Issue 9, Winter 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

Co-ordinators Report

Reports from around the States

Housing in the Australian Capital Territory

What’s New in Housing

Ability Housing

The Queensland Disability Housing Coalition

Adult Learners Week 1995

Action Against Financial Institutions

Access Issues

The Road to Beijing

Commission on Status of Women

Annual General Meeting

Disabled People’s International (Australia)

Abilympics

Regenerating Women

New Publications

Disabilities Services Spotlight


Co-ordinators Report by Rae Hurrell

With the Beijing UN Conference for Women coming closer, tension is mounting and women throughout the world are busy lobbying to ensure that their special interests are included in the programme.

For women with disabilities this is a little more difficult. It has been extremely difficult to establish what the access arrangements/facilities for women with disabilities will be at this conference. Will there be physical access? What about women with hearing difficulties, or vision problems? Will their special needs be catered for? For the last couple of years WWDA has been lobbying to ensure that there is access in its widest terms. This will enable all women to participate.

We were fortunate to have Sue Davenport attend the United Nations Meeting in NewYork. This was the meeting which set most of the agenda for Beijing.

I will be attending the ESCAP (Economic, Social Commission – Asia/Pacific) meeting which is conducting a.special meeting in Bangkok as a preparatory program to Beijing. This meeting will include women with disabilities from most countries in the Asia/Pacific region. This meeting will be followed by one which will look at the progress in the second decade of disabled persons within the Asian and Pacific region. This second decade was declared in 1992. It is estimated that almost 50% of people with disabilities in the world live in this region.

The environment movement uses the phrase “act locally, think globally”. This phrase is equally true for women with disabilities and this has never been so true as in the lead up to Beijing, and the lead up to our very first Annual General Meeting to be held in Melbourne on August 5th. Let us hope that as many women with disabilities as possible will attend both of these historic events.


Reports from around the States

Women With Disabilities (South Australia)

Over the past 10 years there have been several attempts to establish a group specifically for women with a disability in South Australia. These attempts have usually been associated with the management of short term projects and most often the result of initiatives from the women’s health movement rather than the disability movement. While these past efforts are to be applauded, there has been difficulty sustaining a permanent network addressing the double disadvantages experienced by women because they have a disability.

Towards the end of 1994, a small group of women met to identify the sorts of action that could be taken to raise awareness of the issues affecting women with a disability. A small amount of funding was provided by Disability Action for the group to use in 1995. It was decided that a consultant should be employed to achieve the following objectives:

  • to develop an affirmative action resource kit for disability organisations. The kit would provide information such as the nature of double disadvantage experienced by women with disability and suggestions on how agencies could promote equal opportunity within their own offices. This could include advice on what to include in constitutions, office policies and employment procedures.
  • to promote the establishment of an ongoing network for women with a disability.
  • to prepare grant subnu’ssions and identify sources of further funding.

The consultant, Sue Hackney commenced work on a part-time basis in April and shall be working for the group until December this year. If you are interested in becoming involved and /or would like further information about the project, please contact Sue on (08) 373 0817 or at Disability Action on (08) 352 8599.
Sue Hackney

Report from visit to the Western Australia Women’s Network of WWDA

Alison Stanfield represented the national office of WWDA and met with a group of women trying establish a WA group of WWDA. A summary of Allson’s report is as follows.

On Friday 19th of May there was a public meeting which 15 women attended including the Shadow Minister for disability. This meeting addressed questions such as:

Why do we need WWDA and how is it structured? What can Western Australia expect fromWWDA and what does WWDA expect from the Western Australia branch.

It was decided to spend 3 to 6 months increasing the membership by using the contacts people already have and by contacting the organisations. There will be a review of how this is going in 3 months.

The aim is to have between 30 and 50 ‘full, contributing members’ so that office bearers can be elected, and the appropriateness of incorporation can be investigated.

The monthly meetings will have guest speakers talking on a topical issue. The steering comrmttee/current core group will arrange the guest speakers. Full minutes win be taken on the core group meetings. The monthly meetings will be reported on, but full minutes are not necessary. The core group will investigate other opportunities for publicity -‘Infolink’, community papers and resources. The Network would like information on how other states have increased their membership, and hence, any further ideas for increasing membership in Western Australia without incurring huge costs.

Women with disabilities in Western Australia are encouraged to join. Contact Cornelia Burrows on (09) 345 3686.
Alison Stanfield

Victorian Women with Disabilities Network

Hello from the Victorian Women with Disabilities Network. This year is becoming quite a successful year due to two successful funding submissions. One is from the Victorian Health Foundation, which we are beginning to organise, while the other funding which we have received is from Health and Community Services for administrative and mailing expenses which would help us keep in touch!

