When Director of the ANU College of Law’s Centre for International and Public Law, Professor Kim Rubenstein, was approached by the Victorian Women's Trust to participate in a Monster Climate Petition to Parliament, she was immediately reminded of the efforts made by suffragettes in the 1890s who campaigned for the right to vote.
Over five weeks, Victorian suffragettes collected almost 30,000 signatures requesting that ‘Women should Vote on Equal terms with Men', with almost one in 10 adult women in Victoria signing the petition.
Indeed, so many signatures were collected the petition ended up being over 250 metres long. With signature sheets glued onto cloth and rolled up on a spindle, the petition required two men to carry it into Parliament, and quickly became known as the ‘Monster Petition’.
Over 100 years later, Professor Rubenstein says the Monster Climate Petition takes direct inspiration from the pioneering women of the 19th century.
“The Monster Climate Petition is the initiative of 12 independent women with the support of the Victorian Women's trust, an independent women’s organisation with a long track record in policy, research and community advocacy.
“Demanding immediate, effective action to significantly reduce carbon emissions, the Monster Climate Petition seeks to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures, and will be presented to Parliament in late November.”
Professor Rubenstein said the petition served as a reminder of what active citizenship could achieve, and was a natural extension of her research and policy work, particularly in terms of women's participation in politics.
“My work on citizenship has often focused on the link between the formal status and what it means to be an active citizen in our community.
“Over a century ago, the women of Australia saw voting rights as fundamental to being active citizens, and their ultimate success has enabled women of this century to be in a position to call upon their fellow citizens to action.
“123 years later, we’re now seeing climate change as an equally fundamental issue, and one requiring Australian citizens to tell their Parliament that there is no time for waiting and that it must act now,” said Professor Rubenstein.