Issue 17, December 1999

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.

Message from the New WWDA Chairperson – by Keran Howe

Hello to you all and welcome to this edition of WWDA News. As the incoming Chairperson of the National Executive Committee, Women With Disabilities Australia, I am keen to contribute to the excellent work of our organisation. My background is that as a woman with a disability, I have had a keen interest over the past twenty years in the rights of women and of people with disabilities. In a professional capacity I have worked in disability and health areas – in community health, women’s health and in the acute hospital sector. My goal as chairperson is to work for the voice of women with disabilities to be heard at all levels of the community – within community organisations and services, within business and at all levels of government – wherever decisions are being made that effect our lives. To achieve this, I believe it is vital that women with disabilities have a means of voicing their views and that WWDA is an important conduit for our views.

The WWDA National Executive Committee is keen to maintain an active membership so that every member can participate in the way she thinks her voice can be most effective. The incoming Committee has established portfolio areas based on our specific goals for 1999-2000. This means that women with an interest in a particular issue can participate in working groups to respond to that interest. The portfolios (or interest groups) are Violence, Telecommunications, Education and Employment, Leadership and Mentoring, Health and Ageing, Links to the Women’s Movement, Welfare Reform, Membership/Constitution and Human Rights. If you have an interest in, or are currently involved in work, research or study in any of these portfolio areas we would love to hear from you. Our collective efforts will be more powerful than our individual efforts in achieving recognition of women with disabilities within our community.

One of the areas WWDA has been particularly involved over the last two years is violence against women with disabilities. Our work has included a project to address barriers preventing women with disabilities receiving services and access to refuges in situation of violence. At the conclusion of this project the first national workshop on violence against women with disabilities was held in Melbourne to look at ways to respond to violence against women with disabilities. For this pioneering work, WWDA has been recognised with a 1999 National Crime Prevention Award including a prize of $10,000. Congratulations to the magnificent effort of all who have contributed to this important work.

Another area of interest has developed in response to the current review of Welfare in Australia. In September, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Jocelyn Newman announced the establishment of a Reference Group to guide the development of a comprehensive green paper on welfare reform. Submissions from the community have been called for and preliminary findings will be reported to the Minister in January with a final paper forming the basis of a submission to cabinet. WWDA is currently preparing a submission to the Reference Group the economic and social participation of women with disabilities in community life and the importance of income security as a basis for this participation. More information on this Review can be found in this Newsletter.

On behalf of all members I would like to acknowledge the excellent work of our Executive Officer, Carolyn Frohmader throughout 1999. Her tireless efforts on behalf of WWDA are sincerely appreciated by the Committee.

The National Executive Committee looks forward to the new millennium and the opportunity to work together as women with disabilities for women with disabilities in Australia. From everyone at WWDA best wishes for the festive season and a happy New Year.

Keran Howe
National Executive Committee

Message from the WWDA Executive Officer – Carolyn Frohmader

It was wonderful to be notified in October that WWDA was one of four winners of the National Violence Prevention Award. To have our work in the area of violence against women with disabilities recognised at this level is truly a fantastic achievement for our organisation. The Award was presented to us by Senator Amanda Vanstone in a function at Parliament House in Canberra. Several WWDA members were able to attend the presentation, including our past Executive Officer Helen Skeat. It was wonderful to have Fiona Strahan accept the Award on WWDA’s behalf. Her acceptance speech was passionate and has been included in this edition of WWDA News for you all to read.

WWDA has had some significant achievements of late. In October we were notified by the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women that our submission for project funding had been accepted. We will receive $25,000 to conduct a National Leadership and Mentoring Training Workshop for Women With Disabilities. This project will commence in the New Year. In late 1999, we also received a grant from the Commonwealth Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts to enable some of our WWDA members to undertake representation work in the area of telecommunications.

We have recently established a new e-mail discussion group for WWDA members, called wwda-discuss. We are hoping the list will become a forum for sharing information, news and views on issues relevant to women with disabilities. The establishment of the list is part of the WWDA AccessAbility OnLine Project and is supported by the National Women’s Justice Coalition. I would encourage all of our members with access to email to join the list and share in the work and news of WWDA.

Enclosed with this edition of WWDA News is a document entitled “WWDA Outcomes and Achievements September 1998 – September 1999.” This document has been produced for our members to report back to you on the work we have conducted over the past year as the national organisation for women with disabilities in Australia.

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome our new National Executive Committee which was elected at the WWDA Annual General Meeting in October. I look forward to working with you all in the coming year.

Carolyn Frohmader
Executive Officer

WWDA Wins National Violence Prevention Award

On Thursday October 21 1999, Senator Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs, announced that Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) was one of four recipients of the National Violence Prevention Award. The Australian Violence Prevention Awards are sponsored by the Heads of Australian Governments as a joint Commonwealth, State and Territory initiative and are designed to reward the most outstanding projects for the prevention or reduction of violence in Australia.

The winners were announced at the Awards Presentation at Parliament House in Canberra. Senator Vanstone presented Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) with a Certificate of Merit and a cheque for $10,000. Several WWDA members were able to attend the Awards Presentation and WWDA’s Award was accepted by Fiona Strahan. Fiona’s acceptance speech has been reproduced here:

It is an honour to accept this Award for Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and I do so in the memory of all the women with disabilities who have experienced violence and for those who were able to say “It has to stop” and “It can be different”.

The work that has culminated in this Award is:

  • The Woorarra Women’s Refuge Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) Action Plan;
  • ‘More Than Just A Ramp’ – a model process for refuges to remove discriminatory barriers in their buildings, work practices, information and attitudes;
  • A National two-day workshop on violence against women with disabilities, attended by women with disabilities, domestic violence and other workers, and academics;
  • A National Information Kit on women with disabilities and violence; and
  • A National Internet site incorporating accessible information on violence and women with disabilities.

All this work brought many women with disabilities and women’s services together resulting in powerful ongoing collaboration with the ownership remaining in the control of women with disabilities, and has been done by an unpaid committee of women with disabilities and the WWDA office, staffed by one Executive Officer.

The women’s services involved saw the glaring absence of women with disabilities as workers and as service users and wanted to be part of the change to this inequity. Their commitment to this change was bigger than just keeping to minimum legal responsibility – their learning curve steep and their openness great.

This work has influenced and affected a wide range of policies and programs here in Australia and around the world. Here it has resulted in the first Commonwealth funded National Research into Violence Against Women With Disabilities. Internationally this work has been used by Rehabilitation Services in Israel, the National Peak Body for Refuges in New Zealand, and judges in Canada as a way for change and for best practice.

So, for WWDA and for all Australian women with disabilities, it is brilliant to have won this Award. When I first started working and agitating around disability, we looked to Sweden, then Britain, then the United States – and it is good to now lead.

This Award is an acknowledgment of the unpaid agitation, research, policy work, lobbying, activism, political astuteness and intellectual rigour of the work of women with disabilities. I particularly like that we haven’t won the ‘Special’ Award; the ‘Otherness’ Award or the ‘Disability’ Award – instead our work stands loud, proud, passionate and leading edge for ALL women.

As I finish, I’d like to thank the loud, proud, passionate and wild women who made all this possible:

  • The original WWDA Violence Reference Group – Kali Wilde, Madge Sceriha and Vicky Toovey – who have plotted and planned and created amazing feats;
  • The amazing WWDA Office – past Executive Officer Helen Skeat, present Executive Officer Carolyn Frohmader, and Nerida Gundry – who on wages which would be laughed at in the private sector or the public service – have worked above and beyond the call of duty;
  • Women from Victoria – Jenny Nunn, Kathy Russell, Lindy Corbett, Francesca Davenport and all the women in the DDA Working Group;
  • The courageous women with disabilities who came to the discussion groups and trusted me as they shared their lives, insight and knowledge – they all came with a powerful commitment to life being different for other women and themselves;
  • All the women (too many to mention here) who provided support and advice at various stages of the project;
  • The unpaid Australia-wide WWDA National Executive Committee;
  • The National WWDA Office of one person; and
  • The Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women (OSW) for the project funding, and particularly Di Herriot from OSW for her ongoing support.

As the tendering out process for projects becomes so common, communities risk losing their histories and their intelligence – when a community such as women with disabilities gets to do its own work but have it positively affect ALL people and own it – it is revolutionary. We have been studied, interviewed, reviewed and consulted by a myriad of professions – to do it ourselves for ourselves and so well, is WILD!

Fiona Strahan
October 21 1999

WWDA was also presented with a Certificate of Merit by the ACT Chief Minister, Kate Carnell in a presentation made to ACT category winners of the National Violence Prevention Award. Kali Wilde of WWDA accepted the Certificate from Ms Carnell at a function at the ACT Legislative Assembly on November 5th.

Winning the National Violence Prevention Award is a major achievement for WWDA and we are thrilled that our innovative work in the area of violence against women with disabilities has been recognised at a national and international level.

‘To Trachey or Not to Trachey? That is the Question’ – By Michelle La Fontaine, B.Bus, M.Ed

Positive pressure ventilation is a form of mechanical breathing used when one’s body decides it is no longer going to breathe on its own. This can occur with conditions such as motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy and an assortment of other, often rare and/or unknown, neurological conditions. This is distinct from people who use other forms of breathing intervention for, for example, sleep apnoea created by snoring. Requiring ventilation on a long-term basis is not by any means a common occurrence in the community, and the manner by which it is implemented (that is, mask or tracheostomy), depends entirely on the nature and severity of one’s condition. In addition, some people require 24 hour ventilation, others nocturnal when the muscles of the diaphragm do not respond to the prompting of the autonomic nervous system to keep working during deep (REM) sleep. My condition enabled me an introduction to ventilation via nasal mask while I was sleeping.

However, late in May 1998, I had a tracheostomy. The decision to undergo this procedure was a conscious choice because nasal ventilation had become extraordinarily problematic. I had tried what seemed like every masking system known to humankind since I began using a ventilator in October 1995, even coming up with some of my own modifications (much to the frustration of staff with years of experience in this area).

Still, all this was to no avail as my nose became increasingly intolerant of having a foreign, at times indecently uncomfortable (actually, on second thoughts, most times indecently uncomfortable) object where it did not belong. So my nose rebelled. It gave up the struggle of having to cope with barely controllable sores on a daily basis and allowed itself to be pumelled. The night I was admitted to the Bowen Centre at the Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre to finally face my fate, I looked (and felt) like I had been beaten up. Without nocturnal ventilation, which my nose apparently would no longer permit, I was running the risk of having my breath taken away in a not so romantic manner.

I say “finally face my fate” because this tracheostomy thing was something with which I had first been confronted almost 18 months beforehand. The additional complication of bronchiectesis of my left lung, rendering my lung virtually useless except for producing constant and somewhat debilitating secretions and chest infections, prompted the medical staff to suggest tracheostomy as a way of managing my worsening ventilation and lung condition. The whole idea was totally abhorrent to me. There was no way I was even going to consider it as an option. Not that I was any stranger to progression. My major condition of muscular dystrophy had seen to that. Having been diagnosed with this as a 7 year old and now being 30-something, I had already experienced many facets of advancement of my muscle weakness throughout this time, including the prospect of death on occasion. In fact, when asleep during the many months before ventilation, I wonder how many deaths I had died, since my breathing was stopping for up to 5 minutes at a time several times a night so I eventually discovered. I wondered why I was so exhausted, still working and trying to do a Masters degree.

The condition has indeed taken me on journeys that I guess statistically not too many people get the opportunity to encounter. I cannot say, though, that I have ever been prepared for what those journeys have delivered to me because there has never been a prognosis, indeed when first it was diagnosed the condition was thought to remain static, affecting only the muscles in my face and shoulders. Celtic composer and song writer Loreena McKennitt reflects in the introduction of her album Book of Secrets, that it is the journey not the destination which is a ‘source of wonder’ in life. She speculates that ultimately a major step ‘on our journey is the one in which we throw away the map’. I tend to agree with this philosophy and it is one like this based on a theory of risk-taking that encouraged me to jump in and go ahead with the procedure.

Despite this, it would be too easy to say that McKennitt’s belief was all that got me there and it certainly did not always come to mind as I travelled through what was expected to be a relatively straight forward process – in and out of hospital within a month, continuance of nocturnal ventilation only, speech, no other particular complications. Not…! Naturally, the outcome of the process I was not to know, quite possibly just as well. Quite possibly, it would not have mattered whichever way it turned out.

The struggle I endured in making the decision to go ahead and have the tracheostomy involved walking down roads that were treacherous to say the least. Having a tube inserted in my neck, my throat cut, under circumstances like this (as opposed to undergoing the procedure in an emergency when the choice is taken away), threatened many aspects of my life and at the same time forced me to face my own mortality. The decision to do this, therefore, is not like making a decision to have your toenails cut.

A tracheostomy meant for me potential life extension but it also meant giving up the life I had made for myself because it meant looking straight into the eye of the place where my condition had brought me and accepting the dependent state that my body had afforded me. My belief system told me that dependency was not necessarily a good thing despite the fact that I had relied on attendant carers for several years already. In the eyes of the world, living “independently” as a person with a disability was a sign of strength and the implications of tracheostomy would, I felt, send me hurtling backwards fast. More specifically, I was bound to lose my space in the world and, even more fundamentally to me, my control of that space.

