Issue 8, October 1994

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with all types of disabilities in Australia. It is a not-for-profit organisation constituted and driven by women with disabilities. It is the only organisation of its kind in Australia and one of only a very small number internationally. WWDA is inclusive and does not discriminate against any disability. WWDA is unique, in that it operates as a national disability organisation; a national women’s organisation; and a national human rights organisation.

In This Edition

Letter From the Coordinator – Rae Hurrell

Christmas Time Again – by Jenny Heckendorf

The Asia Pacific Regional Meeting of the DPI Women’s Committee

The World Assembly

Around the States

The Female Swan – by By Suniti Namjoshi

Women With Disabilities and Their Families

Challenging Disabling Images

Profile – Riding for the Disabled Leads the Way

Environment Committee Report

Round Table Conference Report

Wet Lips

Women Power and Public Transport

Women Politics and Power Conference

Standard Rules – by Bengt Lindqvist

Emerging From the Shadows

Research Project Into Violence

My Autistic Son


Coming Events

Letter From the Coordinator – by Rae Hurrell

I would like to take this opportunity to extend to you the warmest of Christmas Greetings. 1994 has been a wonderful year for WWDA with many things accomplished and developing. It has been a year when women with disabilities individually and collectively have struggled and succeeded in many public and private battles. Although there are many ongoing struggles in each of our lives, if we can continue to support each other and work in cooperation we can progress to a more equal and fair society which embraces difference and celebrates similarities.

As the end of the year fast approaches, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank our project officer, Sue Davenport, for her untiring effort on our behalf. Sue has given well beyond the call of duty and for that Sue we all extend our appreciation. I would also like to thank the DPI(A) office staff and in particular Di McGowan and Bianca Culyer who have given us every assistance during the year. I would like to thank DPI(A) for the assistance they given to WWDA, during 1994. However, even with the help of all of these we could not have a network without the dedicated help of the steering committee. To each of you I extend my personal thanks for your help and support during the year.

1995 promises to be an exciting one with the UN Women’s Conference in Beijing high in everyone’s thoughts. May 1995 be even bigger and brighter for WWDA than 1994 was, and may it also be a bright Happy New Year for each and every one of you.

Christmas Time Again – by Jenny Heckendorf

As a little girl I spent many Christmas’s in Sydney with my sister, Michelle and my parents. Leaving Christmas cake and a bottle of beer out for Santa. giggling half the night and pretending we were asleep. I have cerebral palsy which developed progressively from a grande-mal at the age of three. When I was 6, I got really excited when I was given my shinny blue met-a-light walking frame, my sister got her scooter. Mine was easier to drive; I didn’t think of the comparison between the two as being discriminating in any way.

It was about this time that I figured out who Santa really was. Michelle was three years younger then me so I had to keep up the charade until I was nine or ten. Unfortunately the strain of the day was wearing and the day often ended with an argument.

By the time I was in my twenties I was confined to chairs for most of the time. As well as this I hadn’t been very thoughtful of my parents needs. I can see now my experiences over the years, of a few near brushes with death, as well as the normal proposals of leaving sheltered care, and those of marriage, were putting a strain on my immediate family. We had no other family support in Sydney and although we had each other on Christmas day, it was a strain. In 1988 I left home suddenly, leaving my family distraught. We were emotionally too painfully upset to face each other on Christmas day.

As a grown married woman living in Canberra I now spend my Christmas’s with my in-laws. We have a very happy Christmas day together. It is difficult for my husband and I to get physical access to my parents home. We exchange Christmas wishes by phone but there are several moments during that day I remember things like leaving Christmas cake and a bottle of beer out for Santa.

Christmas can be an unhappy time of the year for many people, especially those who don’t have a lot of money. These are quite often people who are either aged and in poor health, the disabled or women left alone with tiny children. Just remember them for a moment. On Christmas day we celebrate the birth of Christ by giving. If you can’t give anything else, give a smile. Enjoy your Christmas Day.

