August 2004


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 2004. If you have any questions, or would like more information on anything in this report, please email Carolyn at: wwda@wwda.org.au


1. WWDA Submission to the Social Policy Research Centre on Designing the Evaluation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy (CDS) was introduced in 1994 to provide Australian Government Departments and agencies with a planning framework to ensure access to all federal programs, services and functions for people with a disability. The original strategy applied to the activities of all departments, agencies and authorities for ten years (1994-2004) and aimed to ‘enhance access opportunities for people with a disability to the programs, services and infrastructure of society’. The CDS was reviewed in 1995, 1997, and 1999. In 2004, the Australian Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) contracted the Social Policy Research Centre to design an evaluation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy (CDS). A Discussion Paper ‘Designing the Evaluation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy’ was released in July 2004. WWDA prepared a Submission in response to the Discussion Paper.

A copy of WWDA’s Submission on the Discussion Paper ‘Designing the Evaluation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy’ is available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’). Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/cdssub1.htm

If anyone would like a copy of the paper emailed to them, please contact the WWDA Office via email on: wwda@wwda.org.au

For more information on the Evaluation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy, contact the Consultants:
Justin McNab ph 02 9385 7818 Email: j.mcnab@unsw.edu.au

Karen Fisher, ph 02 9385 7813 Email: karen.fisher@unsw.edu.au


2. Development of a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) continues to participate in work surrounding the development of a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. Earlier this year, WWDA developed a Submission in response to the Commonwealth Government’s (through the Department of Family and Community Services and the Attorney Generals Department) request for comments on the ‘Draft Text for a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities’, released in early 2004.

Recently, the Australian Attorney General, the Honourable Philip Ruddock, MP announced national consultations with people with disability on the proposed United Nations convention on human rights and disability. This project was undertaken in partnership between People with Disability Australia (PWDA), the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), and the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC), and state and territory-based disability rights groups. The consultation period was very short and ran from mid-July through to early August. As part of these national consultations, WWDA hosted a national teleconference on the 4th August with women with disabilities. This teleconference focused on a text proposal for the convention developed in January this year, and also focused on specific issues of concern to women with disabilities in the Draft Convention.

A Report from the National Consultations has been developed and was submitted to Government on 12 August 2004. The Report ‘Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities – Report on National Consultations’ is structured into five sections. The Executive Summary from the Report is reproduced here.

‘This is a report on national consultations focused on people with disability in relation to the proposed Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.

The consultations were held during July and early August 2004. People with Disability Australia, in partnership with the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations and the National Association of Community Legal Centres, conducted the consultations.

Section one of this report provides an overview and discussion of the methodology used in the national consultations. Acknowledgements of the contributions made by individuals and organisations in this process are provided.

Section two considers overarching issues related to the process of development of the convention, and the current draft text proposal. People with disability and their organisations expressed strong support for the development of a United Nations convention on the human rights of people with disability and called for the Australian Government to actively support the development of the convention. This section also discusses and recommends a suggested structure for the convention, the level and type of proscription of the articles in the convention, and the style of language to be used in the convention. The section also discusses important human rights issues that are not included in the current draft text. Recommendations concerning the relationship of the convention to other human rights instruments, and to existing national laws, are also made.

Section three makes recommendations on an approach to the inclusion and recognition of specific population groups in the preamble of the convention.

Section four provides a detailed analysis and proposed text amendments and revisions of the draft articles of the convention, based on feedback received in the course of these consultations.

Section five highlights other issues related to the development of the convention that have been raised or reinforced in the course of this project. It recommends ongoing human rights education for people with disability in Australia. It recommends an ongoing process of engagement between the Australian government and people with disability and their representative organisations as the convention develops.

The full Report can be downloaded from the People With Disabilities Australia website at: http://www.pwd.org.au/disabilityconvention/

Alternatively, if anyone would like a copy of the Report emailed to them, please contact the WWDA Office via email on: wwda@wwda.org.au


3. Disabled People’s International (DPI) World Summit – Winnipeg, September 8-10 2004

WWDA has been selected to present a Paper at the Disabled People’s International (DPI) World Summit in Winnipeg, Canada, September 8-10, 2004. WWDA is presenting a paper entitled “Moving Forward or Losing Ground? The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia”. This paper outlines WWDA’s work in the area (including its national project on sterilisation and reproductive health of women and girls with disabilities), traces developments in Australia and discusses some of the critical issues in the consideration of sterilisation and reproductive rights as a human rights issue. Leanne Dowse (who co-ordinated WWDA’s National Project on the Sterilisation and Reproductive Health of Women and Girls with Disabilities) and Annie Parkinson will be representing WWDA at the DPI World Summit. WWDA’s participation at the DPI World Summit has been supported by the Global Fund for Women (USA) which provided WWDA with a travel grant to fund the cost of Leanne Dowse and Annie Parkinson attending the DPI World Summit in Canada. WWDA is grateful for the support of the Global Fund for Women.


