In 2008 Australia had its first female Governor-General, and in Victoria, women held the positions of Chief Justice, Chief Commissioner of Police and Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet. It was against this backdrop, that a vote failed to support female membership to the Athenaeum Club, and a group of members resigned in protest. To the group of rebels, a gentlemen-only club seemed an anachronism and from this the Melbourne Forum was born.
Stemming from this revolt Melbourne Forum was formed in 2009. John Ridley AM – one of the lead protestors – was elected our first Chairman. The Forum established an office, a foundation committee and a gender diverse Board comprising:
Professor Graeme Samuel AC, Dr Janine Kirk AM, Carillo Gantner AC, Yvonne von Hartel AM, Michael Henry AM, Professor Andrea Hull AO, Terry Moran AC, Leonie Hemingway, Geoffrey Walsh AO, Jerril Rechter, Robin Billen, Carol Schwartz AO, Peter Seamer AM, Helen Silver AO, Adam Watson, Heather Carmody, Peter Duncan AC, Chris Leptos AM, Alistair Drysdale, Jo Barker and Bruce Hartnett AM.
The Melbourne Forum is set up differently to traditional clubs, choosing to support the amazing array of private dining rooms that Melbourne has to offer as distinct from operating in dedicated premises. It promotes the discussion of ideas led by experts over small-group events and activities.
Julia Gillard, then Deputy Labor Leader was the Melbourne Forum’s first guest speaker.