December 2004 – January 2005

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 months of December 2004/January 2005. If you have any questions, or would like more information on anything in this report, please email Carolyn at:

1. WWDA Submission to the Queensland Maternity Services Review

The Review of Maternity Services was established by the Queensland Minister for Health in July 2004 to examine existing and future models of maternity care, in particular midwifery models of care, and recommend strategies to enhance choices for women, within a framework of safety and sustainability. Independently chaired by Dr Cherrell Hirst AO, the Review progresses an election commitment made by the Queensland Premier to ‘…..undertake a Statewide review of birthing services to determine how midwifery models of delivery and care can be enhanced, without compromising the safety of women and babies.’

The Review will provide the Minister for Health with evidence-based recommendations for sustainable maternity service options that meet community needs and that are safe, culturally appropriate and based on best practice. The Review is due to report in February 2005.

WWDA’s Submission to the raises issues for women with disabilities that must be considered in any remodelling of services. In summary those issues are:

  • Women with disabilities are sexual beings.
  • Public perception of women with disabilities becoming pregnant and becoming mothers is negative.
  • Lack of support, information, resources and training coupled with the negative stereotyping of women with disabilities as mothers leads to questioning of parenting abilities and increased likelihood of removal of children.
  • Heavy reliance on prenatal testing puts pressure on women to abort due to possible disability, regardless of accuracy of testing, and added pressure on women with genetic disabilities to get screened or abstain from having children.

Some suggestions are made of ways that Maternity services can be more inclusive of women with disabilities such as:

  • Providing accessible information and support.
  • Access to the same range of services.
  • Training to staff.
  • Linking to disability services.

Motherhood is a right often denied women with disabilities because of fear and supposed ‘costs’ to society. However the benefits of diversity, tolerance and difference when all are supported and given choices to be part of society are much greater to all of society in the long term.

A copy of WWDA’s Submission to the ‘Queensland Maternity Services Review’ will soon be made available on WWDA’s website. If anyone would like a copy of the Submission emailed to them, please contact the WWDA Office via email at:

2. Global Survey on the Standard Rules for the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

In December 2004, WWDA was invited by the UN the Special Rapporteur on Disability, Sheikha Hissa Al Thani, to participate in the Global Survey on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.

The aim of the Global Survey is to shed light on the progress that countries have made in the adoption and implementation of the Standard Rules and to find out what form that implementation has taken and to what extent.

The survey is intended to help the UN assess how far countries have come in the implementation of the Standard Rules at the levels of:

  • Policies
  • Legislation
  • Programmes
  • Resources allocated
  • Involvement of organisations of people with disabilities

WWDA worked with the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) to co-ordinate a response to the Global Survey on behalf of national peak disability organizations. A final draft of the Global Survey response is currently being finalized.

If you would like a copy of the Response to the UN Global Survey on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, please contact Collette O’Neill at the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) via email on:

3. Towards Visibility of Disabled Women in the UN Convention

Since 2002 the United Nation Member States have been negotiating the development of ‘A Comprehensive and Integral Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities’. Although the human rights of persons with disabilities appear reasonably well respected in the draft text of the Convention, the gender perspective is missing throughout the document. The special needs and discriminations of women with disabilities are hardly mentioned or referred to. Disabled women remain invisible so far.

To make States Parties and society conscious about these specific discriminations of women with disabilities and to report about their situation it is indispensable to include the gender perspective in the Convention. The existing Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is not considered sufficient at this point as it does not have a disability perspective. Thus States Parties of CEDAW are not obliged to report on the situation of disabled women.

In order to address the current invisibility of women with disabilities in the Convention, the organisations NETZWERK ARTIKEL 3 and Sozialverband Deutschland (SoVD) have started an international campaign to make disabled women visible in the UN Convention.

