National Archives of Australia/Australian Historical Association postgraduate scholar, 2017–18
Why did Mrs 'Smith' send a Submission to the Royal Commission on Human Relationships? Family Life in 1970s Australia
Miranda Francis is a history PhD student in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University. Her project, supervised by Katie Holmes and Ruth Ford, examines mothering in post-1945 suburban Melbourne. It is based on life-history style interviews with women aged over 60. She is particularly interested in the interplay between contemporary oral evidence and archival records and has written about this: 'One woman’s crèche is a bureaucrat’s child-minding centre: "The Flat" at Footscray High School 1976–1986' in Provenance: The Journal of Public Record Office Victoria, vol 15, 2016–17.
This project is to look at Justice Elizabeth Evatt's personal papers associated with the Royal Commission on Human Relationships (established by Federal Parliament on 21 August 1974) and in particular the individual submissions to the Commission.
It is part of a larger PhD thesis on parenting in post-1945 Australia which is founded on oral history but calls heavily on written archives. The core of the thesis is in-depth interviews with 30 women aged over 60. Many of these women were parenting in the 1970s and contemporaries of the people who sent submissions to the Royal Commission on Human Relationships. Indeed two interviewees in the project were members of activist groups, the Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL) and the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC), who prepared formal submissions.
These submissions present an opportunity to hear the voices of everyday Australians talk about their lives. Examining these submissions will give insights into the family relationships at the everyday level which could deepen historical understandings of the changing social behaviour and cultural values in 1970s Australia. These voices can be missed with more institutional type histories. Digitising some of this rich collection will make the material more accessible for researchers interested in both the submission’s content as well as understanding how individuals have responded historically to Royal Commissions. This is particularly relevant when considering the emphasis on personal testimony by the current Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse.