February 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 February 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 Productivity Commission’s Draft Report ‘Review of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992’

The Productivity Commission Review of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 commenced in mid 2003 to examine the social impacts of the legislation on people with disabilities and on the community as a whole. In June 2003, WWDA developed a submission to the first stage of the Review (a copy of WWDA’s Submission is available on WWDA’s website: http://www.wwda.org.au/ddasub.htm

The draft report, ‘Review of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992’, was released on 31 October 2003. The report contains the interim findings of the Productivity Commission’s public inquiry, and contains a number of draft recommendations. In February, WWDA developed a Submission in response to the draft report, ‘Review of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992’. Due to resource constraints, WWDA elected to address only a selection of the Draft Report’s Requests for Information, Findings and Recommendations.

WWDA’s Submission commends some reforms to reclaim those parts of the Act’s coverage that certain case law has eroded. It then proposes a renewal of representative actions. It also argues for a restoration of the power of parties, other than individually aggrieved ones, to bring actions in their own right. In addition, it explains why it is necessary for the Parliament to empower the President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to intervene in certain proceedings. Finally, the Submission endorses the codification of standards in the Disability Discrimination Act. WWDA focused the Submission on practicable responses to reverse the sharp losses in the Act’s potential to meet its Objects.

WWDA also attended a Public Hearing with the Productivity Commission Commissioners, held in Hobart in early February 2004. At this Hearing, WWDA expanded on many of the issues covered in the WWDA Submission.

A copy of WWDA’s Submission to the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report ‘Review of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 will soon be made available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’). If anyone would like a copy of the Submission emailed to them, please contact the WWDA Office via email on: wwda@wwda.org.au


2. WWDA Submission to the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts ‘Review of the Operation of the Universal Service Obligation and the Customer Service Guarantee’

In February, WWDA developed a 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’.

Research and consultations undertaken by WWDA in relation to their general socio-economic position and more specifically to their Information and Communication Technology needs, indicate that women with disabilities place an extremely high value on telephone services. Primarily the telephone service enables them to maintain contact with family and friends. In turn this lessens their feelings of isolation brought about by reduced ability to access the wider community. Accessible phone services are also essential for making medical appointments necessary to regulate the affects of their disabilities. Women with disabilities are more likely to need a reliable telephone service for medical and/or domestic violence emergency calls.

WWDA’s Submission stressed that it is vitally important that accessibility and functionality of telephone services is not eroded by neglecting the requirements, funding and monitoring of the Universal Service Obligation and the terms and monitoring of the Customer Service Guarantee. For this reason, WWDA places great importance on this Review of these two regulatory instruments. WWDA believes that the USO and CSG require some review and upgrade at the legislative and administrative level to ensure that accessibility for people with disabilities is improved both in the short term and when new technologies are introduced.

A copy of WWDA’s 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’ will soon be made available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’). If anyone would like a copy of the Submission emailed to them, please contact the WWDA Office via email on: wwda@wwda.org.au


3. WWDA Submission to the Commonwealth Government on the ‘Draft Text for a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities’

In February 2004 WWDA developed a Submission in response to the Commonwealth Government’s (through the Department of Family & 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.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) strongly supports the development and adoption of a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.

WWDA’s Submission to the Australian Government outlines reasons why WWDA believes a UN Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities is needed. It also discusses reasons why WWDA does not support the Governments position that a ‘free standing new convention’ is not required. WWDA’s submission also looks at the Draft Text, and suggests ways in which the Draft Text could be strengthened to better reflect the impact of multiple discriminations caused by the intersection of gender and disability. Additionally, WWDA strongly recommends that the Australian Government urgently establish meaningful processes to enable people with disabilities to participate in the development of a Draft Convention on the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

A copy of WWDA’s Submission to the Commonwealth Government on the ‘Draft Text for a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities’ will soon be made available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’). If anyone would like a copy of the Submission emailed to them, please contact the WWDA Office via email on: wwda@wwda.org.au


