Issue 6, April 1994

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 1994.

In This Edition

About the Women’s Network

Letter from the Coordinator

Profiles – The Interim Steering Committee

The Disability Discrimination Act

Housing for Women Affected by Mental Illness

Profile – Sue Davenport

Profile – Dianne McGowan

Introducing the Australian Women’s Health Network

Letters to the Editor

Open Learning

National Advocacy Workshop



About the Women’s Network

The Womens Network is an affirmative action initiative for women with disabilities. Its development is being funded by Disabled People’s International Australia and the Office of Status of Women. The membership of the network is not confined to Disabled People’s International members, but encompasses all disabled women who wish to participate.

Letter from the Coordinator – by Rae Hurrell

The network has recently appointed Ms Sue Davenport as a part time project officer. She will work with Bianca at DPI(A) office in Canberra to assist the steering committee in developing the network. Sue comes to us with a great deal of experience especially with Amnesty International. I would like to welcome her and hope that her time with us will be a happy and beneficial one for all of us.

In the last few weeks I have had contact with DPI Fiji and DPA New Zealand, who are both interested in our network and who have requested information sharing. At present I am trying to establish a Round Robin letter connecting the women with disabilities in the Oceania region. I would later like to see this extended to the whole of Asia/Pacific region, with a regional network for women with disabilities so that we may all benefit from sharing our ideas and experiences.

Closer to home I would like to encourage those states who are working towards the establishment of a network within their state. If we are to be an effective network we must work towards including women with disabilities at the grass root level. A newsletter is a wonderful way to reach out to and provide contact between women with disabilities, but it is rather a one way street. We need to be able to reach out to women in our own areas locally and on a regional level. Maybe some of our readers would be interested in establishing a small group in their area. I would be interested to hear of any such initiatives. In this the International Year of the Family let us reach out a hand to our sisters with disability and unite together as one family. There are many mutual benefits to be achieved by us working together.

We also must reach out to other women’s groups. We are doing this through our involvement in the Round Table Consultative process set up by the federal government to consult with women. I would like to thank Margaret Cooper for her work in this area. We also have a position on the executive of CAPOW! Joan Hume has undertaken this work and I thank her for her interest and the time she has given to this. Recently I was asked to speak at a National Conference of National Women’s Council of Australia. As I had to attend a meeting in Sydney that weekend I would like to thank Ellen Gregg who presented my paper for me. The more we can work in the wider area of women’s groups the more we will be able to show that women with disabilities are interested in the same things as women without disabilities; and that with a little assistance we can participate very fully in the women’s movement. It is important that we are seen as women first and foremost and that our disabilities only become a handicap when influenced by the barriers created by society.

Let us reach out unite together and over the whole of Australia with the web of the National Network of Women with Disabilities.

Profiles – The Interim Steering Committee

Rae Hurrell

Rae Hurrell is a woman with a hidden disability. She is the mother of two adult children, who also have hidden disabilities. She is a teacher at a primary school in Brisbane. Rae developed a muscular problem in the lower back. She became interested in the Disability Rights Movement. She joined DPI in Queensland and in 1985 she was elected as Queensland’s representative to the National Council of DPI(A). She still holds this position. She has held various positions in DPI(A) including Vice President for Communications, which involved the editorial of “Our Voice” magazine and Vice President (Administration).

She became interested in the area of women with disabilities and became co-convenor of the National Women’s Network in 1991 and convenor in 1992. Since then Rae has written many papers and, been to many conferences both nationally and internationally.

From her own experience and also from her travels within and outside of Australia, Rae realises the problems faced by women with disabilities – first as a woman and then as a person with a disability. She is keen to have the area of women with disabilities recognised and appreciated in the disability rights movement, the women’s movement and in the wider community.

Margaret Cooper

Margaret Cooper has been a disability activist since she and another student lobbied the University of Melbourne for wheelchair access to the Student Union. Margaret works as a social worker in a public hospital, lives in a unit and manages her disability with the aid of an electronic wheelchair, a lap top computer and 20 hours attendant care per week. Through her work and her experience as an activist, Margaret has found women with disabilities face more social-economic disadvantage than men with disabilities.

