Issue 2, July 1992

Women With Disabilities Australia began in 1985 as a women’s group known as the ‘Women’s Network’, within Disabled Peoples’ International (Australia). The Network grew and evolved to form Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA). Copyright WWDA 1992.

In This Edition

Editorial – Affirmative Action

Draft Objectives of the Women’s Network

Women’s Network Teleconference

Contacts for Your Address Book

State Round Up

Help Wanted – Program on Radio Print Handicapped


The Rural Access Program

Media Complaints

A Study of Women With Sensory or Physical Disabilities

Your Representatives

Women’s Activities Around Australia

Women’s Network Response to ‘Half Way to Equal’

Study on Women’s Use of the Telephone

Editors Corner by Joan Hume

Editorial – Affirmative Action: What Is It? By Joan Hume

Affirmative Action was very much a catch cry of the Women’s Movement during the 1970’s and 1980’s. But there is still confusion and misunderstanding about what it means and how it is meant to work, not only for the benefit of women, but for all people who may be disadvantaged in their access to employment. But to understand affirmative action, you need first to understand the concept of equal employment opportunity (EEO). Although the two ideas are related they are different with differing purposes.

In Australia EEO is a policy adopted by State and Federal Governments as well as some of the more enlightened firms in the private sector. It ensures that all personnel activities are conducted so that for each vacancy in an organisation, people with equal probability of job success have equal probability of being hired for or promoted to a job. In other words, a person’s race, sex, marital status, membership of an ethnic or migrant group, sexual preference or disability should not reduce her or his chances of employment or promotion.

Affirmative action carries EEO further along the way. It involves the taking of positive steps by legislative reform and /or management programs to achieve demonstrable progress towards equal employment opportunity. Affirmative action is based on the principleof social justice, the elimination of direct or indirect discrimination through a systems of redress and remedial programs, such as improvements in selection and promotion procedures, the setting of specific goals and numerical targets with a time table of achievement.

Affirmative action is not merely a women’s issue, it has relevance to all disadvantaged groups and particularly to women with disabilities. It is not necessarily confined to employment practices either. It has a flow-on effect to the wider community in such areas as representation on boards of management in community groups, in government advisory bodies and in the community at large. How infuriating it is for example to see a non-disabled person as president of a disability specific organisation. Having people with disabilites run their own affairs is affirmative action in practice. It is vital that women with disability participate in this process of community activism by putting their names forward so that all that wonderful untapped expertise can be put to valuable use.

Half Way to Equal, the Report of the Inquiry into Equal Opportunity and Equal Status for Women in Australia, has just been released. It recommends that an affirmative action policy be developed for women with disabilities. (See article Women’s Network Response to Half Way to Equal).

Draft Objectives of the Women’s Network

At a meeting of the Women’s Network Steering Group on 4 July. a draft aim and objectives for the Network, prepared by Rae Hurrell, were discussed. In some cases the meeting made changes to the draft, in others it was decided that more thought should be given to them. or alternative wording was suggested without final agreement being reached.

Set out below for your comments are proposed objectives, with alternative wording in brackets. Please contact Joan Lyons on 06 2476526 (H) or 06 2391911 (W) with your comments. A consolidated response will be sent to the Steering Group, incorporating your comments, for final ratification.

The Steering Group made the point that these objectives may be reviewed from time to time but would give the Network a strong sense of direction at the outset.

To enable women with disabilities to have a (strong clear, unified) voice within the disability movement the women’s movement other social change movements and society in general.


  • To develop a network of women with disabilities throughout Australia to work together for the mutual benefit of all women with disabilities.
  • To be a human resource development vehicle working with gender issues from the perspective of women with disabilities.
  • To develop an information sharing and communication role.
  • To support women as carers.
  • To continue advocacy and information work in the government and non-government sectors for the interests of women with disabilities.
  • To advocate for women with disabilities true (actual, real, active or potential for) involvement in all levels of society.
  • To ensure women with disabilities have sufficient accessible information and adequate resourcing to enable them to make an informed choice about matters, which concern their lives.
  • To support national and local work of members.
  • To develop leadership and sharing of responsibilities to enable women with disabilities to take their place in whatever section of society they choose.
  • To establish a solid financial base and to identify project fundsers for national, state and local projects.

Women’s Network Teleconference 4 July

Margaret Cooper, women with disabilities representative on the National Women’s Consultative Council, invited women from every State and Territory to participate in a discussion on the Lavarch Report Recommendation 53 in Half Way to Equal. She agreed to extend the Conference to discuss a wide range of other issues relating to the Women’s Network.