Issues of body image and how my being as a woman would be threatened also haunted me. I plainly did not want to parade around with a tube sticking out of my throat. I did not know how people would react. Being single, I did not know how men would react. There was already enough to contend with.

I have always believed that one’s value as human being is not determined by a socially defined structure of physical perfection nor that the ethic of physically being able “to do” makes one’s life more important than one who is not able to do. I needed to apply this to my own life. So in the end, when it came to the crunch and it was time to decide (the bottom line being between life and death), though these physical, bodily concerns were driving me to sleep, to reject the tracheostomy, something inside me, my spirit or I know not what, would not have a bar of it. I still had life to live. And with the tracheostomy, it is an interesting experience. And if, by facing the tracheostomy head on, I have grown in some small way as a person, then I count myself as certainly blessed.

ANZ Staff Foundation – ‘Awakenings’ Performing Arts Festival 1999

The ANZ Staff Foundation Awakenings Performing Arts Festival is now in its fourth year. It is very unique in that it provides opportunities for performances, outdoor activities and creative expression for people of all abilities. The Festival encourages involvement by a range of participants, all of whom put great energy and passion into what they do. Since it’s inception, the Festival has grown from a weekend event involving 40 people, to an action-packed week of activities with over 200 participants. In 1998, Awakenings organisers were thrilled to receive the patronage of David Helfgott. This has resulted in national and international interest in the Awakenings Performing Arts Festival.

The benefits to individual participants of Awakenings are enormous. One such individual is Dawn Whitehead, who is severely affected with cerebral palsy. Dawn’s initial involvement as an observer led ultimately to her motivation to write and perform her own play last year – a personal triumph for her. This is the testimony of Dawn, who is supported by her husband Geoff:

“This will be the third year that we have been involved in ‘Awakenings’. We have enjoyed the friendships and the opportunity to see people develop in many different areas. For myself as a person with a disability it has made me appreciate how well off I am. ‘Awakenings’ has helped me become more outgoing and for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed life!

Last year I had the opportunity to bring my own work up here and have it performed on stage. This was a personal thrill and a milestone; to have my own work performed before this audience. What a thrill! We thank all the sponsors and workers for the opportunities you have opened up for so many people with disabilities. The benefits of ‘Awakenings’ to these people, their carers, and to the public are too numerous to list, and many are not even known to us. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.”

‘Awakenings’ gives so many people, like Dawn and Geoff, the opportunity to do things that they never thought they could, should, or would do. It gives people who have been disadvantaged an artistic chance and it is true that the benefits are endless and they flow into all aspects of the participant’s lives. Through artistic expression and performance, ‘Awakenings’ generates confidence, enjoyment and a sense of “belonging” to hundreds of people each year.

The ‘Awakenings’ Performing Arts Festival takes place each year in October in and around Horsham in Victoria. The next ‘Awakenings’ Festival will be held from 15th -22nd October 2000. The ‘Awakenings’ Performing Arts Festival is sponsored by the ANZ Staff Foundation.

If you would like more information about the Festival, contact the Festival Director:
Denise Leembruggen
Wimmera Community Care
Ph: (03) 5382 6789
You can also visit the ‘Awakenings’ website at:

Report on the Second International Interdisciplinary Conference on Women and Health, Edinburgh Scotland, 12-14 July 1999 – By Dianne Temby

Women from over thirty different countries attended the 2nd International Women’s Health and Research Conference convened in Scotland at the Edinburgh University. English was the language for presenters and there did not appear to be any interpreters. With the exception of the ‘disability’ stream, all other presenters were either health workers or academics. There were only five apparent ‘consumers’ present.

Whilst three of the four keynote speakers addressed in some way policy issues and areas for future discussion and development, in the main most of the presentations were sharings of research with regard to such matters as altered service provision due to funding shortfalls and policy changes. There were many examples of the health workers not being able to provide the level of service their health assessment indicated was needed to meet the clients health/social care requirements. Most of the papers were about unresolved conflict between needs and services available for long-term clients but nobody defined or referred to these people as impaired or disabled. A medical model framework was in behind the whole three days and was not questioned at all. There was no mention of health protection or illness prevention as a new role development for health workers.

Much of the information from Britain and USA was about how tired workers were feeling with the unrelenting stringency and short staffing of their service areas and I was quite distressed to hear that many clients were being re-classified as having ‘personality disorder’ because this classification renders a person ineligible for any Health/Social Security allowances!!! There was no mention or recognition of the complex relationship between social organisation, opportunities, life chances and how these impact upon or influence adaptive behaviours, health and misery.

Some speakers from USA described policy proposals intended to reduce social security spending by placing an ‘end by’ date on eligibility. Other policies were offering incentives to State Governors if they reduced the number of teenage pregnancies AND abortions!!!! Ireland on the other hand is exploring industry linked educational opportunities for people with disabilities to enter preparation for health care practice through formal tertiary forums. It appeared that there is a truly collaborative process involved where the ‘learners’ are fully engaged in all aspects of decision making and evaluation (one of the more positive presentations). An expose of the horrific health problems in Russia was very sobering and very saddening – statistics on perinatal deaths, deformities, increasing incidence of all forms of cancers, reduction in the life expectancy of males, increase in sexually transmitted diseases, poverty and the systematic devaluing and displacing of women from positions of influence – were truly shocking.

Australia was very well represented and overall the presentations tended to be more progressive and forward thinking. It was apparent that humanitarianism and consumer participation were still valued and operative. Most of the Australian material put forward recommendations for further enquiry, research or policy review.

There were many opportunities to meet and network with women of different backgrounds. On reflection I realised that virtually all of the participants were ‘leading’, that is, taking an opportunity to lead out with their voices, to demonstrate their willingness to take risks and to share knowledge with others.

Overall I was saddened by what I heard at the Conference and rather disappointed that there was no forum called to put recommendations for further research, policy goals etc.

I was very excited by the opportunity to meet so many women from so many parts of the world who all had an interest in health for women. It was of great interest to me to see how women transcended cultural, religious, national and economic differences in order to focus on global concerns for women’s health and diseases. I felt privileged to be there and to have a voice for Australian Women With Disabilities.

Partnerships Against Domestic Violence – National Project on Violence Against Women With Disabilities

The National Project on Violence Against Women With Disabilities aims to empower women with disabilities to take action to protect themselves against domestic violence by providing them with information. The content of the information resources will reflect the needs of women with a range of disabilities and in various living situations. Information will be made available in a variety of formats so that all women can access it. Information will be distributed widely and presented in ways which will ensure it is available to all women regardless of circumstance.

On behalf of Partnerships Against Domestic Violence, KPMG consultants are developing information resources about domestic violence for women with disabilities. They are asking women with disabilities, especially women who have experienced domestic violence, about what information they need and any problems they have with accessing existing information. To do this, they are holding a series of focus groups across Australia during December 1999.

KPMG recognise that approaching women with this background is a sensitive task that relies on networks and relationships. So, they are asking for your help to identify and contact women who may be interested in participating in these groups. In particular, KPMG are seeking women with disabilities who may have experienced domestic violence. They understand that this may not be possible nor always appropriate, so they are also looking for women with disabilities who are willing to talk about domestic violence but may not have a personal experience. A safe and supportive environment will be provided. Appropriate mechanisms will be in place if anyone needs support after discussing or disclosing an incident of domestic violence. The privacy of participants will be respected at all times. KPMG are also able to assist participants who may require support with communication.

If you would like to be involved, or would like to know more, please feel free to contact one of the Project team – Jenny, Liz, Kerry and Katrina – on: 1800 500 945 (free call) or TTY 13 25 44 1800 500 945 (free call) or by email:

Partnerships Against Domestic Violence Initiatives Announced

In early October 1999, Senator Jocelyn Newman, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, launched initiatives under the Commonwealth Government’s $25 million Partnerships Against Domestic Violence program. Partnerships is part of the Federal Government’s commitment to help stop domestic violence before it starts.

The Government has provided in the 1999-00 Budget a further $25 million (to June 2003) to renew Partnerships and build on its successes. The directions and strategies for the new funding are:

  • $10 million for the development of a broad national community awareness campaign which will focus on such key issues as the harm done to children by domestic violence and the need for perpetrators to take responsibility for their violence.
  • To complement this campaign the Government will be seeking to engage key community and church leaders in a high level taskforce to focus on how they can play a more powerful leadership role in advocating against domestic violence.
  • $1 million for the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse to provide information on best practice, new research and new initiatives. The dissemination of the outcomes of Partnerships projects will be an important part of its role. The Centre for Gender-related Violence Studies at the University of New South Wales has won the tender for the clearing house.
  • $5 million to prevention and early intervention with children at risk to improve the wellbeing of children who witness domestic violence.
  • $3 million to build on the outcomes of the National Forum on Perpetrator Programs convened by the Commonwealth Minister for Justice in May 1999. This will include assistance with infrastructure support, such as standards development and evaluation
  • $6 million to implement practical, grassroots projects to strengthen indigenous community efforts to address family violence.

Also announced by Senator Newman in early October were a number of key projects under Partnerships phase one, including:

  • Four innovative pilot projects that aim to support and strengthen families affected by domestic violence;
  • The Youth and Family Service of Logan City, Queensland, and Berry Street of Melbourne will be developing projects to test effective ways to support adolescent boys who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence and who are at risk of becoming violent. Early intervention strategies will be tested to eliminate the likelihood of violence being perpetuated into the next generation.
  • Anglicare Tasmania and Kinway Anglicare of Albany, Western Australia, will be developing projects to test effective ways of working with families in which patterns of violent behaviour are emerging. Approaches will include working with women who want to stay with their family unit but want the violence to stop, and;
  • the development of competency standards which can be used to inform the training of professionals who work with people affected by domestic violence.

Project: National Leadership and Mentoring Training Workshop for Women With Disabilities

In late September 1999, WWDA applied to the National Women’s NGO’s Grants Program (Project Stream) for funding to conduct a National Leadership and Mentoring Training Workshop for Women With Disabilities. WWDA’s submission was successful and in October 99, Senator Jocelyn Newman announced that WWDA had been funded $25,000 to conduct the National Workshop.

Leadership is a major issue for women with disabilities in Australia. Lack of training opportunities, employment and education mean that women with disabilities have few chances to develop leadership skills. In most states of Australia, access to higher education and training for women with disabilities is limited. At the International Leadership Forum for Women With Disabilities held in Washington USA in 1997, more than 600 women from 80 countries and territories attended, and participated in research about Leadership. They identified their leadership training needs to be around skills development, having women centred groups, and having practical information, tools and resources. They identified the need for information and training in a range of specific areas to assist in leadership development. Some of these areas included:

  • Mentoring – how to run a mentoring and peer support program and more information on materials and role models featuring adult women and girls with disabilities;
  • Communication – how to speak in public, how to work in groups, interpersonal communication skills and multi-media communication techniques such as the Internet;
  • Training about non-profit organisations, including organisational group development and how to write proposals to generate support for projects;
  • Training about specific topics important to women with disabilities such as self-esteem, parenting, technology use, reproduction issues, self-care, and nutrition.

Ms Vicky Toovey, a WWDA member who attended the forum states: “Women with disabilities have often had less access to education, health, rehabilitation and employment and their opportunities to take up leadership roles have been severely restricted … [We] need to support women with disabilities to gain leadership positions in all walks of life. This means that we do not solely focus our attention on disability issues but take a more holistic view.” (WWDA, 1997)

Research undertaken by WWDA in consultations with members supports the findings from the International Leadership Forum for Women With Disabilities held in Washington USA in 1997. WWDA members have often cited lack of confidence and skills as a major barrier to them taking up leadership roles both within the organisation and more broadly in their own families and communities.

In late 1997 WWDA was successful in securing funding from the Global Fund for Women (USA) to develop a Leadership and Mentoring Resource Kit for Women With Disabilities. The proposal for a National Leadership and Mentoring Training Workshop for Women With Disabilities will see WWDA build on this work by training women with disabilities in Leadership and Mentoring skills using the Kit. The women participating in the Workshop will then be able to implement the Leadership and Mentoring Resource Kit with other women with disabilities in their States, Territories and local communities.

The National WWDA Leadership and Mentoring Training Workshop will be conducted in early 2000. For more information about this project, contact Carolyn Frohmader, WWDA Executive Officer on (02) 62421310 or via email on

Women With Disabilities and Telecommunications Representation

Earlier this year, WWDA submitted a funding proposal to the Commonwealth Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts for a project on women with disabilities and telecommunications. The project proposal was developed in response to issues identified by WWDA members in the Telecommunications Survey WWDA conducted in January 1999.

The proposal WWDA submitted was for 3 main project components – representation; research; and development of accessible information on telecommunications products and services.

In late July 1999, Minister Richard Alston announced that part of WWDA’s proposal had been funded. WWDA has received $5,000 to promote the consideration and interests of women with all types of disabilities in the development of government and industry policy in relation to telecommunications, by funding representation of women with disabilities on forums such as the Australian Communications Industry Forum Disability Advisory Body, and the Australian Communication Authority Consumer Consultative Forum and their associated working parties.

