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'Australia's men-only clubs snub top women'

world Updated: Sep 25, 2008 15:26 IST

Australia's exclusive men's clubs are coming under pressure as they shun an increasing number of the country's elite they would normally court as members because they are women.

For the first time in the nation's history the governor-general, the British monarch's representative in Australia and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is a woman, Quentin Bryce.

So are the governors of two states, Marie Bashir in New South Wales and Penelope Wensley in Queensland.

The Athenaeum Club in Melbourne, whose constitution allows honorary membership for the governor-general and state governors, has failed to invite any of them to join, The Australian newsaper reported on Thursday.

And the female Chief Justice of the Victorian Supreme Court, Marilyn Warren, is believed to be the first person to hold that post who has not been offered honorary membership of Melbourne's Australian Club, the paper said.

The problem has split the club's 1,600 all-male membership, with a group of 130 business and civil leaders being blocked in their push to have women accepted as members for the first time in the club's 142-year history.

Businesswoman Caecilia Potter, whose husband resigned over the club's refusal to admit woman, said she believed some men in such clubs felt threatened by successful and intelligent women.

"I think many of them are very conservative and are perhaps afraid of change," she said.

"Any club which sees itself as part of that elite (in business and government) and which does not include women in the 21st century is anachronistic at best."

Australia's oldest and largest men's club, The Australian Club in Sydney, has also failed to offer honorary membership to Governor Bashir, despite past governors being granted membership, The Australian said.