Co-ordinator for the International Year of the Family designating her an IYF patron for exemplary support to the UN program for IYF. On her retirement from the Board of the Children's Protection Society in 1999, she was made a life vice-president, only the second since its formation in 1896. She was also one of the extraordinary women to receive the NCWA Centenary Award in 1998.
'I have a firm belief in equal opportunity for both sexes. I have always worked to raise the status of women, and towards social justice in this society.' (Diane Alley).
Explore further resources about Diane Alley in the Australian Women's Register.