The Asia Pacific Regional Meeting of the DPI Women’s Committee

The chairperson for the Asia/Pacific Regional Women’s Committee will be elected at the Asia/Pacific Regional Council meeting in Jakarta in late November. This woman will hold this position for the next four years. With such a large region reaching from India in the west to Korea in the east; China in the north and Australia/New Zealand in the south and encompassing some of the poorest countries in the world, this will be a demanding role for the new chairperson.

The World Assembly

The DPI World Women’s Committee will meet on December 4th with two representatives from each of the five world regions meeting in the morning and an open meeting in the afternoon, with the 1995 UN Women’s conference to be held in Beijing high on the agenda. On Thursday December 8th WWDA will host a morning for women with disabilities. The major topics will be communication, networking and empowerment. The speakers will be from Australia as well as overseas. The presentations will be followed by smaller discussion groups.

Around the States

Australian Capital Territory Group Report

The ACT Group is developing a group identity which gives all the members a sense of belonging. To celebrate Christmas and the end of the year, we will be having an afternoon tea at the cafe Mirrabrook outside the National Gallery on Saturday 19th December. If anyone would like to join us then please come along on that day.

We have been speaking to the ACT Government about the inappropriately high standards required in the application form for the List of Nominees which is the ACT’s equivalent to the National Register of Women. We were asked to submit our concerns as the form is being redesigned to encourage members of target groups to apply. Each group member is carrying out this at present.

The constitution continues to be worked on. We have spent quite a bit of time on creating our own constitution. Once it has been completed with appropriate words to describe our relationship to the national body it will be ready to lodge.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas and holiday if you are having one. If you are going to the World Assembly, please come and speak to me.

Di Palmer

Women With Disabilities Western Australia Network

The West Australian Network held a public meeting on 17th November at 12.30pm. They discussed various issues which affect women with a disability such as lower employment opportunities, sexual harassment, rejection through isolation, women’s rights etc. For more information about what’s happening in West Australia call Maria McGrath on ph. (09) 4583127 or PWD (09) 3866477

Maria McGrath

Victorian Women With Disabilities Network State Report

Hi from the Victorian Women with Disabilities Network (VWWDN). Our group was formed in April ’92. We meet regularly on the first Saturday of every month to discuss anything relevant to the needs of women with disabilities and to develop strategies to advance the interests of our constituency. During this time, we have applied for various funding grants, the majority unsuccessfully. We have at last been granted $700 from Health and Community Services to assist us with the mailouts of minutes and information to our 240 members across Victoria.

We have a regular group attending our monthly meetings, but there are also other members that attend whenever it is possible or when there is an interesting item for them being discussed. Our priority at the moment is to develop a resource guide for women with disabilities about the Health Services that exist across the State. This would include discussions on how women with disabilities can best manage their health requirements.

We have been supported by various politicians, State and Federal. They have provided different resources. Also, WESTCOD (Western Region Committee of Disabled Persons) have constantly provided support to further the cause of a women’s group in the State. WESTCOD recently obtained a grant for an advocacy project, and kindly suggested that it would be beneficial to our group if some of their women members were to participate in the project both as staff and consumer participants. This would be beneficial to ensure that women with disabilities are mobilised and empowered throughout the course of this project. On behalf of the VWWDN I would like to thank WESTCOD for giving us this opportunity.

Several of our members will be attending the World Assembly in December, and hope we get the opportunity to meet and network with many other women across Australia. I can be contacted on the following phone no. (03) 689-3044 or facsimile no. (03) 689-1679. Merry Christmas to all.

Lurline Beeston

The Female Swan – by Suniti Namjoshi

And then there was the duckling who aspired to be a swan. She worked very hard, studied the history and literature of swans, the growth of their swanhood, their hopes and ideals, and their time honored customs. In the end, even the swans acknowledged that this duck had rendered them a signal service.

They threw a banquet (no ducks were invited) and gave her a paper, which clearly stated that thereafter she would be an Honorary Swan. She was highly gratified, as were some of the ducks who began to feel that there was no hope for them. Others just laughed. “A duck is a duck” they said, “and ought not to aspire to be a swan. A duck by definition, is inferior to swans.” This seemed so evident that they forgot the matter and paddled off.

