The first appointments of female Justices of the Peace were made in June, 1920.
There was much opposition from some Members of Parliament of the day towards these appointments, and in 1925 it was decided that a separate Association was necessary for women. This would allow them to address specific issues that could not be appropriately addresses by male Justices.
On February 25, 1925, Mrs. Amelia MacDonald called a meeting, which included Mesdames A. MacDonald, E. Cowan, J. Beadle, E. Mellows, Casper and Rapley.
In June 1925, the Women Justices Association of WA was formed.
Members were aware that opposition existed to giving women full recognition in some areas of service.
In a speech Mrs. MacDonald stated “Our belief is that the walls of prejudice must fall before the onslaught of earnest, competent women, exercising their right to a voice on key issues, demand, not by favour, but by ability, their right to full Citizenship of the State, with a share in its responsibilities as well as its privileges for public service. ”
Over subsequent years membership of the Women Justices Association of WA grew, and requests for submissions on various topics of social interest were made including;
- Married Women’s Protection Act
- Aboriginal Women in Prison
- Amendments to the Bail Act
- Retirement Villages in Western Australia
- Medical Treatment for Minors
- Inquiry into Violence on TV
- Human Reproduction Technology Bill
- Frozen Embryos
- Pangea Nuclear Waste
Membership flourished through the years and in June, 2000 a 75th Anniversary celebration was held over a long weekend.
Members were active on all rosters for signing centres and court rosters, and
In November 2008, the decision was made to close the Women’s Justices Association of WA. The walls of prejudice had successfully been breached, and all women Justices of the Peace are now taking their rightful place alongside male counterparts, in all aspects of our work.
At the time of the 75th Anniversary, a book on the History of the Women Justices’ Association was written.
Copies of ‘Walls of prejudice : 75 years of the Women Justices’ Association of WA’ by Laurel Wareham-Burns are available at the RAJWA office.