The women participating formed a Steering Group for the Women’s Network. They were Margaret Cooper, Jenny Stanzel, NSW, Rae Hurrell, Qld, Natalie Tomas, Victoria, Melissa Madsen, SA, Dianna Savage, WA, Robin Wilkinson, Tas, Di Cooper, ACT, and Joyce Deering, NT. Joan Hume was also present in her capacity as Editor of the Newsletter. Joan Lyons acted as Rapporteur, replacing Cheryl O’Brien who is on holiday in Byron Bay.

Rae Hurrell, one of the Co-ordinators of the Network, chaired the Meeting. Laurie Alsop, the other Co-coordinator, sent her apologies but Jenny Stanzel participated in her place. Rae welcomed Joyce Deering as the first participant from the NT.

The Steering Group also discussed a number of other Network issues including, the aims and objectives (See item above), funding arrangements, and the structure of the Network. State Contacts and other special contacts were agreed upon (See item below).

A proposed structure of the Network and a request for a share of development funding received by DPI will be put to the next DPI Council meeting. Information on the outcome of this request will be reported in the next Newsletter, along with an outline of the structure proposed.

State Contacts have been agreed in each State except NSW, which is yet to be clarified. The names and contact addresses and phone numbers are set out in the Contacts article below.

Contacts for Your Address Book

I>f you want to talk about the Network, help in its development or are looking for support Contacts are available in the following States.

Natalie Tomas
3/25 Pyne Street South Caufield,
VIC 3162
Phone- 03 5239716

Rae Hurrell
48 Dykes Road Mt Gravatt QLD 4121
Phone: 07 349 4777

South Australia
Melissa Madsen
2A Leadenhall St, Port Adelaide, SA 5015
Phone:08 341 1307

Robin Wilkinson
3/372 Park Street, New Town, TAS 7008
Phone: 002 280151

Western Australia
Dianna Savage
13 Chartwell Place Leeming WA 6149
Phone: 09 310 6365

Australian Capital Territory
Di Palmer
10 Laurie Street Dickson ACT 2602
Phone:06 257 6436

Northern Territory
Joyce Deering
10 Anne Street Stuart Park NT 0820
Phone: 089 411649

Contact for Women in Rural and Remote Areas
The Network is trying to identify people in all States and Territories in rural or remote areas to be a contact in their region and to put a country point of view in the development of policy, programs and initiatives generally.

Wilma Davis is the first such Contact. She lives in rural Victoria. You can write toWilma at:

Ropers Road, Tawonga, Victoria,
or phone her on 057 57 2434.

Is anyone else interested in nominating?

Special Issue Contacts
The Network is setting up groups of people interested in special issues which affect women with disabilities. These groups will develop policy initiatives, programs and activities for people who fall into these special groups.

Meg Smith has agreed to be a Contact point for women who are disabled by mental illness. Meg is a special appointee to the Disability Advisory Council of Australia. She works at the University of Western Sydney where the general plan to ensure equal access to employment for people who are disadvantaged bif ity various means does not include strategies for helping workers disabled by episodes of mental illness. She has a keen interest in overcoming such inadequacies.

Meg points to the advantages flowing to women from Affirmative Action Programmes for Women and believes that if it can be done for women, it can also be done for people with disabilities.

Meg can be contacted at University of Western Sydney on 02 772 9200, extension 299 or at home on 02 6607413.

State Round Up

Tasmania Gets Funds – by Robin Wilkinson
DPI (Tas) has received funding from our State Office of the Status of Women for a creative project to reach women who are isolated and or home bound because of disabilities. It is envisaged that this project will have two target groups-firstly women with disabilites,but also women as carers of people with disabilities.

Our goal is to establish a means of networking and self-help support for our target groups, either through the telephone or through some other tool, such as a newsletter. Our funding is for a year long project and aims to be self-sufficient within the year. The title of our project is Disability Awareness Women’s Network (DAWN)– not too original I know but nevertheless a useful concept when requesting funds.

Incidentally our grant though small, was the second largest grant for women’s projects within our State. It is the first time we have received funding from a different department to Community Services. Your Branch may wish to seek funding from a similar body in your State! It is worth applying for!

