Before equal pay

Before 1969, most women were paid less than men just because they were women. And in some jobs you had to leave when you got married. True story.

Women and men working in Australia now receive an equal amount of pay for equal work, but did you know that once upon a time women were paid less then men? In fact, up until 1969 it was the law in many occupations that women doing the same job as men earned 25 per cent less. Yes, same job, less pay.

For example, in 1959 two young teachers earning a basic wage teaching in New South Wales schools would have gotten the following pay:

Male teacher: $27.30
Female teacher: $20.45

At the time, the wage difference was justified by the traditionally held belief that men worked to provide for the family. In fact, this belief was reflected in the Harvester Judgement of 1907, which established the ‘family wage’ concept; a minimum weekly wage based on the ‘normal needs of the average employee’ to keep his wife and children healthy and comfortable. It did not have a clause for women as it assumed either their husband or father would support them.

Before 1969, women in many jobs were expected to resign from work when they got married. This was true in the public service, teaching and noticeably for flight attendants (then known as hostesses who could only be single women.)

For further information: Speak to the source – ask your grandparents about what working life was like when they were starting out in the workforce!


Australian Curriculum Links:

Work Studies/Gender And Work
Investigate the effects of socialisation and culture on education and career choices.

Work Studies/Gender And Work
Analyse the impact of gender on subject choice, work aspirations, further education, career choices and resultant outcomes:

Work Studies/Gender And Work
Analyse the impact of gender imbalance on the workplace and the community.

Relevant Resources

Equality, Rights
Wave Hill sources and resources
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Wave Hill walk-off – 50 years ago
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Where is Wave Hill and Wattie Creek?
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