Issue 12, Summer 1996
Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with all types of disabilities in Australia. It is a not-for-profit organisation constituted and driven by women with disabilities. It is the only organisation of its kind in Australia and one of only a very small number internationally. WWDA is inclusive and does not discriminate against any disability. WWDA is unique, in that it operates as a national disability organisation; a national women’s organisation; and a national human rights organisation.
In This Edition
Message from the Chair – by Margaret Cooper
A young woman asked a panel of women with disabilities why we didn’ t talk about disability pride, instead of always speaking about the difficulties we face. That, set me thinking “Well why don’t talk about the great things we’ve all done?”
Maybe all those negative comments we hear have seeped into our bones. Statements like “crippled people shouldn’t have children”, or “I think you manage wonderfully, if I was disabled I’d kill myself”‘, or “euthanasia is the only way this country can cope with the cost of caring for old and disabled people – oh I didn’t mean you! My favourite conunent came from a well dressed woman who stopped me in a city street and said “you must have been a very bad person in the life before this one – or you wouldn’t be like you are now.
Poor things, they haven’t realised the truth about us. We have worked extremely hard to live with our disabilities and we have got full lives. We know the importance of being part of families, having friends and networking with other women. Diane Rice Smith, an American woman with severe disabilities, wrote “Loss is balanced in many ways by being open to life and being aware of how we are all connected one to another.”
We can be proud of our differences. Remember the strength and guts of the Paralympic athletes? Look at the freedom of movement of wheelchair ballet, the depth of emotion in the poems and artworks of other people with psychiatric illnesses, and the black comedy of many comedians with disabilities.
We have achieved so much in Australia individually, making a life in the community often deserves an Olympic medal. And we have all contributed to local groups like the local school parent’s association, and to disbaility organisations which may have State or National goals. Sure we have a long way to go to get good health programmes, accessible buildings, women’s refuges which will take us in in times of domestic violence, transport we, can use without assistance, equity in education and employment, and a change in connuunity attitudes.
WWDA has been very effective in having the views of women with disabilities heard by other women’s organisations, policy makers, disability organisations and members of Parliament. I hope WWDA will be funded so we, and our staff of Helen Skeat, Kerrie Watson and Di McGowan can keep on working, for our rights. We ought to be proud of ourselves.
Letters to the Editor
Just had to put pen to paper and say thanks heaps for the interesting and thought provoking articles and book reviews contained in the Australian edition of WWDA News! The experiences and sentiments raised by Linchay Bone concerning women with psychiatric disabilities are important issues for us to consider. Inclusiveness of all women, regardless of disability type, is an important goal of WWDA and the State branches. We have the capacity and desire to promote acceptance of our diversity as women with our various disabilities, ages, sexualities, cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and life experiences. We can learn from one another and, collectively, have a voice and be heard. Our diversity of experiences can be one of our strengths. In what ways can we ensure that we actively promote and maintain inclusive participation of all members in our Organisation? What are your thoughts and suggestions on this issue? Write in and share your ideas….
I’m 35 and my disability means that I’m in a wheelchair and has caused my height to be that of 3 feet. When I was bom there weren’t as many known people with it as there are now. With this in mind my family had no idea what the future would hold for me. I do give them a lot of credit for the situation that they were placed in, and they did a wonderful job. They acted in the best possible way given the circumstances, and took advice as much as they could. But one piece of advice they were given was the worst. In thinking of the future, they started when I was 11 asking doctors who they thought would be able to put them in the right direction for advice for when I started my periods. Not just the aspect of when I should be lucky enough to find a husband and settle down and start a family of my own, but the actual aspect of coping with the monthly periods. At this stage of things I was still undergoing a lot of medical treatment, which apart from my physical disability the operations of course held me up in some progress getting over each operation.
The doctor at the time advised them that I would not be able to cope with either having a child, or monthly periods. At the tender age of 12 I had my first hysterectomy. I say first because the doctor, who I call “the Bitch”, (yes, I am bitter about it as you I hope will come to understand) quoted to me that I was the smallest person she had done this to, and seeing I hadn’t fully developed at this age yet, was not 100% sure what she was doing. At 12, I simply hadn’t started anything yet, so ‘get in while the going is good’. As you can see, I am able to think and realise like other people. But can you tell me a 12 year old who is just learning of the facts of life and is looking forward to her first period and the coming of one’s age, who understands all these fine details of a very special moment in her life? I have never met any child at that young tender age to understand this let alone the full concept of what I went through. I had no follow up from anyone, my parents really seldom discussed it, the “Bitch!” just checked me out for the physical aspects of it all. That was it, no other aspect of my health was taken into account.
By 1977 my life was by then 100% better, I was able to do almost everything for myself, my operations had ceased and my health in regard to my disability had stabilised. The predictions that were made about me not being able to do things for myself were 100% wrong, as is with most people with my disability. Though by now I was starting to realise more each day I and my fellow class members got older and more interested in the opposite sex, the full extent of what had happened to me. Whenever the issues of the monthly period came up with the other girls, I basically said nothing. Though I was taught about sex, and men and women by my parents, we certainly at school (which was established just for disabled children) had no real education in this regard. I learned quickly a few years earlier that I couldn’t join in. I’ve never had a period so I had no idea what they were talking about other than from an outsiders point of view (eg the same way a man might learn and know of women’s periods and body functions, or by reading). When I did try to join in I would say the wrong thing and be laughed at by the other girls. The nurses at school were no better. It’s hard to understand something when one, has no experience of it first hand.