WWDA now has representatives on several telecommunications forums, including:

  • The Australian Communications Industry Forum Disability Advisory Body;
  • Telstra Disability Forum
  • Telstra Disability Equipment Program Committee
  • Northern Territory Telstra Consumer Consultative Council
  • Blind Citizens Australia Disability and Telecommunications Representation Project

WWDA’s representatives on the various telecommunications forums are interested to hear from women with disabilities who have issues and/or concerns relating to telecommunications equipment, services, service providers etc. We are particular keen to hear ideas from women with multiple disabilities on how telecommunications equipment and products could be better designed and/or adapted to meet your needs. Please contact Carolyn Frohmader at the National WWDA Office on 02 62421310 or via email on: and we can put you in touch with our representatives.

The Australian Communication Exchange

Australian Communication Exchange (ACE) is a dynamic, consumer-led not-for-profit, national community-based organisation. ACE was formed in May 1995 as a result of a merger between two Australian well known and established “parent” organisations, Deaflink and Deafness Resources Australia. ACE is to facilitate the empowerment of Deaf, hearing impaired and speech impaired Australians through the provision of efficient access to telecommunication and efficient delivery of leading edge products and services.

ACE has offices in Brisbane (Head Office), Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. There are Community Consultants around Australia who regularly conduct information presentations, attend Expos, conferences and provide high quality training sessions to business, governments, community organisations and the general public informing them as to how to use the National Relay Service and other services ACE provides. Another service ACE provides is the Deafness Resources Australia: Providing a large range of Deaf / Hard of Hearing related products such as Captioned Videos, Books, Lighting devices, vibrating alarm clocks, telephone adaptive devices etc.. This office is based in Sydney and the service is often in great demands with various educational fraternities, community groups and international organisations as well.

What is the National Relay Service?
The National Relay Service is an Australia-wide telephone access service available to everyone at no additional charge. If you are Deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment and you use a TTY (teletypewriter) or a computer with a modem, you can access anyone in the wider telephone network through Australian Communication Exchange’s National Relay Service (ACE-NRS). When you call through the ACE-NRS a Relay Officer (RO) will assist with your call. You can type and read your conversation entirely via a TTY or a computer with a modem. The RO will become “your voice” and read out loud your conversation to the other person. The RO will listen to the response and type it back for you to read.

Who can use the National Relay Service?
Anyone can use the ACE-NRS! If you have a speech impairment (eg, because of cerebral palsy, stroke or multiple sclerosis), the ACE-NRS is for you. The ACE-NRS is also ideal for you if you have a hearing impairment or you are Deaf.

What sort of telephone calls can I make?
You can make any telephone call you wish to anyone, anytime, anywhere. You will need to open an account with ACE if you wish to make long distance and other time-charged calls. Local calls and free calls can be made without the need to open an account.

Who is involved in the telephone call?
There are three people involved: you; the person you are talking to; and the ACE-NRS Relay Officer (RO). The RO is specially trained to relay your conversation between yourself and the person you call. All ROs are trained to keep your calls confidential.

How do I access the National Relay Service?
Simply dial the ACE-NRS number you want. After following a series of computer prompts, you will be transferred to a RO.

All local and chargeable calls (within Australia): 13 25 44
All free calls (within Australia): 1800 067 167
Calling Australia from overseas: +61 7 3000 7799

Do I need special equipment?
Yes, if you have a speech or hearing impairment or you are Deaf, in addition to a telephone, you will need either a teletypewriter (TTY) or a computer with a modem. For everyone else, only a telephone is required. If you want more information on what equipment is needed, please contact one of our Customer Response Officers.

What about my speech impairment?
You can use an exciting feature called “HCO” (Hearing Carry Over). This enables you to listen directly to the person you are calling, and you can respond by typing on your TTY (modems won’t work with HCO). The RO will read your conversation out aloud to the other person. For more information, contact one of our Customer Response Officers.

What about my hearing impairment?
You can use an exciting feature called “VCO” (Voice Carry Over). This enables you to speak directly to the other person you are calling. The RO will listen to the conversation and type the responses for you to read on your TTY (modems won’t work with VCO). For more information, contact one of our Customer Response Officers.

What about protocol?
Like any telephone call, the usual courtesy applies when making a call via the National Relay Service. There are a few additional steps that will make your call pleasant. Contact us for a factsheet on ACE-NRS Etiquette.

Important Points to Remember

  • Communicate directly to the person you are calling – remember it’s your call. Speak directly by using “I” and “You”.
  • Have the phone number and area code ready.
  • You can make as many follow on calls as you like once you are connected to the ACE-NRS.
  • Where possible, have everything ready before you make your call (for example: the name of the person you need to talk to and the points you need to cover).
  • Be clear in what you say or type.
  • Using the ACE-NRS is just like making any phone call. All the usual courtesy still applies, including leaving messages on answering machines.
  • The RO does not explain things for you; it’s up to you to communicate directly with the person you are calling.
  • Be patient. Relayed calls take a little longer so allow extra time.
  • Don’t start your conversation until the connection to the other person has been made. The RO will tell you when this has happened.
  • When you hear “go ahead” or read “GA” from the RO this means that it is your turn to speak. When you finish, you need to type or say “go ahead” (or “GA”).
  • It is OK to laugh, make jokes and say anything you normally say in a conversation.

Need to talk to ACE?
Our friendly Customer Response Officers are here to assist you with any questions and concerns you may have. Contact details are:

TTY: 1800 629 863 during local business hours 9am to 5pm
Voice: 1800 652 201 during local business hours 9am to 5pm
Fax: 1800 066 566
Mail: PO Box 473, Stones Corner Qld 4120

This information has been taken from the ACE Website at:

The Australian Virtual Centre for Women and the Law

The Australian Virtual Centre for Women and the Law is provided by the National Women’s Justice Coalition with assistance from Networking the Nation and in partnership with the Law Foundation of New South Wales. The Australian Virtual Centre for Women and the Law is a purpose built facility which makes it easy to establish and manage highly functional email lists for large scale community development purposes. In its first year the Centre will provide 150 email lists, including electronic bulletins and email and web-based discussion groups, on self-initiated topics from all regions across Australia. Email lists will be self-directed and list facilitators will be mentored in state-of-the-art facilitation techniques.

The Centre will strengthen activity and service delivery at a community, regional, state and national level. It will also:

  • Promote women’s use and proficiency with new communication technologies by creating a friendly environment to learn and practice;
  • Focus strongly on encouraging virtual communities and networks particularly among those in regional Australia;
  • Actively help in forming new links and partnerships for research, information exchange and peer support.

AVCWL (pronounced ‘avec-well’) focuses strongly on full participation by those in regional, rural and remote Australia. If you would like more information on The Australian Virtual Centre for Women and the Law go to:

If you would like to receive project updates, please register with the Virtual Centre by emailing: or by phoning: 02 6247 2075.

Women With Disabilities Australia Electronic Mail Discussion List – wwda-discuss

wwda-discuss is an email list to facilitate discussion between members of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA). wwda-discuss is a private list, which means that subscribers to the list are approved by the list facilitator before joining.

WWDA members, as well as other women with disabilities, are encouraged to join this list – it’s a wonderful opportunity to share information, network, raise issues, participate in research and consultations, and much more.

To Subscribe

To subscribe to the WWDA Discussion List, go to:

and hit the button that says “Subscribe to this list”. You will then need to fill in your details. Once your subscription has been approved, you are then part of the wwda-discuss list!

The WWDA Discussion List is sponsored by The Australian Virtual Centre for Women and the Law (AVCWL) – a community networking project of the National Women’s Justice Coalition . WWDA acknowledges the support of the National Women’s Justice Coalition in assisting us to set up this list, and for sponsoring the list.

Telstra Directory Assistance Disability Helpline

If you are unable to hold, read, or use a telephone directory, and use the Telstra service, you are entitled to free directory assistance calls. From October 1999 Telstra extended their helpline to cover their mobile phone users with disability as well.

OK here’s how to get the service. Ring 013 and ask for Directory Assistance Disability Hotline. The odds are the operator will refer your call to a senior person, hang on, listen to the music, and wait. The senior person will take down your name and telephone number. Within a day, a supervisor from the Directory Assistance Disability Hotline will ring you back and ask you questions to find out whether you are eligible for the free service. Telstra has asked that we users protect the service, by not passing on the number to people who can use a telephone directory, or who are not disabled.

A New Service for Deaf People

The Deafness Forum of Australia announces the establishment of a new telephone inquiry hotline to operate from Monday 25 October. Chief Executive Officer, Brian Rope, said: “People who use hearing aids and have questions about the new CDMA digital mobile phones will be able to get answers to their questions by calling 1800 022 878. This inquiry hotline can be called using either a voice telephone or a TTY text phone. That means deaf persons who communicate visually will be able to get their answers about CDMA via a text display, while those who communicate orally will be able to speak with the hotline operator to obtain the information they need.”

CDMA is a new digital mobile phone technology being introduced throughout Australia. Research tests conducted in recent months indicate that the great majority of hearing aid users will be able to use CDMA phones without suffering the interference, discomfort and even pain that most of them would experience from GSM digital mobile phones. This means that hearing aid users should be able to switch from using analogue mobile phones to CDMA digital mobile phones, as the analogue mobile phone network is phased out.

This CDMA information hotline has been made possible with the assistance of the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) and Telstra. The ACA is meeting the costs of the phone line and staffing for the hotline. Telstra has made a donation to the Deafness Forum of the combined phone and TTY that will be used on the CDMA information hotline.

For additional information contact:
The Deafness Forum
Ph: 02 6262 7808
TTY: 02 6262 7809

The Telstra Community Issues and Priorities Survey

Early in 1999, Telstra completed the Telstra Community Issues and Priorities Survey. The survey was a mailout to opinion leaders across all sectors from government and business through to environment and consumer groups. There was a 28% response rate to the survey. The purpose of the survey was to identify the issues and challenges facing the community in order to understand the role Telstra can play in helping to address them.

Key Findings

  • Creating new jobs is the highest priority issue facing the Australian community.
  • Promoting quality education is the second highest priority.
  • Increasing Australia’s competitiveness and productivity rates third, followed equally by boosting exports and trade, and maximising the growth of technology-based industries.
  • Customer needs and service are the most important attributes of a company committed to excellence.
  • In addressing issues of concern in the community, the highest priority for Telstra is to provide affordable, high quality communications. This is followed by providing emergency communication services and improving communications for rural and regional areas.
  • The Olympic Games is Telstra’s best known sponsorship, folowed by Telstra’s Small Business Awards.
  • Opinion leaders see improved customer service and more affordable basic services as the most important future reforms in the telecommunications industry.

If you would like more information about the Telstra Community Issues and Priorities Survey, please contact Greg Swain on 07 3832 8269.

Literature Review on Sterilisation of Women and Girls With Disabilities – By Cathy Spicer

Cathy Spicer conducted this Literature Review as part of a placement at WWDA from her studies at the University of Canberra. Copyright 1999.

In doing research on the topic of non-therapeutic sterilisation of women and girls with an intellectual disability, I discovered numerous medical, legal and academic sources but very little from the people who are subjected to this form of invasive and often irreversible surgical intervention. Searching the world wide web using the terms (either separately or in combination) sexuality; reproduction; sterilisation; therapeutic sterilisation; non-therapeutic sterilisation; handicap; impairment; disability; retarded; health; medical; spastic; mobility impaired; hysterectomy; genetic; defective, and eugenics, produced minimal results. This raised the question of whether women with an intellectual disability would be further disempowered through the difficulty of accessing information on sterilisation through either traditional means or an electronic medium. The literature for this review was acquired through The Department of Health and Family Services (Commonwealth), the databases – Sociofile, Health and Society, Austrom: Family and Psychlit, The National Library, the University of Canberra’s Library, Family Planning Australia and NSW, Intellectual Disability Rights Service (NSW) and the Disability Discrimination Office (Federal).

Non therapeutic sterilisation (an invasive medical procedure performed for non-life threatening reasons, that leaves a women infertile) of women with an intellectual disability is not a medical problem nor a legal problem. It is a social problem (Berg 1979, Kendrick 1979, Brady 1995/96/98, Hastings 1997). Non- therapeutic sterilisation reflects the perceptions of the majority in society. One perception is that these women’s right to maintain bodily integrity and personal inviolability is a matter for debate, not a basic human right. Too often the majority override the needs of the minority. These perceptions can be traced back to the eugenics movement (Ford 1996), where mass sterilisations occurred in institutions as a means to stop reproduction of apparent non-productive members of society and were supposedly in the best interests of not only society but the women involved (Gallichan 1929, Ford 1996).

Sterilisations on women with an intellectual disability were common in Australia before and after the Second World War. Irreversible sterilisation was rationalised on the basis that the operation was in the women’s ‘best interests’, the women would not have to be informed about menstruation or experience the discomfort and inconvenience of monthly periods. There would be no danger of pregnancy and the accompanying risk of ‘defective offspring’. Although the sterilisation of women with an intellectual disability has been a point for discussion for well over a decade, the debate within medical, social and legal circles remains concerned with whether the sterilisation of a women with an intellectual disability benefits the woman, their care giver, both or neither; whether the Family Court or individual state tribunals and guardianship boards are best placed to decide on the issue of consent for the sterilisation of a women with an intellectual disability; whether there are long term physical and emotional costs as a result of non-therapeutic sterilisation and whether these costs outweigh the ‘benefits’ of sterilisation.

