Primary Sources 50 stories from 50 years of the Archives

Women's Liberation Switchboard

Index cards in the collection of the Women's Liberation Switchboard represent the combined knowledge and collected political wisdom of hundreds of women from the early 1970s onwards. The boxed cards were kept on the Switchboard desk to be referred to whenever a woman rang with a query.

Switchboard was an essential service within the Victorian women's movement until 1993. From 1972 until 1978, the central phone for the Women's Liberation Movement at the Women's Liberation Centre also gave advice and support to women, including those who had suffered domestic violence or rape or were seeking abortion. In 1979, after the closure of the Women's Liberation Centre, the Women's Liberation Switchboard was founded and in 1980 it received government funding on the condition that it add 'Women's Refuge Referral Service' to its title. The Switchboard and the referral service became two distinct services. The Women's Refuge Referral Service had paid workers while Switchboard was run by volunteers who provided information on women's movement-related activities, including meeting times for activist groups and demonstrations.

Switchboard referred women to services in the community: everything from medical services to female carpenters and electricians, provision of a phone contact point between activist groups and support for women who were questioning their sexuality. Information was also provided about which doctors or lawyers were sympathetic (and which were not), lesbian-friendly bars and women's refuges.

Switchboard moved with other feminist activist collectives to the Women's Liberation Building at its many addresses in the 1980s. The Switchboard collective ensured that the Women's Liberation Building was accessible as a drop-in centre five days a week until it closed in 1992. The collective held its final meeting in January 1993. The Women's Liberation Switchboard material is part of the Victorian Women's Liberation and Lesbian Feminist Archives.

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