During this year, 1977, while going to the toilet, I noticed that I seemed not to be able to wipe myself enough. I looked at the paper to discover I was bleeding. On my mother examining me, she realised that what I had done 4 years earlier had not been done right. Eighteen days.after my 16th birthday, I had to go back to the “Bitch”. This time, being older and understanding so much more I thought that what I had gone through before would be the ‘only time’, I was deeply shocked and had no idea what was happening. The “Bitch” gave no real explanation as to why I had to re-go through it all again, nor did she apologise, but as I stated I was totally in shock, these 2 have been the only 2 operations out of 40 that have nothing to do with my disability, and having to go through it all again was too much for me to cope with, and still is today. The only thing she did right this time round was that I didn’t go to the maternity ward, where she usually worked. I was also still young enough to be put in with the kids. I’m grateful she put me in the kids ward. I know I never would have been able to cope if I was put in the women’s wards.
Again there was no follow up. Just a few check ups to see how I was coping physically. I don’t recall at any time talks about what had actually happened or what had been done to me. I know me. I realise that probably due to the young age I went through that first “rape” that no way would I have been able to think or understand in any the right questions to ask or the answers. But at 16, I know I would have tried to ask questions, and tried hard to find out what actually happened to me. But again nothing. I just knew I wasn’t able to have kids or periods. I had no idea what effects it would have on me in the future, in particular if it could cause my disability to get worse. I had no idea.
I apologise for the long explanation of this, but it’s the only way I can cope.
Therese Marie Lampe (Miss)
(This is part of a long letter that Therese sent to WWDA. It has been edited down for reasons of space. The second half will be printed in the next edition of WWDA News).
Homeless in the Lucky Country by Kali Wilde
The conference on “Homelessness in the Lucky Country 1996 to 2000: How will we meet the challenge?” was held in Melbourne, September the 4th to the 6th 1996. I attended as a woman with a disability representing WWDA. Madge Sceriha attended as a woman with a disability representing both WWDA and North Qld Combined Women’s Services, Inc. Madge wrote an excellent paper on Women with Disabilities and Homelessness which was very well received by this conference.
Many workers from organisations with a wide range of philosophies were represented at this conference. There was remarkable unity and consensus between participants on the issues of homelessness in Australia considering the diversity of services and issues represented. The tone of the conference was generally bleak, stressed and fear filled in the wake of current and proposed funding cuts and policy changes by the Federal Government.
Unfortunately, women with disabilities were not well represented at this conference. Despite a huge number of participants, apart from Madge and myself, I discovered no other women with a visible disability. Of course some participants would have had hidden disabilities. But this striking lack of women with disabilities as workers in the areas of homelessness needs to be instantly addressed. For the lack of representation of us as workers in these services surely flows through into service provision, contributing to the many problems women with disabilities consistently encounter in attempting to access these services.
There were, a number of excellent papers presented at this conference, which gave all participants food for thought. Notably good was the scathing paper entitled “The Imperative”, presented by Noel Pearson, former executive of the Cape York Land Council, who is now working as a lawyer in Melbourne. Another excellent paper was presented by Maggi Hughes of the Young Women’s Housing Shopfront, entitled “Still Waiting: Inclusive Policy”. Also fascinating was the paper “Poverty and Homelessness in the Year 2000′, presented by Kenneth Davidson, columnist for The Age and editor of Australian Rationalist. And of course the previously mentioned excellent paper “Women with Disabilities” written by Madge Sceriha of WWDA.
A widely discussed issue was the proposed Federal government changes in the area of housing which was feared would reduce the supply of low cost accessible housing and reduce security of tenure, creating further homelessness and dependence on limited and underfunded support services and charities. We as women with disabilities have found that many of these support services are all too often impossible for women to access on the basis of their disability, and that many charities leave a lot to be desired. Women with a child with a disability are often similarly disadvantaged in this area.
Also discussed in depth were proposed changes in the area of unemployment. Training and employment opportunities are key pathways out of homelessness. Yet proposed changes to employment and training programs will severely impact on many people, (especially women with disabilities, who are so marginalised in the area of employment opportunities and training programs), locking us into continuing cycles of poverty and dependence and perpetuating homelessness.
Social Security budget changes were examined, with conference participants speculating that many people in dire need will lose various income support options and rent assistance; so consequently their housing. Of course all marginalised groups, including women with disabilities, will be hit extra hard by these changes. These changes too will perpetuate homelessness making us even more dependent on inadequate homelessness services and charities.
Changes in the area of health were also covered. Homeless women generally, (and women with disabilities who are homeless even more profoundly) lack access to adequate health assistance both in acute and primary health care. Health responses are poorly funded, very fragmented and virtually impossible to access. The abolition of the Commonwealth Dental Health Program caused great concern at the conference as it will severely impact on all people with a low income, especially those who are homeless. Again women with disabilities will be hard hit by these changes.