Early June we had our Annual General Meeting which saw a great team of eight women being elected as the Management Collective.We are also in the final process of being incorporated. On a more personal note, Lurline and myself have accepted an invitation to attend the Abilympics Conference in Perth, September, where I’ll be presenting a paper. It won’t be all work, as we’re planning to spend a week in Perth sightseeing, networking, and making more fantastic memories, like we did in Sydney at the World Assembly.

Until next time…
Lina Pane
Convenor


Our experience with Housing in the Australian Capital Territory – by Jenni Heckendorf

In August 1992, my husband and I came to Canberra to look at the available accommodation services to help us with our day to day lives. Unfortunately, the Australian Capital Territory had no suitable accommodation for a married couple, both dependent on electric wheelchairs. We travelled into Civic each day finding various generic services. We were told we had to wait six months, from the time we took up residence in Canberra, before we could apply for housing.

My husband David started his law degree at the Australian National University in February 1993. We moved into two tiny rooms at Fenner Hall, a University residency. Fortunately, Fenner Hall had just been refurbished, and the administrators couldn’t have been more helpful in providing extra room for storage and adaptive aids such as hand rails and electric door locks. We enjoyed mixing with the students and made many good friends.

In April 1993 we had our first interview with the Australian Capital Territory Government Housing Trust and, were promised a small flat in an inner city suburb by the following October. In the interim we took accommodation in a group house in South Canberra. We soon discovered that this house was not located conveniently to wheelchair accessible shops and general Community Services.

After being promised by the Housing Trust a new unit in Ainslie, North Canberra, which was to be built and ready for us in March 1994, our friends helped us look for a temporary private flat. In November 1993, we phoned many real estate agencies asking for a house with only a few steps -and a roomy bathroom. In December we found a flat in South Canberra. Although not entirely practical, we decided to endure with this until our new premises was ready. We could just manage the one step and we thought we could negotiate the tiny bathroom over the coming summer months.

By April 1994, we had designed our new Ainslie flat with an architect only to learn that the site wasn’t approved by the Department of Environment, Land and Planning. It was a long cold winter. Although we were living in an ideal location, within wheelchair distance of a large shopping complex our small, breezy bathroom became harder to handle with our cold stiff limbs. We had also learnt that a one and half bedroom flat was the standard size offered to one person with disabilities. We argued that a married couple, both dependent on electric wheelchairs and both doing tertiary studies, needed room to set up computers and bookshelves, also needing to have room for a respite carer to sleep over night.

Our persistence wasn’t welcome but seemed to pay off. In October, we were hauled over the coals by a senior executive of the Australian Capital Territory Housing Trust and warned to take a house at Curtin, South Canberra, or go to the bottom of the list. Tired of fighting for our rights, we took a two bedroom house at Curtin. Again the completion date of June 1 slipped by, but project officers and architects have worked closely with us to do all they could to accommodate our needs. Construction is underway and we look forward to moving into our home by mid July. It seems to me, people with disabilities still fight to be accepted as individual people first, unless they are happy to fit into the standard model in many areas of life.


What’s New in Housing – by Diana Currie

The catch-cry “appropriate, affordable, secure housing” is on everyone’s lips these days, and the issue of housing – that is, pubhc and conununity housing, including emergency, transitional and long and shortterm supported housing – is most prominently on the Government’s agenda right now.

In April, the Deputy Prime Minister, Brian Howe, launched National Shelter’s “The Cost of Housing Report” which addresses the connection between poverty and housing, and the often unrealistic ratio of housing cost to gross income to determine what constitutes “affordability”.

One of the most disturbing facts emerging from this report is that single women are by far the most disadvantaged people in all aspects of the housing market: they pay more than any other group (35.8% of their gross income) on private rent; as private home buyers they pay 37.7 of their gross income, again the highest level; and single women pay the highest percentage of that gross income as public housing rent. Of course, there was no reference in the statistical information or elsewhere to women with disabilities, and WWDA will endeavour to contribute information to the next edition of the publication to ensure that these issues are investigated and reported.

Focus on the needs and preferences of service users
Some major reforms affecting all aspects of public and community housing are in the planning stages: a new Connnonwealth State Housing Agreement (CHSA) is to be put into place by June 1996; the Crisis Accommodation Program (CAP) has been under review since last June; and the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) is also being re-organised. All three appear to be heading in a similar direction in that their objective is to focus on the needs and preferences of service users rather than continuing to provide programs based on service providers needs and views.

A number of us were concerned about the limited time for response
A number of consultations in connection with the proposed reforms are currently being carried out, and comments from interested individuals and organisations have been invited. At a recent consultation in which WWDA took part, representatives from various organisations – whose members are potential housing services users – were given a great deal of information regarding the proposed reforms for the CSHA. We had about three hours during which to take in and analyse this information which was very complex indeed, and then we were expected to make a judgement on the merits or otherwise of the proposals. A number of us were concerned about the limited time for response and that we were presented with a comprehensive draft of reform proposals which are probably essentially acceptable, but which really need to be considered by service users.