As DPI(A)’s representative Margaret shared this knowledge with the National Women’s Consultative Council 1990-1993 and the recent round Table conference of national women’s organisations with the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. Margaret is now involved in the Victorian Women with Disabilities Network which is currently developing an exciting health advocacy submission.

Melissa Madsen

Melissa Madsen is 26 years old and a wheelchair user. She is currently employed as a Disability Liaison Officer at Flinders University, and as a Project Officer with the University of South Australia. She has an honours degree in pure mathematics from the University of Adelaide, and has completed half of a graduate diploma in women’s studies.

Melissa was until recently the President of Disabled Peoples International (SA Branch) and has been a director of Disabled Peoples International (Australia). She was recently elected to the board of the Sexuality and Disability Association of South Australia, and is a member of the management committee of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association (SA Branch). Melissa has accepted invitations on numerous occasions to present the perspective of women with a disability at various forums. Melissa sees the National Women’s Network as a vital step towards empowering Australian women with a disability.

Alex Gregg

Alex has been involved in the Disability Movement for four years. She has been State DPI Senior Vice President, Southern Branch Treasurer and is currently the State President. She has represented Tasmanians with disabilities interstate and overseas. She is serving her second term on the Tasmanian Women’s Consultative Council where she represents women with disabilities. She was involved in the formation of the Tasmanian Disability Awareness Women’s Network. She works full time with the Tasmanian School of Distance Education as a Grades 9-12 humanities teacher and is the Social Sciences Co-ordinator for the school’s Course Program. She has a thirteen year old daughter Katherine.

Dianna Savage

Dianna is 62 years old and has been a paraplegic since a horse riding accident 18 years ago. She has been married for nearly forty years, and has three daughters and a son. Prior to her accident, she owned and ran a Health Food store. Since her accident she has been a volunteer worker for Primary Schools and a Library. Currently she is working two days a week for a disability service centre in Perth.

Lurline Beeston

Lurline was married in 1961 and has two children, a son aged 29 and a daughter aged 27. She has two grandchildren and a spoiled Yorkshire Terrier named Buzz. Lurline has polio and uses a motorised wheelchair.

Lurline’s involvement with the disability consumer sector has been extensive, particularly over the 5.5 years. She commenced working as the Administrative Officer for the Western Region Committee of Disabled Persons (WESTCOD) in January 1988. She has also been heavily involved with transport issues in Victoria playing a role on sub-groups for the State Transport Minister’s Accessible Transport Consultative Council and other committees.

She has participated for several months now as the contact person for the Victorian Women with Disabilities Network. Shehas been a member of many organisations, not the least of them being the Australian Polio Network.

Joyce Deering

Joyce has lived in the Northern Territory since July, 1968. For more than 12 years she lived on Croker Island, an aboriginal mission, now community, 250 kms NE of Darwin, as Store Manager, and at times Office Assistant. From 1981 – 1987 she was a Liaison Officer, working from Darwin, between aboriginal stores, suppliers and transport companies for Arnhem Land Progress Association.

Early in 1987 she became an incomplete paraplegic, caused by tumours on her spine, which started her on another career, with a wooden spoon !! She is active (often vocally) on Darwin City Council’s Access Advisory Committee, Anglicare Respite Services Advisory Committee, a member and on the committee of U3A Darwin, and a member of H.A.N.D. (Helping Allied Neurological Diseases), a group within the M.S. Society, and the NT contact for WWDN, to name a few! Access issues are always relevant in a growing community.

In summary, Joyce is single female Christian senior citizen, not in paid employment, with mobility limitations, still independent , willing and able to use her skills in a voluntary capacity to enhance ease of access for all, wherever and whenever. Just mentioning the Disability Discrimination Act brings re-actions!

The Disability Discrimination Act – by Bianca Culyer

March this year marked the first anniversary of the Australian Disability Discrimination Act (1992), and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission celebrated in style with a publicity launch at Parliament House. Meanwhile in the Senate, the DDA’s effectiveness in it’s first year was being established by Senator Grant Tambling. In all 118 claims of discrimination have been lodged, 10 complaints have been closed under the DDA, and three of these were withdrawn by claimants.