Conference consensus was that homelessness is a national issue which can only be effectively tackled by all levels of government working together with the broader community. Needing to be assessed and addressed are the factors which lead people into, and trap them into homelessness. Insufficient resources have been devoted by Government to meeting the needs of homeless people, and tackling the fundamental causes of homelessness which include violence against women, poverty, unemployment, inadequate public housing, inaccessible, expensive private housing, etc.
We as women with disabilities need to demand action from all areas of government and the broader community sector to ensure the needs of all women with disabilities who are homeless, living in inadequate housing, or living in insecure, unsafe, violent and untenable circumstances etc, are fully met; and our rights truly ensured. If we do not lobby actively in this area, our specific needs and rights will be ignored, and increasing numbers of women with disabilities will be living in ever worsening circumstances.
News From the States
New WWDA Group Forming in Adelaide
Recently, as part of my work as Membership and Development Officer, I visited Adelaide to help get a local WWDA group started there. We met at the Disability Information and Resource Centre (DIRC) on Gilles Street in the centre of town. I had contacted the staff at the centre several weeks previous to our meeting, and they were very supportive of my efforts to spread the word amongst the disability community in Adelaide.
There was also some media coverage, on 5AM, the local ABC station, and in the two major newspapers, The Advertiser and The Messenger.
Our initial discussions centred around some of the history of WWDA and our current activities on the National level. Then we moved on to brainstorming some ideas for events the group could organise for local women, and came up with several ideas for seminars and social events.
Our current work is focussing on updating the WWDA mailing list and heading into the New Year. There’s a lot of interest and enthusiasm for WWDA and what we do. I think the group there will be strong and active. I’m looking forward to continuing my work with the SA women, perhaps returning a little later into the new year to consolidate this year’s efforts.
PS. I would like to thank Vicki Toovey, from Women’s Health Statewide, who was a mine of helpful information about the local scene and generous with her time and support in the organisation of this meeting. Thanks Vicki!!
The small group of women with disabilities here were quite anxious to establish Women With Disabilities Tasmania during Human Rights Week 3-10 December 1996. Whilst our intentions were good, the timing proved to be impossible due to ill-health and over commitment of the willing few.
Disabled Peoples International (Tasmania) now has a new name – Tasmanians with Disabilities. Using TWD’s mailing list as well as that of other disability self help organisations, we have distributed WWDA’s membership leaflet and back dated copies of WWDA’s newsletter which has unearthed a small group of women who are really keen to establish WWDT. This is a huge step forward. We will now aim for the establishment in March 1997, probably to coincide with Tasmanian’s with Disabilities AGM which will be held in Tasmania’s North West. We have also had offers of assistance in our establishment from other members of the Human Rights Week Organising Committee. This may be a way of ensuring WWDT’s members involvement with other women’s groups and hence assist the awareness that we exist. Another spin-off could be that we will have in our membership, women from NESB and hopefully Aboriginal women. We already have contacts in the psychiatric disability area. So we are on an exciting threshold in Tasmania for the establishment of a women with disabilities group.
Greetings from the “Gateway to Asia – Darwin”, where not only the weather has been hotting up, its been mid thirties for a month or so by day and close to thirty overnight! And in the Disability field there’s not been much time to sit back and relax and reflect. In the months since the last newsletter, the newly formed Consumer Group has grown strongly and steadily, a name change to Integrated Disability Action, or IDA, and recognition by the disability “industry” that there is a viable group who are willing and able to consult and comment, and take action when needed. The Objects of Association were formulated at one meeting and though we feel they are representing the wishes and ideals of the, group, there are several stumbling blocks in the wording said to have “political overtones”. We have asked an experienced lawyer to look at our efforts! This group gives support and continues to listen to members, as well as invite responses when a particular problem is raised. We have participated in the usual meetings/consultations by Territory health services, though we are not always sure if our voices are heard. Sound familiar?
At the Northern Territory ACROD Annual General Meeting and Conference in August, the Minister for Health announced that he had called for the Department to develop a 5 year Strategy, and consultations have been held in major centres in the Northern Territory in the Disability area. All submissions etc are of course subject to both Commonwealth and Northern Territory Government budgets; we live in hope!
A 2 day seminar/workshop on “Care Coordination” was held in August and with a good representation of disabled people I believe the flow of information both ways was well received. The Darwin City Council’s Disability Anti-Discrimination Plan has been lodged with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, though there is some lack of knowledge of its use and action by staff and contractors. An upgrade of the Civic Centre is part way finished, and hopefully it will be easier to get to all parts of the building once the work is finished. If not????