It could be difficult to achieve the amount of changes necessary
Another major concern that emerged from the Crisis Accommodation Program Reviewis the fact that the most favoured option for reform is also the one that will implement very few changes initially, the rationale being that it will take time to set up an appropriate infrastructure so that proposed changes can be put in place.

Not only will there be minimal change, resulting in the failure both to address some of the present major problems of the crisis accommodation program and to effect immediate benefits for consumers, say the consultants: it also means that “…in practice it could be difficult to achieve the range of changes necessary to develop greater client focus, largely because of the perception that the existing program arrangements will continue”. (CAP review, p 107).

We have to ask ‘just how committed the Federal and State governments REALLY are to changing the focus. They’re making the right noises, but there is a fear that that’s all it might be. Therefore, we need to look very carefully at reform proposals to establish both the intended and the actual rate and magnitude of change to benefit housing consumers. It is essential that all individuals and groups concerned with housing issues keep vigilant, have as much input as possible into debates regarding reforms by participating in public debates, submitting comments, consulting with others, so that the voices of those most affected can be heard and will be listened to.

In the 1996 census there will be no question at all about disability
The lack of specific data available about any issues concerning women with disabilities and in this case information about aspects of housing – is remarkable and disconcerting, and it is of grave concern that in the 1996 census there will be no question at all about disability.

The reform proposals of the major housing services providers – the CSHA, CAP and SAAP- indicate that data collection is a vital component in the improvement of service delivery: up until now, such collection has been arbitrary at best, and we hope that with better information there will be more effective services both for those delivering the services and those receiving them. However, it will be quite some years before a proper data collection system is established, and WWDA will continue to have to rely on mostly anecdotal evidence of the success or failure of certain housing programmes.

WWDA intends to keep in very close contact with specific housing organisations to seize every opportunity to observe progress and to contribute to the debates. WWDA would also like to conduct research among women with disabilities who are consumers of public/community housing, including emergency and transitional housing, and for that purpose we invite you to share with us your knowledge and experiences in this field, and we would appreciate any comments and suggestions you might have.


Ability Housing in the Australian Capital Territory

What is Ability Housing?
Ability Housing is a group of people who have physical disabilities and who share a common vision for the way they wish to live.

What is Ability Housing’s vision?
Ability Housing’s vision is to create a living environment in which the members and their families will have highest quality of life possible.

What might it look like?
Ability Housing has the vision that in a short loop street or a no through street there will be between six or twelve houses and garden flats which will be accessible by wheelchairs. Between these individual homes there will be a community hall which will be able to be used by other residents of the wider community. Accommodation could be available for an overnight on-call worker. There may even be a small set of self-contained bed-sitters attached to a common room.

Who will run this place?
There will be a council of residents who will be responsible for the major decisions to be made for the buildings and grounds. Each resident will be responsible for organising their personal care through generic community services. Each resident will also be responsible for their own lifestyles.

Who would own my home?
Ability Housing will most probably hold the deeds of each place and the resident who has the disability will be given the option to rent their home or to buy equity in their home. The second option would allow the resi dent to accumulate assets of their own.

For more information about Ability Housing contact Marion Ward (02) 6258 6945.


The Queensland Disability Housing Coalition

The Queensland Disability Housing Coalition Incorporated (QDHC) is a peak council comprising both organisations and individuals, and represents the individual support and housing interests of people with disability throughout Queensland. Members of,the QDHC include people with disability, members of their families, their advocates, service providers and other interested individuals and organisations. The management comrruttee of the QDHC is composed almost entirely of people with disability. Some of the aims of the Coalition are:

  • to promote the right of people with disability to live as part of the community in housing which suits their individual needs.
  • to promote the provision of adequate and coordinated support services required by people with disability living in the community.
  • to bring together a diverse group of people with disability, and others, seeking to ensure a choice of affordable housing options for people with disability.

Adult Learners Week 1995

What is Adult Learners Week?
Adult Learners Week is a high profile campaign that win promote lifelong learning across the nation. It win celebrate the contribution made by adult and community education to the empowerment of people and the econonomic, social and cultural development of Australia.

Adult Learners Week will run from 10-16 September 1995. It is the first week of its type to be held in Australia. It is in part based on the enormously successful Adult Learners Week mounted in the United Kingdom over the last 3 years. The Week is endorsed by the Minister for Employment, Education and Training. The Week is funded by the Australian National Training Authority, and coordinated by the Australian Association of Adult and Community Education. It has the involvement of each state government.

