Chilla Bulbeck [PDF 158KB] - Australian Electoral Commission

Public suggestion 13
Chilla Bulbeck
2 pages
Western Australia secretariat Phone 08 6363 8043 Email [email protected]
Emeritus Professor Chilla Bulbeck,
Gender Studies and Social Analysis,
This is a proposal to honour Jo Vallentine by naming the 16th WA federal seat ‘Vallentine’
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Jo Vallentine’s historic election to the Australian senate, the
first time in the world a person was elected to a parliament on a platform of nuclear disarmament.
Jo Vallentine later went on to be instrumental in establishing The Greens (WA), now the state’s
third largest party. She was the first elected representative for the Greens in federal parliament. The
Greens are the third largest political party in the nation, yet no seat honours their contribution to the
values of nonviolence and peace, sustainability, grassroots democracy and social justice. Jo
Vallentine continues to make an outstanding contribution to our community through a passionate
commitment to these goals.
Jo Vallentine is one of six Australian women and one of the 1000 Peace Women Across the Globe
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (Association 1000 women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005).
She is one of Western Australia’s 100 most influential people of all time (in 2006, The West
Australian). In 2000, she was nominated as Australian of the Year.
Jo Vallentine was elected in 1984 to represent Western Australia in the Senate for the Nuclear
Disarmament Party, running with the slogan ‘Take Heart—Vote Vallentine’. She commenced her
term in July 1985 as an Independent Senator for Nuclear Disarmament. During her seven years in
Parliament, Vallentine was a persistent voice for peace, nuclear disarmament, Aboriginal land rights,
social justice and the environment.
It is likely - and fitting - that a tumultuous time of hope and despair in Australian politics will be
remembered with two new seats: in New South Wales, ‘Whitlam’ and in Victoria, ‘Fraser’. The
proposal to honour Jo Vallentine honours a campaigner for something dear to the hearts of millions
of people – to this day – and to which neither Prime Minister committed himself: peace and nuclear
Jo Vallentine was and continues to be a tireless worker in the anti-nuclear campaign and for a world
free of the violence, destruction and useless expenditure caused by war. Naming a seat of Vallentine
recognises the global movement for peace in which Australia briefly led the way, at least in political
representation. The global anti-nuclear movement reached a peak in the 1970s and 1980s, expressed
in the New York demonstration in 1982 of one million people protesting the arms race, ‘the largest
anti-nuclear protest and the largest political demonstration in American history’. In Australia, ‘The
Palm Sunday events were huge - about twenty thousand people marching in 1984 - and superbly
organised, without the help of the internet or social media’ (Jo Vallentine). Jo Vallentine’s party,
The NDP was the fastest growing political party in Australian history. The yearning for peace and
the fear of nuclear war was demonstrated in the re-election of Jo Vallentine in 1987 as an
independent under the banner of the ‘Vallentine Peace Group’
Women of substance continue to be under-represented in the names of federal electorates, places,
animals and so on achieving a higher recognition rate than women. Of WA Federal Electorates:
• 67% (10) are named after a man
• 20% (3) are named after a family/place/tree/animal/other
13% (2) are named after a woman
Of all Federal Electorates:
• 67% (101) are named after a man
• 23% (34) are named after a family/place/tree/animal/other
• 10% (15) are named after a woman
Jo Vallentine was the first woman or person in several roles, apart from her historic wins on the
nuclear disarmament and Greens platforms. Jo Vallentine was also the first female and non-major
Party individual to serve on the 30 person Joint Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee
(from 9 October 1987 to 31 January 1992). Jo Vallentine lobbied hard for this position, seeing it as
a chance to raise questions about the environment, social justice and human rights on a committee
that traditionally saw trade as its overriding concern.
The women’s movement transformed the rights of Australian women in work, the home and
cultural life and challenged the widely accepted ways of doing things, including politics. Jo
Vallentine took feminism seriously, expressing it in the first ever all female senate ticket which also
fielded the first ever female Aboriginal candidate, Gladys Yarran (the Greens (WA) senate ticket in
1990). Her 1984 election campaign was run by mothers of young children, including Jo Vallentine
herself, with a positive and hopeful focus of ‘No negativity, no slanging matches’, compared with
the ‘raised fists’ and ‘mushroom clouds’ of the campaign in the eastern states. 1500 to 2000
volunteers staffed 80% of WA’s booths from Kununurra to Esperance on election day. Her team
attempted a ‘non-hierarchical model, using consensus decision-making’ to run Jo Vallentine’s
electorate offices in Canberra and Perth, Jo contributing her ‘entire electorate allowance to the team,
to be spent as the group decides’.
Jo Vallentine continues in the long tradition of strong Western Australian women trailblazing their
way into politics, such as Edith Cowan, the first woman to be elected to a parliament anywhere in
Australia and Dorothy Tangney (recognised in the electorate of Tangney, the first female senator).
Just as transformative of Australian politics and culture as the peace and women’s movements in
the 1970s and 1980s was the environmental movement. Instead of seeing the planet as an endless
economic resource, the conservation movement understood the interconnectedness of people and
planet and the ‘limits to growth’ imposed by non-renewable use of land, water, minerals. Jo
Vallentine wrote presciently in 1990 ‘there is an urgent need to set a limit on carbon dioxide
emissions’ but her most sustained environmental campaigning has been to ban uranium mining, the
cause that propelled her into political activism because of its deadly threat to humanity. Jo
Vallentine was instrumental in persuading the government to refuse to sign the Convention on the
Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities and instead to promote the formulation of a
comprehensive conservation convention that protects Antarctica to this day from mineral
exploitation and as a zone of scientific co-operation
Possibly the most often arrested Australian senator, Jo Vallentine writers ‘Quakers are encouraged
to "let their lives speak"’. Standing up for peace and nonviolence, Jo Vallentine has been arrested
at least six times from 1987 to 2000. She continues to inspire all her meet her with a vision of a
better world, with a gentle sense of humour and with her passion for peace and social justice.