International Day of Disabled Persons was celebrated in many ways, with good media coverage; radio, press and TV all helped to put the message out. The Disability Information Officers in the Territory Community Care Centres contacted all schools in the Darwin and Rural areas asking if they would like to have speaker(s) during the week, and a very pleasing response was received. Thirty three speakers with three carers, spoke at 24 public and private schools from Darwin City right through to Middle Point, 60 kms out. They spoke with 60 classes and 6 schools assemblies, and not all could be fitted in on December third, so it has been a week long effort. As well, the NICAN Photo Exhibition has been on show at the State Reference Library in Parliament House, Darwin and this exhibit, together with displays by Top End Advocacy Service, who launched a poster,.a local disability agent who is a quad brought some of his equipment to show, and several other organisations had information available. As the Minister for Health was unable to leave Cabinet discussions, another of the Territory politicians launched the day, and even Father Christmas came along to find out what was happening. A very happy and successful day. Volunteers also had a good profile in the media and with the Chief Minister hosting a morning tea at Parliament House for approx 100 invited volunteers, and again some displays in the Mall by Police, Emergency Services and other voluntary organisations the work of volunteers in the community has had a wide focus.
The “Hot Potato” of Territory and Commonwealth politics, the so-called Euthanasia Bill still receives a wide coverage by all media, and no doubt with various politicians getting into the fray and other states looking at the issue as well as Appeals to the Courts, this matter will continue to stay alive for some time yet.
The wind-down season has started up here, and many are glad to have a break from the happenings of a busy, but very successful year in the awareness raising activities of people with disabilities in Darwin. Will 1997 show good results and responses to our efforts? Warmest greetings for this Christmas season and for all that the New Year brings to each of us.
International Symposium on Health, Ageing and Cerebral Palsy: A Vision for the Future
This event was held in Toronto, Canada, during May 1996. WWDA member Margaret Rutter attended.
Indeed it was an historic event we experienced in Toronto. We came to share knowledge about the ageing process for people with Cerebral Palsy, to identify ways to lessen the problems of ageing with Cerebral Palsy and to develop coping strategies for the future and, importantly, to build on the networking. There were representatives from Australia, Bermuda, Italy, Kuwait, Mexico, Slovenia, USA and Canada. How many countries missed out because of lack of funding, because of apathy, because of lack of networking, to know it was happening in Toronto???? All countries have cases of Cerebral Palsy hidden or out in the communities.
People with Cerebral Palsy can and should be the driving force to ensure that our society is people centred. We must strive to help people to value people. People with Cerebral Palsy must address and enter medical, social and political systems as able persons and not as a “special interest” group. They should consider combining with other disability groups to form coalitions and partnerships for political expression. We heard speakers emphasize that knowledge is power, power is knowledge, sharing knowledge and experiences is wisdom.
The theme on the Monday was “Ageing – what do we do about it?” Followed by Tuesday’s “Health Issues”. Our very dynamic speakers and the subsequent workshops reaffirmed that adult persons with Cerebral Palsy are usually healthy. Cerebral Palsy is not a disease but a “condition”; ageing is normal and healthy. Ageing is not a disease. Ageing is a progression of leaming skills; maintaining skills, and a decline of skills, our attitude to life affects how we interpret the ageing process – regardless of our ability or disability. How we are allowed to participate in life has a great bearing on our attitude to the activities of life and in turn has a crucial bearing on how we age.
We really must keep ourselves mentally, physically, socially and politically active. We must be committed for ourselves, regardless of where we are located on this globe. We should commit ourselves to generate a people centred attitude. We need to collaborate with the community at large to build partnerships, allies and support for the commitment that people come first.
This symposium was a remarkable and dynamic process. New growth and commitment has evolved. Each of us was challenged to go back to our communities, towns, cities and countries with the knowledge we gained in Toronto, and to focus on promoting quality of life for people with Cerebral Palsy, for people with disabilities and for the human race as a whole.
The Ontario Federation of Cerebral Palsy (OFCP) is committed to developing a credible knowledge base about Cerebral Palsy. As a result of this symposium, OFCP will investigate the establishment of a Canadian Resource Centre on Ageing and Cerebral Palsy. This resource Centre will house National and International information. OFCP will approach the Federal Minister for Health in Canada to support this initiative. OFCP will also respond to the challenge to assist the Medical Community to develop a positive attitude to persons with Cerebral Palsy and especially to adults and seniors with Cerebral Palsy.
Michael Barrett, one of the presenters at the Symposium, has committed himself to write and publish an article on sexuality, ageing and Cerebral Palsy. At present no published information on this topic is available, many speakers and participants acknowledged during the Symposium that there is almost a total absence of information in most areas concerning Cerebral Palsy. The challenge is now obvious. We must seek information that is pertinent for people with Cerebral Palsy.
People with Cerebral Palsy are the experts. They must share their knowledge and their experiences to provide everyone, able and disabled, to learn to have more wisdom. As the Symposium progressed we learned about other international conferences that are planned.
We have much to learn from each other. The movement has just begun. It is up to you. Do not let it die. Respond to the very many needs in very special field.
The Symposium has certainly been one of the highlights of my life. Thank you for making in happen for Australians. Our future is now. I would like to work to see Australia in the lead of this very special field by the year 2000. There are many doors to be knocked on, and action needed.
Leadership Institute for Women With Disabilities, USA 1997
Mobility International USA recently announced the International Leadership Institute for Women with Disabilities, June 1997 in Eugene, Oregon, USA: an intensive, two week training program by and for women with disabilities from around the world to develop skills, exchange strategies and strengthen networks.