There are three national themes for Adult Learners Week to provide a broad framework on which to focus ideas:

  • Lifetime learning
  • Women’s ways of learning and leading; and
  • Access to learning for all

Plans for the week are quickly gaining momentum. Features include:

  • National media features, news and current affairs;
  • International guests including Jack Mezirow, Jane Thompson, Paul Belanger.
  • Awards for outstanding learners, learner groups and providers; and
  • Australia-wide local participation through open days, exhibitions, conferences and events. 30 national conununity networks have already joined in! Over 500 local groups have registered.

For more information about Adult Learners Week you can contact Michael Smitheram or Julie Foreman: 02 6251 7933 or send a fax to National Co-ordinators fax no 02 6251 7935.


Able Tours – Four Wheel Drive Tours for People With Disabilities

“Able Tours” – Four Wheel Drive adventure tours are specifically designed for easy access to people with disabilities. Tours are conducted in a modern, air conditioned Four Wheel Drive fitted with a wheelchair hoist. A trailer carries a fully access ible toilet and shower, allowing the group to camp outback wherever they wish. The tours will cater for the needs of the people with physical disabilities, although they must have a measure of independence – such as looking after their own personal hygiene needs. Alternatively, they may bring a helper to join the tour (and receive a 10% discount on the cost). Abled-bodied people are also welcome to join with us. During the summer months, the 10 days tour travels to the South-West of Western Australia. Wintertime sees Able Tours heading to the north of Western Australia for some warmer weather. Each 10 day tour is A$1,200.00.

For information on proposed tours dates contact Kevin De Bruin on tel/fax (09) 295 4665.


Action Against Financial Institutions

The 15th of May marked the National Day of Action on Banks, organised by the Australian Pensioners’ and Superannuants Federation and the Australian Consumers Association (publishers of Choice magazine), to protest against the high price of banking. In support, WWDA wrote a standard letter to the Treasurer, Ralph Willis, to the Banking Industry Ombudsman, Susan Brooks, and to the managing directors of the Commonwealth, ANZ, Westpac, and National Australia banks as well as the Australian Association of Permanent Building Societies.

The Treasurer did not reply at all, which is disconcerting considering that even on fee-free accounts the Government still imposes taxes. The Ombudsman pointed out that the Banking Ombudsman Scheme “can consider complaints about bank charges but is not able to become involved in matters that concern general policies of the bank which do not in themselves give rise to a breach of any obligation or duty owed by the bank to its customer”. One could argue that banks are in breach of their moral obligation to their clients, and that there is a case for the Ombudsman to intervene or at least arbitrate, but we need to take into account the fact that the Scheme was set up by the Australian banking sector, which might indicate that it safeguards its activities, by curtailing those of the Ombudsman.

The Australian Association of Permanent Building Societies advised us that their institutions do not charge bank fees as such, though accounts are still subject to Government fees and taxes which some Societies absorb. Unfortunately, the Government also decreed that pensions and other benefits must be paid directly into banks, which means that fee-free Societies cannot be used, and that there is no escape from these fees and taxes.

The banks replied, advising us that they have a number of fee-free services (many of which people with disabilities, particularly those with numeracy and literacy difficulties are not able to access), and most offered an array of ‘ustifications for their fees and charges, including the assertions that the userpays system is equitable, that they have an obligation to their shareholders, that they have to retain the charges to recover the costs of their services, and that since the interest margin on low accounts is negligible they lose money on these accounts.

Westpac went so far as to state that it “does not apologise for having to charge fees”; the ANZ called the issue an “emotive” one; and the Connnonwealth tries to tell us that we suffer from “some misunderstandings” about their fees. Generally, the tone of the replies was at best patronising, despite efforts to sound informative and conciliatory.

The Australian Federation of Consumer Organisation’s (AFCO) submission to the Prices Surveillance Authority (PSA) inquiry into fees and charges imposed by financial institutions lists as some of its findings that “access to banking services is an essential prerequisite to full participation in the community”, that financial institutions “owe the Australian community a social responsibility” which should be met, in part, by the provision of basic banking services free of charge to those most in need in the community”; and that since “consumer advocates and the community are denied access not only to the commercially sensitive costings … but even to the (far less sensitive) basis upon which such costings are made”, the figures which the banks put up to indicate the inunense loss sustained as a result of transaction accounts are useless, and any “claims that particular fees are necessary to recover particular costs should be treated with suspicion”.

The Submission also states that “the broad statistics presented by the banks on the use, availability and convenience of banking services at competitive rates hides the reality within more disadvantaged connnunities” and that “the most costly accounts are most likely to be held by those on low incomes, the older members of the community, by women and by the less educated.” Furthermore, the report indicates that the benefits gained by financial institutions far outweigh any loss they might incur through low balance accounts, and declares as a major asset the enormous pool of detailed financial and personal information about banking customers which financial institutions use, among other things, to develop and market products.

