• BA(Hons) University of Sydney, 1952

Research Interests

  • Philosophy and politics of the advancement of women
  • Aboriginal thought; school education of Aboriginals
  • Sentence reference (basic language and math functions)

Current Research Interests

  • Philosophy and politics of the advancement of women
  • Aboriginal thought; school education of Aboriginals

Selected Publications

  • “Our Chains: Rear View Reflections”, Queensland Review, Vol 14, No. 1 , 2007, pp.51-60.
  • “Invisible Women Workers; Feminism, Consciousness and the Novel”, Overland, 182, Autumn, 2006, pp. 36-42.


Merle Thornton is a feminist activist; in March 1965 she chained herself, with friend Ro Bogner, to the bar rail of the Regatta Hotel protesting against the exclusion of women from public bars, by iron custom throughout Australia, by law in Queensland. This protest initiated second wave feminist activism.

Then Merle organised creation of the Equal Opportunities for Women Association, and as President led the successful campaign to remove the ‘marriage bar’ from career public service in the Commonwealth Public Service (1965-66). The end of the marriage bar and the first legislation of maternity leave came in 1966.

Other Activities and Service

In range of positions, Merle worked in academe at UQ from 1960 to 1980 in Philosophy, Government, Sociology and Gender Studies. She established Gender Studies in Queensland at the same time as the equal first course (then called Women’s Studies) at Flinders University in South Australia. The courses did not know about each other at the time. The first UQ course was in the Sociology Department in semester 1, 1973. Continuing coursework in this area grew for many years and some years ago celebrated a fortieth anniversary.

In the eighties Merle was a member of the Long Committee (headed by producer Joan Long), and a member of working committee. The Long Committee was a government-appointed board-like committee to head the administrators then responsible for administering a then embryonic national film and sound archive. The Long Committee's mission was to advise Government on the formation of what has become the National Film and Sound Archive, which we did in the founding document Time in Our Hands.

Merle also writes fiction including a novel (After Moonlight 2004) and a range of writing for performance, including The Sikh Hat Trick, an actors-and-puppets film for equal opportunity training at the University of Melbourne at the time of the 1987 law on equal opportunity in work. She also wrote for television series Prisoner in the eighties, and wrote a stage play (Playing Mothers and Fathers) which had a successful season at Carlton Courthouse in 1990.

In the nineties Merle was Victorian Chair of the Australian Writers' Guild (writers for performance) also Chair of Women in Film and TV and was active in a number of organisations concerned with issues for women, for writers and for arts participants.