But there were still others who were angered by this. “Those ducks do not think,” they said. “But as for the learned one, she has betrayed us to the cause of swans. She is no longer a duck She is a swan.” This too seemed evident.

They turned to Andersen. “Well,” he said, “there are a great many ducks and a great many duck-ponds.” But that didn’t help, so he tried again. “The thing is,” he said, “you are beginning to question the nature of ducks and the values of swans. “Yes ,” they said. “We know, but where will it end?” “I don’t know,” said Andersen, “You’re learning to fashion your own fables.”

Women With Disabilities and Their Families – by Alex Gregg from Taslink

Women with disabilities experience the same joys and frustrations with their families as other women, but for women with disabilities, because of the nature of their of impairments and barriers presented by an inaccessible world, meeting their own needs and those of their families is more difficult.

Many women with disabilities are constantly battling low energy levels and tiredness as they push their bodies to keep up with the everyday demands of family life. Many manage as best they can without the support of services and often rely heavily on their children or their spouses. The limitations caused by a disability constantly affect a family’s activities and the stress that can result from carrying an extra burden of disability while trying to lead a “normal’ life can have detrimental effects on relationships within the family.

Mothers with disabilities worry about the effects of their disabilities on their children. They worry about being dependent on their children for care, and feel they are denying their children a proper childhood. They are concerned that their children’s friends tease them about their “spastic” mother. They worry about how to deal with children who feel responsible for their mother’s safety. They feel guilty about maybe making too many demands for help with household chores. Many mothers with disabilities also feel guilty about not being able to participate in activities with children because they are physically unable to or that the venue is inaccessible. Adolescence can be a particularly trying time as women with disabilities may need to deal with their children’s resentment and anger about the effects of the disability on them, without feeling guilt or grief. If women have a supportive spouse or partner they can feel guilty about the demands placed on them.

If women with disabilities are single parents or have a non-supportive spouse or partner then family responsibilities can become overwhelming. A great deal of the burdens of family responsibilities would be lightened for women with disabilities if women could access services available to them. However many women with disabilities are over-burdened and consequently don’t have time or energy to become involved in consumer organizations to find out what help is available. Many women may not be aware of the technological aids available to make life easier. Women with disabilities who can’t access public transport and who can’t drive or don’t have access to a car can become isolated especially if they don’t have supportive family and friends.

Many women with disabilities cannot afford to buy the services that would help to make life easier, such as home help. The cost of modifying their homes to alleviate some of the physical burden may be out of their reach. Often if there is money to spare women with disabilities will often deny themselves and spend it on their children even if using it to buy help for themselves would have made life a bit easier.

The desire to work outside the home is just as important for some women with disabilities as it is for other women. In some cases, the higher cost of disability may compel women with disabilities to work so they can offset the costs and be in a position to buy whatever they may need to help them live as independently and as full a life as possible. However trying to juggle the demands of work, as well, can cause enormous strain especially if this exacerbated by lack of awareness in the workplace of the needs of people with disabilities and the physical strain of constantly coping with inaccessible buildings and lack of facilities for people with disabilities.

Society expects women with disabilities to be even more compliant than women without disabilities. There is pressure on women with disabilities to accept their lot in life and to be thankful for whatever assistance they may receive. Women with disabilities who fight for their rights or better services are seen to “have a chip on their shoulder” or not to have accepted their disability. Women with disabilities appreciate the support they receive from their family and friends and cannot manage without it but it can be frustrating to be constantly reliant on others and to feel constantly in debt to them. Frustration, anger and resentment may accompany a women with a disability’s struggle, often against overwhelming physical odds, to have for themselves and their families the same lifestyles, opportunities and aspirations as other women. If women with disabilities are further disadvantaged by being aboriginal or are from a non English speaking background then coping with everyday family life is even more difficult.

Women with disabilities are coping with their family responsibilities with resourcefulness and endurance. Their children are learning to be responsive and responsible and have opportunities to acquire skills that are rare in families who don’t have disabilities. Women with disabilities are further strengthened by contact with other women with disabilities who have families and with whom they can discuss similar problems. Services are gradually acknowledging that women with disabilities need help even though they may have a spouse or partner, or children or they may be working. Women with disabilities are increasingly demanding and exercising the right to have the same lives and opportunities as other Australian women.