News From South Australia – by Melissa Madsen
On the 23 May, the recently appointed Women’s Adviser to the Premier, Jayne Tayior, met with women with a disability from Adelaide as part of a vvider review of the Equal Opportunity for Women Program. This review, due to be completed at 30 June 1992, aims to ensure that the resources of the Program are allocated and used effectively, as well as determining goals and prioritiesfortheprogram. It is hoped that this will result in a better understanding of the concerns that women with a disability have as women, and a willingness to advocate on behalf of women with a disability at the State Government level. Of particular concern is the lack of accessibility of Women’s Community Health Centres, the Women’s Information Switchboard and the Women’s Resource Centre. This issue was raised recently by Disabled Peoples lntematonal with the State Minister for Health.

The Network of Women Students Associaton’s national conference is being held in Adelaide from 6 to 10 July. I have been invited to take part in a forum addressing Issues of Representation on behalf of the Radical Disabled Women’s Union and women with a disability more generally. In addition, Vicki Hiscock a woman with a disability from the Adelaide Women’s Community Health Centre, is speaking in a forum dealing with new reproductive technologies. This is an invaluable opportunity to possibly challenge women’s attitudes to disability, and put the concerns of women with a disability on the agenda of generic women’s organisations.

Finally, I have obtained a copy of the Women’s Electoral Lobby National Policy on disabilities. To my untutored eye, there appears to be many problems with this document I would like to prepare a reply/response/comment to it but I would need support from more experienced members of the Network. Any takers? Phone 08 341 1307.

News From the Northern Territory – by Joyce Deering
August 17 to 23 will be celebrated as Disability Awareness Week in the NT. It also commemorates a decade since IYD. An outdoor sunset BBQ at Lake Alexander on Darwin Harbour is the venue for the launch of the Week by the Chief Minister. A ‘quad’ who has a pilot’s licence will fly over during the launch. This adds a real focus on ABILITY. A time for food, fun, family and friends and fellowship. Displays by local groups will be set up each day in both the Darwin City Mall and at Casuarina Shopping Centre’s Town Square. During the week more than 2O different groups will provide information and material.

Seminars on –

  • Housing Needs of Disabled People
  • Awareness and Prevention of Spinal Injuries
  • Seating.and Pressure Risk Control
  • Retina Pigmentosts and possibly EEO,

if our Legislative Assembly passes the Bill during the August Sittings, will be held.

The Minister for Housing will open new Units designed for disabled residents, If they are completed on time, to co-incide with the Housing Seminar.

The Administrator, Mr James Muirhead and Mrs Margaret Muirhead are hosting a Reception at Government House at which Awards will be presented to several public venues that have made physical access easier.

The Wheelchair Sports Association have arranged an indoor basketball match in chairs, challenging the pollies, jurnos, and others, game enough to have a go. Negotiations are underway for the Darwin Private Hospital to sponsor use of its heated hydrotherapy pool for a two hour session on Saturday afternoon. Already sponsorship has been received from WorkHealth and the Quota Club of Darwin and others are in the pipeline. Down ‘the track’ other Centres will also be having celebrations.

The DAW Committee believes that focussing on ABILITY will have a greater impact and create Awareness through this first Week organised in the Territory.

Help Wanted – Program on Radio Print Handicapped for women with disabilities

Women with disabilities in the ACT have realised the benefit of mutual support. With only the cost of a local telephone call necessary to maintain a network of contacts, proximity has made it easy to keep in touch. The concept has been discussed of having a regular program on Radio Print Handicapped of the Women with Disabilities in the ACT. The lack of people to prepare and present the programs has been our only hurdle. With the renewal of the Network and an increase in numbers we hope to have a report of the first radio program in the next Women’s Network Newsletter.

Would you like to help prepare the program or read material on radio? Phone Di Palmer on 062 257 6436 or write to her at 10 Laurie Street, Dickson ACT 2602.


Countrylink is a Commonwealth Government Program which offers four main services-.

  • a toll-free telephone information line, the CountryLink Answer Line (008) 026 222
  • a CountryLink shopfront display that visits country shows and field days
  • CountryLink Community Information Stands, and
  • The Rural Book which is an up-to-date guide to Commonwealth services and programs for people who live away from the capital cities.

What can you find out by ringing (008) 026 222?
Answers to questions about Commonwealth services. It provides information on the complete range of Commonwealth Government services and programs.

When can you ring?
Between 9 am and 6pm (ESI) Monday to Friday. After 6 PM leave a message and staff will return your call the next working day. If you want to know about the shop front display or the Rural Book or the Community Information Stands, just call the 008 number – (008)026222.

The Rural Access Program

The Rural Access Program offers funds to non-profit community groups, industry associations and educational institutions. Can you think of something that needs doing for disabled women in your rural community? Something from which the whole community will also benefit. Something that improves access to education and training, social, health or other services, involves the community, has community support.