Recent statistics report an increase in the rate of sterilisation procedures performed on women and young girls with an intellectual disability (Smith 1996, The Law Reform Commission 1994, Brady 1996, Brady and Grover 1997), although these figures do not appear to reflect the true rate of sterilisation. Statistics have only been gathered which reflect the rate of sterilisation performed on women with an intellectual disability in private hospitals and although legislation is meant to protect the rights of the individual, I was unable to find a case where a member of the medical profession was successfully prosecuted for the illegal sterilisation of a women with an intellectual disability, within Australia Legislation in each state appears to be reflective of how non-therapeutic sterilisation is viewed. In countries other than Australia, the attitude of the law to the sterilisation of children varies widely. Canada is the most restrictive, New Zealand the least (The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia 1994). Sweden recently approved a bill to compensate women with an intellectual disability who were forcibly sterilised between 1935 and 1975. The program was based on theories of eugenics – ‘weeding out the mentally disabled, epileptics or people with alleged social problems to create a stronger Swedish race.’ (Australian Broadcasting Corporation 1999)

What is meant by the term sterilisation?

A sterilisation procedure is one which renders an otherwise healthy and presumed fertile person incapable of being a parent: a women will be unable to conceive a child. (Law Reform Commission of Western Australia 1994).

There are many forms of sterilisation that ensure a women is either temporarily rendered infertile or remains permanently infertile. Procedures that cause permanent infertility include: tubal ligation (surgically severing or tying the fallopian tubes), ovariectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries) and hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus and cervix). These procedures are generally not reversible (tubal ligations have occasionally been successfully reversed). Temporary and reversible infertility can be achieved through the taking of oral or injected contraceptives (Law Reform Commission 1994, Brady and Grover 1997).

Why do parents/care givers seek sterilisation of their daughters with an intellectual disability?

‘Parents seeking sterilisation orders are not always concerned only with contraception’ (The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia 1994). It has been proposed that parents and care givers seek consent for sterilisation as they believe that surgical sterilisation would resolve pain and physical discomfort such as cramps and ‘heavy’ bleeding which may be associated with menstruation; would ameliorate other medical conditions that might be effected by hormonal fluctuations (such as epilepsy); would ameliorate mood swings and behaviour thought to be associated with pre-menstrual tension and menstruation; would resolve difficult or inappropriate social behaviours associated with menstruation, or emotional reactions to menstruation; permanently stop menstruation to remove the young woman’s personal care tasks associated with menstrual management; ease the burden on parents and carers by eliminating menstrual management and related personal care tasks; eliminating the need for the young woman to learn personal care skills associated with menstruation; reduce the need for the young woman to be informed about menstruation and fertility or to learn protective behaviours, and prevent pregnancy (Brady and Grover 1997, The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia 1994, Tait, Carney and Deane 1994, Brady 1995/96/98, Smith 1996)

At a STAR Conference (On the Record 1990) women with an intellectual disability were able to express their own experiences of sterilisation. They are cited as saying “I went to hospital and instead of having my appendix out, I had a tubal ligation”; “after trying to have a baby for a long time I finally found out I had been sterilised when I was 14 living in an institution” and; “I was being pressured into having an abortion”. The women also stated the reasons they had been given on why sterilisation ‘was good for them’:

  • She would not have to be informed about menstruation or learn about personal hygiene;
  • She would not have to experience the discomfort and inconvenience of monthly periods;
  • She would have no danger of pregnancy with all its accompanying pain and trauma;
  • She would have no need for an abortion;
  • Time would not be wasted on sex education;
  • Women with an intellectual disability are unable to bring up children;
  • Her child wouldn’t have normal parents;
  • If she gets raped there’d be no worries about pregnancy;
  • Her child may also have a disability.

(On the Record 1990)

Keyserlingk (1979) questioned ‘whose quality of life is sterilisation trying to maintain’?. In the ensuing ten years society’s perception of the worth of women with intellectual disability had not progressed very far. The aforementioned statement of reasons for why these women would achieve a better quality of life, if they were sterilised, demonstrates that although our vocabulary changed our thought patterns remained stagnant. Twenty years later the question posed by Keyserlingk remains unanswered.

Brady (1995/96/98) and with Grover (1997) has consistently claimed that if parents or care givers were offered alternatives to sterilisation, for example, respite, out of home and in-home care and special programs on hygiene and protective behaviours, the perceived need for non-therapeutic sterilisation would be eliminated. Brady claims that once parents are provided with alternatives the majority no longer seek consent to sterilise. Brady appears to be a most predominant writer in this field. As a medico-legal expert she has produced many quality works, with a consistent theme of reducing the perceived need for non-therapeutic sterilisation. She claims that once a case seeking consent for sterilisation reaches a court it should be considered a failure by the legal profession and as ‘the adversarial system and judicial processes create an environment where parties become locked in and wedded to winning (1996), the opportunity for parents to change their minds becomes reduced’. Therefore Brady believes that winning only comes when there is no need for the option of sterilisation. Brady, although impressive in her achievement of raising awareness around this issue, appears to view the emotive subject of sterilisation with a degree of detachment. She reports on actual events where parents have either successfully sought consent for the sterilisation of their daughters or where alternatives were sought and successfully implemented, but in none of her viewed 1995, 1996, 1997 or 1998 writings were the differing views of parents allowed to be told by parents, nor were the voices of the women who have experienced sterilisation allowed to be heard. Brady also did not question extensively how women could be illegally sterilised within the private or public hospital system without questions being asked by other specialists or theatre staff. Brady did claim that sterilisations could be performed under the guise of differing medical procedure, but even to the untrained eye the differences between an appendix and a uterus would be obvious. In a social, medical and legal context this question appears extremely pertinent.

Compared to the availability of academic literature, parental opinion and the views of women with an intellectual are scarce and extremely hard to find. Within Sterilisation and Mental Handicap (1979) two opposing parental views were found. Shirley Desroches supported the writings of Brady by claiming that as a parent she believed that there was no need for sterilisation, instead she advocated for education of both the parent and the child. Hugh McKay, on the other hand, was grateful that he and his wife had their ‘minor daughter sterilised before the current moratorium begun’. McKay stated that they successfully sought consent for the sterilisation of their daughter as she ‘would not be able to succeed in the task of child rearing’ and any ‘future child would suffer due to [their] daughter’s inability’.

Both parents agreed that each situation should be assessed on individual merits.

Smith reports in What Price a Womb and Sterilisation: a case for and against (Sydney Morning Herald 1996) the opposing views of two parents. One parent is of the belief that the procedure of sterilisation would not be performed on a healthy girl without an intellectual disability, therefore it should not be performed on a healthy child with an intellectual disability. The other parent stated that since their daughter was legally sterilised ‘they could not believe the wonderful improvement in (their daughters) quality of life’. The parents went on to say that ‘it cost thousands of dollars’ to go to court but they believed that sterilisation was such a serious step that permission should be sought from an independent authority (Smith 1996). In neither case did the daughter ‘speak’ about her understanding of the procedure.

Another article, offensively entitled Should These Women Be Allowed To Have Children’ (1998) provided the opportunity of a small insight into the lives of two women with an intellectual disability. Their personal stories were told by a third party rather than by the women themselves. One story focused on the grief of a women with an intellectual disability who ‘feels like less of a woman’ since her realisation that she had a radical hysterectomy at the age of 15. The other story was of a women with an intellectual disability who has two children (one child lives with her, the other is in foster care). It was said that this woman ‘recognised her own limitations’ and ‘could be said to be a successful loving mother’.

As stated before information on, and experiences of, sterilisation procedures as told by women with intellectual disabilities is extremely difficult to find.

The effects of non-therapeutic sterilisation

Brady and Grover state that girls with intellectual disability present the same types of common menstrual problems as the rest of the young female population. Hysterectomy and abdometrial ablation are commonly taken to be appropriate methods of menstrual management for girls with an intellectual disability, particularly when menstruation presents as difficult because of heavy and ongoing bleeding, persistent pain or cyclical mood swings and idiosyncratic or other problem behaviours (Brady and Grover 1997). All intrusive medical procedures carry a risk of side effects. To assume that the reproductive organs either individually or collectively have minimal function or their function can be maintained chemically is naive. The physical effects of sterilisation have been well documented in numerous medical journals but the psychological consequences of such operations are rarely discussed. To date, minimal research has been conducted regarding the long term psychological consequences of therapeutic and non-therapeutic sterilisation, before and after the onset of menstruation, on women and children with intellectual disability. My research was unable to find documentation in this area. It could be presumed that the lack of literature if reflective of the minimal interest in hearing the views of women with an intellectual disability.

Marion’s Case

Marion’s parents applied to the Family Court of Australia for an order authorising the removal of her ovaries and womb as they believed that this procedure would enhance Marion’s quality of life and she was experiencing psychological and behavioural problems caused by hormonal changes. In 1990 the court, by a majority of 2/1, decided that the parents were able to authorise her sterilisation without a court order (Family Matters 1992, Brady 1996, The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia 1994). Although Chief Justice Nicholson CJ agreed with the ruling he claimed that ‘a difficult and complex area of the law on which opinions of judges may differ’ should be considered and clarified by the High Court. An appeal to the High Court was initiated by the Secretary of the Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services in 1992. After intervention from the Commonwealth, New South Wales, South Australian and Queensland Attorneys-General and the Human Rights Commission (Family Matters 1992), the High Court in a majority judgement of 4/3 decided that parents, due to possible conflict of interest, were not best placed to decide whether sterilisation was in their child’s best interest (unless that sterilisation was for therapeutic purposes) and that sterilisation of a minor could not occur without consent from a Court.

The re Marion outcome clearly stated that non-therapeutic sterilisation of children with disabilities could not take place without consent being sought from a court. The raising of awareness surrounding the legalities of non-therapeutic sterilisation and the alternative options available has been achieved through law and medical journals, academic works, newspapers and popular women’s magazines. Extensive coverage has been attained but with little success. Female children as young as four years old are still being subjected to this procedure (The Law Reform Commission 1994, Australian Family Law Journal 1991, Brady 1996, Hastings 1997, Clack 1997, Carter 1997, Meryment 1996, Smith 1996, Farouque 1997, Hammond 1993, Mapstone 1997).

In a 1997 report commissioned by the Federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner, The Sterilisation of Girls and Young Women in Australia: A legal, Medical and Social Context, Brady and Grover claimed that: ‘Courts and tribunals have authorised a total of 17 sterilisations……Insurance Commission shows at least 1045 girls have been sterilisations which qualify for a Medicare benefit and for which a claim has been processed. It excludes sterilisations carried out by hospital doctors on public patients in public hospitals. Comparisons with other data sources suggest that the true number is much greater, perhaps by a factor of several times’.

The Family Court vs Tribunals

There has been a continuing debate on whether the ‘best interests’ of a child with regard to consent to sterilise, are better served by the Family Court or state tribunals and guardianship boards. The High Court in Re Marion argued that as ‘sterilisation is a special case…it is therefore the courts who are best equipped to make such decisions’ (Newnham 1996). The majority in Re Marion conceded that: ‘it is too costly for most parents to fund court proceedings; delay is likely to cause painful inconvenience; and the strictly adversarial process of the court is very often unsuitable for arriving at this kind of decision. These are clear indications of the need for legislative reform, since a more appropriate process for decision-making is only possible in this way’ (Newnham 1996).

Uniform legislation between states and between adult and children is currently not present within Australia. Parents can at present ‘forum’ and ‘doctor’ shop to achieve the outcome they wish (Carney 1997). Currently, consent for sterilisation of an adult is generally referred to the guardianship boards. For children, consent is usually sought through the Family Court (Tait, Carney and Deane 1994) as the Family Court is responsible for the welfare of children born within marriage. The sterilisation of minors is seen as a ‘special case’ which is an extension of the Family Court’s powers (Newnham 1996). The Family Court is perceived to be restricted in its ability to reach a ‘best interest’ decision as the court on one judge being provided with vast amounts of relevant information. If any information is not present the outcome could be compromised. Courts are also more prone than guardianship boards to place more weight on the difficulties experienced by parents in raising a child with an intellectual disability. Whereas guardianship boards tend towards the needs of the child. The majority of court decisions have favoured sterilisation. The Family Law Council (1994) advocates that ‘specially’ trained judges within the Family Court would best serve the needs of the child.

The guardianship board is perceived as being a less restrictive environment within which the decision of consent for sterilisation relies upon varied expertise. Helen Newnham (1996) cites Blackwood (1991) saying ‘ the tribunal offers advantages over a court namely, a less adversarial forum, a multi-disciplinary approach and of great importance to all concerned, a quicker and cheaper process’.