Three to six month wait
DPI(A) prompted further Senate questions which revealed that although complaints made under the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act (1986) are conciliated immediately on acceptance, complaints made under the Disability Discrimination Act average a three to six month wait for conciliation.

Although the DDA offers significant protection and greater opportunities for people with disabilities in Australia, impetus is required from people with disabilities to ensure that the DDA lives up to expectations. “The DDA risks being lost in a sea of apathy” warns consultant Michael Ramsey.

Combating this apathy, DPI(A) has lodged a discrimination complaint against Attorney General Michael Lavarch for discriminating against people with disabilities in the resourcing of the DDA through the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. DPI(A) is also preparing discrimination claims on behalf of people with disabilities, and would be happy to act on your behalf.

Ensure DDA provides the best possible coverage
Discrimination complaints by women comprise of only 38% of cases made under the DDA and the vast majority of these relate to employment situations. To ensure that the DDA provides the best possible coverage for women with disabilities, members of the National Women’s Network can:

  • Lodge all complaints against discrimination with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, or contact DPI(A) for assistance or representation.
  • become involved in developing the Disability Discrimination Standards, contact Bianca (008) 805 428 to find out how.

DPI is currently issuing a questionnaire about which standards should be developed under DDA. If you are interested in commenting on these please contact the DPI office Phone/TTY 06 2823025 0r 008 805428 Fax 06 2823800.

Housing for Women Affected by Mental Illness – by Sally Shipway

Amongst the questions to be put to politicians in March in interviews by Joan Hume, will be that of housing for women affected by mental illness and children. The 1993 Burdekin Report of the National Inquiry into the Human Rights of People With Mental Illness finds that, across the nation, there is a deplorable lack of suitable accommodation with support services for Australians affected by mental illness. In two volumes the Report documents the “dehumanising effects of poverty, inadequate housing and restricted access to meaningful life.” But the many dimensions of neglect and abuse are most striking in Burdekin’s studies of the plight of women with children.

Crisis Care
Between 10% and 30% of women who seek crisis care accommodation in Australian refuges have a mental illness and are strongly represented amongst the tens of thousands of people who are turned away each year because of lack of facilities. Frequently women presenting mental illness are also survivors of early childhood abuse, have multiple disabilities or dependence on drugs or alcohol. Often when refuges cannot admit them, the only choice available to these women is to return to violent situations or become homeless. Many women also lose the struggle to keep their children with them, according to Burdekin, frequently compounds their problems and exacerbates their illness.

Charmian Clift Cottages
The only rehabilitation supported accommodation for women with mental illness and their children may be Sydney’s Charmain Clift Cottages, so named in honour of the Australian writer who was a life long champion of social justice. Women become residents by choice and may live at the Cottages for about 4 months between the stages of institutionalisation and full independence.

Staff at the Charmain Clift Cottages recognise the right and the importance of a woman to be with her children and to maintain her parental role. Residents are supported as they work towards self direction and the integration into the community, so that later they can live independently with their children.

In addition to staff support skills, a range of activities is aimed at strengthening women’s coping skills. Residents are given opportunities to develop more practical approaches to household management, and to explore new ways of conducting personal relationships.

The Director of Charmain Clift Cottages, Yvonne Shipp, believes it is time for communities to count the high cost of hospitalisation and foster care and search out more humane solutions, such as those offered by supported accommodation for women recovering from mental illness. At the very least, greater consideration needs to be given to the welfare of children who are themselves at risk of developing mental illness through separation from their mother and neglect. * While most people are aware that mental illnesses are linked to quality of life issues, the implementation of current policies do not always reflect a commitment to the most fundamental precept of care – “first not to harm”.

Secure, Long Term Housing
The provision of appropriate housing is a basic step towards countering the conditions that exacerbate and may even cause mental illness. For women with episodic or chronic mental illness and their children, there needs to be a range of supported accommodation in each region, and affordable, long term housing available after recovery from acute illness and exposure to violence.

The barriers to the provision of appropriate housing for people with mental illness exist at all levels of the community and government services, but a start can be made to redress the appalling conditions endured by too many Australian women and their children.