WWDA has been invited to submit applications for one or two women with disabilities to apply for the MIUSA Leadership Institute. Women with disabilities who are experienced or new leaders, who demonstrate commitment to work with and train other women with disabilities, will be selected from the field by MIUSA committees.
In selecting delegates, MIUSA will strive for diversity of geographic region, ethnic background and types of disability organisations operating in different regions may submit applications for women from each region.
The International Leadership Institute for Women with Disabilities will feature workshops on how to start and maintain effective organisations, fund-raising, public speaking, media, mentorship programs, education, family, employment, violence prevention, and health. Delegates will develop projects to implement at home, and each delegate will lead at least one workshop or activity. Outdoor team building activities and cultural celebrations will offer opportunities for personal development, leadership experience and strengthening networks.
Interpreters will be available for Spanish and French speakers, and there will also be American Sign Language Interpreters provided. Translation and interpretation in other languages may be possible through negotiation. All activities will be designed so that every participant of whatever disability can participate fully. Arrangements for personal care can be negotiated with MFJSA.
The program fee is US$1000 per delegate – this includes all accommodation and meals, transportation during the program, activity fees, trainers, language interpreters and orientation materials. Travel costs from your home to Eugene, Oregon are additional, and delegates are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.
Applications forms to attend the Institute are available from the WWDA office. Apply soon if you want to go! Places will fill fast. In addition to completing standard application forms, you will need references from two people familiar with your work and qualities as a leader (They can’t be family members!). Referees will need to complete a Recommendation Form – these are also available from the WWDA office.
Contact the WWDA office if you’d like to apply. Good luck!
Development Report by Kerrie Watson
This is my first Development Report for WWDA News, and so now seems a good time to thank everyone involved with the organisation for their help over the last few months while I’ve been “finding my feet”. The last few months have been hectic and a very steep leaming curve, but things are looking fantastic for WWDA in 1997.
I visited the WWDA group in December, and had a planning day with the Comniittee, in addition to visiting several women’s health centres and disability information and advocacy services to distribute newsletters and brochures and to drum up some organisational memberships for WWDA. The planning day with the Committee was very, successful – some of the strategies arising from the day included an increased media profile for WWDWA, a ‘new members welcome’ officer, and a regional outreach program. The group has also had a very positive and encouraging response from the Lotteries Comniission in WA regarding an application for seed funding to help establish the organisation a little more solidly.
Australian Capital Territory
Being based in the ACT, I am actually a member of this group. So I’m pleased to report that after all the ups and downs we’ve had in 1996, things are looking good for 1997. We’ll be resuming meetings in January 1997, starting with a meet WWDA (ACT) “Open Day”, where we’ll be welcoming new members and planning out our schedule of workshops for the coming year. Some of the workshops being planned include self defence, relationships, and assertiveness. I’m also currently organising a fund raising concert for early in the new year.
It’ll be Canberra’s social event of the decade, I’m sure! I gave a talk to a local disability group in November, and several women from that have since joined WWDA. We also have a good media profile in Canberra, through community radio and community press. The ACT Government has a Disability Services Grants Program here, and I’m currently working on a submission for March 1997. I’ve spoken with a few people from relevant departments and there is some money there, so between that program and our fundraising concerts WWDA (ACT) should have some money in 1997 to enable us to reach even more women with disabilities in the ACT.
There is a lot of interest in WWDA from’ women in SA – I visited Adelaide in early November. See the article about the new Adelaide group elsewhere in the newsletter for all the latest.
Shortly after starting working at WWDA, a press release sent to various gay and lesbian publications fired up interest in starting a lesbian network within WWDA. Already about 20 women have joined our mailing list. I’m aiming to have some information and a survey form posted out early in the new year, to get people thinking.about what they want from a network and what sorts of issues to start work on. Major issues are: how will these groups communicate/fonn an identity given their geographical sweep – possibly supplements in the newsletter; getting funding for a meeting; an intemet home page; a regular one page info exchange bulletin etc will help with this. I’m hoping to learn a lot from the establishment of the lesbian network to help with establishing similar-networks within WWDA for women from non-English speaking backgrounds, Aboriginal women, mothers with a disability, and a group for young women.
I have begun work on this project with help from Pamela Menere. So far I’ve had a fairly frenzied schedule of visits to State groups and funding submission deadlines, so it hasn’t got past the planning stage as yet! I’m taking a laptop computer with me on my Christmas holidays to get a (very) rough draft together, and I won’t be visiting any groups over January, so I’m aiming to get this well underway over summer for completion by March or April. Incidentally, if you have any ideas for the kit, give me a call in the WWDA office – I’m here Thursdays and Fridays.
I visited the Newcastle group in July. Membership of the group has increased steadily over the past few months due largely to the efforts of Dallas Barwick, who has developed into quite a local celebrity following appearances on local radio, TV and press reports. I recently wrote up a funding submission to BHP’s Community Grants Program. We’re very optimistic about the application given BHP’s involvement in the Newcastle/Hunter region.