The general tone of the replies from the banks was at best patronising and clearly written with the assumption that we had no real understanding of the philosophies of the banking sector. Well, we made it our business to find out via the AFCO submission and the PSA’s Discussion Paper No. 6 The Social Responsibilities of Banks, and we will write to the banks again to let them know that the community is much better informed than they imagined. So stay posted, and if anyone would like to contribute in any way, please contact us!


Access Issues by Terry Fletcher

Access for people with disabilities is a right and not a privilege. It is the right to move around the community freely with dignity and to access goods, services, facilities and information. Access gives us equal opportunities. But access is more than a barrier free environment. It is also about positive attitudes and it requires political commitment from Local, State and Federal Governments. The Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities in a range of areas including access to premises.

The Australian Building Codes Board is the body responsible for developing the Building Code of Australia. The code specifies which buildings and what part of buildings should provide access for people for people with disabilities. How this access is provided is specified in the Australian Standards. The Building Code of Australia has drawn up AS1428 Part 1 which outlines how access should be provided. For example it gives the gradients for ramps, kerb ramps, toilet and shower facilities, handrails and parking. So where the Building Code of Australia specifies that access has to be provided, it must be in accordance with AS1428 Part 1.

The problem with the Building Code of Australia is that there are two limitations which restrict access to new buildings such as shops, offices, factories and warehouses. If the floor area size is less than 500m2 then access does not have to be provided. If the floor level of the building is less than or greater than 190mm then access does not have to be provided. The rationale for these two restrictions is that it would be financially onerous for a developer to provide access to these small sized buildings. That is why we come across new offices and shops etc that do not have physical access.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 has prompted the Australia Building Codes Board to reconvene the Access Mobility Committee to to advise it on the access needs of people with a disility. I was a member of this Committee for 3 years representing the Disability Council of Australia.

The Committee met in Sydney last May and at that meeting it was restructured to consist of two committees – an Access Policy Committee to develop policy in the area of access and a larger Technical Advisory Committee. I am representing WWDA on both these Committees. My role on the Policy Committee is to represent people with a physical disability. There will also be representatives for people with hearing and vision impairment on the Committee. I would welcome input from all groups representing physical disabilities and I would like information on the special access needs of women with a disability.

Terry Fletcher can be contacted at:
32 Milford St
Randwick NSW 2031
Telephone: (02) 398 7820 Fax: (02) 314 5791.


The Road to Beijing – Fiona Strahan

My name is Fiona Strahan and I am a woman with a disability. I have been involved in the disability rights movement since the early eighties. At first I was quite wary of being seen as part of this disability movement as I felt that I didn’t want to be seen with a whole bunch other people with disabilities. Fortunately that changed as I realised there was power and strength in this identification, not weakness as I had first felt.

I was a feminist before I became a disability activist as there was a framework for understanding oppression, that was more accessible and for me fitted easily and comfortably, than understanding my oppression as a person with a disability. The latter was much more of a struggle.

I am now becoming more active in WWDA and part of this was precipitated by becoming the WWDA delegate to the United Nations Women’s Conference in Beijing. During the past two months I have felt like I have been in the deep end of an Olympic sized swimming pool, dog paddling down the pool, while other women are gliding by. When I leave on the 22nd August I intend to be swimming somewhat more elegantly and successfully.

My being in Beijing will provide WWDA with an international profile and the opportunity to work with a range of women in what I see as one of the last opportunities to defend and broaden an international framework for the acknowledgment and protection of rights for women. One of the first political insights I had when first being briefed to go to Beijing is how much is at stake for women all over the world, in terms of really fundamental and basic rights. There is a lot of work to do, and I, think there always will be.

Beijing offers the opportunity to strengthen and further develop women’s ways of working politically, from the real grass roots up. My aim is to work closely lobbying, networking and developing strategies for Beijing and after, with women from other Australian non-government organisations and the Australian delegation and women with disabilities from elsewhere in the world.

I hope that my work in Beijing win be successful and that we will emerge with a Platform for Women which will deal with disability in a relevant and inclusive manner.

There is to be an International Symposium for women with disabilities organised by Mobility International the day before the non-government organisation Forum begins. This is a great opportunity for women to organise and establish immediate strategies for the forum and conference as well as what happens after the conference.

I would be happy to represent your views at the conference in Beijng, contact me on (03) 650 2533.


Report of the Commission on Status meeting in NewYork March 1995 by Sue Davenport

The Office of Status of women granted Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) some money to represent the Organisation at the Commission on Status of Women (CSW) in March 1995 and the 4th United Nations World Conference on Women to be held in Beijing in September 1995. The Commission on Status of Women was the preparatory meeting for the Beijing meeting. WWDA felt it was important to be represented at the Commission on Status of Women for the following reasons:

  • To promote disability issues at the conference, and join with other disability organisations to lobby government delegations to ensure that these issues were covered in the document that went to Beijing.
  • To promote and expand the understanding of disability issues within the Australian government delegation and the non-government representatives.
  • To create links and networks with other organisations representing people with disabilities particularly those who had women as their focus, with other women from around the world, with the Australian government delegation and with other Australian non-government organisations.
  • To do as much ground work as possible in preparation for the Beijing conference.

