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Di’s Lounge

Di with Joan

WELCOME to Di’s lounge.

If you are Australian or English, you will immediately know what a “lounge” is, but I have found that if you are an American, you will probably have no idea. So I had better explain. A “lounge” can mean quite a few different things. To start with, a lounge is the name of an item of furniture that is otherwise known as a couch or sofa. Someone who lies on a lounge might be called a lounger, or referred to as lounging around—but used in this way, the word is probably not meant to be complimentary. You will also find there are such things as coffee lounges, where retro groovy people meet to “be seen” and to chat in a comfortable, dim, and often smoke-filled room.

In Australia, there used to be ladies lounges in pubs (hotels) where mostly women would drink, in those days when women weren’t allowed to drink in the front bar. They were more comfortable than the front bar, often had a juke box and also served meals. But feminist direct action has changed all that now and women can drink wherever they like. An unintended consequence has been the demise of ladies lounges, where I had planned to spend my time when I retired. Perhaps there will be a revival some day.

There are also departure lounges in airports and even employees’ lounges in some workplaces where the union’s well organised. There are lounge suits to wear when you need that formal appearance during the daylight hours, and lounge lizards who hang around expensive clubs and bars on the lookout for a sugar mama.

But none of these meanings is what is meant by Di’s lounge in Joan’s home. Rather, Di’s lounge is a room, otherwise known as a sitting room or living room. It’s where you relax, share what happened during the day, laugh, watch telly (TV), and sometimes even make love. In fact, you can do almost anything there.

So it has some connection with the other “lounge” words. It is indeed a place for lounging, and there are plenty of lounges for precisely that purpose. Women in lounge suits as well as lounge lizards are most welcome to visit. And coffee and alcohol are always on hand, so it is in some senses also a coffee lounge and it is in every sense a ladies lounge. But I can’t promise any sugar mamas or flights in or out.

* * * *

Joan and I met in January 1998 because, as luck would have it, a mutual friend (Sue O’Sullivan) introduced us. I was living temporarily in New York because I was studying for a Doctorate in Law at Columbia University. As it turned out, I was only a few blocks away from Joan. We got to be great friends very quickly, as can happen when you know your time together is short (I was due to return to Melbourne in June 1998 and Joan was worried that she didn’t have long to live because she had cancer). After some time we became lovers, and our relationship has made me the happiest I have ever been in my life.

But, wouldn’t you know it, I live almost as far away from where she lives as you can get. However, we manage to move backwards and forwards across the Pacific quite a lot, and although the times apart are hard, I wouldn’t choose any other relationship. This web site is important to me because it is one of the ways I have of being close to Joan while we are so far apart.

* * * *

I have taught law at the University of Melbourne in Australia since 1994. My particular interests are human rights law and international law, and I also teach criminal law. Before I returned to university to do a law degree in 1990, I was a community worker. My first job was at the first women’s refuge in Melbourne, in 1975—International Women's Year. After that, I spent many years working with homeless young people, including many young women, who were fleeing violence and other forms of abuse in their families. Later, I was coordinator of the Youth Accommodation Coalition of Victoria, an umbrella group for youth housing projects and services that developed policy, lobbied governments and provided training for workers and young people in the youth housing area. I also worked for a self-help group of people with psychiatric disabilities, developing “consumer participation” strategies with a major psychiatric hospital and several community-based psychiatric services.

Through this time, I was also active in the women’s movement. I spent two years, 1983-84, working for Sybylla Cooperative Press, an independent feminist press in Melbourne. I was also involved in lots of feminist groups including a socialist-feminist collective that produced a journal called Scarlet Woman; the Lesbian Action Group; the Lesbian Newsletter Collective; the Young Women’s Housing Collective; Whose Care and Protection?; Girls Inc.; Women Against Prisons; and many others. Today I am the Co-Convenor of Women’s Rights Action Network Australia (WRANA).

After I finished my law degree in 1993, I worked for Amnesty International Australia for a year before moving to my current job.