The reference to ‘best interests’ is also a point of discussion amongst the legal profession. What constitute ‘best interest’? How do you ascertain what is in the best interests of the child. Should consent to sterilise be based on medical, legal, parental or social opinions? An attempt to ensure that the ‘best interests’ of an adult or child with an intellectual disability remain paramount during the seeking of consent, the Australian Law Reform Commission (1997), The Family Law Council (1994) and The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia have all documented criteria against which decisions of consent to sterilise could be judged. The Family Law Council (1994) and The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (1997) both concluded that sterilisation of children should never occur for eugenic reasons; purely for contraceptive purposes, or as a means of avoiding or masking the consequences of sexual abuse. The Family Law Council added that sterilisation prior to the onset of menstruation based on predictions of future problems that might be encountered should not be a base upon which to decide in favour of sterilisation.

To further ensure that the child’s best interests remain predominant, The Family Law Council (1994) and The Australian Law Reform Commission (1997) recommended that the child should have their own representative within the court during all proceedings related to consent for sterilisation to ensure that all options are presented before his or her honour.


For as long as history has been recorded people with intellectual disabilities have been marginalised and women with an intellectual disability are on the receiving end of a dose of double marginalisation. Firstly they are women – which automatically demeans their value in our patriarchal society, and secondly they are not perceived to be ‘normal’ women. This perception allows society to believe that it is all right to objectify these women and debate their right to freedom of sexual expression, their right to maintain bodily integrity and their right to personal inviolability, as if they were a piece of meat under a microscope. As a society we would not complacently accept ‘normal’ girls and women being subjected to non-therapeutic sterilisation because they had mood swings, period pains, irregular, heavy or ongoing periods or their was a possibility of them being raped yet this form of ‘control’ is tolerated if the women or child has an intellectual disability. The following questions were raised within this literature research and they are unanswered:

  • Are we as a society still practising a form of eugenics? – as the State and Federal governments’ do not appear to be able to justify to the community as a whole the expenditure needed to ensure that programs like respite, in home and out of home care and educational programs in the form of menstrual management and protective behaviours;
  • How can a child go into an operating theatre and have their reproductive organs removed without anybody asking questions?;
  • Why are G.P’s and specialists still performing these operations without authorisation from the courts?;
  • With an abundance of academic, medical and legal literature available, do G.P’s and specialists still not understand or know of current legislation?;
  • Why have women with intellectual disabilities who have experienced therapeutic and non-therapeutic sterilisation not been provided with the opportunity to speak about their experiences when so many speak on their behalf?, and
  • Whose interest is the sterilisation of women and children with an intellectual disability in?

Government Announces Major Social Policy Reform Agenda

On Wednesday 29 September, Senator Jocelyn Newman (Minister for Family and Community Services) announced in a speech at the National Press Club that social policy would be the next major reform priority of the Howard Government. Senator Newman also announced that a Reference Group will guide the development of a Discussion Paper on Welfare Reform. Members of the Reference Group will come from the community sector, business, academia and government. Mr Patrick McClure from Mission Australia will be the chair of the Reference Group and his deputy will be Mr Wayne Jackson from the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS).

The Government has stated that it “wishes to provide ways of assisting people who are disadvantaged that strike a better balance between its ongoing commitment to maintain a strong safety net and its responsibility to develop policies and strategies allowing all Australians to participate fully in the workforce where they are able. In this context, the Government is concerned that there is an increasing reliance by Australians on welfare, with around 1 in 5 people of workforce age on income support payments.” The Government has identified six principles to guide the reform required in this area and these are:

  • Maintaining equity, simplicity, transparency and sustainability;
  • Establishing better incentives for people receiving social security payments, so that work, education and training are rewarded;
  • Creating greater opportunities for people to increase self-reliance and capacity-building, rather than merely providing a passive safety net;
  • Expecting people on income support to help themselves and contribute to society through increased social and economic participation in a framework of Mutual Obligation;
  • Providing choices and support for individuals and families with more tailored assistance that focuses on prevention and early intervention; and
  • Maintaining the Government’s disciplined approach to fiscal policy.

The Terms of Reference for the Reference Group are:

a) Adopting the reform principles established by the Government, provide advice on:

  • Options for change to income support arrangements aimed at preventing and reducing welfare dependency by those of workforce age; and;
  • Other options relating to the provision of associated services, including employment, education and training, that would assist in preventing and reducing welfare dependency.

b) In providing this advice, the Reference Group will give particular consideration to:

  • the broader application of Mutual Obligation;
  • demographic changes;
  • sustainability of the current system;
  • the particular incentive effects associated with the design of social security payments for people of workforce age; and
  • international best practice.

In framing its advice the Reference Group will draw on community input and call for submissions from interest groups and the broader community. An interim Report from the Reference Group will be provided to the Minister for Family and Community Services early in the year 2000, with the final draft to be provided to the Minister by 30 June 2000. During the next few months, the Reference Group will be meeting with representatives from relevant peak organisations. It is also seeking the views of interested groups and the broader community. A Discussion Paper is currently being prepared by the Department of Family and Community Services to provide more detailed information on the welfare reform issue.

For copies of the Discussion Paper, or for further information please contact the Welfare Reform Hotline (freecall) 1800 225 024 or TTY 1800 260 402 Monday to Friday, between 9:00am and 5:00pm EST. If you or your organisation would like to make a contribution on this important issue, please send your written submission to:

Welfare Reform Review
PO Box 7788
Canberra Mail Centre 2600 ACT
Submissions may also be sent to

WWDA will be aiming to prepare a response to the Welfare Reform Debate. If you would like to assist in this, or you wish to tell WWDA your views, please contact Carolyn Frohmader at the National WWDA Office on 02 62421310 or via email on:

The Future of Welfare in the 21st Century – People with Disabilities Fact Sheet

This is a copy of the Fact Sheet on People With Disabilities which accompanied Senator Jocelyn Newman’s Speech on Welfare Reform at the National Press Club in Canberra in late September 1999.

Eligibility requirements for Disability Support Pension

To be eligible for Disability Support Pension (DSP) a person must be permanently blind or:

  • have a permanent impairment of at least 20 points under the Impairment Tables; and
  • be unable to work, or be re-skilled for work, for the next two years; or
  • be participating in the Supported Wage Scheme.

The Impairment Tables assign impairment ratings in proportion to the severity of the impact of a condition(s) on normal function, as it relates to work performance. An impairment rating of 20 points is considered to be the level at which a person’s impairment(s) has a significant impact on their ability to work. To be considered unable to work for the next two years, a person’s impairment alone must prevent them from working for at least 30 hours a week at award wages in any work that is available in Australia that they are capable of performing without the need for retraining. The Work Ability Tables assist in making this decision. To be considered unable to be re-skilled for work in the next two years, a person’s impairment alone must prevent them from undertaking training that would give them the skills to perform work. The Work Ability Tables are also used to assist in making this decision.

When considering whether a person over 55 can be retrained for work, the availability of work in the local labour market can be taken into account. If it is unlikely that a person over 55 will be able to obtain suitable work in the local labour market after undergoing training, they are accepted as being unable to be retrained for work.

Current figures
There were 577,700 customers in receipt of DSP in June 1999. The total Commonwealth outlay on DSP was $5 billion in 1998-99.

Growth figures
Ten years ago, the number of people on Invalid Pension (the precursor of DSP) was around 300,000. While the growth in DSP numbers has slowed recently, it has been estimated that by 2006, there will be over 750,000 people on DSP.

Population characteristics
Gender breakdown: 65 per cent male, 35 per cent female. Age breakdown: The age groupings are not evenly distributed, the largest group being the age 55 to 59 years group. 66 per cent of the population is aged between 45 and 65. The DSP population is significantly older than the general Australian population.

Most common medical conditions: 31 per cent of customers have musculo-skeletal conditions, 20 per cent have psychological/psychiatric conditions.

Partnership Status: 60 per cent of DSP customers receive a partnered rate of payment. 40 per cent receive the single rate.

Earnings: 8 per cent of the population have income from work. 41 per cent of these earn less than $100 per fortnight.

Full-rate/part-rate pension status: 84 per cent receive the full pension payment. 16 per cent receive a part-rate payment. This includes payments reduced by assets and partners’ income as well as income of the recipient.

Duration on payment: 34 per cent have been on payment for 2 years or less. 21 per cent have been on payment for longer than 10 years.

Entrance to payment: The most common entry points to the payment are from those who were not on a payment immediately beforehand (44 per cent) and those transferring from unemployment payments (38 per cent).

Exits from payment: The most common reasons for leaving the payment are transfer to age pension (57 per cent) and death of the recipient (19 per cent).

Other Assistance for Disability Support Pensioners

Payments and related support
Mobility Allowance – paid to a person with a disability aged 16 or more who cannot use public transport without substantial assistance and who is undertaking work, training or voluntary work or a combination of these of at least 8 hours a week. The payment is not income and assets tested.

Pensioner Concession Card – holders of this card receive reduced cost prescription medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. They are also entitled to a range of other Commonwealth subsidised concessions provided by state and local governments including rates, utilities, transport and motor vehicle registration.

Continence Aids Assistance Scheme – subsidises the cost of continence aids for people with disabilities who are in work, or of working age.

Postal Concessions for the Blind – subsidises postal services for large lending institutions (such as libraries) who send articles such as talking books to blind and visually impaired people.

Employment and related services Open employment services ($96 million in 1998-99) – provide vocational and pre-vocational training and employment placement with varying levels of ongoing support in the open employment market.

Supported employment services ($107 million in 1998-99) – provide employment assistance and support. People using these services usually have high support needs.

Rehabilitation services ($100 million in 1998-99) – provided free of charge by the Commonwealth, through CRS Australia. The focus of these services is on early intervention to people assessed as having a ‘capacity to gain’ from retraining or returning to employment and prevent them from becoming dependent on income support payments.

Employer incentives program – provides assistance to employers to encourage the employment of people with disabilities. Assistance includes:

  • Wage Subsidy Scheme ($7 million in 1998-99) – financial assistance through wage subsidies for up to 13 weeks.
  • Workplace Modification Scheme ($0.7 million in 1998-99) – provides up to $5,000 per person to modify a workplace, or to provide special or adaptive equipment.
  • Supported Wage System ($4.5 million in 1998-99) – a pro-rata wage for people who cannot get work on full wages due to the effect of their disability on their productivity. Funds are also used to make assessments and provide on-the-job support.
  • Special Employment Placement Officers and External Coordinators ($1.2 million in 1998-99) – employed to assist industry to increase the employment of people with disabilities.

Inclusive Consultation: A practical guide to involving people with disabilities

Consultation is a key part of the policy development process and plays an important role in ensuring that programs and services are as effective as possible in meeting the needs of the community. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over 19% of individuals within our community have identified as having a disability and it is important that consultation processes are undertaken in a way which makes their participation possible.

The Inclusive Consultation Guide has been developed to provide practical information and advice to members of the Australian Public Service and other interested parties to facilitate the participation of people with disabilities in all types of consultations.

The guide includes information on:

  • responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • understanding different terms used in relation to disabilities
  • deciding who to consult
  • consulting across the disability community
  • making your consultation accessible
  • including people with disabilities at every stage in the consultation
  • contacts in the disability area.

If you would like some more information on this publication or any related issues, please contact the Office of Disability on:
Ph: 1800 630 839
TTY: 1800 672 682
Or by email at:

National Disability Advocacy Program Review

In November 1996 the Commonwealth Government asked a Committee to look at the National Disability Advocacy Program to see how it was working and how it could be improved. The National Disability Advocacy Program is the name used to describe all the organisations that get money from the Commonwealth Government to do advocacy for people with disabilities. Advocacy is about helping people with disabilities have their say and get their rights.

In 1997 and 1998 the Committee asked people with disabilities and disability advocacy services what they thought about the Program and ways it could be made to work better. In July 1999 the Committee wrote the Final Report of the Review which contained information about how the Review had been conducted and ideas for how it could be made to work better. After listening to what people had to say and reading what people wrote about the Program, the Committee thinks that the Program could work better if:

  • Families are more involved in advocacy for their family members who have a disability;
  • Advocacy organisations do most of their work making things better for individual people who have a disability rather than trying to change laws, rules or government decisions;
  • More advocacy is done for people who: Are Aboriginal or Torres Strait islanders; Have different cultures; Speak different languages, or who Live in the country or a long way from other people.
  • Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments work together to make sure people with disabilities get advocacy when they need to.

Now that the Review of the National Disability Advocacy Program has finished, the Government has approved a plan for how the Review Recommendations will be put into practice. The Government has set up Working Groups in each State and Territory to look at particular recommendations from the Review. The Working Groups are going to write Discussion Papers around the following Review recommendations:

  • That the Commonwealth Government work with advocacy services and people with disabilities to change the funding contracts used now. In the future new contracts will say the ways each organisation will work to get the goal and objectives of the Program and will have a Code of Practice.
  • That the Commonwealth talks to advocacy organisations and other groups and collect information about disability advocacy.
  • That the Commonwealth, advocacy services and people with disabilities get together to work out how to show whether services are working well and making the best use of the money they get.
  • That the Commonwealth talks to advocacy services about ways to have better advocacy services for people that: Are Aboriginal or Torres Strait islanders; Have different cultures; Come from different countries; Speak different languages, or who Live in the country or a long way from other people.