The NGO Forum
Two days prior to the Commission on Status of Women formally opening the Non-Government Organisations forum was held. The aim of the Non-Government Organisations forum was to produce a lobby document based on the platform that was a culmination of the consultations in each of the regions and direct input from the Non-Government Organisations present at the forum.

During the two days of the Non-Government Organisations forum a lobby document was hammered out. The purpose of this document was to inject Non-Government Organisations perspectives into the final platform. The Non-Government Organisations document was therefore the culrmnation of a year’s consultation with women around the world.

The Process used by Commission on Status of Women.
The Commission on Status of Women used a different process. The Organisation of the Commission on Status of Women is complex and must be understood to follow the process used by the Commission on Status of Women. The Commission on Status of Women is made up of 56 voting countries. Other countries may be present to voice opinions and lobby for their position to be represented in the platform. The Commission on Status of Women will only vote when it really has to. It prefers to come to consensus.

The first two days of the Commission on Status of Women were conducted in plenary. It was an opportunity for countries international bodies and NGOs to give a five minute speech. At the end of the two days the main focus of the Commission on Status of Women was on drafting. The process was excruciatingly slow and unweildy. The document was worked through line by line. Additions and amendments were submitted by countries or blocks. If there was disapproval the addition or amendment was placed into square brackets. If the amendment or addition made it into the document without square brackets it had been accepted and could not be challenged.

The Commission on Status of Women extended its time for another few days meaning that the meeting eventually lasted for 4 weeks. The pace was frantic with long hours, constant meetings and lobbying and constant reappraisal of positions. Because of the length of the meeting it was very difficult for Non-Government Organisations to stay. Most had to leave at the end of the second week beginning of the third. The NewYork and United States based Non-Government Organisations were the ones that could afford to stay longer.

Comments on the Non-Government Organisations presence at the Commission on Status of Women.
The Non-Government Organisations professionalism, organisation, quality, and commitment was the most hopeful and heartening result of the meeting. The Non-Government Organisations document that was finalised in two days proved to be an excellent document. The lobbying effort put in by the Non-Government Organisations was high quality and professional. The networking between the Non-Government Organisations from this meeting and onto Beijing will change the shape of the women’s movement, understandings and politics in profound ways. The United Nations were not prepared for such a large group of Non-Government Organisation women and did not foresee the number of women who would want to go to Beijing. They were not prepared for such a unified voice, for such organisation or for the influence or consistent input this group would have on the Commission on Status of Women The relationship between Non-Government Organisations and the government delegations was interesting and ground breaking. Government delegations were being informed, lobbied and watched by Non-Government Organisations. No longer were the discussions and decisions being made in isolation of many of the people they would affect.

However because of the inweildy process being used and the time constraints at the Commission on Status of Women many of the amendments and additions were finallsed in informal meetings held by government delgations to the exclusion of Non-Government Organisations. Although the process ultimately forced the exclusion of Non-Government Organisations in the final drafting phases of the Non-Government Organisations document, Non-Government Organisations presence and lobbying ensured that many important parts of the document were added to or improved.

What did WWDA gain nationally?
The Australian government delegation and Non-Government Organisations delegates were informed about issues of concern for women with disabilities, and about the organisation itself. Because we were well organised and . prepared we came across as a viable, professional and hard working group. I think we proved that we are an organisation to take seriously and who can contribute to the Non-Government Organisations sector, the women’s movement and to government. We placed disability issues on the agenda within the government and non-government sector.

Internationally?
We took part in the international disability caucus that was formed at the meeting itself. This caucus was made u mainly of’ international organisations and some individuals. It did a good job overall of targeting friendly countries and making sure that amendments and additions proposed by the caucus were introduced on the floor of the Commission on Status of Women. Some members of this group worked really long hours, put in heaps of effort and did a good job of getting themselves heard. However, we are well prepared for Bejing.We have a great representation, a good profile and a good friend to team up with.

Where to from here?
The road to Beijing looks extremely rocky from here to there. There is a great deal of confusion about the accommodation, the venues, accreditation to the conference, transportation etc. It is important that we do get accreditation and a place at the conference and our representative to the conference be well briefed and well prepared. We have laid good ground work and we need to go on with it.


National Annual General Meeting

The first National Annual General Meeting for WWDA will be held in Melbourne on August 5-6th at theYMCA in Elizabeth St. Because WWDA is still in its infancy not all States and State bodies have groups. Therefore many of the existing steering comnuttee will continue representing women with disabilities in those states. However in the future the National Executive Committee, who have been elected from each State by women with disabilities from that State, will meet at the AGM and vote for Office Bearers. The AGM will be an opportunity to meet, share information, look at the directions for WWDA’s next few years and lock horns on some hairy organisational matters.