Some examples of programs funded:

  • set up short-term training in practical skills, expand educational opportunities, establish health workshops, helps disadvantaged groups gain access to services and support child care services.
  • Under this Program,special consideration will begiven to women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, and the disabled.

Small projects, below $10,000 will be given priority but Community Groups can receive up to $20,000. If you are interested telephone the Countrylink free answer line – 008 026 22 for more information.

Media Complaints

Have you always wanted to complain about the way women and women with disabilities tare portrayed in the media? The Office of the Status of Women have made it easy for you. They have prepared a brochure showing how to write your complaint and who to write to. Want a copy? Call Joan Lyons on 06 247 6526 or write to:

The Office of the Status of Women,
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
3-5 National Circuit
Barton ACT 2600.

A Study of Women With Sensory or Physical Disabilities

The Schonell Special Education Research Centre at the University of Queensland is conducting an Australian wide project funded by the Women’s Research and Education Initiatives Program within the Department of Employment Education and Training. It is due for completion in March 1993. They are looking for women aged between 25 and 35 years who have been physically, visually or hearing impaired since birth, or at least since early school age and who have undertaken some form of tertiary or secondary education and may now be studying again, employed or otherwise involved in home duties or voluntary work, to participate in a national survey.

Data will be collected by using a survey questionnaire, and a small sub-sample of women in the study will be further involved in discussion groups. If you are interested in participating in or want further information on this survey contact:

Project Officer, Jenny Bramley,
Fred and Eleanor Schonnel Special Education Research Centre,
University of Queensland, QLD 4072
Phone 07 365 6472 or Fax 07 365 7199

Your Representatives – by Di Palmer

We have two areas in the Commonwealth Public Service working for our interests. They are the Office of Disability, in the Department of Health, Housing and Community Services and the Office of the Status of Women in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I work in the latter.

Have you ever contacted either of these Offices to obtain assistance from your Federal Parliament in the problems you face? Have you arranged to be on the mailing list of either of these Offices to keep informed about what is being done to you in Parliament?

The Office of the Status of Women has a continual stream of telephone calls and letters from the people whose interests they serve and the result is that the Office has grown from nine people in 1977 to 50 staff today. However, the majority of people with disabilities do not realise that they can have such a decisive impact on a secton of the Public Service and therefore do not turn to the Office of Disability as a point of first contact for assistance. How we ruin our own cause by apathy.

The Office of the Status of Women had a nationwide contact of all women when it was first established in 1973, as the Office of Women’s Affairs. Since then the issues raised by women have gradually been worked up into policies which the government has acted upon. If we women were each to write to the Office of Disability to have our names put on the mailing list and to draw attention to one issue of concern to each of us then we would be making correct use of the Office and it would be required to be more accountable.

In addition, ask for a copy of the Principles and Objectives. These are incorporated in the Disability Services Act and are a statement of our rights. Because they are part of Federal law, they are binding upon anyone with whom we have dealings. The Principles and Objectives are far too frequently disregarded by those who have disabilities. Until the passage of the Anti Discrimination Bill our rights are protected in this very important part of the Disability Services Act.

If you call the Office make sure you know what the problem is and what you think should be done about it. The address for the Office is:

Office of Disability
Department of Health, Housing and Community Services
GPO Box 9849

You can also make a free phone call to the Department of Health Housing and Community Services from anywhere in Australia by phoning 006 048 998.

Remember you can always renew your petition to the Office until it is answered. Unless we make an all out effort to demonstrate that we need this Office to represent our interests. It may disappear. To re-establish it will be a mammoth effort. It is up to each one of us to work to make it more accountable and to perform to the standard we require.

Women’s Activities Around Australia

Forum on the Sex Discrimination Act, Canberra September 1992.
The Coalition of Australian Participating Organisations of Women, CAPOW is arranging a one day programme consisting of Presentations and Workshops. Contact:CAPOW by 29 July 1992 or phone call to Mary Mortimer on 06 247 9204.

NFAW is collecting women’s stories on ‘How I survived violence’ for publication. Contact Lois Bryson (049) 21 5920.

Rural Women – collectng stories for publication. Contact Margaret-Ann Franklin (067) 72 6438.

Women’s Network Response to ‘Half Way to Equal’

At the Teleconference of the Steering Group of the Women’s Network, Margaret Cooper sought views on Recommendation 58 in the Report of the Inquiry into Equal Opportunity and Equal Status for Women in Australia, Half Way to Equal. The Inquiry was chaired by Mr M Lavarch MP. Recommendation 58 is concerned specifically with women with disabilities.