These Discussion Papers will be written around December 1999 and sent to many disability advocacy services, organisations, and people with disabilities to get their opinions and suggestions on what has been written. At this stage, it is expected that everyone will need to have their suggestions back to the Government around February 2000.

If you would like more information about the National Disability Advocacy Program Review, or would like to order copies of the Discussion Papers, you can contact:
Office of Disability
Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services
Ph: 1800 630 839
TTY: 1800 672 682
Or by email at:

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Annual General Meeting 1999

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) held its Annual General Meeting via Teleconference on Monday 25 October 1999. The following reports were tabled and accepted: Presidents Report; Treasurers Report; Executive Officers Report; State and territory WWDA Group Reports; WWDA Representatives Reports; and the Audit Report for the 1998-99 financial year. The members of the WWDA National Executive Committee for the 1999-2000 year are:

Keran Howe (Victoria)
Karin Swift (Queensland)
Diana Palmer (ACT)
Chandra Sluggett (South Australia)
Sue Large (Tasmania)
Joyce Deering (Northern Territory)
Maria McGrath (Western Australia)
Dallas Barwick (New South Wales)
Helen Meekosha (New South Wales)
Christina Ryan (ACT)
Pamela Menere (Victoria)

WWDA also produced its Annual Report for 1998-1999, which was sent to various Government Ministers and Departments, and also made available on WWDA’s website at:

In late September 1999, WWDA produced a document entitled: ‘Summary of Achievements and Outcomes for September 1998-September 1999’. This document has been forwarded to all WWDA members for their information.

Residential Living in the 21st Century – By Michelle La Fontaine, B.Bus, M.Ed

As this goes to print, it will only be a matter of days before the beginning of the new millennium. The excitement builds but…to those living in residential accommodation it does not really make much difference that the clock ticks over to the year 2000. Besides, there are cultures in the world which have no concept of our Western beliefs based on the Gregorian calendar and still others that believe the new millennium has already begun.

So, now I find myself inhabiting a structural arrangement of the sort referred to above, I wonder about the progress such establishments have made over the last century and what sort of changes there should be in the future. With all the hype associated with this particular New Year, one almost expects some miracle to occur overnight. That’d be nice. In this kind of living environment, it is doubtful. For change to occur, a major cultural shift at a universal level needs to occur, a major policy change at the national political level needs to occur, and a major attitude change must occur by the general public and at the administrative level of residential accommodation. There is an almighty amount of major change in there that is required.

I think about the research I have done that looks at the history of institutions for people called disabled. A shiver goes through me. For although I have been told that this establishment is not an institution, it certainly has many of the hallmarks associated with such. The dominant characteristic of this situation is that it is based on a medical model of care, that is to say medical model of management. There is care involved but it is predicated on efficiency and economy, according to the budgetary restrictions and regulations imposed.

This medical model assigns the carers in the institutions with a level of power that I believe is immoral. In my life on the outside, I run my life. I have control of my own affairs. I manage my own support. I am totally responsible for my choices. I have privacy, space and dignity. This abruptly changes when I enter the institutional zone. Suddenly, one becomes public property, a legal entity, a number in the system, an outcome of effective administrative time tabling all for allegedly plausible reasons – for one’s own protection. I cannot help but disagree – these measures are for the protection of the system itself, to try and contrive order out of completely chaotic situations. And the system itself was created by the survival instinct of peoples and cultures that desire continuant (that is longevity in), controlled and stagnant lives. We who have defined severe medical conditions have been subjectified as being anarchic – our lives go completely against the grain of the worldview of the need for normality and biological endurance.

My claim to continuance, control and stagnancy in life never really got off the ground, at least not in the socially accepted sense of being (though I have often been called courageous, brave and ever so able to cope). My body fits into the social representation of biological anarchy, and for that, I find myself in this peculiar place more than is personally coveted because community support is not always efficient in its ability to provide the support my body demands. Ironically, it was the perceived inability of people with a whole range of physical, mental and emotional conditions to be efficient in the factory systems created by the advent of the industrial revolution in the late 18th Century that isolated them in early asylums.

In these places, the complete antithesis of a home, one has very little, often no control of the pace or quality of one’s existence. The need for rational organisation overrides personal desires that over time can drive one into terrible frustration. It is almost as though one has medical needs, and nothing else. Of course, that is the essence of the medical model.

This loss of control manifests in other ways too. For instance, one is confronted with bodily management techniques that are undertaken in one’s ‘best interests’. This means that despite your own intelligence and right to make choices, decision-making and risk-taking can be taken away. When you are completely physically dependent on others and cannot speak on top of that, it is extremely difficult to get past this. Your personal power is eradicated.

This is a complex matter as it touches on the legal issue of duty of care. However, this completely discounts individual liberty and it has crossed my mind that it is in fact a form of entrapment, which can be physical or emotional. This is something that needs exploration in the new century, particularly if this model of care is to continue. Those who are deemed to have conditions of the mind (which is not the specialty of this establishment although sometimes I wonder if ‘going insane’ in the colloquial sense might not be a bad idea) are vulnerable to the extreme if they are determined to be “not of sound mind”. People are still locked up [for their own good], as they frequently were in what should be known as the primitive forms of institutions, when they are perceived as a “danger to themselves or others”. These are not people who have committed heinous crimes.

Society generally has neglected an analysis of the conceptual framework of institutions constructed for the housing of people with various medically defined conditions that are purportedly too hard to deal with in the mainstream community by the provision of appropriate, necessary support wherever people choose to live. Instead, society appears to simply accept these places as necessary though they are a product of a belief system that had its roots 200 years ago. Why? Because it is what people know and it is easier to conform than confront the status quo.

The challenge for the new millennium, whenever society constructs that to be, is to accept all forms of human life as viable forms of life and to see each person as a part of the whole of humanity. In so doing, we need to question the place, relevance and adequacy of residential facilities in the so-called modern, progressive age in which we live. “All the world is a stage,” Shakespeare wrote. It is a shame we do not all have the chance to play our role to the fullest, in whatever capacity that may be.

Access – The National Journal for People with a Disability

Access is the national disability journal published by DEAC – a community based organisation funded by the federal government. Access is published bimonthly and it presents a series of cutting edge articles with a focus on disability, employment, education, the law, regional and international news, technology, events and resources for people with a disability.

For example: what are employers’ views on hiring people with a disability? What are the new trends in the labour market? What challenges and opportunities do educational institutions face in the provision of quality education on the cusp of the new millennium?

Professionals with expert knowledge and people with a disability will provide their insights into current trends and issues to keep readers fully informed. Subscriptions are $25 per annum for six issues about 40 pages each. A concessional subscription at $15 is offered to unwaged individuals. An audio version of Access is also available.

To subscribe please send your name and address with a not negotiable cheque to:
Access subscriptions
Floor 8, 55 Swanston St, Melbourne, Vic 3000
Or for more information contact:
Disability Employment Action Centre
55 Swanston Street
Melbourne 3000 VIC
Ph: 03 9650 2533 TTY: 03 9650 9229
Fax: 03 9650 8642

The Jessie Street National Women’s Library

This year the Jessie Street National Women’s Library celebrates its tenth anniversary. Yes! It’s ten years since the first tentative steps were taken to form a national library that is totally women-centred. Ten years on, through the hard work and dedication of many women, the Library is a valuable, thriving resource. It has recently moved and is now centrally located and readily accessible in Town hall House in Sydney. So, why not visit us when next in town, or when visiting from interstate?

You can find us at:
Level 1 Town Hall House
456 Kent Street, Sydne
Hours are 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday.
Contact Information:
Ph: 02 9265 9486
Fax: 02 9265 9646

Ticket Prices Announced!

The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games are less than one year away. The Games will be held from 18-29 October 2000, two weeks after the Olympic Games. Tickets to the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games are NOW ON SALE including the Day Pass, Reserved Seating for key finals, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The Day Pass is a general admission ticket to as many sports sessions at Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush Bay (and satellite venues) on a given day.

Ticket prices to the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games include:

Day Pass: $15 Adult, $8 Concession
Reserved seating (key finals): $25
Opening Ceremony: A: $170 B: $105 C: $60
Closing Ceremony: A: $70 B: $45 C: $30

For a ticket order form contact 13 63 63. For further information contact Jenni Plucknett, Community Relations Coordinator on (02) 9297 2670.

Consumer Medicine Information

Consumer groups have been campaigning for a number of years to have full information about medicines available to all consumers. Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) is now available for many medicines. However, many consumers do not know about CMI, who to ask for it, or where else they could find it if their pharmacist is unable or reluctant to provide it.

What is CMI?
CMI is plain English information about medicines, clearly written for consumers in a way that we can understand. CMI is designed to complement, not replace, discussions between consumers and our health care providers about courses of treatment and medications. A doctor or pharmacist might use CMI when discussing our medicines with us. CMI also provides a written reference about the medicine for checking later on at home. The aim is to help us use medicines appropriately and encourage us to take a greater responsibility for and interest in managing our medication, whether it is prescribed by a doctor or bought over the counter.

CMI must be prepared by manufacturers for all new prescription medicines, and must be provided for all prescription medicines by 2002. It is also required for some over the counter medicines. It must be factual, must not contain any advertising and must be prepared according to Therapeutic Goods Regulation 9A. The quality of CMI is monitored by the CMI Quality Assurance Reference Group, which includes representatives of consumers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, the industry CMI writers and an expert in communication.

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia has recently produced a Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) Information Kit. If you would like copies of the Kit, or more information on CMI, please contact:
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia
PO Box 52, Lyons 2606 ACT
Ph: 02 6281 0811
Fax: 02 6281 0959

Extension of Family Allowance to Families with 16-24 Year Olds

What is Family Allowance?
Family Allowance is a fortnightly payment to help with the cost of raising children. Family Allowance is income and assets tested.

Why is Family Allowance being extended to 16-24 year olds?
This new measure recognises that the costs of raising children do not stop when they reach early adulthood. The measure is the first instalment in a range of measures under Tax Reform to improve assistance for families. The extension to Family Allowance is being introduced from October 1st 1999. Before October 1st 1999, Family Allowance was available to eligible families with dependent children aged 16-17 only where these children were full-time secondary students. The changes from October 1 extends Family Allowance to families with 16-17 year olds who are in training, job search or tertiary education.

Who is eligible for the new payment?
The new Family Allowance payment applies to eligible families with dependants who are not receiving Youth Allowance or a similar payment and who are:

  • Aged 16-20 years old (including students or unemployed young people) or;
  • Full time students aged 21-24 years old.

In some cases, the amount of Family Allowance a family can receive for a 16-24 yo dependant may be higher than the amount the young person would be eligible to receive from another payment, such as Youth Allowance.

What are the income and assets limits of Family Allowance?
A family with one child covered by the initiative, for example, may be able to get Family Allowance if their income is less than $66,403 per year. Families with assets less than $410,000 (excluding the family home) may receive the full rate if otherwise eligible. Families whose assets are over that amount but under $608,500 may still receive the minimum rate.

How much is the new Family Allowance payment?
The payment for 16-17 year olds is maintained at the current minimum rate of Family Allowance which is $23.70 per fortnight. For young people aged 18-24 years, it will be $50.00 per fortnight.

For more information about the changes to Family Allowance, you can contact the Family Hotline on 131305 or TTY 1800 810 586. Information can also be obtained through the Centrelink website at:


Hello! I’m 37 years old wheelchair driver by progressing disease and am looking for penfriends all around the world except Germany. No matter what disability you have if you want to exchange experiences with me write to:

Traute Klaiber
Brenzweg 2
88046 Friedrichshafen

Please use a black, fat pen and make a wide distance between your lines so that my disabled eyes can recognise your writing. Interests of mine are for example: animals, especially cat breeding (I have a little birman family) or writing short stories.

Ancestors and Relatives: Stations in a life with disability – By Traute Klaiber

My parents have had four healthy babies to be happy with them as all parents. I was the youngest.

In the age of 6 years my spine begun to crumble. Only my mother recognized this. Since this age I had difficulties in running as fast as other kids. Two of my brothers as same. Other childs laughed about us. Dad often complained and mum always hoped it might become better. But this hope did not fulfill. One of my brothers had still in kid years heavy problems with bumpy heart movements. Mum was sent with him from one doctor to the next. Finally in a university clinic for childs they saw his disease. Just before saying what was the matter they wanted to see all four kids. Then they constated my healthy parents are both hidden carriers for the hereditary progressing Friedreich’s Ataxia. For my parents a life dream seemed to break down.

As childs in the age of 9, 13 and 15 years we could of course not understand this meaning. Today I know this disease appears very seldom but it is enlarged all around this planet. Maybe each couple could get such kids without knowing before. All my relatives are especially endangered but no cousin or cousine did ask therefore. All people just want to have their fun with own babies without thinking about the future.

One disabled brother of me died in the age of 21 years and I do wish for nobody such difficulties. Today I am still 37 years old wheelchairdriver. I live though bumpy heart movements and have to do my very best with my life. Just that is often hard and made me more than once thinking: I wish never have been born. Such thoughts are no help for anybody. Each person tries to live as it seems the best.

