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These photos by Jean Taylor are of the Archives room in the Women's Liberation Building situated at 295 Victoria Street West Melbourne during the 1980s.
Old WL Building Archives Room Archives Room Archives Shelving
Victorian Women’s Liberation and Lesbian Feminist Archives Inc
Association Incorporation Act 1981 no A0040374W
ABN 61 138 628 062
PO Box 168, Brunswick East Melbourne, Victoria 3057
phone: 03 9387 6610
email: vwllfa@gmail.com
Herstory Of The Archives
A group of feminist activists formed a reading and discussion group in 1982 based on early Women’s Liberation Movement publications and other material of interest. It wasn't long before they realised that some of the periodicals and conference papers were already hard to come by. This didn't augur well for future reference if they didn't’t immediately do something about the material that was still left. As a result, the group refocused its direction and purpose.

It was out of this concern to safeguard our WLM herstory of one of the most important revolutionary movements of the century that the Women’s Liberation Archives was formed. The first recorded meeting was held on 1 March 1983 in Fairfield with four womyn in attendance. The items on the agenda included opening a cheque account, working out a collection policy and finding a place to house this substantial and unique collection. By the sixth meeting, according to the minutes of 19 April 1983, it was agreed that the aims of the Archives group were:

1. To collect material to build up an historical record of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Victoria.
2. To catalogue such material.
3. To ensure that the material is accessible to all women.
4. To ensure that the material is adequately housed and maintained and protected against loss.
5. To actively produce historical documents for the collection e.g. tapes of interviews, videos, films, holograms, Super 8 movies (can transfer to video).
6. To increase awareness amongst women’s liberationists of the need to record and preserve the history of the women’s movement.
7. To hold the material in trust and to have control of the material in accordance with the above aims regardless of where the material is housed.

The WL Archives group made contact with other feminists to acquire additional material and to attract members, wrote articles and organised a raffle which raised $700. They also researched and produced, in conjunction with Sybylla Press, an extremely well presented and informative calendar for 1984 covering some of the issues and actions of the early years of the WLM, 1969 - 1972 which sold for $1.50. The Group wrote a report for the WLN December 1983:
The Melbourne Women’s Liberation Archives Group has been meeting since last year. We want to collect the following kinds of materials so that it can be made accessible to all women:
Leaflets, papers, conference and discussion papers, working documents from groups, conference registration and agendas, minutes, personal records and diaries, oral histories, photographs, newspaper cuttings, movies, letters, tape recordings...
We intend to index, catalogue and cross-reference items that we collect. We consider the safe keeping and preservation of originals as essential, and we are investigating the best means of ensuring this.
During 1984 the WL Archives group continued to meet on a regular basis and had a stall at the IWD Fair which generated a lot of interest. The group began writing a submission to apply for government CEP funding to employ a womyn to do the archiving and investigated the possibility of becoming incorporated.

They were receiving more and more donations of material from activist feminists and the need for a space to store all the material was becoming critical. As no other suitable space had presented itself they moved all the donations into the Women’s Studies Centre in George Street and priced shelving, chairs, filing cabinets and lockable cupboards for future reference. They organised a training day in August to learn about how to archive the material by using manila folders in archival boxes. And again in conjunction with Sybylla Press, they researched the years 1974 - 1975 and launched another calendar for 1985 on 15 November 1984 at Haywire.