You can support this campaign by adding your signature (either as an individual or as an organization). You can get more information from the website at:

4. Asia Pacific Disability Forum (APDF) Conference

The Asia Pacific Disability Forum (APDF) and United Nations Economic and Social Commission Asia Pacific Thematic Working Group on Disability Concerns (UN ESCAP TWG-DC) will be holding their Regional Conferences over four days from 19-22 November 2005 at Rydges Hotel, Exhibition Street Melbourne. The APDF is the peak organization for Disability Non-Government Organizations (NGO) across the Asia Pacific Region. The APDF was reformed in November 2003 to continue the development of human rights, inclusion and services for people with disabilities throughout the Asia Pacific Region. The APDF is working in partnership with the United Nations and its agencies, to implement the 2nd Asia Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, using the Biwako Millennium Framework For Action Towards An Inclusive, Barrier-Free And Rights-Based Society For Persons With Disabilities In Asia And The Pacific.

The Biwako Millennium Framework for Action outlines issues, action plans and strategies towards an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for persons with disabilities. The framework identifies seven priority areas for action, in each of which critical issues and targets with specific time frames and actions follow. The seven priority areas are:

  • Self-help organizations of persons with disabilities
  • Women with disabilities
  • Early intervention and education
  • Training and employment, including self-employment
  • Access to built environment and public transport
  • Access to information and communication including ICT
  • Poverty alleviation through social security and livelihood programmes

(More information about the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action can be found at:

A Committee has been established to organize/co-ordinate the organizing of the Conference. Committee membership includes WWDA and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations.

The Conference will be held over four days from 19-22 November 2005. The first three days of which will be for 300-400 participants who will be discussing a wide range of disability issues. On the fourth day they will attend field visits of various disability services and accessible public services. The fourth day will also include the UN ESCAP TWG-DC Forum for 100 Government Delegates and invited Experts to discuss their countries’ and the UN’s progress in working toward the goals of the decade. The evening of the fourth day (22nd) will be the closing banquet for 300 guests of both conferences.

For more information about the Asia Pacific Disability Forum (APDF), and the APDF Conference in Melbourne in November, you can contact:
Frank Hall-Bentick

WWDA will also endeavour, through its representative on the Conference Organising Committee, to keep members updated on the APDF Conference.

5. Telstra Disability Equipment Program and Telstra Directory Assistance Information

In December 2004, WWDA wrote to the CEO of Telstra to raise a number of issues of concern which had been raised by WWDA members. WWDA raised the issue of Telstra’s Disability Equipment Program, which members have found difficult to locate on Telstra’s website. WWDA members have requested that information about the Disability Equipment Program be clearly listed in its own right on Telstra’s Home Page, and also included clearly as a specific drop down menu option. WWDA’s letter sought clarification from Telstra as to whether this request could be considered.

WWDA also raised concerns regarding Telstra’s Directory Assistance Information. WWDA expressed its concern that Telstra’s FREE directory assistance number appears not to be promoted or publicized by Telstra to the public. Feedback from WWDA members indicate that this free service is not well known. In fact, all respondents to recent consultations undertaken by WWDA had no knowledge of the availability of the FREE Telstra directory assistance number 1223. Although the 1223 number is listed on Telstra’s website under ‘Other – Directory Assistance’, it is the fifth option listed, with Sensis (a subsidiary of Telstra which charges 40cents to call the Sensis directory assistance number, then 4 cents per second) being listed as the first option. There is also no information provided to the user on the charges associated with each of the options listed.

WWDA’s letter has sought clarification from Telstra as to the directory assistance services provided by Telstra, including the charges for the various services offered. WWDA has also sought information as to how Telstra promotes and publicizes its FREE Telstra directory assistance number.

At this stage, WWDA is awaiting a response to our letter.