The Conference welcomed the policy program outlined in the Recommendation and urged its implementation by the Federal Government. However, it considered that the Recommendation fell short of the needs of women with disabilities in some areas.

The Recommendation was examined at the Conference (and action specified) under its four sub-parts.

Recommendation 58 (a) reads
‘an affirmative acton policy for women with disability be developed and implemented by the Department of Health, Housing and Community Services, of Employment Educatiop and Training, and Social Security in relation to the Disability Services Program, the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service and the Disability Reform Package.’

The Conference saw the need for affirmative action in all Commonwealth Programs, across all departments and authorities. Although it is outside the scope of the Report it also saw the need to extend this Commonwealth policy to all governmental and non-government organisations.

Recommendation (b) reads:
‘the Department of Health, Housing and Community Services work together with existing and potential competitive employment training and placement services funded under new Disability Services Program to increase the numbers of women receiving those services, and in doing so, encourage and support women to obtain training and employment particularly in non-traditional occupations.’

The Conference considered that the recommendation does not recognise the need for flexibility in the workplace to accommodate the needs of women with disabilities. Furthermore, there should be recognition that many occupations open to women generally, have not been readily available in the past to women with disabilities. It is not merely non traditional areas of employment which are at issue but access to career options already open to other women.

Recommendation (c) states:
‘the Department of Health, Housing and Community Services fund a comprehensive study into the specific needs of women with disabilities to assist them with independent living. Further. that this study take account of the additional disadvantages experience by women with disabilities who are aged, or of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or non-English speaking background. The Committee believes that there would be advantages for this study to be conducted by a research team of women with disabilities.’

The Meeting gave strong support to this initiative, but drew attention to the need to also include women with disabilities from rural and remote areas in the study.

Recommendation (d) reads:
‘the special needs of women with disabilities need to be accounted for in respect of financial independence, child care support employment and training needs. In particular evaluation of changes in disability allowances needs to be evaluated in the light of their likely impact on women with disabilities.’

The Meeting considered that the specification of special needs did not go far enough. It added to the list mentioned in the Recommendation, personal care, including work based personal care, transport education, equipment and access in its widest sense. The Meeting authorised Rae Hurrell, as a Co-ordinator of the Women’s Network to draw its concerns to the notice of the Prime Minister and other responsible Ministers.

If you think the Steering Group has not identified all inadequacies with Recommendation 58, please call Joan Lyons (247 6526 H) so that your concerns can be included in correspondence with the Prime Minister and Ministers.

Study on Women’s Use of the Telephone – by Robin Wilkinson

Telecom have funded “Distaff” to carry out a research project into women’s use of the telephone. The project aims to look at the content of phone messages including informational and emotional elements as well as costing the value of these calls in hard economic terms. Distaff plans to use more focussed groups of women scattered throughout Australia. They recognise the need to include a range of women in these groups including women with disabilities as well as other specially disadvantaged groups of women including migrant, isolated, alone, older, and Koori women.

A previous study into women’s use of the telephone had virtually no input from women with disabilities. It is important that women with disabilities contribute to the present study through the small focussed groups.

For further information about the Distaff Project conducted by Eva Cox and Helen Leonard and Milica Kapetanovic please contact distaff directly on 025571955, or Robin Wilkinson 3/372 Park Street, New Town, TAS 7008 Phone 002 280151.

Editors Corner by Joan Hume

The response to the first Newsletter has been generally positive and we welcome any constructive comments about improvements in style and content. What do you want to read about? Individual women and their achievements? Information about Government programs and how they affect you? Intematonal news and events? Should we be heavily political or lighter and more humorous or both. Short punchy articles of up to 500 words will be greatly appreciated. So would cartoons and light humorous pieces.

Send your contribution to:
Joan Hume,
Editor, Women’s Newsletter
12 Ravenswood Avenue, Randwick NSW 2032
or talk to her on 02 398 7713

Some women have asked how the Women’s Network started and how you can become a member. Lt was originally established in 1985 and revitalised in 1991 following a Conference in Adelaide, jointly sponsored by the NWCC and the Disability Advisory Council of Australia (DACCA) called Paid and Unpaid: Work for Women With Disabilities. Two Convenors were elected: Rae Hurrell (Qld) and Laurie Alsop (NSW).

As yet the Women’s Network has no formal structure but one is being developed. More about that in the next Newsletter. Although the Network is being supported by DPI Australia, you donl have to be a member of DPI to be part of the Network or receive the Newsletter. Ring your State contact or DPI to put your name on the mailing list.