The following is a list of my publications. It will give you some idea of what I am concerned about in this world and would like to change:


Refereed Law Journal Publications

Dianne Otto, “Handmaidens, Hierarchies, and Crossing the Public-Private Divide in the Teaching of International Law” (2000) 1 Melbourne Journal of International Law 36-70

Dianne Otto & David Wiseman, “In Search of ‘Effective Remedies’: A Framework for Assessing Australia’s Progress Towards Implementation of its Obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” (2001) 1 Australian Journal of Human Rights 5-46

Dianne Otto, “Everything Is Dangerous: Some Poststructural Tools for Rethinking the Universal Knowledge Claims of Human Rights Law” (1999) 5 Australian Journal of Human Rights 17-47

Dianne Otto, “Sexualities and Solidarities: Some Thoughts on Coalitional Strategies in the Context of International Law” (1999) 8 Australasian Gay & Lesbian Law Journal 27-38

Dianne Otto, “Rethinking the ‘Universality’ of Human Rights Law” (1997) 29 Columbia Human Rights Law Review 1-46

Dianne Otto, “Rethinking Universals: Opening Transformative Possibilities in International Human Rights Law” (1997) 18 Australian Yearbook of International Law 1-36

Dianne Otto, “Subalternity and International Law: The Problems of Global Community and the Incommensurability of Difference” (1996) Social and Legal Studies: An International Journal 337-365

Dianne Otto, “Nongovernmental Organizations in the United Nations System: The Emerging Role of International Civil Society” (1996) (1) Human Rights Quarterly 107-141

Dianne Otto, “Holding Up Half the Sky but for Whose Benefit? A Critical Analysis of the Fourth World Conference on Women” (1996) Australian Feminist Law Journal 7-28

Dianne Otto, “Integrating Questions of Gender into Discussion of ‘the Use of Force’ in the International Law Curriculum” (1995) 6(2) Legal Education Review 219-228

Dianne Otto, “Tolerance: A Gendered Technology of Power” (1995) 20 Melbourne University Law Review 192-202 [Abstract]

Dianne Otto, “Linking Health and Human Rights: A Critical Legal Perspective” (1995) Health and Human Rights: An International Quarterly Journal 272-281 [Abstract]

Dianne Otto, “A Question of Law or Politics? Indigenous Claims to Sovereignty in Australia” (1995) 21 Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce 65-103

Dianne Otto, “Challenging the ‘New World Order’: International Law, Global Democracy and the Possibilities for Women” (1993) 3 Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems 371-415

Dianne Otto, “A Barren Future? Equity’s Conscience and Women's Inequality” (1992) 18 Melbourne University Law Review 808-827

Chapters in Books

Dianne Otto, “Defending Women’s Economic and Social Rights: Some Thoughts on Indivisibility and a New Standard of Equality,” in Isfahan Merali and Valerie Oosterveld (eds), Giving Meaning to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press

Dianne Otto, “Questions of Solidarity and Difference: Towards Transforming the Terms of Lesbian Interventions in International Law,” in Ruthann Robson and Victoria E. Brownworth (eds), Seductions of Justice: Lesbian Legal Theories and Practices, Routledge (forthcoming)

Dianne Otto, “Subalternity and International Law: The Problems of Global Community and the Incommensurability of Difference,” in Eve Darian-Smith & Peter Fitzpatrick (eds), Laws of the Postcolonial, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press (1999) 145-180

Dianne Otto, “Whose Security? Reimagining Post-Cold War Peacekeeping from a Feminist Perspective,” in Robert G. Patman (ed.), Security in a Post-Cold War World, Macmillan Press/St. Martin’s Press (1999) 65-86

Dianne Otto, “A Post-Beijing Reflection on the Limitations and Potential of Human Rights Discourse for Women,” in Kelly D. Askin & Dorean Koenig (eds.), Women and International Human Rights Law, New York: Transnational Publishers (1999) 115-135

Dianne Otto, “Precarious Gains: Young Women and the New Juvenile Justice System,” in Women & Imprisonment Group, Women and Imprisonment, Melbourne: Fitzroy Legal Service (1995) 91-99

Dianne Otto, “Amnesty International’s Concerns in Southeast Asia,” in Damien Kingsbury & Greg Barton (eds.), Difference and Tolerance: Human Rights Issues in Southeast Asia, (1994) Geelong: Deaking University Press, 66-75