If you wish to come along, share your thoughts and observe the proceedings please contact the National Office on (02) 6242 1310.


Disabled People’s International (Australia)

The following press release has been made by Chris Stewart, President of DPI(A), reporting on the dissolution of the DPI(A) National Secretariat:

DPI(A), as a result of the recently conducted World Assembly in Sydney, has encountered serious financial difficulty. Consequently, the Directors of DPI(A) moved to appoint an Administrator to resolve this situation. The Administrator has arranged with creditors of DPI(A) to receive part payment for money owed to them by DPI(A) and for DPI(A) to continue to operate as a committee of volunteers until 30 June 1995, with no money or administrative back up.

The DPI(A) office in Canberra closed before Easter and the staff have been made redundant. DPI(A) will only continue to function as a voluntary committee, with its major tasks being to develop a proposal to enable people with disabilities and their organisations, throughout the country, to provide advice to governments. Contributions to this process are most welcome.

A Committee has been developed to collate any submissions and formulate proposals. The Committee’s charter win be to develop ways for people with disabilities to be involved in decision making processes around services and funding. Proposals regarding a national network of people with disabilities will also be developed.

Finally, I would like to thank all the people with disabilities around the country who have provided information and advice on disability issues on behalf of DPI(A). I would, where possible like this process to continue. Unfortunately DPI(A) has no funds to support this. DPI(A) has always been an association which endeavours to cope with changing and turbulent times and this has been to the credit of people with disabilities. Whilst this turn of events is both regrettable and unfortunate, I urge you to view these changes as a positive opportunity for us to work towards a stronger voice for people with disabilities.

For enquiries, contact:
Chris Stewart
Tel & TTY: (039) 549 1153 or (039) 549 1196
Home: (039) 532 9563


New Name for Women With Disability News

In our last edition of WWDA News we asked for some suggestions of a new name for our newsletter. One suggestion has come from Elizabeth Mosely who is a’new/emerging’ writer. She concentrates mainly on poetry and articles and has had some success with publications. Elizabeth has suggested we name our newsletter “The Beam” because the beam or light of knowledge dispels the darkness of ignorance and she has written a poem to symbolise this.

The Beam – by Elizabeth Mosely

As the mightiest river
Can grow from a trickle
So we, on our own so small and
insignificant,
So hesitant and unsure,
Combined can conceive, design and fashion
A magnificent dream.
A dream for the future,
Whose pulse is strong and sure,
Whose heart is true and valiant;
A light for all the world to see.
We are waiting;
Waiting to release
The beam,
The energy,
The force that is within us.

Another two suggestions came from Di Palmer.

Village Well
The village well was an integral part of the working day of a village woman. It was an aspect of her work but a time when, while waiting for her turn to draw water she exchanged news, information and ideas with other women. Having drawn the water needed she returned to her home refreshed and with new thoughts to add to her store of instilled woman’s lore.

Distaff
A distaff is the earliest spindle used by women to make a spun thread. The newsletter uses the basic ingredients: members’ knowledge and outside information, to create a strong network throughout Australia.

What do you think of these names? Can you suggest something else? Don’t forget – the person who comes up with the best suggestion will win a copy of “I always wanted to be a tap dancer”, a book about twelve women with disabilities talking about growing up and living in a world where their disabilities mean that they have to fight to be accepted. If you have a letter, poem or story you would like to share with us, please send it to the National Office.


The 4th International Abilympics – Perth,Western Australia 1st – 5th September 1995

Join the A-Team
Look at all of these exciting activities. Is there something you would like to participate in’? Would you like to represent Australia in the Workskills Competition? Performing Arts? Leisure & living Skills? Art Exhibition?

Workskill Categories
There will be more than 40 vocational skills contests which are designed to demonstrate the scope for employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Some of these catorgories are:

  • Accounting / Bookkeeping
  • Computer programming
  • Cookery
  • Engineering Drawing
  • Mechanical Assembly
  • Silk Screen Printing
  • Watch Repair

Leisure & Living Skills Activities
As our leisure time increases, so does the challenge to use it in fulfilling and enjoyable ways. These contests put the emphasis on the fun of sharing and participation, rather than on competition, and encourage people with and without disabilities to join in.

  • Floral Arrangements
  • Chess
  • Kite Making and Flying
  • Waste Re-use

There will be many ‘Come &Try’ events as well as demonstration activities which will increase your personal horizons in the areas of leisure and living activities.

The Arts
The 4th International Abilympics will elevate the Arts into separate group of activities. The event will incorporate all aspects of the visual and performing arts and include an International Art Exhibition.

