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Divorce in Australia dates from the 1857 British Matrimonial Causes Act. The Australian colonies followed suit, with New South Wales being the last to adopt legislation in 1873. The only permissible ground for divorce was adultery, although a sexual double standard also existed where women had to prove adultery aggravated by another offence, such as cruelty, bigamy or desertion (this double standard was removed in all states by 1923).

Agitation for reform of dovorce legislation lead to the 1975 Family Law Act, which introduced no-fault divorce. Under this arrangment, the only necessary ground for divorce was an irretrievable breakdown of the the marriage.

The removal of sexist discrimination from divorce laws and the movement toward no-fault divorce has been a cause of many radical women and women's groups.

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Newspaper Articles

  • 'The Divorce Extension Bill', The Dawn; a journal for Australian women (Sydney), 15 May 1888. Image PDF Details
  • Dyson, Edward, 'The divorce law in operation', The Bull-ant (Melbourne), 11 June 1891. Image PDF Details
  • Falconer, Dora, 'The divorce extension bill, or, the drunkard's wife', The Dawn; a journal for Australian women (Sydney), vol. 2, no. 11, 5 March 1890. Image PDF Details