Women in the making of Canberra - Providing

Mother and baby at Queen Elizabeth II Family Centre in Curtin

Mother and baby at Queen Elizabeth II Family Centre in Curtin Photograph by Sarah Bell, courtesy of Canberra Mothercraft Society

Women's organisations made sure that community needs were met. The ACT branch of the National Council of Women was formed in 1939, providing a focus for a wide range of women's organisations across the community - Canberra Mothercraft Society, Canberra Relief Society, St John's Church of England Ladies Guild, Presbyterian Ladies Guild, Canberra Community Hospital Auxiliary, Canberra Croquet Club, Women's Hockey Association and the YWCA of Canberra.

The Mothercraft Society grew out of the Women's and Infants Health Society formed in 1926, becoming the Canberra Mothercraft Society the following year. Over 75 years it established facilities for mothers and babies, the most prominent being the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Home for Post-Natal Care. Modern motel-style accommodation was added to new facilities in Curtin in 1996-7 and is still managed by the Canberra Mothercraft Society.

As Canberra developed, other needs were identified. By the late 1970s and early 1980s a Family Planning Centre, a Rape Crisis Centre and refuges for women escaping domestic violence had been established. The Women's Legal Centre provides advice to women struggling with family breakdown and the complexities of the court system. The Canberra Women's Health Centre (now the Women's Centre for Health Matters) was opened in 1991.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service, Ainslie

Indigenous women have created a number of organisations for young people and families in the ACT. Several women were key contributors in the establishment of Gugan Gulwan Aboriginal Youth Corporation in the late 1980s, when they found that there was a demand for services for young Aboriginal people. Also in the late 1980s, Olive Brown was a driving force in the establishment of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service at the Griffin Centre. The service is now located behind the Ainslie shops. Matilda House and Robyne Bancroft were on the first ACT Heritage Council from 1992-1995. Women were also closely involved in the establishment of the Aboriginal Legal Service in the 1980s.

Staff of the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service
at Ainslie. (left to right) - Liz Daly, Taleta Ling, Muriel Brandy, Julie Tongs Photograph by Alison Ainsworth, Women's Policy Unit, ACT Government

Individual women have also provided facilities for Canberra. In 1994 Sylvia Curley donated the Mugga-Mugga property to the people of the ACT as a house museum. An Environmental Education Centre opened there in 1995. Stasia Dabrowski cooks and serves soup to needy and homeless people in Civic in the cold winter evenings.

Joy Warren, an active member of Canberra Repertory as an actress and fundraiser, began Canberra's first commercial art gallery, Solander Gallery, in 1974. Solander Gallery is now recognised as the leading commercial art gallery in the Canberra region, and Joy has played a key role in educating audiences about contemporary Australian art. Helen Maxwell opened Australian Girls Own Gallery (aGOG) in 1989, exhibiting and selling works by Australian and Pacific women only. In 2000 she opened the Helen Maxwell Gallery in a New York-style gallery space in Braddon.

Joy Warren

Joy Warren at Solander Gallery, Yarralumla
Photograph by Alison Ainsworth, Women's Policy Unit, ACT Government

Tilley's Devine Caf Gallery was established in 1984 originally as a women only caf and bar, with the aim of providing a safe venue where women could socialise. It exhibits women's art and is internationally renowned as a venue for contemporary music.

Sylvia Curley

Sylvia Curley
Courtesy of the Canberra Times

Tilley's Devine Caf Gallery

Prue Cameron of Tilley's Devine Caf Gallery
at Lyneham shops Photograph by Alison Ainsworth, Women's Policy Unit, ACT Government

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Published by the National Foundation for Australian Women, March 2004