At the first meeting in February 1985 it was decided not to continue with the CEP application and to look at other sources of funding, like the Myer, Reichstein and Stegley Foundations. The group had another successful stall for IWD and had to move out of the Women’s Studies Centre by June. When it was clear that the Melbourne WL Newsletter was defunct and their room at the WL Building at 295 Victoria Street West Melbourne was vacant, the WL Archives got permission from the WL Building Council to move into the large upstairs room in November thereby establishing a mutually agreeable connection with the other activist collectives in the WL Building, including Lesbian Line, Women’s Liberation Switchboard, Lesbian Open House, the Women’s Legal Resource Group and the newly-reformed Victorian WL Newsletter, that was to last for the next seven years. Almost immediately, they began to archive the material in the donations already to hand and to sort them into some semblance of order. A decision was made to maintain all the collections under the name of the individual donor or the name of the collective (often defunct). The material was sorted into manila folders according to subject matter and placed in the archival boxes in alphabetical order.
At the first meeting in 1986, the group agreed to have another stall for IWD with display boards and information which was a success. Once manila folders, archival boxes and shelving were purchased to store the material appropriately and safely, the room started to look more like a working Archives. Articles were written for the WLN, Lesbian News, Lilith and Scarlet Woman and a submission for funding was sent to the Women’s Trust but was ultimately unsuccessful. All of the banners in the WL Building were listed and numbered for easy access. Archiving was completed on several collections, including the old WL Newsletter, and by the end of the year the Archives housed 36 collections. It was agreed to do another calendar in conjunction with Sybylla Press for the following year and research was started on the years 1976 - 1977. The new-look calendar was launched at the Afghan Gallery in Brunswick Street on 1 November with Eileen Cappocchi, Bon Hull and Ursula Harrison as the guest speakers.
Unfortunately, the calendar didn't sell in sufficient numbers to cover costs and the Archives agreed to give Sybylla Press a hand with their fundraising Women’s Ball at the St Kilda Town Hall on 29 May 1987 which was so financially successful Sybylla was able to give some of the profit to the Archives. The Archives group joined the newly-formed Aboriginal Rights Solidarity Group in May and organised for the GOSSIP collective to take a video of Bon Hull talking about her many and varied WLM activities. The group also bought shelving and assembled it in their room, liaised with the State Library, started typing up the lists of all the material in the boxes and ordered letterheads from Sybylla Press. WL Halfway House approached the Archives about archiving their old records and then supported the Archives submission to the Women’s Trust to cover the cost of archiving the substantial amount of material. By the end of that year the Archives had 54 donations altogether, had received the Women’s Trust cheque for $5,000 and the WL Halfway House collection had been stored privately for security purposes.
Into 1988, and work at the Archives continued in much the same way. Group members regularly attended the Archives collective meetings as well as the monthly WL Building Council meetings, enabled students to access the Archives for research on their theses and by the end of the year had accepted another 22 donations. The Archives had some input into Taking Time: A Women’s Historical Data Kit compiled and edited by Yvonne Smith and published by the Union of Australian Women in 1988. Unfortunately, when VWRG decided to move out of the WL Building and set up their own premises it meant that the unfunded groups could no longer afford to pay the rent. In short order, it was agreed to find a cheaper building and to organise the Women’s Summer Ball to pay for it. By mid-November the Archives had moved into the small back room in the new WL Building at 28 Gertrude Street Fitzroy, (diagonally opposite Shrew Women’s Bookshop), and the Women’s Summer Ball on 16 December at the San Remo Ballroom had successfully raised enough money to cover all the WL Building’s expenses for the following year.
By 1989, with the collective down to three members it was agreed not to have anymore meetings. Work still continued as before on the donations of material which by the end of the year were up to 72. For the next three years the Archives accepted new donations (by the end of 1992 there were 90 donations), archived the material, made the collection accessible for students and helped to organise the Women’s Summer and Winter Balls twice a year to keep the WL Building open and accessible. Unfortunately, due to lack of interest and finances the WL Building closed down in June 1992. At that point, Lesbian Open House and Lesbian Line moved to the Young Women’s Housing Shop front in Abbotsford, Women’s Liberation Switchboard stopped functioning and the Women’s Liberation and Lesbian Archives (as they were renamed) moved into two private houses in Brunswick on a temporary basis where they were stored and archived for the next eight years.
During those years work continued on the WL Halfway House collection and several new donations were received, most notably Bob Hull’s filing cabinet in 1993, the Lesbian Line logbooks in 1994, Matrix Guild and the Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria in 1995 and the Performing Older Women’s Circus in 1996. During 1995, a researcher accessed the Archives on a regular basis twice a week for a proposed book about the WLM in Australia by an academic at La Trobe Uni. As an extension of that research and in conjunction with La Trobe Uni the Archives supported a government funded project in 1995 and 1996 to have two womyn work part-time over a six month period to research the material for the WLM book and at the same time work on listing all of the collection for future reference.
During 1995, some of the materials in the Archives, mainly the tee-shirts, were out on loan for the Women With Attitude national travelling exhibition that opened at the old parliament house in April 1995. Towards the end of 1995 negotiations were being made with the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre to move the Archives into the building once it had been renovated. A few months later, when it became apparent with the change to a Liberal state government that the Archives no longer featured in the overall plan nor could it afford to move into the newly-renovated QVWC, a campaign was instigated in 1996 to find a more permanent home for the Archives. The Archives loaned several pieces of memorabilia and other material to the traveling lesbian exhibition, Forbidden Love - Bold Passion, which opened at the State Library on 12 December 1996.

At the beginning of 1997, the WL Halfway House collection, several filing cabinets worth, was shifted to a storage facility in Abbotsford. The Archives applied to the ALSO Foundation for money and received $600 for equipment. After twelve months of trying to find an alternative space for the Archives the idea was put on hold for the time being. New collections continued to arrive, the archiving got done, banners went out on loan and came back again. And by the end of 1997 the Archives had 124 donations which consisted of hundreds of posters, dozens of banners, several filing cabinets filled with files and two large storage units full of boxes from floor to ceiling.

During 1998, all the Archives were shifted to the one house in East Brunswick. A meeting was held on 15 November 1999 to start a campaign to move the Archives into a more accessible and public space by the end of 2000. During that year, the group worked on incorporating and changed the name of the group to the Victorian Women’s Liberation and Lesbian Feminist Archives Inc. After investigating several possibilities the decision was made to move all 128 donations in the Archives collection into the University of Melbourne Archives at the end of 2000 where they have been stored ever since.
The VWLLFA still maintains a custodian role, new donations are still being received, old ones are being added to and the on-going archival work continues to be done on the 142 donations of material in the collection at the end of 2007.

The copyright for all material on this site is held by the Victorian Womens' Liberation and Lesbian Feminist Archives Inc. (2009 - 2010)