Australian Women's History Forum
incorporating Women's History Month
The Australian Women's History Forum (AWHF) aims to enhance understanding of the role of women in the history of Australia.
The AWHF website provides resources for teachers, students and others keen to know more about women's history. A key activity of AWHF is the celebration each March of Women's History Month, originally an initiative of Helen Leonard.
The AWHF website is a gateway to online information on women who have shaped Australian history. It is being developed as a useful resource for teachers, students, media professionals, travellers, professional historians, family and local historians, writers and filmmakers, librarians, archivists, curators and collectors.
The AWHF reference group provide specialist advice on website content.
Chair: Pamela Harris
Media: Sandy Forbes
Researchers: Libby Coates & Pauline McDonough
AWHF Reference Group
Dr Romaine Rutnam
Ms Pamela Harris (Chair) has been a long-time resident of Canberra, having also lived in Colombia and England. In the late 70s she undertook postgraduate studies in librarianship, subsequently working in the High Court library when it moved to Canberra. She later completed a Master’s Degree in Public Policy at ANU and worked in various public sector positions relating to income support, aged care, health and the environment. In early 2000, Pamela was awarded a Public Service National Australia Day Achievement Medallion for her work on negotiating the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Later in the same year she received a Centenary of Australia Public Service Award for contributions to the achievements of Environment Australia. Now retired from the public sector, Pamela maintains a strong interest in international relations, the environment, human rights and other social policy issues.
Ms Di Johnstone,( Administrative Officer), is a retired Australian diplomat who served at diplomatic missions in Pretoria, Salisbury, Nairobi, New York, Los Angeles, and as Ambassador to Nepal. As President of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Association she campaigned to increase women’s representation as Heads of Mission. She was seconded to ESSO (Australia) and, after Joint Service Staff College, to the Defence Department. She was a UN Observer at the 1994 South African elections. She received a Defence Secretary’s Commendation in 1994 and a DFAT Secretary’s Australia Day Award in 1996. In retirement her major interests are supporting the Ifa Lethu Foundation (returning to South Africa apartheid-era art), women’s history, animal welfare and resident action on planning and heritage issues.
Ms Libby Coates (Research) is an Hons graduate in History and Geography from University of Melbourne. She was a teacher librarian for 20 years in Papua New Guinean and Canberran high schools. She then transferred to the APS as a librarian.
Much of her work has been in libraries of cultural organisations e.g. AIATSIS and NMA and involved both research and the development of webpages. In retirement she works as a volunteer in the library of the National Portrait Gallery.
Born in UK but brought to Australia as a “tiny tot” (heading for picture in Melbourne Argus when she arrived) her interest in History was fostered by her father who was an official War Historian. Her understanding of the neglect of the role of women was encouraged by her mother who, while a highly qualified nurse, never forgot that her father had considered university was “not suitable for a girl” even though she had won a scholarship.
Sandy Forbes (Media) is a retired journalist and journalism educator, with more than 40 years' experience in print, radio and TV - and in teaching and training journalists in Australia, Canada, England, southern Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. Among other things, she has been the national head of training at the ABC and has held senior editorial posts at The Canberra Times. At the ABC, she spearheaded an AusAID-funded project from 1994 to 1997 to train broadcasters, journalists and managers at the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Like many "new chums" (Sandy was originally Canadian), she has an insatiable curiosity about Australian history. She has had a long association with Manning Clark House, based at the Canberra home of the historian. On contracts to the public affairs unit of the National Museum of Australia she promoted its activities, and she has been on its Friends committee for many years. She is a committee member of the Friends of the Albert Hall, Canberra's historic assembly hall. A hard-headed manager, Sandy maintains a soft-hearted interest in refugees (through Canberra Refugee Support and Oxfam Australia), international development (mainly through Australian Business Volunteers) and the Australian wine industry (as a director of the newly created Forbes Wine Company).
Dr Lenore Coltheart taught political history in Australian universities for 25 years and held research fellowships at the Australian National University and at Newnham College at Cambridge University, before moving to Canberra in 1997. From 1997 to 2003 Lenore worked with the National Archives of Australia on projects including the Documenting and Democracy and Australia's Prime Ministers websites. Lenore has a long-standing interest in the role of women at the League of Nations, which led to her interest in feminist internationalist Jessie Street. She published Jessie Street: A Revised Autobiography in 2004 and is currently working on a biography of Jessie Street.
Dr Tikka Wilson is a managing editor specialising in website editing. She has worked at the United Nations in Geneva, the ANU, the National Archives of Australia and is currently the Multimedia & Web manager at the National Museum of Australia. She has worked on teams developing public history websites since the late 1990s including Documenting a Democracy, Uncommon Lives, Australia's Prime Ministers, Cook's Pacific Encounters and, most recently, Collaborating for Indigenous Rights. In the mid-1990s she worked with Link-Up (NSW) Aboriginal Corporation on their submission to the National Inquiry on the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from the Their Families and, located in Women's Studies at ANU, wrote her PhD thesis on the subject of Aboriginal Stolen Generation autobiography.