The First Stone

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For the episode of the television show Rebus, see The First Stone (Rebus).
The First Stone: Some questions about sex and power
Cover of 1995 Picador paperback
Author Helen Garner
Cover artist Maikka Trupp/Mary Callahan
Country Australia
Language English
Publisher Picador Australia
Publication date
Pages 222p.
ISBN 978-0-330-35583-4

The First Stone: Some questions about sex and power by Helen Garner is a controversial non-fiction book about a 1992 sexual harassment scandal at Ormond College, one of the residential colleges of the University of Melbourne. It was first published in Australia in 1995 and later published in the United States in 1997.

The book revolves around Garner's attempts to interview the two young women at the centre of a sexual assault scandal but who declined to meet her, along the way exploring the politics, sexual and otherwise, of the college as well as Garner's personal feelings about the original events and the people she meets in the course of her research.

The book was condemned by some Australian feminists for a variety of reasons. The journalist Virginia Trioli published Generation F: Sex, Power & the Young Feminist in 1996 and a collection of essays critical of The First Stone was published under the title bodyjamming (1997). Garner gave her first detailed response to the critics in a speech at The Sydney Institute entitled "The fate of The First Stone" (1995).


The First Stone was controversial for a number of reasons. As the students involved refused to be interviewed by Helen Garner, instead the point of view of the accused master of the college was used in isolation and the narrator was therefore criticised as being biased towards his point of view.[citation needed] Elements of the story became fictionalised - for example, the tutor who advised the students was split into nine separate characters giving the appearance of a "feminist conspiracy" at work. Additionally, the book was also criticised for its view that feminism had become weakened and claim that the appropriate response to being groped was "a slap in the face" rather than a police complaint.[2][3][4][5][6]

See also


  1. "First Stone, The". Pan Macmillan Australia. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  2. Halligan, Marion (September 1998). "That's my story and I'm sticking to it: truth in fiction, lies in fact". Australian Humanities Review. Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  3. Simic, Zora (2006). "On Reading the First Stone Ten Years Later". Lilith: A Feminist History Journal. 15. Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  4. Kissane, Karen (1995). "The Other Side of Ormond". The Age. 
  5. Kissane, Karen. "The Other Side of Ormond". Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  6. Gallagher, Rhianna. "Helen Garner's The First Stone". Retrieved 21 February 2013. 


  • Trioli, Virginia (1996). Generation F: Sex, Power & the Young Feminist, Minerva. ISBN 1-86330-513-0
  • Mead, Jenna (ed.) (1997). bodyjamming, Vintage. ISBN 0-09-183403-1.
  • Garner, Helen (1995). "The fate of The First Stone", in: The Sydney Papers, The Sydney Institute, Spring 1995; reprinted as I'm inviting these young idealists to get real, in: Warhaft, Sally (ed.) (2004). Well May We Say...: The Speeches That Made Australia, Black Inc. ISBN 1-86395-277-2.