The Conference
During the 1995 Abilympics, a major conference will be conducted to debate important topics and issues concerning the integration of people with disabilities into the workforce and community. A number of eminent speakers will visit the conference to share their views and experience. There are 4 main conference themes:-

  • Employment
  • Equity & Empowerment
  • Legislation & Policy
  • Recreation & Leisure

Seminars andworkshops covering a variety of issues in the field of disability may also be planned to coincide with the Abilympics programme.

Rehabilitation Aids & Technology
The latest advances in rehabilitation equipment and technology will be presented at a special exhibition during the Abilympics.

For more information contact the A Team Office Base
Abilympic West Australia Assoc. Inc.
P.O. Box 358, Mirrabooka, W.A. 6061
Ph (09) 349 2393 Fax (09) 349 3672


The Regenerating Women and Women and the Environment Conference

The Regenerating Women conference was held on Friday, March 24 at the Cato Conference Centre,YWCA Building, 489 Elizabeth St Melbourne.

At around 2pm I walked out of the lifts on to the first floor to attend the workshop held by Joan Kirner on Political Lobbying. Suddenly I felt my lungs reacting, I felt pain and discomfort. I started to wheeze and struggle for breath. It was then when I noticed a man smoking, I quickly went by him in to another room. I struggled to breath and consciously relaxed as much as I could. I hoped I would settle down, however, it became progressively more difficult. I went to the window for a few minutes, then sat on a chair. I desired to meet Joan Kirner and some women suggested I sit on a bench. I felt so bad that I reallsed I had better get to a better environment. I asked for help with getting downstairs as the breathing difficulties were affecting my abillty to walk.

I was not scared because of experiences I have had in the past like major lung bleeds and collapses. However, I was concerned because even with relaxing I felt my respiratory measurements were dropping. Previously when I used ventolin after asthma challenge tests at the Alfred Hospital I did not respond properly. I did not have any ventolin on me. Previously on attacks I had dropped to up to 30% and by sleeping and relaxing some hours later I would improve. This time I knew I needed help and an ambulance was called. I was so very thankful to respond to the continuous ventolin and oxygen and I had medical staff who were not smokers.

I was exhausted from the event and my parents were shocked by my physical condition when they picked me up from the hospital. The next day I felt tired but hoped to attend at some of the Women and the Environment Conference on March 24, 25 and 26 at the World Congress Centre, Melbourne. My mother drove me to the World Congress Centre on March 25 . At 8.30am we asked the porter Vince if the Centre was accessible. He brought out a volunteer who said that it could not be guaranteed safe. My mother observed ten women, while I spoke with these other people, and five of these women (with badges) were smoking as they entered the foyer.

Had I not had the experience on Friday I would have considered risking going through the building trying to breathe as little as possible and holding my breath when possible. I realised that had I taken the risk after such a violent experience and ended up back in hospital I would have been stupid and irresponsible. Consequently I was unable to attend this conference.


New Publications

The following publications have been received by WWDA.
We have received many publications from the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare. These include:

Disability and Handicap among Aborigines of the Taree area of New South Wales. (Series: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Series; No. 9)

Population indicators of needs for disability services: an exploration (welfare division working paper no. 9) 1995.

Building a National Picture of Disability Services (welfare division working paper no. 2). 1995.

Other publications received by WWDA

Women’s Budget Statement 1995-96. (9/5/95 Circulated by the Hon Dr. Carmen Lawrence MP)

Evaluation of the Disability Reform Package – (Main Report March 1995 & Overview Report March 95) a joint initiative of the Departments of Social Security, Human Services and Health, Employment, Education and Training.


Disability Services in the Spotlight

The Australian Law Peform Commission is looking at how the Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health funds and regulates services for people with a disability, and whether or not the Department is meeting legal requirements and human rights and social justice goals in accordance with the Disability Services Act 1986.

This review will result in new legislation dealing with how the Department should provide services for and respect the rights of people with a disability. The Commission wants to hear from people who use, who have used or would like to use services for people with a disability. To do this, the Commission has released a short consumer issues paper and questionnaire. This paper looks at issues from the point view of eople with a disability who use or would like to use services funded and provided by the Department. You can call the Commission to get a free copy of the paper which will be available in print, braille, on audio tape or on computer disk.

The Commission will hold information workshops to discuss its review of Commonwealth disability services law. It will also hold public hearings in each capital city in October and November 1995. Dates for each meeting in each state are as follows:

  • Brisbane: Tuesday 10th October
  • Sydney: Friday 27th October
  • Darwin: Thursday 19th October
  • Hobart: Tuesday 31st October
  • Melbourne:Friday 3rd November
  • Adelaide: Wednesday 8th November
  • Perth: Friday 10th November
  • Canberra: Tuesday 14th November

For more information about the review you can call the Commission on:
Phone: 1800 808 393
TTY (02) 284 6379
Fax (02) 2846363