Traute Klaiber
WWDA Member

The Australian Banking Industry Ombudsman Scheme

The Banking Ombudsman Scheme was set up in 1990 to help individual bank customers sort our their unresolved complaints with their banks. Since then, the Code of Banking Practice has been introduced. It requires the banks to provide personal customers with a free, external and independent process for resolving disputes. It is paid for by the banks as part of their service to you. More recently the Scheme was extended to allow small business to complaint. However for small businesses which want more than an initial consideration of the merits of their case, a fee will be payable. This fee may be refunded depending on the outcome of the case.

It is independent. The Ombudsman is not employed by the banks, but by a Council which has equal numbers of consumer and bank representatives. It is a non-Government Scheme and there are other similar schemes operating for people who have problems with their insurance company and their telephone company.

It is quicker and easier than alternatives. Courts and tribunals can take a long time and be very costly. You lose none of your legal rights by bringing a complaint to the Ombudsman.

It is for personal and small business customers.

For more information, you can contact:
The Banking Ombudsman Scheme
GPO Box 3A
Ph: 1800 337 444 (Toll Free)
Ph: (03) 9613 7333 (Melbourne Metropolitan)
Fax: (03) 9613 7345

Internet Sites

National Women’s Health Information Center (NWHIC) – Women with DisAbilities

This site has been developed by the National Women’s Health Information Center, (a service of the United States Public Health Service’s Office on Women’s Health) to help women overcome social, financial, physical, or other kinds of barriers to health care services and information. This site addresses numerous issues of particular interest to women with disabilities, such as abuse; parenting; reproductive health; breast health; substance abuse; and sexuality. It also offers general resources about critical health issues for a variety of disabilities, including physical, neurological, hearing, speech, and visual impairment. It provides information on psychiatric, learning, and developmental disabilities. You will also find information on US federal laws and regulations that protect disabled citizens, services and support resources, news about medical research, statistical information on disabled women, and information for healthcare professionals on improving healthcare access for women with physical limitations.

The Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD)

The Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD) is a research center that focuses on issues related to health, aging, civil rights, abuse, and independent living. CROWD’s purpose is to promote, develop, and disseminate information to expand the life choices of women with disabilities so that they may fully participate in community life. More specifically, researchers develop and evaluate models for interventions to address specific problems effecting women with disabilities.

Window on Wellness -Health and Wellness Publication for People with Disabilities

Ohio Women With Disabilities Network (OWDN) is a statewide coalition linking women with and without disabilities to provide connections, communication and collaboration. OWDN produces an online Newsletter “Window on Wellness” for people with disabilities. Back issues of the publication are also available on this site.

Mental Health Net

The largest, most comprehensive guide to mental health on-line, featuring over 9,000 individual resources. This site includes information on disorders such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, chronic fatigue syndrome and substance abuse, and professional resources in psychology, psychiatry and social work, journals and self-help magazines.

Disabled Women on the Web

Disabled Women on the Web was established by Corbett O’Toole of the Disabled Women’s Alliance to provide information, resources and support for women with disabilities to continue to change the world! The site contains information on the history of the group, hot issues, current news and events, resources, links to other sites and library information.

Human Rights and Realities of Disabled Women in Korean Society

An article about the situation of women with disabilities in Korea. Includes case studies and information on current government policies and initiatives being undertaken by Korean women with disabilities.

WINGS (Women in Need Getting Support)

This website is a result of a research grant provided by Australia Post and matched by Commonwealth funds, to the National Breast Cancer Foundation for research focusing on rural women with breast cancer. The WINGS website provides information about breast cancer support groups, offers a virtual library about breast cancer and related topics of interest to rural women, and useful links to the best available sites. There will also be an Internet education component where users can participate in on-line tutorials that teach simple Internet skills.

Domestic Violence Project of Santa Clara County

Domestic Violence Project of Santa Clara County is a project sponsored by the Social Services Agency of Santa Clara County, California. This site contains an extensive amount of information about domestic violence, including: articles and protocols, over 1200 categorised links, 4000 books, 110 journals, upcoming conferences, training manuals, best practice models, and more.

The Disability Rights Activist

The Disability Rights Activist brings together much of the information needed to enable anyone interested in the rights of disabled people to work for those rights. The site contains information on tools for activists; issues requiring action; action alerts; disability rights publications; and lots more.

disABILITY Information and Resources

This site was created and is maintained solely by Jim Lubin who is a C2 quadriplegic, completely paralysed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator to breathe. He uses a keyboard/mouse emulator with a sip and puff switch to type morse codes. The site contains an extensive number of links to a wide variety of issues/areas, including searchable disability databases; publications; issues; politics; assistive technology and much more.

The Sexual Health Network

The Sexual Health Network is dedicated to providing easy access to sexuality information, education, counselling, therapy, medical attention, and other sexuality resources for people with disability, illness, or other health related problems. The Sexual Health Network also provides continuing education and training for health professionals and facilitates educational groups for people with disability or illness.

Internet Sites of Australian Women’s Organisations

Association of Women Educators (AWE)

The Association of Women Educators (AWE) works to:

  • eliminate all forms of discrimination in curriculum, in institutional practices and in policies;
  • encourage and support women, so that they can effectively pursue careers in education;
  • encourage and support women in the decision making processes at all levels in the education system;
  • respond to issues of concern for women both in education and the community; and
  • advocate for further reforms and change generally to enhance the position of women in education and society.

Australian Businesswomen’s Network (ABN)

The Australian Businesswomen’s Network (ABN) aims to provide business education and networking opportunities to women in business so that they may prosper in their entrepreneurial ventures and take their business to new levels of efficiency and profitability, as well as better the quality of their lives.

The Australian Council of Businesswomen

The Australian Council of Businesswomen – ACOB – is an important lobby organisation which has been founded with a single mission: to ensure that the opinions, ideas and vision of Australian’s businesswomen form part of the top level debate with governments, the media and business in Australia.

Australian Council of Women and Policing (ACWAP)

ACWAP was established in August 1997. It is now a growing group of women within police services and the community who are working together and striving to: create an Australasian link in the global networking of women in policing; improve the position of women within policing; improve the relationship between policing and women in the community.

Australian Federation of Business and Professional Women (ACWAP)

BPW is the authoritative voice of all women in business and the paid and unpaid workforce. It works to raise the status of women by lobbying governments on all issues affecting women, especially in the paid workforce. This does not affect the work we do for women who are in unpaid positions.

Australian Federation of University Women

The Australian Federation of University Women (AFUW), founded in 1922, is a national body with branches in all States and Territories, administered by a Federal Council. It is affiliated with the International Federation of University Women (IFUW).

Australian Women’s Health Network

The Australian Women’s Health Network (AWHN) is a community based, non-profit, consultative organisation that provides a national voice on women’s health issues. It was established in 1986 and operates as a women’s health advocacy, information and lobbying organisation, working with Government policy makers and other agencies to improve the health and well-being of Australian women.

Australian Women In Agriculture (AWiA)

Australian Women in Agriculture is committed to promoting the advancement of women in agriculture by: uniting and raising the profile of women in agriculture; addressing rural and agricultural inequalities; working to ensure the survival of agriculture for future generations; securing local, regional, national and international recognition; and, achieving the status of a political and economic force.

Australian Women’s Art Register

The Australian Women’s Art Register is a feminist collective which preserves women’s’ art heritage. It is an archive and repository of slides, unpublished material and other written sources, both old and new, documenting Australian women artists, their art practice, their images and their writings.

Catholic Women’s League Australia

The Catholic Women’s League Australia is an organisation of over 10,000 women who, from branch level through to the national executive, endeavour to promote and uphold the sanctity of family life and defend the dignity of women and Christian principles.

Coalition of Australian Participating Organisations of Women (CAPOW)

CAPOW! is a network of national women’s organisations. Its purpose is to give Australian women access to information and to provide support which will enable them to work together to achieve an equitable, sustainable and peaceful society. The network aims to empower women by giving them the means to share knowledge and resources in working to build a society which is equally informed by women.

COAL (Coalition of Activist Lesbians)

As Australia’s only lesbian specific national lobbing organisation, COAL plays a unique and important role especially at this time of social change and awareness of human rights. COAL challenges discrimination by working to change legislation and social policy and to ensure that lesbians are informed of their rights. COAL members use the relevant avenues and opportunities to highlight and change the discrimination and ignorance threatening the safety and health of lesbian lives.

Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications (FITT)

FITT has 3 objectives: to encourage more women to become information technology and telecommunications (ITandT) professionals; to assist those women professionals in ITandT to achieve the highest level in their organisations; and to assist all women, whoever they are, to understand ITandT.

Foundation for Australian Agricultural Women(FITT)

The Foundation for Australian Agricultural Women (FAAW) was established in 1995 to provide for disadvantaged rural women and to advance all women in agricultural occupations and rural communities around Australia. FAAW’s membership is in all States, as are its services.

Guides Australia

The Mission and commitment of Guides Australia is helping girls and young women grow into confident, self-respecting community members.

Muslim Women’s National Network of Australia Inc.

The Muslim Women’s National Network of Australia is the national body for Muslim Women’s Organisations. In the spirit of living in harmony and Islamic justice we seek to: work for the improvement of the image of Muslim women among Muslims and the community at large; promote educational initiatives to raise Muslim women’s awareness of important and relevant issues; lobby to achieve social justice and empowerment of Australian Muslim women in society, especially the workforce; campaign for the elimination of any form of violence against women and children; and; work together with other women’s organisations to share and exchange ideas and views.

National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW)

The National Foundation for Australian Women Inc is a whole of nation organisation, formed to resource the women’s movement with information, and through other means. It is a registered company with tax deductible status and operates an Education and Research Trust with tax exempt status. It is required to be politically bi-partisan and, by policy, has never sought Government funding so that there can be no compromise of its independence. The Foundation conducts and commissions research studies on matters of importance to women, disseminates information including through seminars, and cooperates in these activities with other like minded women’s organisations.

National Women in Engineering Committee Institution of Engineers, Australia (IEAust)

The National Women in Engineering Committee represents and provides advocacy for women engineers through the Institution of Engineers, Australia (IEAust). The Committee promotes policies and practices that enable women’s full participation in engineering education, the workforce and the profession.

National Women’s Justice Coalition (NWJC)

The NWJC promotes women’s legal equality by awareness raising, coordinating and lobbying on women’s justice issues and by building networks and facilitating the work of individuals and groups. The NWJC focuses on promoting women’s legal equality at a national level, but advises and provides networking and technical assistance to State groups and others on State and local issues.

National Women’s Media Centre (NWMC)

The National Women’s Media Centre’s (NWMC) primary aim is to provide a national focus for the issue of portrayal of women in the media.

Network Exchange of Women’s Services (NEWS)

N.E.W.S is an initiative of the Federal Government and is funded by the Office of the Status of Women (OSW). It maintains a national focus. It has been developed to enable women’s groups and organisations around Australia to network and share information. N.E.W.S. also produces a regular Newsletter.

Older Women’s Network

Older women are marginalised and made invisible by those who speak for and about us. We are also subject to ageist and sexist stereotyping and discrimination. With our energy, competence, skill and wisdom, and readiness for fun, older women together can make a difference socially, politically and in our OWN lives. For these, and many other reasons, the Older Women’s Network exists.

Refugee Council of Australia

The aim of the Refugee Council of Australia is to promote the adoption of flexible, humane and constructive policies towards refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons by the Australian and other Governments and their communities.

UNIFEM Australia Inc

UNIFEM was established as an innovative and catalytic fund for women’s empowerment and gender equality. UNIFEM supports innovative and experimental activities benefiting women in line with national and regional priorities. It serves as a catalyst, with the goal of ensuring the appropriate involvement of women in mainstream development activities, as often as possible at the pre-investment stage. UNIFEM plays an innovative role in relation to the United Nations overall system of development cooperation (GA Resolution A/RES/39/125).

WISENET (Women in Science Enquiry Network)

WISENET is a national network of women and some men. It was established to increase women’s participation in the sciences and to link people in different branches of science and those who are working towards a more participatory and socially useful science.

Women Chiefs of Enterprises International

Women Chiefs of Enterprises International Australia (WCEI) offers membership by invitation to women who have successfully operated and invested in their own businesses, or who have financial responsibility for a business, and possess at least five year’s experience in that role. A proportion of membership also comprises women prominent in their profession, or heads of private or public sector organisations.

Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia Inc

WEL Australia is a national independent political organisation dedicated to creating a society where women’s participation and potential are unrestricted, acknowledged and respected and where women and men share equally in society’s responsibilities and rewards.

Women’s Network Australia

Women’s Network Australia aims to: provide a strong network of business and personal contacts which maintain mutual interaction between women in the business and public sectors; provide a forum for the recognition of women’s achievements and encourage women to emulate these role models; lift the awareness, acceptance and visibility of women and the talents and resources they have to offer the economy; provide a pooling facility for like-minded individuals to share information, ideas and knowledge and bring about positive change; encourage and empower talented women into senior executive positions, directorship and board appointments; and connect executive and professional women worldwide.