6. ‘Silent Voices: Women With Disabilities and Family and Domestic Violence’ – By Judith Cockram, PhD (2003)

This research project arose as a result of the widespread experience of women with disabilities, disability and community agencies and the paucity of relevant literature in family and domestic violence. Accordingly, this project was developed in response to the many calls for research into the issue of violence against women with disabilities. The objectives for the research were to:

  • Document the nature and extent of family and domestic violence against women with disabilities who have accessed services in Western Australia, and
  • Identify whether the needs of women with disabilities are being adequately addressed by relevant services.

The research was a collaborative undertaking by People With Disabilities (WA) Inc., The Ethnic Disability Advocacy Centre Inc. (EDAC), and the Edith Cowan University Centre for Social Research. The report contains background information, research methodology, literature review. The research findings provide detailed information from the perspective of both service providers and women with disabilities. Personal stories from women with disabilities are also included. The Report details implications arising from the research. The Report also includes guidelines for referral and support for interviewing women with disabilities; annotated bibliography and information on resources, including services.

This Report ‘Silent Voices: Women With Disabilities and Family and Domestic Violence’ is now available on WWDA’s website for anyone who is interested. You can access the Report at:

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

In December 2003, WWDA received a project funding grant from the Reichstein Foundation in Victoria. The purpose of this funding was to implement a project to improve the status of women with disabilities through systemic advocacy at a national level. The main objective of the Project was to develop a range of systems, activities and processes that:

  • provided informed and representative advice to government on women’s policy development and implementation relevant to the views and circumstances of women with disabilities;
  • represented the views of women with disabilities through consultation with the WWDA constituency and other groups and organisations relevant to women with disabilities’ concerns;
  • enabled specific policy analysis on individual areas of organisational expertise and concern; and
  • contributed to WWDA’s commitment to creating leadership opportunities for women with disabilities.

The final Report of the Project has recently been completed. The Report, entitled “Improving the Status of Women with Disabilities in Australia through Systemic Advocacy” provides detailed information on the activities undertaken by WWDA for the grant period. It demonstrates WWDA’s ability to achieve a number of significant outcomes with a small amount of resources. It further demonstrates the unique capacity of WWDA to fulfill the role of providing effective systemic advocacy to address the myriad of issues facing women with disabilities in Australia.

If anyone would like a copy of the Report “Improving the Status of Women with Disabilities in Australia through Systemic Advocacy”, please contact the WWDA Office via email at:

8. Australian Federation of Disability Organisations

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations held its first Annual General Meeting (AGM) and launch at Parliament House Canberra on November 18 2004. As well as the AGM business, two resolutions were considered:

Resolution 1
That AFDO Members agree to:

  • Immediately Co-opt 2 additional Directors, one from each of The Australian Mental Health Consumer Network (AMHCN) and People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).

Resolution 2
That the AFDO board be tasked with the responsibility to undertake, as a matter of urgency, the development of a membership structure which includes:

  • consideration and recommendation on representation from both national and State-wide organisations of people with disability
  • provision for a range of membership classes
  • a membership fee structure
  • that a Special General Meeting be held early in 2005 to consider a recommendation with the view to its immediate implementation.

These two Resolutions were accepted.

As a result Janet Meagher (nominated by the Australian Mental Health Consumer Network) and Jo Watson (nominated by the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS) have joined the AFDO Board. Ian Forster has replaced Maria McGrath as the nominee from Brain Injury Australia.

On February 3rd 2005, AFDO, (in conjunction with the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), ACROD, Australian Communication Exchange(ACE), Australian Welfare Rights Network, People with Disability Australia, and the Disability Advisory Council of Victoria) are hosting a Forum to discuss ‘Proposals to reform the Disability Support Pension and employment assistance programs for people with disability’. The forum will be an opportunity to discuss key issues and plan future action.

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) will also be holding a Strategic Planning Day on February 4th, 2005. Representatives from AFDO member organisations, along with AFDO Board members and staff will attend this Planning Day. The purpose of this day is to develop AFDO’s strategic directions for the coming year. It is anticipated that one year from now AFDO will undertake a 3-5 year strategic planning exercise.