Burdekin recommends a nation-wide campaign to educate the community about mental illness – to demystify it and eventually to de stigmatise it. Greater public understanding would provide valuable support for many mentally ill women who are presently unable to lobby for and negotiate their terms of living. Should public concern be translated into policies and programs, we may finally see an integrated and humane approach to health, housing, and support needs of mentally ill women and their children.

*Yvonne Shipp, Women in Limbo, Health Forum, No 28 December 1993 pp 13-14

Dear World

Despite the difference of class, education and cultural situation, women with disabilities have one point in common; they cannot avoid the stigma and double discrimination. I am married to a man who is not disabled, of the same cultural and economic level and moreover, professionally successful and handsome. People are always asking “Why is this man married to a quadriplegic woman? What is the problem? We also have a daughter. Many people think she is adopted because, by ‘common sense’ it is not normal, nor recommended for a disabled woman to have a baby. Rosangela Berman Bioler. Brazil.

Reproduced from Disability International Vol 1 No1 March 94 p 3.

Profile – Sue Davenport

My name is Sue Davenport and I am the new Project Officer for The Network. I thought I would use the opportunity of the newsletter to tell you a little bit about myself. Many years ago I did a degree in Anthropology and Human Sciences at the Australian National University. This gave me a good grounding in those general philosophies, traditions, norms and values that affect and influence our society. It also fuelled my sense of outrage that had been with me since school. This outrage came from a growing understanding of the fear, distrust and marginalisation of some segments of our society, resulting in racism, sexism, lack of opportunity and access to all those things that other segments of our society have.

This outrage has led me to seek work in the community sector and more importantly to work with people. Some of my work experiences have been with organisations such as Ainslie Village Low Cost Accommodation Project, Welfare Rights Centre, Jobline, Adelaide Central Mission, and Western Desert Land Council. In an effort to seek answers and push for changes I have conducted a number of research projects such as: access and equity for young people from non-English speaking cultures, homeless youth, and unemployment.

After spending a great deal of time researching and writing reports I decided there may be other ways to promote change and communicate a message. So I enrolled at the University of Canberra to do a course in professional communication concentrating on video making and photography. Then I embarked on a couple of video projects; one for the Red Cross on the issues confronting young parents and one for the local Koorie community.

The majority of my voluntary effort over the past 6 years has been with Amnesty International. I worked for them as a paid staff member in Canberra and London for a couple of years and since then have worked in a voluntary role as the President of the local Branch and serving on the National Executive Committee.

I am feeling challenged and excited by my new position here with The National Women’s Network. Having read about The Network and talked to various people I feel confident that I can embrace the aims and objectives of the organisation, and put my heart into its future. I am sure I will gain much from my work and that the organisation will be able to utilise my skills and experiences. I look forward to servicing and supporting you to the best of my ability.

Profile – Dianne McGowan

My name is Dianne McGowan. I am 39 years old, married with two sons aged 11 and 9. I was born with a disability (my twin sister died at 18 months). I have cerebral palsy which affects my speech and co-ordination. Maybe my biggest handicap is my hearing. I have a mild to moderate hearing loss in both ears. I wear hearing aids and have a volume control phone at home and hopefully soon at DPI. (If we can get Telecom moving).

From 1973 to 1983 I worked for the Public Service as an office worker. From 1983 to 1993 I was at home looking after my children and sometimes friends’ children for extra money. I also worked in a child minding centre part-time. In 1993 I started work with Unitronics. Unitronics is an electronic business which employs people with severe disabilities. I worked in the office and also in the workshop supervising the consumers. I really enjoyed this work, especially getting to know the very special people. I found myself getting involved in rights and advocacy of people with disabilities. After my 12 months contract ended, not able to find another job, I decided on voluntary work. Through looking for voluntary work I had the pleasure of meeting Bianca. Bianca felt I could contribute to Women’s Network and DPI and I have since been working three days a week, primarily on the Network.

I feel from my own experiences and working at Unitronics, that a lot of work still needs to be done for people with disabilities. I feel there are not enough people with disabilities willing to stand up for themselves and others who cannot speak for themselves. I am hoping through working at DPI I can gain confidence in myself and hopefully help others.