Press Release – Challenging Disabling Images

A new national research project has recently been set up to explore the ways in which images of disability are created and used in the mass media. The project will also investigate the impact of those images on people with disabilities. It will explore the strategies that people with disabilities might be able to use to overcome social barriers, and to participate more fully in decisions that influence their lives. The project, which started this year, will run for three years. It is called disability, representation and social participation.

The researchers hope that the project will have a number of practical outcomes. One may be to work with disability organisations, the media industry and policy makers on drafting good practice guidelines for broadcasters, advertising agencies, charities and others in relation to how people with disabilities are presented in the media.

Debate and direct action over the past few years by organisations around the world of people with disabilities have raised a number of challenges to the traditional and often stereotypical images of disability used by a wide range of organisations involved in providing services, policy-making or fundraising. Such images are seen by the movement as discriminatory and disabling, and as having an impact on the participation in economic, cultural and social life desired and required by people with disabilities.

In Australia no effective moves have yet been made by the media and advertising industries, or by government, to explore, develop and promote good practice aimed at eroding all too common media stereotypes of people with disabilities as, for example, ‘heroic’, ‘tragic victims’, ‘evil’, or ‘passive and dependent’. This research project aims, by setting up in-depth discussions groups and interviews with a range of people and organisations, and by analyzing everyday images of disability, to assist in the overdue public debate about effective means of challenging this particular aspect of discrimination. The researchers believe that changes in the media are closely related to the broader empowerment of people with disabilities.

The project is being run by Helen Meekosha and Andrew Jakubowicz, and they would welcome comments, ideas, examples of images from the media, and further queries. It is supported by the Australian Research Council under a research scheme for academic work. If you would like to be kept informed about the project, please write to the address below.

Helen Meekosha, School of Social Work, University of New South Wales, PO Box 1, Kensington, NSW 2033 Australia . Fax (02) 662 8991. or Andrew Jakubowicz, Fax (02) 330 2296.

Profile – Riding for the Disabled Leads the Way

With only two part-time national administrators, a handful of state and territory level administrators, and more than 3,000 unpaid staff members, the Riding for the Disabled Association, Australia (RDA) is now considered a world leader by other countries. One of the strengths behind RDA’s development towards professionalism is Victorian RDA State Coach, Sue Haydon. Haydon was born with mild cerebral palsy and, as a child, couldn’t walk around with her brothers, so they would lead her about on a pony. At seven she became involved with a RDA pilot scheme to monitor the therapeutic benefits of riding. Within a year, she had discarded her calipers and joined a pony club.

“For me RDA has swung the focus of my life from someone with disabilities to someone with abilities,” Haydon said. “On the ground, my disability is obvious, but on a horse I can do everything an able-bodied person can do.” RDA has more than 2000 coaches and a coaching system closely integrated with the Equestrian Federation of Australia and the Pony Club Association, which allows RDA riders to merge into the mainstream of the Australian equestrian scene.

In Australia, recognition by medical and paramedical professionals of the benefits of horse riding for the disabled needs to be increased and, again, will only increase with proven statistics. Such research is being conducted in the United States, Canada and Germany, with an emphasis on the involvement of physiotherapists and a process called hippotherapy. Hippotherapy is the use of horses as an instrument for physical therapy. The horse’s walk is three dimensional, with forward, backward and sideways movements. For a lot of people who can’t walk, sitting on a walking horse is the closest they will ever get to walking. The movement of the horse’s walk moves through the rider’s body and promotes balance, coordination and spinal extensions. Physiotherapists can manipulate the rider’s limbs whilst the horse is walking to encourage, for example, pelvic and leg movement. The riders can lie flat on the horse while it is walking to improve shoulder and upper body movement. Another advantage of gaining this movement through the horse rather than a machine is that the horse’s body warmth helps relax spastic muscles.

The problem in Australia is that this therapy is very new and there is an obvious need for highly trained physiotherapists who also have knowledge about horses.