The following activities are in progress or have been undertaken since AFDO staff have been on board.

  • DDA Standards Project re-established for the Access to Premises Standard;
  • A short term consultation project on the draft UN Convention on the Rights of People with a Disability undertaken in partnership with PWDA and NACLC;
  • In partnership with key welfare and disability organisations, planned and hosted a forum on income support and employment for people with disability;
  • Coordinated response to the Un Global Survey on the Implementation of the Standard Rules for People with Disability;
  • Coordinated lobbying for the introduction of the DDA Standards for Education and participated in public forum on the Standards;
  • Met with government and key sector personnel and presented at key sector conferences to introduce AFDO.

For more information, you can contact:
Maryanne Diamond
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
Ross House, 247 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000.
Ph: (03) 9662 3324
Fax / TTY: (03) 9662 3325

9. Federal Government Releases Its Response to the Productivity Commission Review of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

The Productivity Commission Review of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 commenced in mid 2003. The inquiry examined the social impacts of the legislation on people with disabilities and on the community as a whole. Among other things, the Commission was required to assess the costs and benefits of the DDA and its effectiveness in achieving its objectives. The inquiry report was released by the Australian Government on 14 July 2004.

The Australian Government has announced its response to the Productivity Commission’s review of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (the DDA), which found that the DDA appears likely to have produced net benefits for the community. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the Commission noted that the Act had been reasonably effective in raising awareness of the rights and abilities of people with disability, and in reducing overall levels of disability discrimination. However, the report concluded that there is room for improvement and people with a disability still face too many barriers to the fullest possible participation in Australian society.

The Commission identified areas in which the effectiveness of the DDA could be improved and made 36 recommendations for improving its operation and clarifying the way various aspects of the Act work.

The Government has accepted 26 of the Commission’s recommendations, either in full or in part.

“The Government accepts that it is necessary to clarify that the DDA does require organisations to make reasonable adjustments to eliminate discriminatory barriers,”Mr Ruddock said. “However, explicit recognition of this duty is balanced by expanding the operation of the unjustifiable hardship defence. We must ensure that adjustments will produce net benefits for the community without imposing undue hardship on the organisations required to make them,” Mr Ruddock said.

Other recommendations accepted by the Government include clarifying the operation of the DDA by amending some definitions and providing for more options to facilitate the operation of the DDA such as actions plans and co-regulatory plans.

Mr Ruddock said the Government has not accepted some recommendations which will not improve the operation or effectiveness of the DDA, nor provide net benefits to the community.

The Report, ‘The Productivity Commission’s Review of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 – Government Response’, in various formats, can be read at:

10. New National Booking Service for Deaf Auslan Users

Deaf Auslan users across Australia will now be able to access a national booking service, which will provide Auslan interpreted access to medical and health consultation, free of charge.

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, will officially launch the new $18.4 million National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service (NABS), (being run by the Wesley Mission) in Sydney on January 28, 2005.

The new service will give deaf people, doctors and health professionals in all states and territories a single point of contact in order to access accredited Auslan interpreters, free of charge, for specified medical and health consultations.

For more information, you can contact:
National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service (NABS)
930 Gympie Road
Chermside Qld 4032
Phone: 1800 24 69 45 (operational from 31 January 2005)
Fax: 1800 24 69 14 (operational from 31 January 2005)
TTY: 1800 24 69 48 (operational from 31 January 2005)
Email: (operational now)
SMS: 0427 671 261 (operational 31 January 2005)

11. New on the WWDA Website

Additions to the WWDA website this month include:

‘The Reproductive Rights of Women with Disabilities’ By Natalie Tomas (2004)
Go to:

Women with Disabilities Australia Annual Report 2002-2003
Go to:

Women with Disabilities Australia Annual Report 2001-2002
Go to:

‘Silent Voices: Women With Disabilities and Family and Domestic Violence’ – By Judith Cockram, PhD (2003)
Go to: