August 2003


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. Please find below a brief Update Report on some of WWDA’s activities for the month of August 2003. If you have any questions, or would like more information on anything in this report, please email Carolyn at: wwda@wwda.org.au


1. Submission to the Standing Committee on Employment and Workplace Relations Inquiry into Increasing Participation in Paid Employment

On 25 June 2003 the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, the Hon Tony Abbott MP, asked the Standing Committee on Employment and Workplace Relations to inquire into and report on employment issues in both rural/regional and urban/outer surburban areas, with particular reference to:

  • measures that can be implemented to increase the level of participation in paid work in Australia; and
  • how a balance of assistance, incentives and obligations can increase participation, for income support recipients.

With a focus on employment, there are also links to the working age payment reform process initiated with the joint release of the Building a simpler system to help jobless families and individuals consultation paper by the Minister for Family and Community Services and the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, and to the Demographic Change process which is addressing the issues raised in the Intergenerational Report 2002-03 which was released by the Treasurer.

WWDA developed a submission to this Inquiry. WWDA’s submission will soon be made available on WWDA’s website. If anyone would like a copy of the submission, please email WWDA at: wwda@wwda.org.au


2. Submission to the Board of Taxation Consultation on the Definition of a Charity

In late July, the Federal Government released its draft legislation on the definition of a charity (the Charities Bill 2003). The Government has asked the TaxBoard to consult on the workability of the definition of a charity proposed in the draft legislation. WWDA is currently finalising its submission to the TaxBoard in response to the draft legislation, and it is envisaged WWDA’s submission will be completed in early September.


3. Submission to the Tasmanian Government’s Options Paper ‘Safe at Home: A Criminal Justice Framework for Responding to Family Violence in Tasmania’.

The ‘Safe at Home’ Options Paper has been developed by the Tasmanian Department of Justice and Industrial Relations (DJIR) in response to the announcement by the Tasmanian Attorney-General, in September 2002, of the establishment of separate Family Violence restraint order legislation to be introduced into Parliament in 2003. In January 2003, the Attorney-General further requested that DJIR develop an implementation strategy for a pro-arrest, pro-charge, pro-prosecution response to family violence in Tasmania. The policy outcomes that the Attorney-General wishes to achieve through this reform process are the increased criminalisation of family violence and enhanced criminal justice system responses.

WWDA is preparing a submission in response to the ‘Safe at Home’ Options Paper, with the explicit aim of advocating for the criminal justice framework to include and address the needs of women with disabilities who experience, or are at risk of experiencing violence.

Copies of the ‘Safe at Home’ Options Paper can be obtained from the Tasmanian Department of Justice and Industrial Relations Website: http://www.justice.tas.gov.au/legpol/SafeatHome.htm


4. Sterilisation and Reproductive Health of Women and Girls with Disabilities

In June 2003, WWDA wrote to all State/Territory Attorneys General, requesting their assistance in our efforts to progress the issue of sterilisation and reproductive health of women and girls with disabilities. We also suggested to the AG’s that they may wish to consider WWDA’s report “Moving Forward – Sterilisation and Reproductive Health of Women and Girls with Disabilities” at the Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG), which was meeting in August 2003. Responses from some of the State/Territory AG’s, indicated that the issue of authorisation for the sterilisation of women and girls with a decision-making disability was listed as an agenda item for consideration by the Standing Committee of Attorneys General at the meeting in early August 2003. WWDA has recently written to the Federal Attorney General, the Hon Daryl Williams seeking information on the outcomes of the SCAG meeting in relation to this agenda item.

On August 27, 2003, the Tasmanian Mercury Newspaper published a front page article regarding the case of a 13 year old disabled girl whose family had applied for authorisation from the Tasmanian Guardianship Board, to have her sterilised. In the newspaper article, the young girls mother said ‘stopping their daughter menstruating was the main reason behind their sterilisation bid, although preventing a potential pregnancy was also relevant’. The application was denied by the Guardianship Board. A Tasmanian Independent MLC, Mr Greg Hall, raised the case in the Tasmanian Parliament on August 27. He asked whether the Government would review the way sterilisation applications were decided. He also queried the limited avenue of appeal for families who could not afford to go to either the Supreme or Family Court. WWDA was contacted by the Mercury Newspaper regarding the issue of sterilisation of girls and women with disabilities. Carolyn Frohmader, WWDA Executive Director, gave an interview to the Mercury and an article was published in the paper on 28th August. Although unable to comment on individual cases, WWDA spoke of sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities as a violation of their human rights if done without their consent. WWDA also made the point that ‘The denial of a young woman’s human rights through the performance of an irreversible medical intervention with long term physical and mental health risks is wrongly seen as the most appropriate solution to the social problem of lack of services and support’.

Anyone wanting a copy of these articles can email the WWDA Office at: wwda@wwda.org.au

WWDA was also interviewed for a feature article on the issue for the Perth Independent Newspaper. This article is due to be published in early September 2003.


5. WWDA Annual General Meeting and National Strategic Planning Forum

Much of WWDA’s work this month has revolved around organising the WWDA Annual General Meeting and the WWDA National Strategic Planning Forum, which will both take place September 11th – 14th in Hobart. The members of WWDA’s Management Committee will be coming to Hobart to participate in these two events. WWDA is also currently finalising its Annual Report for 2002-2003, and will notify members of its availability.


6. WWDA Management Committee Orientation Manual

WWDA has developed a new Orientation Manual for members of its Management Committee. The Manual contains information about WWDA; Roles & Responsibilities of the Committee; WWDA Staff Roles and Responsibilities; WWDA Operational Policies; WWDA Operational Information and Procedures; WWDA Management Committee Details; WWDA Staff Position Descriptions; WWDA Constitution; WWDA Staff Industrial Awards, and more.


7. Funding Submission to the Tasmanian Community Fund

During August, WWDA wrote and submitted an Application for project funding to the Tasmanian Community Fund. The statewide project aims to address the inclusion of women with disabilities in key women’s health screening testing for osteoporosis, cervical and breast cancers. A key objective of this project is to involve Tasmanian women with disabilities in evaluating how efficiently the current screening practices for the key women’s health issues of osteoporosis, breast and cervical cancers are in recognising and servicing the needs of women with disabilities.