On 30 March 2019 we will gather at the National Library to celebrate the Jubilee of the Zonta Club of Canberra. We will honour the women who founded the Club, and the Zonta members and friends in Canberra who have continued their commitment to empowering women through service and advocacy, as part of the worldwide network of clubs that together constitute Zonta International.
Zonta began in Buffalo, New York State, in 1919. The Auckland Club was chartered in 1965, Melbourne and Sydney (second attempt) in 1966, Adelaide, Canberra and Wellington in 1969. The first Australia and New Zealand Representative to Zonta International (1970-72) was Dr Joyce Fildes of the Zonta Club of Canberra.
ZCC had 19 Charter members. A number of charter members had high profiles in the Canberra community, including
- Ann Dalgarno, the only woman member of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Advisory Council, 1959 -1967 and 1970 – 1974, who had also served on the Canberra Community Hospital Board.
- Sylvia Curley, who joined Canberra Community Hospital in 1938 and retired as Deputy Matron in 1966. She was a strong advocate for improving nurses’ education.
- Dr Joyce Fildes was a Research Fellow and later Fellow at the Australian National University. She was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2000 for services to the community, particularly through the Zonta Club of Canberra and the ACT Chapter of the Australian Federation of University Women.
Amongst committed members who joined later was a very significant role model for women in the Australian Defence Force, Julie Hammer, who was promoted to Air Vice Marshal in 2003, becoming the first woman to attain two-star rank in the ADF. She was awarded the Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial Medal by the Royal Aeronautical Society to recognise her contribution to Australian aerospace. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2004, was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 2008, and was also national president of Engineers Australia in 2008.
Walter Burley Griffin had designed Canberra for 75,000 people, but by 1966 the population had passed 100,000, and by 1971 it had almost 150,000 people.
Social attitudes to women were changing. Federal Cabinet finally agreed to the lifting of the ‘marriage bar’ in the Public Service on 24 August 1966. The principles of wage fixation were also changing under pressure for equal pay. The absence of affordable quality childcare was a concern of many parents then as now. The ANU Pre-School and Childcare Centre opened its doors in January 1969, as a community- based response to this perceived need. (My month -old baby was its first enrollee and I served ten years as President.) However, it was 1975 before Canberra saw its first women’s refuge, which opened on International Women’s Day. Today it is Australia’s longest-running shelter.
Gender -neutral remuneration still remains to be achieved, as does adequate representation of women across politics and on government and private sector Boards:
The Zonta Club of Canberra is currently committed to providing funds for Zonta International programs, to providing birthing kits to women in the developing world, and to assisting Femili PNG as it assists in cases of family violence. Locally, ZCC is committed to service programs to meet women’s needs -to providing breast care cushions for women with breast cancer, to increasing awareness of the need to prevent and ameliorate family violence, to contributing to the care of homeless women, to encouraging the achievement of women and girls in education, and to improving women’s health.