First release of WAAC digitised archives
To celebrate the International Day of Action for Women's Health, Women's Abortion Action Campaign (WAAC) have now made publicly available some of the first documents digitised under our "Digitisation of WAAC Archives" project.
Women’s Abortion Action Campaign was founded in August 1972, when a group of women met at Sydney University to challenge bad laws which made abortion illegal, expensive and shameful.
Some early WAAC members had campaigned for changes to contraception laws which had been introduced in 1971, others were new to the work of organising for change. Part of the flourishing Women’s Liberation Movement which saw an outburst of action, information and social analysis presented in a range of exciting feminist publications, WAAC looked at women’s health issues holistically, and in a broad new context of liberation and empowerment.
The first edition of WAAC's women's health newsletter, Right To Choose, was published in 1973. Full of passion and information about topics considered socially 'taboo' in the culturally and politically conservative but increasingly turbulent times, Right To Choose provides a unique snapshot of one of Sydney's important Women's Liberation Movement era voices demanding improved sexual health and reproductive rights and reporting on events and issues not only within Australia, but globally.
Right To Choose was published sporadically after the first few years, typically in response to the political or social climate, until 1998. In Summer 1980/81 the format of Right To Choose changed to an A4 magazine, reflecting changing printing practices at the time. After 1998, Right To Choose was published digitally from time to time.
Library-catalogue standard digital copies of WAAC's women's health newsletter, Right To Choose have been made publicly available to celebrate the International Day of Action for Women's Health on 28th May, 2023.
A number of libraries have been invited to
receive the digitised copies.
Further documents will be released as we
continue our archiving process.
The “Digitisation of WAAC Archives” project is
funded by Create NSW’s Cultural Grant Program,
a devolved funding program by
The Royal Australian Historical Society
on behalf of the NSW Government.
WAAC archives going live!
WAAC was very honoured to receive a 2022 Cultural Grant in order to begin the process of digitising our decades of "hard copy" archives and records!
Six huge (and heavy) boxes of letters, documents, print outs, newsletters and much more was sent off to be digitised - beginning the process of WAAC's archives being made publicly available in the near future.
Our next step will be seeking further funding to digitise our banners, photos and other materials!
This project is supported by Create NSW's Cultural Grants Program, a devolved funding program administered by the Royal Australian Historical Society on behalf of the NSW Government.
WAAC celebrated our 50th Anniversary in the company of long time activists, friends, and supporters who joined us at the Concord venue or online.
The day was full of memories and memorabilia and some wonderful discussions, catching up with friends old and new, and some very special events.
Photographs from the day, videos of the speeches and a 'round up of the event can be found here, or by clicking on the photograph at right.
WAAC would like to thank everyone who helped make the day so very special - we look forward to sharing campaigns and actions into the future!
WAAC 50th Anniversary
Please bring your memorabilia, photographs and remembrances to share at WAAC's 50th Anniversary event!
Your early RSVP will assist with catering - do please advise if you have any food allergies.
The closure of Marie Stopes Australia’s Broadmeadows reproductive care clinic is already having an impact on people in Newcastle and surrounding regions, with reports that people wanting surgical abortions are being forced to travel to Sydney to access clinical care, due to the closure, local activists have told WAAC. This follows a recent online forum hosted by WAAC, which sought insight from leading health services about the impact of reduced clinical care availability after the Broadmeadow clinic closure.
Dr Deborah Bateson of Family Planning NSW (FP NSW), Dr Philip Goldstone of Marie Stopes Australia (MSA) and leading Hunter region reproductive health care provider Dr Robert Vickers generously gave their time to discuss the topic, "What's ahead for reproductive health services: Newcastle and the regions".
Newcastle based reproductive rights activist, Lara Scully chaired the forum, which was hosted by Women’s Abortion Action Campaign (WAAC).
Ms Scully has been working to raise awareness about the effects on people needing reproductive health services in Newcastle and surrounding regions since an announcement by MSA that their busy Broadmeadow clinic would close in August 2021. At the same time, clinics run by MSA in Southport, Townsville and Rockhampton in Queensland were also closed.
Please click HERE to see full report.
After 119 years - abortion in NSW decriminalised
Death of long time activist
After 119 years, and more than 70 hours of debate in the NSW Parliament, the Reproductive Health Reform Act 2019 (renamed the Abortion Reform Bill by amendment) passed a final vote on Thursday, 26th September, 2019.
The Bill now only requires the formality of being signed off by the NSW Governor in the coming days, and it will become law.
This means that abortion will no longer have the stigma of criminality, and will be regulated in the same way as other medical procedures. This should open the way to greater certainty for practitioners and better access for women, especially in rural areas.
While the Abortion Law Reform Bill 2019 is not the end of the struggle for reproductive justice in NSW, it is a hugely significant milestone, made possible by the untiring work of many - some with fortitude and determination across decades, some more recently using their amazing energy and skills. We salute and thank them all!
Public response - including letter writing, petition signing, attending rallies and phoning your local MP and MLC also played a vital part in letting our elected representatives know that they had the support of voters to make this significant and important changes to our archaic abortion laws.
It is with great sadness that WAAC members learned this week of the death of lifelong activist and advocate, Vicki Potempa.
Vicki Potempa at a Sydney Rally in 2009
WAAC members across generations will remember Vicki at many, many protests and events, to which she travelled by public transport from her home near Maitland.
Vicki was recalled by her daughter, Linda, as a “VERY strong stubborn opinionated independent woman [who had] touched so many lives” in her 98 years.
Vicki had “a great heart that only wanted what she saw as fair and just,” Linda said.
Throughout her life, Vicki was dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of women – especially concerning reproductive rights, and for all people experiencing hardship.