But the more basic benefits are beginning to gain recognition. “often people with autism don’t like to touch anything, but they really like the movement of the horse, especially at the trot.” Mary Longden Vice President of RDA International said. “We have highly trained helpers who can say to them Okay if you will hold the reins we will trot.” “It’s a very positive reward system which is basically giving these people survival skills. Once they’ve held the reins, they can take this new skill and hold a fork”, says Longden. “It’s difficult to measure the benefits of riding because it’s hard to establish a control group,” she added. “Each person is so different. Some experts say that the progress some people make after they’ve been riding would have happened anyway.”

Those who really know what a difference riding horses can make are the people who attend one of the 140 centres across Australia each week and climb aboard. Sue Hayden explained “RDA doesn’t discriminate against who it helps. As long as there are no medical restrictions why a person shouldn’t ride, anyone can come and be a part of RDA.”

Thousands of people ride with RDA each year, most seeing some sort of progress, a lot finding success in learning to smile or hold the reins. The RDA organization is also going from strength to strength and with sponsorship, research and funding, all these people, from age two to ninety two can come out winners.

Contact Sue Cusack (03) 3722126 Head of National Body.

In June this year, Australia gained its first ever placing at a world dressage championship. The riders were on borrowed horses and backed by a non-profit organisation. They were representing Riding for the Disabled Association Australia.

By Jillian Mulally (free lance sports journalist.)

Environment Committee Report – by Rae Hurrell

The environment sub committee recently welcomed two new members. These people are both members of the Australian Chemical Trauma Alliance. This organisation is a support group for people who are affected by chemicals.

Chemically induced illness is known by many names, such as 20th Century Disease, environment illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Yuppie Flu, and so on. What ever name it is given it is a disabling complaint which can affect all parts and all systems of the body, and can range from a mild, flu-like lethargy to full scale respiratory, coronary and gastric symptoms.

Because this is a hidden disability many sufferers also suffer the stigma of being considered malingerers, cranks, lazy or just plain bludgers. If only!! This little known and little publicized disability is frighteningly real and also frighteningly on the increase as we continue to pollute and poison our world. The American National Academy of Science has estimated that some 15% of the US population is adversely affected by chemicals. There is no reason to suppose that the situation is any different in Australia. More and more we are realizing that the future of our earth, in fact our own future, is in our hands.

Round Table Conference Report – by Margaret Cooper

I represented WWDA at the second Round Table Conference of National Women’s Organisations with the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women, Carmen Lawrence. This meeting was held in September 1994 in Canberra. The agenda was made up of the following items:

  • The United Nations Year of Tolerance
  • Women and Superannuation.(OSW and the Economic Planning Advisory Council have issued a paper)
  • The UN Fourth World Conference on Women. (I suggested that the draft Australian Report, the precursor to the final Australian report which will be the basis for Australia’s position at the conference, only makes fleeting reference to women with disabilities. I also complained that there should have been a report on the Australian initiatives which have helped us such as the Disability Discrimination Act and the Lavarch recommendations.)
  • Gender bias and the law
  • Further education and the law
  • Home Child Care Allowance/Childcare rebates.
  • Recognition of unpaid work.
  • Muslim women
  • Other business

In other business Carmen Lawrence said she felt there was room for development of a peak council of women. She suggested women’s organisations should make a decision about the value of a peak council. For WDDA these future plans would mean that a group just representing issues would no longer be enough. We would have to research and advocate for the strategies to cancel out our problems. Then we would have to build alliances with like minded organisations to create a power bloc which a national peak council will accept.

In a way this new game is really a way of formalizing the best of feminist practice. These were the major issues: finding women who share issues, developing consensus organisations, constantly recruiting new allies, individual and others, frequent communication, avoidance of power elites which destroy trusting partnerships, and building up united strength to meet challenge.

Wet Lips – by Melinda Smith

The first sip, I touched the glass
Cold against my lips, pressing
down hard on the tongue
Holding head back, I let it fill up
the inside of my mouth, and swallowed
it whole
that bitter taste, forces
me to shut my eyes
I felt her fingertips gently around the glass
underneath my wet chin
as she wiped away the dribble stains
running down my neck

so that’s what it’s like, drinking
beer out of a glass

Better, I winked at her, than through a bloody straw.

