Arrow, Michelle: The Seventies: The Personal, the Political and the Making of Modern Australia

Michelle Arrow

The Seventies: The Personal, the Political and the Making of Modern Australia, NewSouth, Sydney, 2019; electronic version available

In 1970 homosexuality was illegal, God Save the Queen was our national anthem and women pretended to be married to access the pill. By the end of the decade conscription was scrapped, tertiary education was free, access to abortion had improved, the White Australia policy was abolished and a woman read the news on the ABC for the first time.

The Seventies was the decade that shaped modern Australia. It was the decade of ‘It’s Time’, stagflation and the Dismissal, a tumultuous period of economic and political upheaval. But the Seventies was also the era when the personal became political, when we had a Royal Commission into Human Relationships and when social movements tore down the boundary between public and private life. Women wanted childcare, equal pay, protection from violence and agency to shape their own lives. In the process, the reforms they sought — and achieved, at least in part — reshaped Australia’s culture and rewrote our expectations of government. (blurb)

J1A7TmcYThe book was reviewed for Nine (Fairfax) newspapers by Christine Wallace and for Inside Story by Susan Lever. The author with Phillip Adams on Late Night Live. Whispering Gums blog report (plus comments) on Canberra launch with the author talking to Frank Bongiorno (author of The Eighties and The Sex Lives of Australians). Amazon extracts. Interview with Lyndon Megarrity on Australian Policy History.

Along the way [in the book] we bump into Kate Jennings, Marcia Langton, Germaine Greer, Bobbi Sykes, Elizabeth Reid, Susan Magarey, Zelda D’Aprano, Dennis Altman, Anne Summers, Beatrice Faust, Faith Bandler and a score of others involved in this transformative decade … This is important history. Concerned citizens are again getting active and it can only help to understand recent history, places and people who didn’t yield to an unacceptable status quo but rather took action to do something fundamental about it. (Wallace)

The Seventies describes the triumph of a reforming rather than a radical feminism that opened opportunities for middle-class women graduates and ensured there would be many more of them in the generations to come … While the changes these women achieved have provided lasting benefits to the mainstream of middle-class women and their families in Australia, they left behind pockets of poverty and disadvantage, especially among Aboriginal people. (Lever)

Michelle Arrow has long had an interest in the Whitlam era Royal Commission. And in Germaine Greer. A previous book from her was Friday on Our Minds. She launched The Honest History Book in Sydney in 2017.

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