As well as abortion rights, Vicki was active as a committee member of the Humanist Society of NSW, as a member of the Australian Republican Party and Women's Electoral Lobby, and as a prison visitor and member of the Australian Prisoners Union.
Attending the Rally alone and want some company? Look for the historic WAAC banner and
march with us! You're welcome!
Some are 'going old school' - some are using the latest tech!
Everybody is writing, faxing, emailing and rallying - to thank MLCs who voted in favour of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 AND to urge them to consider if proposed amendments will further the intent of the Bill, or not (hint: "not" - the Bill is fine as it is!).
Whether you like the old style or the new, you can make your voice heard!
Check out the options and click on the link you like!
Old School: An abortion rights demonstration at Sydney Town Hall in the early 1970s, with WAAC members expressing their views (photo courtesy of and thanks to Green Left Weekly). Hard to see how the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 could be a surprise to anyone, given the decades women have been fighting for the right to choose abortion!
Going old school, going hi-tech - however you do it, it's time!
After a number of extraordinarily moving and intelligent speeches in support of the Bill, the late evening vote was in support of removing abortion from the NSW Crimes Act, meaning that no longer would women - or medical practitioners - be at risk of criminal charge for undergoing or performing an abortion in NSW.
A late development, however, saw Premier Berejiklian delay debate on the Bill's numerous amendments until after the parliamentary break. This means that these will not now be voted on until the 17th and 18th of September, 2019.
A campaign to thanks those MLCs who voted 'yes', and urge them NOT TO support any of the amendments is now underway! More news on this soon!
Rally to decriminalise abortion -
8.00 am - 9.00 am, 20th August 2019
In front of the NSW Parliament, Macquarie St, Sydney
The NSW Pro-Choice Alliance and other groups are organising a rally to support the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019, as debate begins in the Legislative Council on the same day.
The Upper House of the NSW Parliament has the power to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and pass it into health care law.
This rally will be a great opportunity to remind our elected representatives - as they arrive at work, that the majority of people in NSW do not support abortion being criminalised!
The Reproductive Health Care Amendment Bill 2019 (with Amendments) has passed the NSW Legislative Assembly, 59-31, on 8th August, 2019.
The Bill now goes to the upper house (the Legislative Council), on 20th August, 2019.
08/08/2019: Amendments which are being described as 'sneaky' (and some are just awful) will be put to Parliament today, to try and water down or even reverse the impact of the Reproductive Health Reform Bill 2019.
You're invited to RALLY in front of Parliament House from 8.00 am, to JOIN other pro-choice people in the Parliamentary Visitors' Gallery while the Bill is debated and most importantly - CONTACT your MP to urge them to vote for the Bill and against any amendments!
READ THE BILL
SEND YOUR MP AN EMAIL SUPPORTING THE BILL
CALL YOUR MP & TELL
THEM TO VOTE 'YES'
40+ years (it's 47, actually!) is long enough - now is the time for positive change to abortion law in NSW!
A rally in support of the Reproductive Health Reform Bill 2019 will be held from 8.00 am on Thursday, 8th August, outside Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney.
Politicians who support the Bill will be in attendance, as will representatives from many organisations which have worked towards the Bill, and of course the all important "everyday people"!
Parliamentarians will see the rally as they enter Parliament House for their day's work - which is likely to include debating the Bill! Banners, placards and enthusiasm are welcome!
If you can't attend, there's still plenty to do - get in touch with your MP today and let them know you support the Bill! During the Safe Access Zone debates, minds were changed after voters got involved! Let your MP know where you stand on this vital issue! Click on the links below to get started!
The Reproductive Health Reform Bill 2019
There will be a snap rally this Wednesday morning, 31st July, 2019, at Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney, to support the introduction of The Reproductive Health Reform Bill 2019. The rally will begin at 8.00 am.
A bill to remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act will be introduced to parliament this week, with the support of politicians across the political spectrum - and may be voted on before the end of August 2019.
The bill will be introduced into the Parliament by Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who has been working with Penny Sharpe MLC (ALP) and Trevor Khan MLC (Nationals) - who jointly sponsored the successful Safe Access Zones legislation last year.
More than a dozen MPs and MLCs are sponsoring the Bill, which is also receiving support from NSW Minister for Health, Brad Hazard (Liberal).
Former NSW MLC, now Australian Senator Mehreen Faruqi of the Greens spoke about the Bill to the media on Sunday morning.
The bill is supported by the NSW Pro Choice Alliance, a coalition of more than 70 organisations (including health and legal peak bodies and community organisations) which campaigns to decriminalise abortion in NSW.
Now is the time to contact your local MP and let them know you support
"The Reproductive Health Reform Bill 2019", and urge them to vote in its favour.
WAAC recommends a phone call or letter to your local MP will be more effective than an email, but an email will be better than nothing! You can also comment on their Facebook page or Twitter.
WAAC also extends congratulations to all involved in preparing this bill and commits to continue working for abortion rights in NSW.
Photo from Our Bodies Our Choices Rally
and March, Sydney, 9th June, 2019.
Women's Abortion Action Campaign was formed in 1972 in Sydney (NSW), with five demands which remain relevant decades later:
Abortion is a woman's right to choose
Repeal all abortion laws
Free safe abortion on demand
Free safe contraception on demand
No forced sterilisation
Women’s Abortion Action Campaign (WAAC) continues to work toward the achievement of these demands. If you would like to get involved, contact WAAC today!
Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners
Women’s Abortion Action Campaign (WAAC) acknowledges and pays respect to the traditional owners
of the land on which we meet and where most of the work for the WAAC website is done:
The Gadigal peoples of the Eora Nation
the Darug, Gandangara and Deerubbon peoples.
As we share our own knowledge, learning, plans, aspirations and research online and off, may we also
pay respect to the knowledge embedded forever within the Aboriginal Custodianship of Country.