The 2019 Grace Vaughan Memorial Lecture
22 August 2019
Women, Inequality and the Butterfly Effect
The 2019 Grace Vaughan Memorial Lecture by Antoinette Kennedy AO
The “butterfly effect” was coined in 1972 by Edward Lorenz in a talk titled “does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” It models how a small action can have a significant impact.
In this year’s Grace Vaughan Memorial Lecture, the Honourable Antoinette Kennedy AO, Western Australia’s first and longest serving female judge, will speak about the history of women in the law and her own history and what that has taught her about the many issues faced by women. The progressive act of taking opportunity and then using that position to speak truth for those that are voiceless is a feature of Antoinette’s life, and the essence of this year’s Grace Vaughan Memorial Lecture. Throughout her career, Antoinette’s primary interest was not what Governments could do for women - though she regards this as important - but what women could do for each other if they were properly informed and had the will. In particular, Antoinette is interested to explore what can be achieved when women support each other, have their consciousness raised, the freedom to look at issues outside of the male gaze and each woman has a power base consisting of every other woman.
Her talk will explore this concept as it applies to issues that particularly concern women and girls, in particular, family violence, the victimisation of girls through paedophilia, and how ignorance of this has left parents and the community undereducated and less able to protect girls. Finally, Antoinette will discuss the #Metoo movement as the most recent iteration of the women’s equality movement.
The Honourable Antoinette Kennedy AO was the first and longest serving female judge in Western Australia, serving for 25 years, and despite her retirement, remains the longest serving judge in the state. She was the first woman appointed as Chief Judge of the District Court (the first female head of a jurisdiction in WA and only the third in Australia) in 2004. She was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) and was inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
Born in Western Australia, she attended The University of Western Australia where she graduated with LLb, winning the Keall prize (top in 4th year Law) and the Herbert Wheatley Prize for Commercial Law. Antoinette entered the legal profession as the youngest of only 5 professional women at that time. As it became clear she would not receive the opportunities at law firms given to her male colleagues, in 1971, Antoinette set up her own firm. She took an active part in the second wave of feminism in the 1970s and remained committed to feminist ideals throughout the changing political landscape of the 1970-80’s, which saw the introduction of no fault divorce, changing attitudes to domestic violence, and property rights for women leaving relationships.
A founding member of the Women Lawyers of Western Australia and member of the Chief Justice’s Gender Bias Taskforce, Antoinette remains passionate and outspoken on issues of social justice, equality and has a keen interest in the provision of affordable housing.
The Grace Vaughan Memorial Lecture
This annual lecture commemorates the life and achievements of Grace Vaughan, a social worker, social activist and parliamentarian, who was dedicated to the improvement of life at all levels and had a deep commitment to Australia’s participation in the Asian region and to ensuring women’s full participation in society. The lecture is presented by the Australian Association of Social Workers, the Institute of Advanced Studies at The University of Western Australia and Department of Communities Western Australia.