Great Petition Sculpture – Melbourne

The Great Petition Sculpture in Burston Reserve, Melbourne, really impressed me. It commemorates the 100th anniversary (in 2008) of female suffrage in Victoria. 

Great Petition Sculpture

Great Petition Sculpture

We came across the Great Petition Sculpture quite by chance after Mass at nearby St Patrick’s Cathedral on an autumn Sunday morning. The sculpture is set in a in a beautiful little park on Parliament Place.

The Great Petition Sculpture is a 20 metre representation of the ‘Monster Petition’. The petition was presented to the Victorian Parliament in 1891. The sculpture is the work of Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee.

Women had been promised the vote in Victoria. But they had to prove that many women wanted the vote. There were over 30,000 women’s signatures on the petition. Even so, women had to wait another seventeen years.

Suffragettes in Australia were denigrated. They were called poor wretched creatures. They were accused of being ‘illogical and absurd’ for wanting the vote. But they argued that the only people who could not vote were criminals in prison, the insane – and women.

votes for women

Victoria was the last state in Australia to grant female suffrage. South Australia was first, in 1895. The Commonwealth of Australia granted female suffrage in 1902 in the Constitution.

To our shame, Aboriginal women (and men) had to wait until 1965 for the right to vote in all state and Commonwealth elections.

The Great Petition Sculpture reminded me that

  • In spite of two further waves of feminism, women in Australia still face huge injustices
  • Women are not paid equal wages for work of equal value
  • Although there have been changes, women are still responsible for the majority of housework and childcare.
  • The 2015 Budget removes hard won concessions in the form of family payments from many women
  • Other women are to be denied childcare
  • Many older, single women live in poverty because they have not accrued superannuation.

Do you know of other sculptures which commemorate the work of feminists? Please share!

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