Women Power and Public Transport – by Melissa Madsen

A landmark conciliated agreement resulting from three complaints brought under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) will ensure access to public transport in South Australia for people with disabilities. The change will not be immediate – possibly taking two or three years to implement – but after decades of inaction it will finally happen.

The agreement between wheelchair users Maurice Corcoran, Melissa Madsen, Judy Thompson and the State of South Australia is also good news for more than 100,000 other citizens of Adelaide who have reduced mobility because of other disabilities, ageing, temporary injuries or even just the fact of travelling with children or shopping – many of whom are women. The agreement also has major national implications. Representatives of public and private transport operators throughout Australia stated that the South Australian action had galvanised their members to address the needs of people with disablities urgently.

This agreement is not only a major victory for people with disabilities – it is also a major victory for women with disabilities. It is not insignificant that the three complainants, two were women with disabilities.

One of the major phases of this campaign – the interim determination in September – saw unprecedented media coverage of the voices, issues and faces of women with disabilities, as women not directly connected with the case assisted the media coverage of more general access issues. Support for the complainants’ campaign came also from women’s organisations.

It is coincidental, but perhaps auspicious, that while the President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission was hearing this complaint, the Women, Power and Politics conference was taking place less than a mile away. The result of this hearing demonstrates, that although women with disabilities continue to be marginalised within mainstream disability and women’s organisations, women with disabilities are not powerless to effect change.

The main points of the concilliated agreement are:

  • An Action Plan will be developed by the State Government in consultation with people with disabilities to ensure that access issues are addressed.
  • The State Government will obtain 3 wheelchair accessible buses to begin trials as soon as possible. As from July 1995 the first low floor fully accessible buses will come into operation at a rate of one new bus per week until October 1995, when the Commission will re-convene.
  • These buses will be the basis of a pilot scheme leading to the deployment of more accessible transport for all.
  • The interim determination preventing purchae of a further 128 buses remains in force until a continuation of the hearing in approximately 12 months.

Women Politics and Power Conference – by Sue Davenport

This international conference was held in Adelaide from 8-11th October 1994. The conference attracted 900 women from throughout Australia, New Zealand and many overseas countries. During the four days there were keynote speakers and workshop leaders from countries throughout the world: Africa, India, Mongolia, Alaska, America, Ireland, Sweden, Canada and Singapore. These speakers were interesting and at times provocative, and the different views and life experiences about how women can become equal partners was inspiring and sustaining.

Several groups however, felt excluded from the conference. Women with disabilities was one of those groups along with Indigenous women and lesbian women. There were a number of concession places available but they were in short supply. The high price of the conference and the location in Adelaide means that there were very few (I saw 3) women with a disability.

The conference did not have one workshop, paper, or address on issues specific to women with disabilities. The conference did not have one speaker who had a disability (although someone may have had an invisible disability). It seemed as though women with disabilities were invisible. There was very little opportunity to protest at this omission. The Aboriginal women protested loudly and vehemently at the opening plenary. Those from low income situations held a demonstration. The gay group put up a motion at the final plenary which was noted but not voted on. Women With Disabilities (Australia) put a motion through one of the workshops which went to the final plenary and was agreed to unanimously by the 900 delegates.

The motion

Recognizing that women with disabilities experience violation of human rights on the basis of both their gender and disability in all areas of life, and given that approximately 20% of all Australian women have a disability; that:

  • Disability issues are affirmed as women’s issues;
  • Women with disabilities should be provided with opportunities and funding to enable them to participate in the lead up to Beijing and at the conference itself.

Although the conference was an important networking and information gathering and sharing opportunity, I was very disappointed that the issues specifically affecting women with disabilities were not recognized by the conference and included on the agenda.

