Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Insiders and Outsiders: Feminists in the Academy Influencing Gender‐Sensitive Parliamentary Change

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Abstract:  While the idea of a gender-sensitive parliament is over 20 years old (Childs & Palmieri, 2023), institutional reforms in the name of gender equality have been slow to materialise around the world. Where change has occurred, it appears to have been catalysed by a limited range of—sometimes confluent—factors including the public airing of allegations of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era, the increasing salience of gender-sensitive parliament international norms, and the role of feminists in the academy. Celis and Childs (2020) identify feminist academic critical actors as those who rather than simply researching parliamentary change, explicitly undertake institutional (re)design and (re)building work (see also Childs, 2024). In this article, we uncover the work undertaken by feminists in an Australian academic institution to support the 2021 independent inquiry of the Australian Human Rights Commission into Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces. This work—undertaken by the authors as both insiders and outsiders—informed the analysis and recommendations in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report, and since its launch, has also kept pressure on the various bodies entrusted with implementing gender-sensitive changes. We argue that feminists in the academy are uniquely positioned to navigate insider and outsider roles in support of gender-sensitive parliamentary reform.

Keywords:  academia; critical actors; feminism; gender equality; #MeToo; parliamentary reform



© Natalie Barr, Maria Maley, Sonia Palmieri. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.