4. WWDA Presentation at the National Conference on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault – Melbourne September 2004

The ‘Home Truths’ Conference is being held in Melbourne 15-17 September 2004. This National Conference aims to discuss, debate and highlight practice and policy issues relating to sexual assault and domestic and family violence.

WWDA has been selected to present a paper at this Conference on Domestic Violence and Women with Disabilities. WWDA’s paper ‘Double the Odds’ – Domestic Violence and Women with Disabilities’ will examine the reasons for the higher incidence of domestic violence experienced by women with disabilities. It will look at the extra barriers which prevent women with disabilities from leaving a situation of domestic violence – from a refuge with no ramp to the erosion of self esteem which is a legacy of living with disability. It will question the attitude of women’s organisations which ignore the experiences of the sisterhood of women with disabilities. It will pry into the world of policy makers which ignore the particular needs of women with disabilities in addressing the question of domestic violence. The paper will peer outside the home to uncover the way society’s perceptions perpetuate the predicament of women with disabilities. Sue Salthouse will be presenting the paper on behalf of WWDA.

The Conference is being presented by the Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) and the Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre (DVIRC) Victoria, and is sponsored by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments.

WWDA’s paper ‘Double the Odds’ – Domestic Violence and Women with Disabilities’ will be made available on WWDA’s website in late September.


5. Fifth Australian Women’s Health Conference – Reflecting on Gender, Confronting the Evidence

The 5th Australian Women’s Health Conference is being held on 20-22 April 2005 at the Carlton Crest Hotel in Victoria. The Conference will provide a forum for individuals, organisations and services involved and concerned with women’s health. Building on the national and international knowledge and research generated over the past two decades, this conference will examine the evidence from the perspective of gender as a determinant of women’s health, in all its dimensions.

WWDA has recently submitted abstracts to present two papers at the 5th Australian Women’s Health Conference. In line with WWDA’s policy priority areas, WWDA’s proposed papers will focus on Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia, and Access to Breast and Cervical Screening for Women with Disabilities in Australia.

WWDA is also working with the Conference organizers to secure a woman with a disability as a Keynote speaker for this important Conference. WWDA has also recently written to the Office of Disability (Commonwealth Department of Family & Community Services) to request funding support to enable women with disabilities to participate in this Conference, both as presenters and delegates.

For more information about the 5th Australian Women’s Health Conference, go to: http://www.womenshealth2005.com.au/


6. Australian Federation of Disability Organisations

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) is a newly formed national body that brings together the nine national disability peak bodies that are funded and recognised by the Commonwealth government. Each of the peak bodies has a nominee to the Federation Board. The aim of the Federation is to champion the rights of people with disability in Australia and help them to participate fully in community life. This is achieved through the Federation consulting, coordinating and promoting policies, issues and views that are held by Directors, their member organisations and the broader disability sector.

Maryanne Diamond commenced as the CEO of the Federation at the start of August 2004. Maryanne was formerly the CEO of Blind Citizens Australia. The (AFDO) secretariat will be established in Melbourne and it is anticipated that it will be located in Ross House, Flinders Lane, Melbourne from early September.

Work is being undertaken with the Department of Family and Community Services to launch the Federation. It is anticipated that the Federation will also undertake a Strategic Planning exercise at the same time. Once these plans have been finalised, details will be circulated to the sector about how organisations can contribute to this process.

You can contact the Federation’s CEO Maryanne Diamond by e-mail: maryanne.diamond@afdo.org.au or by mobile: 0419 312 129. The National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) Office continues to provide secretariat support until the Federation’s office is set-up and correspondence should be sent to:
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO)
PO Box 381 Harris Park NSW 2150 or by fax: (02) 9635 5355


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

In late May, WWDA developed a Submission to the Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments in response to the Standing Committee of Attorney’s General (SCAG) Issues Paper regarding the Non-Therapeutic Sterilisation of Minors with a Decision-Making Disability. WWDA’s Submission was widely distributed, and included a copy sent to every politician in Australia (at both Federal and State/Territory levels). WWDA has received a large number of responses to our Submission. In last month’s Update Report, WWDA provided a synopsis of State/Territory and Federal Government responses received by WWDA to date. Only the New South Wales Government supports WWDA’s position that sterilization of minors with a decision-making disability should be prohibited except where there is a serious threat to health or life. A synopsis of the most recent responses received by WWDA is provided here.

Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women (OSW):

”Thank you for your letter of 29 June 2004 asking for the support of the Office of the Status of Women (OSW) for the Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) recommendation to the Australian Government concerning the sterilization of minors with a decision-making disability. I understand that the Attorney-General, the Hon Phillip Ruddock MP, has written to you recently on this matter. In his letter the Attorney-General pointed out that the State and Territory working group on the Non-Therapeutic Sterilisation of Minors with a Decision-Making Disability is developing nationally consistent criteria for the authorization of sterilization of minors with a decision-making disability and that this is intended to ensure that any sterilization only takes place in accordance with appropriate safeguards. OSW’s position on this matter is the Australian Government’s position as outlined by the Attorney-General. We believe that developing a nationally consistent approach will be the most effective way to meet the needs of young women with a decision-making disability’.

Queensland – Minister for Child Safety

‘…..The Queensland Government has a duty of care to address the health issues of children and young people, particularly those in the care of the state. If the Department of Child Safety determines that a sterilisation procedure is necessary to ensure a child’s protection and well-being, the department is required, under the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000, which is administered by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, to make an application to the Guardianship and Administration Tribunal. The Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 provides a comprehensive legislative basis for decision-making about the sterilisation of minors in Queensland. The Department of Child Safety has reviewed the Issues Paper and believes that the principles of the proposed Bill are appropriate and consistent with the principles outlined in the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000…..’


8. Access to Breast and Cervical Screening for Women With Disabilities

In February 2004, WWDA developed a Submission to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) requesting that HREOC undertake a Public Inquiry into Access to Breast & Cervical Screening for Women with Disabilities in Australia. In responding to WWDA’s request, HREOC agreed to convene a national summit meeting, which could cover access to breast and cervical screening services but also cover other key issues in access to health facilities and services for people with disabilities. The National Summit on Health Services for People with Disabilities was held in Sydney on May 28th 2004 and was attended by representatives from national disability organisations, as well as representatives from the medical and health sectors.

WWDA was represented at the Summit by Keran Howe (Vic) and Annie Parkinson (NSW). Keran presented a paper on behalf of WWDA entitled ‘Lack of Data Means lack of Action: A Clinical Examination of Access to Health Services for Women with Disabilities’. The paper, prepared by Sue Salthouse and Keran Howe, examined a range of issues, including: the impact of structural inequality on health; the medicalisation of disability; lack of data (particularly in relation to access to breast and cervical screening for women with disabilities); and systemic barriers facing women with disabilities in accessing health services. A copy of WWDA’s Paper ‘Lack of Data Means lack of Action: A Clinical Examination of Access to Health Services for Women with Disabilities’ is available on WWDA’s website. Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/hreocsumm.htm

As an outcome of the National Summit on Health Services for People with Disabilities, WWDA was invited by the Commonwealth Department of Health & Ageing, to attend a meeting with the State/Territory managers of the Breastscreen Australia and the National Cervical Cancer Screening Programs. Sue Salthouse represented WWDA, and attended three meetings in Perth on 18-19 August. The first was with the Disability Services Commission of Western Australia and officers from the Breast Screening Section of the Department of Health WA. Its purpose was to look at ways they could enhance their co-operative work in the area of breast screening and outreach to women with disabilities. Issues discussed included: use of advisory bodies and good consultation processes; dissemination of information; accessibility of information; training of health professionals, service providers and carers were discussed. The need for simultaneous and integrated consideration of gender/health/disability was empahsised.

The Second meeting was with the Commonwealth/State and Territory managers of cervical screening programs. Barriers to access to the programs were discussed in detail. The need for improved collection of data was emphasised, as was the need for more holistic approach to consideration of the health of women with disabilities. Program Managers agreed to look at ways of collecting and using data on participation in cervical screening by women with disabilities.

The third meeting was with the Commonwealth./State and Territory managers of breast screening programs. The issues discussed were similar to those discussed in the previous meeting. However there was more emphasis on the need to ensure accessibility of clinics, and to improve training of staff. A major outcome from this meeting was an agreement for officers from the National Screening Section to work with WWDA and the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to work out the most strategic way to collect data about the women with disabilities, their participation in breast screening programs and the incidence of such cancer.