Standard Rules – by Bengt Lindqvist, Member of Parliament, Sweden

In December last year, the Standard Rules on the equalization of Opportunities for Persons With Disabilities were finally adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. This event means the world has just witnessed the birth of a new kind of international instrument, which is not legally binding for governments but which means a strong political and moral commitment by governments to act accordingly. The rules will be monitored, which means progress will be evaluated.

The elaboration of these rules has raised broad interest and strong involvement both among governments and organizations. Seventy five governments took part in the special meetings arranged by the UN to draft the new instrument. Some governments have already stated to apply rules in their national planning.

The Standard Rules are based on a human rights perspective: “In all societies of the world there are still obstacles preventing persons with disabilities from exercising their rights and freedoms and making it difficult for them to participate fully in the activities of their societies. It is the responsibility of states to take appropriate action to remove such obstacles.”

In 22 main rules and in additional sub-rules and guidelines, a policy of integration and participation is outlined, which is well known to all DPI members and advocates. It is important to know that the rules are relevant for all nations. irrespective of system or society or level of development. The rules are different from declarations or general statements through the characteristics. They are clearly directed toward the government responsibility. This makes them rather short and very principled in nature.

The second characteristic, which probably is the most important, is that the rules will be monitored. The monitoring system seems to be strong and dynamic, with a special rapporteur and a panel of experts appointed by organisations of disabled persons.

Such a system has to be provided with decent resources, with some administrative backing, and possibilities to travel. If the monitoring of the rules is at all going to function, it is once again going to depend on extra budgetary means from a few dedicated governments. Rules or no rules, the world remains the same. There is a wide gap between words and action when it comes to international disability matters. As a political tool for both the national and international struggle, the rules must be used by us.

Emerging From the Shadows – by Lina Pane

Lina Pane has written a major report for WWDA about the status of women with disabilities living in Australia. The report deals with the following areas:

  • The persisitent and growing burden of poverty on women with disabilities,
  • Inequality in access to education, health and related services and other means of maximising the use of women’s capacities.
  • Violence against women with a disability.
  • Inequality in the access of women with disabilities to, and participation in the definition of economic structures and policies and the productive process itself.
  • Inequality between men and women with disabilities in the sharing of power and decision making at all levels.
  • Insufficient machinery at all levels to promote the advancement of women with disabilities.
  • Lack of awareness of and committment to internationally and nationally recognised women’s human rights.
  • Insufficient use of mass media to promote women’s and women with a disability’s, positive contributions to society.
  • Lack of support and recognition for women’s contribution to managing natural resources and safeguarding the environment.

By neccessity this report, (which is covering so many huge areas) is a broad picture. WWDA will be producing more detailed reports in the future on many of these issues.

Emerging From The Shadows will be going to the Office of Status of Women as WWDA’s contribution towards the Australian Report to go to the UN World Conference on Women. It will also the Australian Council of Women and any other organisation or individual who will be need to be informed of the issues and concerns for women with disabilities. The report is available from Sue Davenport or Di McGowan on ph. (008) 805428.

Research Project Into Violence

The NSW Sexual Assault Committee in conjunction with the Ministry for the Status and Advancement of Women has recently undertaken a research project concerning access to existing police and legal and support services for women with disabilities who are subject to violence. This concerns women with physical, sensory, psychiatric and intellectual disabilities.

One of the ways the research will be conducted is by consultations with women with disabilities. The way these are conducted is entirely up to the women themselves. They can be done on an individual basis, with or without a support person present, in small groups, by telephone, by letter or any other way that is convenient and comfortable.

We invite women with disabilities to contact us regarding this project and respond to the questions below:

  • Have you experienced physical or sexual violence?
  • Were you able to get help?
  • Were there any problems getting help?
  • Did anyone think it was your fault?
  • What kind of support did you get?
  • What would have made it easier for you?
  • Do you still need help now?

You can ring Liz Mulder on 02 334 1170 or TTY 008 073 304 (leave a message) or write to her at The Ministry for the Status and Advancement of Women, Level 11, 100 William St. Wooloomooloo 2011. This will be in strict confidence, personal details will not be recorded.

My Autistic Son – by Leonie Murray (‘a mother’)

Often when I’m shopping
Just my little one and me,
A small chore becomes enormous
As he acts Autisticly.

