were in a war zone, but a happy war zone in many respects, because we
My name is Jane Morgan.
I live in Northcote and I am fifty two years old. I want to talk a little
about my involvement in our political world and the development of some
of the principle's that guide this involvement for me.
I grew up as the
youngest child in a family of four children with a mum and a dad in the
back blocks of Warranwood up the road from Warrandyte, which was then
a real hillbilly area with many very poor families trying to make a living
During this time
our family was very poor and I remember my mother not being able to afford
new dentures and having only one dress to wear. I remember that dress
to this day. It was a slightly shiny fabric with big red and pink roses
on it. I remember my mother sitting on the back steps in this very dress
singing songs to the many stray dogs my brother and I were constantly
bringing home. And the dogs just sitting there, adoring her.
At the same time
my father was a travelling salesman and he always had to be dressed well.
I recall him leaving the house in a suit and tie with a well-ironed shirt.
We would frequently not see him until the following week or more.Even
as a small child the inequity of this relationship was very evident to
me and at the same time something I could not reconcile.
My brother and I
decided to dispense with the 'mum' name at about twelve years of age in
recognition of the fact that our mother was an individual in her own right,
although we were full of a laugh and called her "passionflower" and other
fantastic names for some time before calling her by her real name, Edith.
This was the blossoming of my feminist consciousness. Edith went on to
become the very famous Edith Morgan to whom this book is dedicated.
One of the incidences
that occurred in our family, which was very important to the development
of my beliefs and understanding of the world, occurred when I was about
eight years old. The repossession blokes in white shirts and thin black
ties came to repossess our car. They were blond, thin and clean cut, mean
spirited looking people. There was of course an argument and my father
emerged from the house with the shotgun threatening to blow them away.
This was hugely exciting for me and in fact blew away any perceptions
of mine of living a law abiding and authority respecting life.
Our home was a very
political home with a lot of discussion, involvement in the ALP and the
emerging Socialist Left. This was also the time of the emergence of feminism,
which had a profound effect on many women's lives and the relationships
they had with husbands and the view of their role within the family.
Many of the men around
us were extremely angry about this threat to their dominance. For the
women this was a uniting and empowering time with shared struggles and
honesty in the retelling of their stories.
At the end of my
sons' primary years I needed to change my life. I knew that the late nights
spent working on completing a job was not sustainable with a young boy
attending high school. I needed a proper job that would pay regular money
and I needed the support of my family in raising an adolescent person.
I did get a job at Fitzroy Council in the Women's Support Program. This
was a very stimulating time, working with a team of women and providing
a feminist service to women and their children living in the high-rise
flats. The program we ran was primarily a group program with women learning
from one another and changing their lives in very elemental ways.
During this time
the union was very strong in local govern- ment and achieved many great
things for workers. There was a strong feeling of unity within the union
members and lots of fun we did have. It was this involvement in the union
at Fitzroy that led to my being so incensed at the brutality of the attack
on the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) by Peter Reith and the Liberal
Party. When this happened a close friend of mine and I virtually abandoned
our work and lent our numbers to the people flocking to the docks in support
of the Unionists under attack.
Management at work
were not very happy with us, but what could they do but sack us?
This is not, in fact,
a very easy thing to do. What happened at the docks was a remarkable and
uplifting thing. It really proved that the 'People United Will Never Be
For the two weeks
or so of the shut down a new community was structured on the road leading
to the wharf. There were thousands of people coming and going. Other hundreds
just staying and not going home till Reith and his tools were defeated.
To sustain this number
of people was a mammoth task and it happened through people as individuals
and a community uniting to defeat a common enemy. There was: - the group
of young people ('ferals' I think they were termed at this time) who set
up a kitchen and provided free and very cheap meals to whoever showed
- the musicians who provided their services free to see us through the
long and cold nights;
- the workers with welding gear joining together iron girders as barricades
against the police;
- a whole union movement united to provide things like toilets and coordination
to ensure no entry was left unmanned at any time and no protester was
left hungry or unappreciated or unprepared;
- Edith and Molly who stopped the train and sent that poor train driver
probably off for years of trauma counselling;
- the night of standing all night long in solid formation being buzzed
constantly by police helicopters and the police arriving the next day
in huge numbers to break the picket and having to turn tail knowing they
didn't stand a chance.
We were in a war
zone, but a happy war zone in many respects, because we were united.