Introducing the Australian Women’s Health Network

The Australian Women’s Health Network’s (AWHN) purpose is to pursue the health interests of women, by women for women. It was formed in 1987 from a continuing concern for the need to include the experience of women in achieving a system of modern health care which is responsive to women’s needs.

The Australian Women’s Health Network philosophy consists of the following: diversity is strength; diversity is maintained by pursuing links with individuals and organisations to further women’s common goals; health needs encompass all of our lifespan; women’s view of health reflects their diverse roles in society, not just their reproductive role and decision making in the Network is participatory and informed by consultation. The AWHN believes their aims can only be achieved by mutual trust and integrity.

The Australian Women’s Health Network is a non political, independent, organisation. It is a national advocacy and information sharing body and an umbrella organisation for State and Territory Women’s Health Networks, and other national organisations which embrace its objectives and philosophy.

The AWHN aims include the following: to provide a national voice for women’s health issues based on informed consultation with members; promote a practical understanding of a broad definition of women’s health issues based on a social view of health; lobby and advocate on women’s health issues; to strengthen the AWHN by coordinating the sharing of information, skills and resources and to promote equity within the health system eg providing equitable access to services for all women in particular those disadvantaged by race, class, education, age, poverty, sexuality disability, geographical location, cultural isolation and language.

For more information contact the Australian Women’s Health Network
G.P.O. Box 432, Canberra, ACT, 2601
(ph) 06-239-6212 (fax) 06-239-6320

Letters to the Editor

Being a middle aged disabled woman with a speech impairment, I have attended many meetings in my lifetime, community, church and disabled organisations etc.

Many women with disabilities find it a frustrating and distressing waste of energy attending disabled meetings chaired by able-bodied people or parents of disabled children who deliberately ignore disabled women and treat them as children, or as if they didn’t exist. They appear to exploit the persons very disability, to exert power over them.

A classic example of this, was when I was attending a disability meeting chaired by the parent of a disabled child who ran “rough shod” over me by deliberately ignoring my attempts to ask a question. My husband had to ask the chairperson twice, before I was given a hearing.

If Community Services and Health want the support of disabled women in the community to participate in setting up disability networks, then the disabled women must have a voice. Other wise able-bodied people with their own axes to grind could be accused of taking Government grants monies under false pretences, using scarce disability funding to create comfortable jobs for able-bodied people, many of whom will not listen to, or reflect the views of disabled people.

(Mrs) Deidre Dalley

Open Learning

Open Learning is a growing alternative to traditional education, which allows you to study for similar qualifications, with your choice in delivery. No longer must education mean unreasonable time-tables, daily travel, and battles against physically and socially inaccessible institutions.

Open Learning has been touted ‘barrier free’ education, and although DPI(A) will (and does) argue the validity of this definition , open learning may offer some women with disabilities an opportunity they may not have considered.

DEET has funded the Open Learning Technology Corporation to further develop forms of Open Learning, and increase it’s availability within educational facilities. The OLTC has a disability section, and will hold a conference in Sydney later this year to explore the needs of people with disabilities in regard to Open Learning.

If you are interested and would like more information contact Bianca (008) 805 428, or the OLTC directly on (08) 201 7810.

National Advocacy Workshop

The National Advocacy Workshop will be held in Sydney on June 8, 9 and 10 1994. The National Women’s Network will be represented at this meeting, although our representative has not yet been determined.

The workshop will be restricted to sixty participants, and the main objective will be to explore advocacy issues and perspective’s. The four themes for the Workshop will be Safeguarding Advocacy, Participative Mechanisms, Access Equity and Resourcing and Advancing Advocacy.

The National Women’s Network through our representative, will reinstate the need for systems advocacy which addresses the particular needs of women with disabilities. We also hope to explore ways in which women with disabilities may further participate in the design of services which in turn advocate for them.

If you have an interest or particular view on advocacy and wish to convey this to the workshop – Contact Bianca (008) 805 428.


ACRPH (Australian Council for Radio for the Print Handicapped) 16 Feb 1994 – Contains a letter to Michael White from Mark Wilson on behalf of Peter Luckett Chairman of ACRPH and details of RPH National Conference Program.

ADULT LEARNERS WEEK 1995 – A discussion paper February 1994.