Women’s Rights Action Network Australia (WRANA)

WRANA aims to facilitate Australian activism for the promotion and protection of women’s human rights in domestic and international arenas through: education and training for Australian women to ensure that national and international human rights mechanisms are accessible, understandable and relevant in the lives of Australian women; training for Australian women to enable their participation in national and international human rights machineries; advocacy for effective national and international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of women’s human rights within Australian and more broadly; and; documentation and raising awareness of women’s human rights violations and abuses within Australia.

Womensport Australia

Womensport Australia represents the interests of women and girls in sport and physical activity. Our mission is to facilitate full participation, equity and access for women in and through sport and physical recreation.

YWCA of Australia

Strengthened by our faiths and enriched by our worldwide association of women and girls, the YWCA of Australia is committed to providing opportunities for women’s growth, leadership and power to achieve a common vision: peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people.

Publications and Book Reviews

The Day Kadi Lost Part of Her Life
Text: Isabel Ramos Rioja
Photos: Kim Manresa
Published by Spinifex Press
Ph: + 61 3 9329 6088
RRP: $19.95

The Day Kadi Lost Part of Her Life, published by Spinifex Press to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8 earlier this year, is the moving photostory of a four year old African girl named Kadi, who is subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) in accordance with the traditions of her community. This unique book is one of the first photodocumentation of the practice of FGM. Although the black and white photographs which document the activities on the day of the operation are confronting, they accompany a personal and emotive story which also explains what FGM entails. Significantly, The Day Kadi Lost Part of Her Life focuses on the immediate experience of a child undergoing FGM, separating it from previous coverage from the perspective of adult females looking back on their childhood.

FGM is an extremely sensitive issue as it encompasses areas that are traditionally in the private and/or personal realm, including sexuality and reproductive and cultural issues. The extremity of FGM varies widely between different countries and cultures; the term FGM does infer however that an actual cutting and removal of sexual organs takes place. FGM has become an issue in Australia as a result of migration. There is no documented evidence that it is practised in Australia, however substantial numbers of anecdotal accounts exist.

It is hoped that The Day Kadi Lost Part of Her Life will bring a wider awareness of this practice and encourage readers to speak out against it. Part proceeds of profits will go to the London based non-government organisation FORWARD (the Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development) who work internationally with the primary objective of campaigning for the elimination of female genital mutilation worldwide and promoting awareness to counter traditional practices prejudicial to the health of women and children.

A Certain Age – Women Growing Older
Edited by Marilyn Poole and Susan Feldman
Published by Allen and Unwin
Ph: +61 2 8425 0100
RRP: $24.95

Older women run their own businesses, go to aerobics classes, fall in love, have active lives, and make a contribution to the community despite the public assumption that they are past their use-by date. A Certain Age explores the public and private worlds of older women. Challenging the emphasis on declining health in other studies of ageing, it looks at the interactions between older women and family, friends and the community, as well as their work and leisure activities. The authors discuss the factors that are important in older women’s lives such as home, menopause, fitness, learning, widowhood and intimacy. They show that many older women maintain good health and an independent lifestyle, while others experience barriers that prevent them from continuing to be active members of their community. A Certain Age is important reading for anyone who works with older people, develops policies or programs for older people, or is interested in women’s issues, or the experience of growing older.

Family caregivers – Disability, Illness and Ageing
Edited by Hilary Schofield, with Sidney Bloch, Helen Herrman, Barbara Murphy, Julie Nankervis and Bruce Singh
Published by Allen and Unwin
Ph: +61 2 8425 0100
Reviewed for WWDA by Margaret Cooper

All political parties and governments have recognised that care of people at home is cheaper than institutionalisation. What they rely on is the willingness of friends, relatives and neighbours to volunteer to do the work without pay, and fill the gaps where no services are government funded. Australians with disabilities have increased to 19% of the population, (ABS 1999), and this is partly due to the increase in the numbers of people who are ageing. Many of us need assistance from another person to run our homes, or do our shopping and cooking, help us with personal care. I have longterm disabilities which have got worse with the ongoing years, so I picked up this book a little fearfully. It is most depressing to find oneself described as ‘a burden of care,’ or being ‘fully dependent.’

Had anyone in my family been involved in this study, which uses terms found in the Aged Care Act 1997, I would have been defined as a ‘care recipient’ and I would have been part of the ‘relative burden of physical and mental disabilities’ chapter. This one dimensional measurement of an individual is followed up by the division of ‘care’ for people with disabilities, as different from any other caring behaviour the ‘caregiver’ might show towards non-care recipients, that is other family members. So making a cup of tea for me, would have been seen differently from making a cup of tea for my mother. With the increasing professionalisation of ‘caring,’ these colder definitions have to happen, so that job descriptions and training courses can develop further. But we people with disabilities, regardless of age, aren’t just objects of care. We are people who contribute back to a ‘carer.’

This book IS written for policymakers and does show that family carers do a fantastic job and ought to receive more government support. The lack of an effective increase in funded support is a national disgrace. The book’s authors have identified a broad spectrum of carers, all involved in the Victorian Care Project. Their objectives were to explore:

  • determine what it is like to be carer of a person with a disability;
  • explore the effect of caregiving on the carer’s physical and emotional health;
  • explore the relationship between personal and situational factors and the carer’s health;
  • identify carer’s needs;
  • identify their coping strategies;
  • identify the services required and used by carers.

The researchers did do what they said they would, came up with a wide range of strategies for policy makers and funders to consider. Personally I feel very uncomfortable about this book. No, I’m offended. Our experience, and our contribution to ‘caring’ has been totally ignored again. Disability is more than a burden. We women with disabilities do care for others, as well as accept care for ourselves. It’s time for a study from our point of view. This book is not recommended as a useful addition to disability studies.

Bird – and other writings on Epilepsy
By Susan Hawthorne
Published by Spinifex Press
Ph: + 61 3 9329 6088
RRP: $19.95

‘Birds don’t fly with leads, I said.
Safety belts are to learn with, not to live with –
I’m safer on the trapeze than crossing the road.
And I do that every day, often by myself.’

So thirteen year old Avis argues when confronted by the limitations imposed on her at school. She has epilepsy and some of the teachers want to stop her from participating in the sport she loves most. From societal limitations to the inner experience of seizures, Susan Hawthorne’s poetry takes the reader on a journey rarely recorded. Physical injury, memory loss, explorations of consciousness and language are the concerns of the poet. Susan Hawthorne is a writer, publisher and circus performer. She has won awards for her poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing, as well as in the fields of editing and business. In 1995 she was a speaker on the writers panel at the 21st International Epilepsy Congress held in Sydney. Her most recent anthology is Cyberfeminism – Connectivity, Critique and Creativity.

Bigger Than the Sky: Disabled Women on Parenting
Eds Michele Wates and Rowen Jade
The Women’s’ Press, April 1999 ISBN number: 0 7043 4545 5

“I am 33 years old and he is five years old and my arms are open wide. We are lying side by side in my little patch of yard and I am showing him the answer to my question, ‘Know how much I love you?’ He giggles and asks, how much, how much? ‘Bigger than the sky!’ I shout and then dive bomb him an embrace and boom! We’re one explosion of joy.” This groundbreaking anthology includes writing by 39 disabled women from a variety of cultures and many countries. The contributors all define themselves as disabled, and this includes women dealing with mental health issues and women with learning difficulties as well as those with physical and sensory impairments. Whether it be as a birth mother, an adoptive parent, a friend or a woman who has made a positive choice not to become a parent, these disabled women are asserting their right to explore the diversity of experience. And in breaking free of society’s restrictive definitions and taboos, the writers in this collection demonstrate that the possibilities are limitless.

Getting Equal – The History of Australian Feminism
By Marilyn Lake
Published by Allen and Unwin
Ph: +61 2 8425 0100
RRP: $24.95

Women today enjoy freedoms unimagined by their mothers and grandmothers – the result of over 100 years of feminist activism in this country. Getting Equal is the first full length history of the movements – and their feisty, ebullient, determined leaders – who fought for women’s political and economic rights, sexual and drinking rights, the right to control their bodies and their destinies. Getting Equal provides new understandings of women’s activism and new perspectives on Australian politics: it shows that feminists were leading theorists of citizenship and the welfare state and outspoken advocates of Aboriginal rights and international law. But the goal of equality has also proved problematic: participating in the world on men’s terms has reinforced the masculine standard as the norm. In this path breaking and lively study, leading historian Marilyn Lake challenges common misconceptions and offers new interpretations of a politics that has swung between an emphasis on women’s difference from men and a demand for the same rights as men. It is her hope that a knowledge of the complexity of the past will enable us to be more clear-sighted about what remains to be done.

Black Body – Women, Colonialism and Space
By Radhika Mohanram
Published by Allen and Unwin
Ph: +61 2 8425 0100
RRP: $35.00

Why is the female black body so threatening to the male eye? From Algeria to the Antipodes, the female black body represents all that is dangerous and unknown in an alien land. In Black Body, Radhika Mohanram shows that it is the key to understanding the tensions between coloniser and indigene that characterise the colonial experience. She argues that the significance of the female black body can only be understood through place, an aspect which has been submerged in postcolonial theory. A ‘black body’ can only come into being if it is perceived as being out of place – a female black body is doubly out of place. Black Body interrogates theories produced in the Northern hemisphere and questions their value and significance for the Southern hemisphere. The relationship between the female black body and the unmarked white male body is seen as parallel to the relationship between the two hemispheres. Radhika Mohanram lectures in the Departments of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.

Healthy Medicine – Challenges Facing Australia’s Health Services
By Stephen R. Leeder
Published by Allen and Unwin
Ph: +61 2 8425 0100
RRP: $24.95

Health care and medicine are big business in Australia, accounting for 9% of the gross domestic product. Reflecting how well we care for ourselves and others, they are also a measure of social cohesion. Yet demands outweigh resources, and new styles of managing health and medical care are being sought. This book by Stephen Leeder provides a critical analysis of the Australian health care system and compares different approaches to health care taken in Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. Leeder explores what health and medical research might contribute to our future, and suggests radical changes to medical education. Finally, he issues a challenge to develop a truly national health policy for Australia. Healthy Medicine is important reading for health care workers, policy makers and students.

Contemporary Social and Political Theory – An Introduction
By Fidelma Ashe, Alan Finlayson, Moya Lloyd, Iain MacKenzie, James Martin, Shane O’Neill
Published by Allen and Unwin
Ph: +61 2 8425 0100
RRP: $45.00

This new and accessible introduction to contemporary social and political theory examines the impact of new ideas such as feminist theory, poststructuralism, hermeneutics and critical theory. The innovations brought by these currents to the intellectual traditions of Europe and America are outlined and assessed. Designed for the newcomer to theory, no previous knowledge is assumed and a student-friendly approach is adopted throughout. Rather than focus on individual thinkers, the authors take a ‘conceptual’ approach by examining contemporary theories through themes such as ‘rationality’, ‘power’, ‘the subject’, ‘the body’ and ‘culture’. Each chapter considers the evolution of a concept and examines the major debates and transformations that have taken place in that area. The needs of the undergraduate are kept in mind at all times and, in addition to an extensive bibliography, the book contains a useful glossary of key terms and concepts. The authors all teach social and political theory in the School of Politics at The Queen’s University of Belfast.

Challenging Silence – Innovative Responses to Sexual and Domestic Violence
Edited by Jan Breckenridge and Lesley Laing
Published by Allen and Unwin
Ph: +61 2 8425 0100
RRP: $35.00

In the 1970’s, the silence surrounding sexual and domestic violence was broken and feminists demanded services to address the problem. In the 1980’s, government funded community programs to provide services for victims. The 1990’s saw a backlash against the victims of sexual violence and services provided for their support. Challenging Silence assesses the state of play with sexual and domestic violence. It examines the effectiveness of current services in the context of both Australian and international law and policy. It looks at innovative developments in practice and research, and outlines strategies which are proving successful in supporting victims and addressing offenders’ accountability and responsibility.

Patient No More – The Politics of Breast Cancer
By Sharon Batt
Published by Spinifex Press
Ph: + 61 3 9329 6088
RRP: $24.95

Sharon Batt was a healthy, athletic woman when she found a lump in her breast. After the shock of her diagnosis with breast cancer wore off, Batt undertook a quest to understand her disease. Her journey led her from a startling investigation of the labyrinthine medical establishment to an awareness of how researchers, the media and fundraising organisations manipulate appearances and play for high money stakes in the breast cancer ‘game’. She also discovered how people with cancer have broken free of fear, apathy and silence. Her book closes with a feminist vision for change and an insiders look at the increasingly powerful cancer movement. This book was published in 1996.

Voices of the Survivors – Powerful and moving stories from survivors of sexual assault
By Patricia Easteal
Published by Spinifex Press
Ph: + 61 3 9329 6088
RRP: $19.95

In this book, Dr Patricia Easteal has brought together the responses of women to a national survey about rape and sexual abuse. A major part of the book is made up of the letters and comments of women who have experienced abuse from husbands, estranged husbands, relatives, dates, bosses, priests, acquaintances and strangers. Dr Easteal has arranged the material to reveal the political nature of these crimes. This book was published in 1994 as a result of the ‘Without Consent’ program shown on ABC TV in 1992.

WWDA News is published by Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA). All contributions and suggestions are welcome. Please address them to:

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Written by Carolyn Frohmader
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