Dianne Otto & Sue Jackson, “From Delicacy to Dilemma—A Feminist Perspective on Prostitution,” in Kaye Daniels (ed.), So Much Hard Work: Women and Prostitution in Australian History, Fontana (1984) 366-382

Book Reviews in Refereed Law Journals

George Williams, Human Rights under the Australian Constitution, Oxford University Press Australia (1999), reviewed in (1999) 21 Adelaide Law Review 139-150

Thomas G. Weiss and Leon Gordenker (eds.), NGOs, The UN, and Global Governance (1996) Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers (1996) and Peter Willetts (ed.), “The Conscience of the World”: The Influence of Nongovernmental Organizations in the UN System, Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution/David Davies Memorial Institute of International Studies (1996), reviewed in (1997) 91 American Journal of International Law 195

Rebecca Cook (ed.), Human Rights of Women: National and International Perspectives (1994) Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, reviewed in (1995) 16 Australian Yearbook of International Law 359-364, pub. Center for International and Public Law

Women’s Coalition Against Family Violence, Blood on Whose Hands? The Killing of Women and Children in Domestic Homicides (1994) Melbourne: Women’s Coalition Against Family Violence, reviewed in (1994) 19 Melbourne University Law Review 1134

Regina Graycar and Jenny Morgan, The Hidden Gender of Law (1990) Sydney: Federation Press, reviewed in (1991) 18 Melbourne University Law Review 498-499


Dianne Otto, “Postcolonialism, and Law? Guest Editor’s Introduction” (1998-99) Third World Legal Studies vii-xvii

Pene Mathew, Dianne Otto & Kristen Walker, “Feminist Interventions in International Law: Reflections on the Past and Strategies for the Future: Introduction,” (1997) 19 Adelaide Law Review 1-11

Margaret Davies, Bronwyn Naylor, Anne Orford and Dianne Otto, “Introduction to the Issue: papers from the second Feminist Legal Academics Workshop” (1995) 6 Legal Education Review 117-127

Selected Other Publications

Dianne Otto and David Wiseman, “Social Justice and Human Rights: Assessing Australia’s Compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” (2000) 9(1) Human Rights Defender 7-9

Dianne Otto, “Cairo +5: Forward Looking, but at what Cost?,” (1999) 8 Human Rights Defender 9-11; also (1999) International Law News 38-42

Dianne Otto, “Human Rights in the Beijing Platform for Action,” in Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA), Community Guide to the Beijing World Conference on Women (1997)

Dianne Otto, “Lesbians? Not in my Country: Sexual Orientation at the Beijing World Conference on Women” (1995) 20/6 Alternative Law Journal 288-290

Dianne Otto, “Violence Against Women: Something Other than a Human Rights Violation?” (1993) 1 Australian Feminist Law Journal 159-162

Dianne Otto, Unlocking the System: Consumer Participation Strategies in Mental Health Melbourne: Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (1990) 1-60

Dianne Otto, “A Structure for Action” (1988) 12 Community Quarterly 54-65

Dianne Otto, “Young Women and Deinstitutionalization” (1987) 4 Shelter: National Housing Action 12-18

Dianne Otto, “Institutionalizing Deinstitutionalization - Maintaining Winlaton Outside the Walls” (1986) Youth Accommodation Newsletter 6-12

Dianne Otto (ed.), Herstory of the Halfway House 1974-76, Melbourne: Halfway House Women’s Refuge Collective (1978) 1-250

Dianne Otto, “A Flawed Legal System: Community Workers’ Perspective” (1977) Legal Service Bulletin 379-381 (co-author Miranda Morris, contribution 50%)

Dianne Otto, “Halfway Where? Government Funding and Women’s Refuges” (1975) 2 Scarlet Woman 12-16

Dianne Otto & Eileen Haley, “Helter Shelter—A History of the Adelaide Women's Shelter” (1975) 9 Refractory Girl 11-17

© 2000, 2001 Dianne Otto
Dianne Otto
Faculty of Law
University of Melbourne
Parkville, Victoria 3053
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