DASU NEWS Volume 30 March 1994 Ref: J601/3.

DEAC NEWS January 1994 (Disability Employment Action Centre)- Contains articles on Education Update; Playing the Numbers Game; Is DEAC on the right track? Ref:J301/4.

DISABLED EUROPEANS – EU News Update March 1994 Ref: 503/2.

DEAC NEWS March 1994 – Contains: Editorial, Employment, DEAC Services, Training, TAFE, News in Brief, DEAC Publications, Whats on? DEAC News; Subscription form. Ref : J301/4.

HEAR NO EVIL, SEE NO EVIL, SAY NO EVIL Deaf-Blind Association (NSW) Contains details about the next meeting Ref: 613/10.

LINK Newsletter number 3-February 1994 – Contains a report on Consumer Workshops, Ref: 402/7.

LINK-UP (Library Services for People with Disabilities) Issn 0158-5460 Number 84 February 1994 Ref: 672.

LINKUP (The newsletter of People with Disabilities NSW Inc) Number 89 February/March 1994 – Contains news about Tutu to open World Assembly, PWD’s premises officially opened, Access: People with a disability from Non-English Speaking background, Restoring full employment. Ref: 301/2.

MONITOR (International Children’s Rights) 4th quarter 1993 Vol 10 Number 4.

RIGHTS FOR ALL What the standards mean; It’s OK to Complain, Questions and Answers; Letters from around Australia; People First Conference Canada; The Right To Your Own Opinion Disability Discrimination Act.


10 June 1994
Australian Committee of Independent Living Centres National Forum – Appropriate Technology for People with Disabilities in Rural and Remote Communities.

13-15 July 1994
‘Negotiating the Future” – Theory and Practice in the Australian and New Zealand Third Sector, hosted by Queensland University of Technology.
Contact: QUT, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane QLD, 4001
Tel (07)864 1268; Fax (07) 864 1812

25-29 July 1994 1-5 August 1994
Recreational Activities Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities (West Australia.)
Contact Jon Tomczak (08) 3705466

26-28 July 1994
“Specialised Transport – for the Aged and People with Disabilities”, International Conference and Exhibition, Moonee Valley Racecourse, Melbourne.
Contact: Ray Ken-Allan, Conference Coordinator SAE Australasia,
191 Royal Parade, Parkville, Vic, 3052; Tel (03) 347 2220; Fax (03) 347 0464.

September 1994
Conference on National Mental Health Policy for Deaf and Hearing Impaired People, hosted by Australian Association of Workers with the Deaf , Sydney.
Contact Margaret Imrie/Peter Mulham;
Tel (02) 560 6433; TTY (02) 564 2202 Fax (02) 550 9625.

26 September-1 October
Brain Injury Awareness Week

28-30 September
“Surviving Mental Illness!” – 4th Annual Mental Health Services Conference of Australia and New Zealand
Incorporating the 3rd Annual ANZ Mental Health Achievement Awards, Melbourne University.
Contact:Pauline Turner/Jayashri;
Tel (03)797 1822; Fax (03) 706 8636.

26-30 October 1994
6th Joint National Conference of the National Council on Intellectual Disability and the Australian Society for the Study of Intellectual Disability, Esplanade Hotel, Freemantla WA.
Contact: Fred Noteboom, PO Box 446, Jolimont, WA, 6014;
Tel (09) 387 0555; Fax (09) 387 0599

2-4 November 1994
Advancing Rehabilitation Conference, Radisson President Hotel, Melbourne, Victoria.
Contact: Continuing Education Unit, La Trobe University, Locked Bag 12, Carlton South, Vic 3053;
Tel (03) 418 6951; Fax (03) 418 6988.

17-18 November 1994
ACROD Convention, to be held at the Lakeside Hotel, Canberra.

17-20 November 1994
Australian Cystic Fibrosis Conference, Hotel Nikko Potts Point, Sydney.
Abstracts no later than 30 June 1994.
Contact: Australian Cystic Fibrosis Association , PO Box 254, North Ryde, 2113
Tel (02) 878 5250; Fax (02) 878 5058.

5 December 1994
World Assembly of DPI, Sydney.