eS4W congratulates Marie Coleman’s on her appointment as an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia, approved by the Governor-General. Marie has been recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours for her years of commitment and contributions to the advancement of women in Australia . Here is the way the honour was reported in the Canberra Times:
Marie Coleman recalls the first time she started arguing for women’s rights.
As a young high school student in the mid 1940s, Ms Coleman was surprised to learn that women did not earn as much as men.
“When I asked why on earth a woman did not earn as much as a man someone explained that if they got paid the same amount, no one would employ women anymore.”
At 77, Ms Coleman has maintained her indignation at the gender pay gap over the years, as well as championing everything from universal access to paid maternity leave to gay marriage rights.
Some arguments have been won – such as paid maternity leave – but the pay gap, and other injustices, remain.
“A lot of these issues just take tremendous persistence.”
Her persistence has been rewarded with an AO for distinguished service to the advancement of women, particularly through the National Foundation for Australian Women and the Australian Women’s Archives project
Having been the first woman in Australia to head a statutory authority when she chaired the Whitlam Government’s Social Welfare Commission in 1973, Ms Coleman has had a long and distinguished career in public service – being awarded a Public Service Medal in 1990 and a Centenary Medal in 2001.
She was a founding member in 1989 of the National Foundation for Australian Women and is now on the Social Policy Committee. She is also a Committee Member for the Australian Women’s Archives Project.
She has been inducted into the Victorian Parliament’s Honour Roll of Women as well as the ACT Honour Roll of Women and is a patron of the Australian Reproductive Health Alliance.
Ms Coleman said her lifelong passion had been the provision of good government policy, although she found the machinations of politics distasteful and often appalling.
“For me, the love is of good public policy, not politics.”
“And somehow, I seem to find the energy to keep arguing for it.”
While her name is synonymous with the Australian women’s movement, Ms Coleman has most recently become the voice calling for adaptable housing in the inner north.
“I suppose I can’t resist getting involved, but I do think we all have to take responsibility and we all have to be engaged.”
She was a little surprised by her AO, but was “conscious of the honour and appreciative of the honour.”