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Shirley Horne AM

Shirley Horne had a lifelong commitment to the equality of women.

Inducted:
2001
Category:
Honour Roll

She worked with various community and women's organisations, most notably with YWCA and National Council of Women (NCW). Shirley made the maternity leave presentation to the Arbitration Commission on behalf of National Council of Women, and also presented the Equal Pay case for National Council of Women. An enduring image of Shirley is her rising to her feet with a bundle of press clippings and some carefully drafted notes in her hand, to propose a motion or to recommend a submission to this or that enquiry.

The outcome of the great Equal Pay case in 1972 was significantly influenced by the contribution from the National Council of Women, presented of course by Shirley. Here we saw the fruit of the careful preparatory work so characteristic of this capable woman and those with whom she works. It is to be hoped someone will one day write a detailed account of the impact of the NCW 'Women Work' Standing Committee where so much of the background work was done on the 'Equal Pay for Equal Work' campaign.

Other significant interventions of this type have related to the recognition of the need for some paternity leave and to promote a universal retirement income scheme. There isn't space to deal chronologically with all the calls to government boards and committees, and the many leadership positions taken up by Shirley, especially since the 1960s, but we can touch on some of her organisational involvements.

For example it was as a representative of the YWCA that she first came to be involved with National Council of Women in Victoria. At the Y she was renowned as an encourager of the contributions of others. One woman, who was quite young when she began to work with Shirley within the Y, has spoken of how valued she was for her 'ability to encourage the contributions of others, especially the young'.

They recognised her outstanding ability to make appropriate and timely interventions in debate. They acknowledged too the importance of her gentle but constant reminder of the social justice values of the organisation. There is no doubt that it was with the Y that Shirley refined her capacity to deal with many sided debate and long range strategic planning.

During her time on the Y Council, that body was faced with two major challenges, the physical shift from Russell Street to Elizabeth Street, and the cultural change from a somewhat archaic federation to a national body closely in tune with the needs and aspirations of young women. The ability to keep contact with the young was an outstanding strength of her work and she showed her openness in this regard by her regular involvement with capable young people of every type - through her teaching, her association with the young overseas academics in residence at Graduate House, and through her work with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Many women in Victoria will testify to Shirley's reliability, rigour and her forward looking approach.

Reviewed 27 May 2022

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