It seems to take forever
Through the check-outs at the shop,
So I pacify with lollies
So a tantrum I can stop.

I know the folks around
If they see him in a rage.
Would think that he is spoilt
And immature for his age.

I make it to the car
But the lolly’s running out.
Since no one is around
I let him have a shout.
But that was just the start
Of such a dismal display.
His seat belt he won’t wear
And the ice-cream melts away.
“Come on Baby-Boy.
Stop this scream and moan”.
As I promise to myself.
‘Next time, I shop alone’

Happy he is now –
As we enter at our gate.
His tears turn into laughter
And once again becomes my mate.

He helps to put the food away
Pretends that he’s the boss.
It’s then, I feel so guilty
And so sad for feeling cross.

In the safety of his home
And unexpectantly for some –
He wraps his arms around me
And says “I LUD-DEL you Mum”.

He makes me feel so needed
And he will for years to come.
I love him as he is –
He is, my special son.

We take Life day by day
With obsessions and delight.
Black and white he sees it
And all is wrong or right.
Repetitive in his ways,
and now predictable, I see –
Because I’ve studied and observed him,
As he lives, Autisticly.


The following publications have been received at the DPI(A) office. For information on publications, please call Sue or Di on (008) 805 428.

WOMEN – Shaping and Sharing the Future – The New National Agenda for Women 1993 – 2000
From the Office of the Status of Women
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

WORKING FROM INSIDE – Twenty years of the Office of Status of Women
Includes – Expectations, The Office and its work, Achievements, A different country, and a list of major publications: OSW and related bodies.

Has an interesting article on – Women with Disabilities Count Our Unwaged Work. This article reviews how people view women’s work and underestimate its use to women with disabilities and to the disability movement generally. This encourages the continued invisibility of women with disabilities.

COWRIE by Cathie Dunsford
1994. Published by Spinifex Press.
A crucial novel, testing the nature of identity on personal, cultural and global levels.

1993. Published by Spinifex Press.
Against the background of the escalating violence of the 80’s, Safe Houses tells a story of three families who are inextricably bound by love and hate, hope and betrayal. This book recently won the 1994 prize for literature.

THE IRON MOUTH by Beryl Fletcher
1993. Published by Spinifex Press
The Iron Mouth revolves around the attempts of a film maker, Khryse, to write a script based on Homer’s poem, the Iliad. As she transforms word into image, she becomes aware that the classic literary narratives of death and glory have continued to legitimate brutal aggression throughout the ages.

Coming Events

30 NOV. -2 DEC. 1994
Women and Drugs Conference: Challenge, Consensus and Change. Organised by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.
For inquiries or submission of abstracts contact Jan Copeland ph (02) 398 9333

3-9 DECEMBER 1994
World Assembly of DPI in Sydney
For information about the World Assembly please contact
World Assembly Office
PO Box 666
Strawberry Hills NSW 2012
Phone (02) 319 6446
Fax (02) 318 1372
TTY (02) 318 2138

Designs on the Future: Women, Education and Resistance
9.15am – 5.00pm
Auditorium, Telford Building
Western Metropolitan College of TAFE
cnr Nicholson and Buckley Sts Footscray
Organised by the Network of Women in Further Education and funded by the Office of the Status of Women. This conference is part of the preparations for the United Nations Fourth World Conference and International Forum on Women to be held in Beijing in 1995
For further information contact the Network of Women in Further Education ph: (03) 654 1327

20-21 FEBRUARY 1995
National Conference on Open Learning and People With A Disability- “Enabling Vision ’95”
The Radisson President Hotel, Melbourne Vic.
Contact: Open learning Technology Corporation ;
Tel (08) 201 7506; Fax (08) 201 7810

8 MARCH 1995
International Women’s Day

27-31 MARCH 1995
12th World Congress – International Federation of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (IFPMR), Sydney. Theme “Quest for Quality”.
Contact: IFPMR Secretariat, D C Conferences,
PO Box 629, Willoughby, NSW, 2068;
Tel (02) 417 8525: Fax (02) 417 8513