Celebrating Barbara Baird: A Trailblazer in Women’s and Gender Studies


Associate Professor Barbara Baird is making waves as a source of inspiration and change, in the world of women’s and gender studies and abortion activism.  

From her days as a curious undergrad in the late 1970s to her current role as an Associate Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies at Flinders, Barbara’s story is about dedication and passion for justice.  In her teaching, she sparks curiosity and critical thinking, urging students to explore feminist, queer, and anti-racist ideas. Beyond the classroom, she dives deep into topics such as abortion activism and LGBTQIA+ rights, sparking important conversations and driving real change.  

Recently honoured with the prestigious Order of Australia Medal, alongside her colleague Brigid Coombe, Associate Professor Baird’s commitment to community health and education shines bright.  

As we are approaching International Women’s Day, read more about Barbara’s inspiring journey and the transformative power of Women’s and Gender Studies.  


A/Professor Barbara Baird’s journey at Flinders 

I have a long history with Flinders and I’m very attached to the institution and the beautiful Kaurna country on which the Bedford Park campus sits. I saw a koala high up in a tree down near the lake last week! I studied here as an undergraduate in the late 1970s, I did my PhD here with Professor Lyndall Ryan here in the 1990s and I’ve been in my current job since 2006. I am currently an Associate Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies. I teach undergraduate students, postgraduate students – many are international students, and supervise PhD students. I have always been committed to teaching students who know or have a sense that they need to expand their knowledge in feminist, queer, anti-racist and other schools of critical thought.  


Her research on abortion 

My PhD investigated the experience of South Australian women who had had abortions before abortion was legalised in the state and how these experiences were remembered. Since then, the history and politics of abortion in 20th and 21st Century Australia have continued as  key areas of my research focus. I also research LGBTIQA+ issues, from historical, political and cultural perspectives. 


Associate Professor Barbara Baird (Left) and Brigid Coombe (Right)


Her work with the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition 

My long history of researching abortion is one of the foundations of my contribution to the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition (saaac). My commitment to feminism, social justice and universal health care is another foundation. I was a founding member of saaac in 2016 and, with Brigid Coombe, have been co-convenor since 2017. Creating change in relation to abortion, probably all issues, means you have to be very well informed, prepared to answer all kinds of questions from all quarters (you get some corkers!). Being able to write letters and submissions and media releases and so on is also a key part of activism. My academic background comes into play in both respects here. 

saaac formed with the goal of improving access to abortion care for people in SA. People in rural, regional and remote areas, who nearly all had to travel to Adelaide to access abortion care, were always at the front of our minds. To that end one of our key campaigns was to decriminalise abortion in this state. After a five year campaign we achieved that in early 2021. saaac takes full credit for this achievement, and thanks our many allies, in the community and in parliament. But decriminalising is only one part of the picture and saaac continues to advocate for better access to abortion services in South Australia – which, to our state’s great credit, are performed mainly in public hospitals and at the Pregnancy Advisory Centre (public funded abortion clinic), for free. This means a lot of our work is now persuading government to improve and extend abortion services. We also continue to talk about abortion in many spaces with the aim of normalising and de-stigmatising abortion in the community. 


Her appointment as a member of the Order of Australia  

Being awarded an AM hasn’t really impacted my work, although receiving congratulatory messages from friends and people I’ve worked with regarding abortion and my Flinders colleagues has been very affirming. My saaac con-convenor Brigid Coombe also received an AM this year. I am ambivalent about Australia Day – at the least I think we should ‘change the date’, but bringing abortion into the national space of awards and celebrations, is definitely worth it. We see the awards as part of broad cultural, social and political change where abortion is becoming normalised. And we got our awards for abortion activism, that’s really creating a new horizon! 


Associate Professor Barbara Baird (Right) and Brigid Coombe (Left)


Her advice to anyone considering studying Women’s and Gender Studies at Flinders 

Do it, it might change your life. In any case, access to the sharp and critical knowledge about the world we live in that Women’s and Gender Studies draws from will be invaluable in surviving the 21st Century. 


If you are interested in pursuing a career that creates change, now’s your chance to find out more about studying Women’s and Gender Studies 

As part of our Bachelor of Arts degree, students can choose to major in Women’s and gender studies. Find out where else a Bachelor of Arts can take you. 

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Bachelor of Arts Career Women's & Gender Studies