The major areas of importance taken up by managers of both programs were in the intersection of Health, Gender and Disability and the need for a holistic approach to the health of women with disabilities; information accessibility; distribution of information, the need for training of all people who work with women with disabilities, and the need for evaluation of current programs and strategies directed to encourage participation by women with disabilities.


9. WWDA Policy and Advocacy Network (PAN) Project Report

WWDA PAN’s Therese Sands chaired a national teleconference of women with disabilities on August 4th. The teleconference was held to discuss the proposed UN convention on the human rights and disability. People With Disabilities Australia has been auspicing nationwide consultations from mid-July through to mid-August.

As a result of her presentation to the Network of Women Students of Australia (NOWSA) Conference in Lismore in late July, Sue Salthouse wrote an article on feminism and disability for ‘Femail’ a magazine serving the Tweed Shire Women’s Service.

As a result of WWDA’s presentation to the May 2004 HREOC National Summit on Health Services for People with Disabilities, Sue Salthouse was invited to the annual meetings of the Commonwealth/State/Territory managers of Breast and Cervical Screening Programs in Perth. These meetings presented an opportunity to discuss in greater depth the lack of access to either of these programs for women with disabilities, and the consequent health risks of breast and cervical cancers going undetected. As a result WWDA has been invited to further discussions at a national level.

WWDA PAN held its August Teleconference.


10. WWDA Telecommunications Group – Activities Report

The Australian Communications Industry Forum Disability Advisory Body (ACIF DAB) met 12 – 13 August. A Report from this meeting was posted on ‘wwda-discuss’. Feedback on the Priority Assistance program was given to the Australian Communications Industry Forum Disability Advisory Body (ACIF DAB). Sue Salthouse coordinated the ACIF DAB responses to the ‘Prices and Conditions’ working party public comment phase.

Sue Salthouse (WWDA Telecommunications Group Convenor) acted as key informant to consultants reviewing the ACT Information Management Section of the ACT Chief Minister’s Department on its Digital Divide initiatives. Sue Salthouse also acted as a panellist for ACT Disability Services to allocate funding for Information and Communication Technology Equipment to applicants with disabilities.

Four postings to ‘wwda-discuss’ relating to telecommunications have been made by the WWDA Telecommunications Group during the month.

The WWDA Telecommunications Group continues its work on the investigation of access to information about the Telstra Disability Equipment Program from Telstra owned and franchised shop fronts.

Advice on gaining access to the Telstra Disability Equipment Program when a customer’s primary carrier is not Telstra was provided to a WWDA member requesting assistance.


11. New Publication – ‘Just Passions: The Personal is Political’ by Rhonda Galbally

Rhonda Galbally’s story offers a fascinating study of an Australian woman who has seized opportunities at critical moments in the last decades to creatively shape her life – and help shape the lives of others. It’s a work of passion, and a book that will inspire. Just Passions is about Rhonda Galbally’s passion for social justice and her belief in community action to bring about social change. Much is revealed about Australia’s cultural, business, political and sporting worlds.

Rhonda Galbally’s life work has been to strengthen non-profit, education and community organisations. Her dynamic leadership in creating new solutions for community groups is supported by her vast experience in governance, capacity building, fundraising and grantmaking – all of which now culminates in her leadership of the progressive and innovative social investment company Our Community.

Just Passions: The Personal is Political
by Rhonda Galbally
Publisher: North Melbourne, Pluto Press, 2004
Description: 324 pages, paperback
ISBN: 1864032960
Price: $29.95 (includes GST)
Order: Pluto Press Australia Ph: +61 3 93283811 Fax: +61 3 9329 9939
Email: pluto@plutoaustralia.com


12. New on the WWDA Website

Additions to the WWDA website this month include:

WWDA Submission to the Australian Government on the Draft National Action Plan on Human Rights (July 2004).
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/humrightplan.htm

WWDA Submission to the Social Policy Research Centre on the Discussion Paper ‘Designing the Evaluation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy’ (August 2004).
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/cdssub1.htm

WWDA Submission to the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts on the Review of the Operation of the Universal Service Obligation and the Customer Service Guarantee (February 2004).
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/telecom4.htm

WWDA Strategic Plan 2004 – 2009 – A Summary.
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/stratplan.htm

WWDA Update Bulletin May 2004.
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/bullmay04.htm

WWDA Update Bulletin June/July 2004.
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/bulljun04.htm