PBI Status Application
We recently applied for Public Benevolent Institution status with the Tax Office. PBI status makes donations to us tax deductible, so its a very good thing to have! The Tax Office turned us down but we’re undaunted, and will be applying again following a talk with a local lawyer and with other organisations who’ve applied for and been granted PBI status. Watch this space!
Tasmania is looking at getting a WWDA group up and running in March 1997 (See State Report). I’ve already had a very positive response to the idea of a WWDA group from the MS Society, Deaf Society and the University of Tasmania’s Disability Office. Between now and March, I’ll be working to raise awareness of WWDA through a media campaign and targeting women’s health centres, and various groups in Tassie.
Sydney, Brirbane, Darwin and Regional groups
In the new year I’ll be focussing a lot more on these groups, (which have been a bit neglected due to time constraints – please accept my profuse apologies!) and plan to visit within the fust half of the year. There are inklings of interest from Wagga Wagga (NSW), Townsville (Qld), the Hills area (WA), and Amidale (NSW) in getting regional WWDA groups started up. I’m intending to focus on regional centres in the.second half of 1997.
Oral History Project
Submissions to the Australia Council for their Oral History Program will be due in March. I’d like to get a really strong application in from WWDA for this program. If anyone would like to be a sounding board and go over drafts of the application with me, I’d really appreciate it. I’ve only been involved in the disability movement since 1993, so I’m keen to hear from people who’ve got a stronger idea of the history of women with disabilities, to bring a broader perspective and the benefit of hindsight to our application! I’d love to hear from you, this is an important project. If you’re interested, give me a call at the Office.
Women Walk on Water:Participating during the 4th World Conference on Women NGO Forum in Beijing China, 1995.
A delegation of 8 women with disabilities, representing developing countries from three continents, attended the 4th World Conference on Women, in China. The report ‘Women Walk on Water’ is a series of essays designed to be a useful and informative tool in the work to include women and girls with disabilities in their natural environments and describes the situation for women with disabilities in seven developing countries, including India, Tanzania, Nicaragua and Ghana.
The Conference at Hairou outside of Beijing was held in August 1995 and about 200 women with disabilities attended. Swedish journalist Mekki Kaarlsson, who attended the conference and helped compile Women Walk on Water, writes that “it was easy to become delirious just being part of the female global mass movement taking place right in front of everybody – women from every comer of the world, with different, yet similar, experiences, ideas, problems and solutions.”
The report was sponsored by the SHIA (Swedish Handicapped International Aid Foundation) Women’s Committee, and “is the beginning of extensive and intensive work to be realised in the future.” A SHIA press release from the time said “we are aware that there is a lot more work to be done before we achieve our basic goals of equality with women in general in our respective countries. But watch out! Women With Disabilities are on the move!”
Writing the Experience
The first thing that struck me about the room was the carpet – green shamrocks. There were kids next door practicing Irish dancing. In this room were 12 strangers brought together by the ACT Writer’s Centre, hopefully to produce an anthology of our experiences of disability.
Eight women and two men with various disabilities, including head injury, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, visual and hearing impamnent, met over eight weeks to distil these experiences. “Living: No Experience Necessary” is the result!
Even though I had completed some short courses in different aspects of writing and was starting a Professional Writing course at the Canberra Institute of Technology, I felt self conscious about visual impairment, even though I’ve lived with it all my life. Was I disabled enough?
Madge, short, slightly plump and smiling, who had been writing since childhood, heard about these workshops from a friend, and came because she was “keen to write”, learn and meet people. Arthritis in her hands, from years of dressmaking to augment the family budget, made it difficult for her to write. She now uses a computer (“I’ll always write”, she told me). And write we did! The workshops covered a variety of relevant areas. A good variety for a newcomer like me. In fact I often went away feeling more energised than when I had started that morning. Madge certainly seemed to enjoy the variety too. Especially when it came to sharing some of the poems that seemed to ooze from her pen as freely as ink.
These sessions included Lizz Murphy (Poetry and Self Promotion), Fotini Epanomitis (Getting Started) Kathy Kituai (Journals and the Finished Product), Francesca Rendle-Short (Finding Your Voice), Margot Hodge (Discussing Drafts), and david walker (Layout and Design). They all gave willingly. And I have the notes to prove it.
The anthology was launched on 29 November 1996 at the Irish Club in Canberra. The feeling was one of pride. Pride in my ability to survive despite everything. All of us have survived and we have written it down. Read and be empowered.
Life through Music: The Sport and Tourism Youth Foundation Noel McGurgan Memorial Scholarship in support of The Ability Australia Foundation, and the Australian Institute of Music are delighted to be able to announce the launch of a special Scholarship for people with disabilities. The Scholarship, to be known as the Sport and Tourism Youth Foundation Noel McGurgan MemoriaIScholarship, is open to any Australian citizen with a disability who wishes to take up a career in music, and who can demonstrate that he or she has the potential and the personal determination to acquire the skills needed for employment in the music industry.
Selection of the successful candidate will be made initially by written application and then by audition and interview. The closing date for the receipt of applications is Friday January 31, 1997. To obtain an application form, telephone 06 289 7691.
International Remedies for Women’s Human Rights – The CEDAW Treaty and what it does (and doesn’t do) for us.
Both the Viennna Conference on Human Rights and the Fourth World Conference on Women called upon governments to strengthen the protection of women’s human rights. One proposal for improving the deplorably weak enforcement mechanisms for women’s human rights is an Optional Protocol to CEDAW (Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women). This Protocol would give individual women a right of complaint to an international body where their rights under CEDAW had been violated. The rights under CEDAW extend from political participation, to health, to the eradication of cultural prejudices.
A working group on the Protocol was convened in March 1996, and is ongoing. This working group group is charged with the responsibility for monitoring international implementation of the platforms for action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
Initially, governments were fairly negative about the Protocol, expressing general concern about duplication with existing human rights mechanisms and about the appropriateness of creating legal remedies for all the rights in the CEDAW. After general statements, governments addressed the elements of an Optional.Protocol, proposed by the CEDAW Committee, the treaty body which monitors CEDAW.
At the conclusion of government statements, NGO’s made oral interventions in support of their positions. No draft text was introduced for discussion, and the CEDAW Committee resolved to continue its general discussions in 1997.
There is cause for both pessimism and optimism: the bad news is that governments are moving only slowly and reluctantly towards a culture of compliance for women’s human rights. The more heartening news is that the energy, expertise and tenacity of women’s organisations ensure that strident and persistent voices in defense of women’s human rights echo through the corridors of the United Nations.
For women interested in more information about the Optional Protocol and how Australian Women’s organisations are furthering its preparation, please contact Susie Brennan on (03) 9229 2627 or at 325 Amess Street, East Brunswick, Victoria, 3057.
Disabled Children: The Unfunded Priority
The Jounal of The Society for Intemational Development has recently published an article by Susan B. Parker, Secretary General of Rehabilitation International, a worldwide network of people with disabilities, service providers and government agencies.
“If disabled people number among the poorest people of the world’s poor, then disabled children rank at the end of the queue of poor children to receive services,” writes Parker. “They, are the most marginalized, and vulnerable group among children.”
The case is begining to be made in earnest that funding for children with disabilities is a necessity that can no longer be ignored. The numbers of children with mental and physical disabilities are rising, caused by armed conflict and poverty. Disabled children in 1990 numbered approximately 36.5 million. The numbers are projected to rise to 45.2 million by the year 2025. Poverty, war, and the HIV-AIDS epidemic are three factors increasing the rate of disability occurrence in children.
“Advocates for’children with disabilities recognize that their issues usually rimk at the bottom of children’s issue area priority lists,” writes Parker. “Priority order for resource allocations, defined as budget and personnel, is created by imperatives within a political environment – acted on by governments who are confronted by demands for services exceeding the available supply.”
Parker contends that society is now “wracked by dire needs among many populations”. In this context, advocates for children must intensify and strengthen their messages, aiming those messages at building a political will to create a higher priority for disabled children.
Disability Discrimination Act Standards
Last issue of WWDA News, we reported on the process of developing Standards under the Disability Discrimination Act. Sometimes government processes move quickly, and since that report, the Standards process has come a long way. Below, we report on what is happening in each of the Standards. There are many opportunities for you to have your voice heard. WWDA will be submitting comments on all the Standards so contact the WWDA Office ifyou want to have your voice heard.
The Transport Standard has been written – it was developed over a long period of time and involved a great deal of consultation. The Standard won’t be passed into law until after a “regulatory impact statement” has been developed. This statement will look at the what the impact, financial and otherwise, will be if the Standard is introduced. You can have a say.
Write to the DDA Standards Project, or fill in the attached questionnaire and send it back. It is very important that the impact on your life is counted in the Statement. If you do not want to fill in the questionnre, contact the WWDA office to have your say.
A draft Employment Standard has been written and a consultation process is about to begin. This will kick off with the training of several key disability community members in each State, who will then be hold a series of focus groups, workshops and other consultations around Australia with people with disabilities. Look out for the consultation near you, or, contact the WWDA office for more details.
There is no provision in the DDA to develop a standard on Access to Buildings. Instead, the Building Code of Australia is being revised to comply with the DDA. A discussion paper has been released, and comments have been called for. Although the period for comments on this paper have closed, this process is by no means over, and there will be more opportunities for comment.
Terry Fletcher from WWDA is on the Committee revising the Building Code of Australia. If you want to be involved, contact the WWDA office.
The development of the Education Standard has only just started. A taskforce has been meeting for about a year, and four sub-committees have now been set up. Each of these have people with disabilities on them. The Ministers of Education have still not decided whether to develop a Standard or not, and the Taskforce is writing background papers for them to assist with the decision.
Joan Hume, from WWDA, is one of the disability community representatives on the Education Taskforce. She also chairs one of the sub-committees of the taskforce. Contact WWDA if you want to be involved.
For copies of the papers write to the following:
The DDA Standards Project
PO Box 192
Erindale Centre ACT 2903
Attorney General’s Department
Human Rights Division
Robert Garran offices
National Circuit Barton ACT 2600
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Committee
GPO Box 5218
Sydney NSW 2000. Phone 02 284 9761
DDA Standards Newsletter
To receive the regular newsletter about the DDA Standards write to:
DDA Standards Project
PO Box 192,
Erindale Centre ACT 2903
A change of name
The National Coalition for the Development of the DDA Standards is now called the DDA Standards Project. The Project is coordinating consultation with people with disabilities about the Standards.
National Annual General Meeting 1996
Women from around Australia gathered in Sydney in August for WWDA’s 2nd National Annual General Meeting. In the morning we celebrated WWDA’s first birthday with a WWDA cake (made by WWDA women). It has been a year of achievements, and WWDA is a much stronger, larger and more dynamic organisation at the end of it. But we recognised that it can be very hard work at times, and supporting each other is crucial.
Violence Against Women With Disabilities
The morning was taken up with discussion, and Madge Sceriha from Townsville started with a discussion about violence against women with disabilities. Delegates from each State talked about what was happening in terms of services for women with disabilities who are subject to violence. The picture was fairly grim, although some things are happening such as the NSW government setting up a committee looking at violence against people with disabilities. Many delegates hear regularly from women with disabilities who need access to services, but can’t get them. It was decided that WWDA should continue working on improving access to services for women who are subject to violence.
Counting us in!
Martin Butterfield from the Australian Bureau of Statistics came to the meeting, and spoke about the Census and people with disabilities. He reported on the trial which the ABS has been conducting. The trial was to see how effective a question about disability in the Census would be. There was much lively discussion about possible questions The main issue was whether the questions should focus on the effect of the disability on the person, or the effect of how society deals with the disability. Martin said that one problem with disability questions in the Census was that the Census covers so many areas, you could only ever ask two or three about disability. This means that the infonnation may not be very accurate, as each person answering the questions may have different ideas regarding disability, and answer very general questions differently. Detailed questionnaires specifically about disability issues, such as the Carers, Ageing and Disability surveys get around this problem to some extent.
Other people thought that even with these problems it is worth including a question on disability, and that it would yield as much information as, say, questions on ethnicity. It means that every household in Australia is surveyed about disability. In the end, it was decided that it is a topic which warrants a lot more discussion, both within WWDA and with bodies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics. One suggestion was that WWDA help to organise a forum to discuss whether or not a Census question on disability is useful, and if so, which one. WWDA was invited by Martin Butterfiled to nominate someone to sit on the Committee which is looking at the matter.
Margaret Cooper was voted unanimously for a second term as Chairperson. Terry Fletcher is the Deputy, Chair, and Rae Hurrell is Treasurer. Maria McGrath is the new Secretary for WWDA.
The State Representatives are:
New South Wales: Terry Fletcher and Joan Hume
Victoria: Margaret Cooper and Lurline Beeston.
Western Australia: Maria McGrath
Tasmania: Robin Wilkinson.
South Australia: unfilled.
Queensland: Rae Hurrell and Madge Sceriha (Far North Queensland).
Australian Capital Territory: Diana Palmer.
Northern Territory: Joyce Deering
Conferences Coming Up 1997
They Said We’d Never Make It – Ageing and Disability
The Spastic Centre of NSW
Details: Sue Balandin
Phone (02) 451 9022
Fax (02) 451 4877
13-1 5 July
For information on Expos,
contact (08) 3772295
1998 People First International Conference
Anchorage Alaska USA
23-25 April 1998
Registration fee $US 250
Includes all meals for three day conference.
Contact PO Box 200326,
Anchorage, Alaska 99520-0326 USA
for further information.
Tel: + 1 907 277 2915
Fax: + 1 907 272 9794
Inaugural HACC Australia Conference
27-28 February 1997 Brisbane
For further details contact
Home and Community Care
Tel: 07 3870 8831 Fax: 07 3371 9514
Biennial, National Conference on Autism
13-16 March, 1997
Blue Mountains, NSW
Autistic Assoc of Australia
Tel o2 9956 8333 Fax 02 9956 5154
National Deaf-Blind Conference
Leisure Link, Adelaide
Tel: 08 8379 2024
4th National Rehabilitation Conference
5-6 May, 1997
Tel: 08 8210 6776 Fax: 08 8212 5101
GINI 7th International Post Polio and ILC Conference
28-31 May 1997 St Louis USA
Tel:+314 534 0475 Fax: + 314 534 5070
Writing Your Life – Call for submissions to the journal “Pandora”
Pandora is a quarterly publication on women’s issues. Pandora reaches a wide audience of women interested in women’s lives and empowerment. The journal is currently expanding in volume and content. As they broaden their focus, they are looking for material that is controversial, cheeky, touching, funny, stimulating, empowering, inspiring, thought-provoking describing women’s experiences and achievements, research or work in progress, and any topics concerning you as a woman in today’s society. The emphasis is on articles dealing with current social issues and information, which may include personal reflections. General statements should be well researched and substantiated.
Submissions can take the form of an article, interview, short story, essay, or poem. The editors urge you to be daring!
Send your work to Pandora Journal
PO Box 1090, Carlton, Victoria 3053.