4. WWDA Submission to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission for a Public Inquiry into 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 and Cervical Screening for Women with Disabilities in Australia. In its submission, WWDA stressed the need for such an Inquiry to occur as a matter of urgency. Although there has been little research on the health needs of women with disabilities in Australia, evidence from women with disabilities about their lack of access to breast and cervical screening in Australia has been accumulating, and it is now so compelling it cannot be ignored. What we do know from research is that women with disabilities often have less access to breast and cervical screening programs and services than any other group of women. The vast majority of women with disabilities cannot access these programs because of economic, social, psychological and cultural barriers that impede or preclude their access to breast health and cervical screening services. WWDA Submission to HREOC provided further information on why WWDA believes a Public Inquiry into Access to Breast and Cervical Screening for women with disabilities is warranted.

WWDA’s Submission was distributed widely through our Networks. WWDA is appreciative of the level of support shown by many for our calls for a Public Inquiry.

In late February, WWDA received a letter from Sev Ozdowski, (Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner) in which he responded to our submission. Dr Ozdowski agreed that the matters raised by WWDA in our submission “are clearly of critical significance for women with disabilities and involve serious issues of human rights”. Dr Ozdowski has proposed that one possible means for addressing the issue would be for HREOC 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. Dr Ozdowski suggested that such a summit, depending on its outcomes could serve either as an alternative to conducting a national inquiry (and might achieve the same results more promptly) or as an important preliminary step to such an inquiry.

WWDA understands that this National Summit will likely take place in the next few months. WWDA will keep members informed of progress. Again, WWDA thanks everyone for your support on this most important issue for women with disabilities.


5. WWDA National Women’s Policy Working Group Project

In late 2003, WWDA submitted a funding application to the Reichstein Foundation in Victoria. The Reichstein Foundation funds projects which effect structural change to benefit disadvantaged communities. WWDA’s application was successful and in late December 2003, WWDA received $20,000 from the Reichstein Foundation to conduct a national project to improve the status of women with disabilities through systemic advocacy. The need for this Project has been identified by members of WWDA who have repeatedly expressed their concerns at the consistent exclusion of women with disabilities in Government policy as it affects women. Most specifically, women with disabilities are concerned at the exclusion of women with disabilities in the development of Commonwealth Government women’s policy.

The main activities of the Project will include the establishment of a National WWDA Women’s Policy Working Group (made up of women with disabilities) which undertakes systemic advocacy, research and policy development in the area of women’s policy. The Working Party will contribute to a number of specific national projects and programs and will address other areas of concern to women with disabilities by proactively contributing informed and representative advice to government on women’s policy development and implementation.

WWDA is currently in the planning phase of the Project. Sue Salthouse, a WWDA member, is co-ordinating the Project, and will convene the Working Group, once established.


6. ‘From Rhetoric to Reality’ Human Rights Conference

Margaret Cooper, a WWDA member from Melbourne, represented WWDA at the Conference ‘From Rhetoric to Reality – Making Human Rights Work’. The Conference was held in Melbourne from 9-10 February. Keynote speakers included Paul Hunt, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, who examined the framework established by the UN Human Rights Treaty System, and provided an overview of the key treaties and mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights, which can be used by activists to bring about change in our own communities. Professor Marcia Rioux, in her address ‘Challenging orthodoxies: The development of disability human rights’ examined ways in which the human rights framework has been applied to challenge the orthodoxies of “care” in the disability sector. Margaret has written a brief report on the Conference. If anyone would like a copy please email Carolyn or Angela at WWDA on: wwda@wwda.org.au


7. Increase in Requests for Individual Advocacy

Over the past few months, WWDA has experienced a significant increase in the number of requests for individual advocacy. Often, these requests come from people in crisis situations, who find themselves contacting WWDA as a ‘last resort’ because they can’t find help anywhere else. The requests for individual advocacy coming into WWDA are varied. Examples include:

  • Parents of children with intellectual disabilities requiring assistance for their child;
  • People with disabilities who are experiencing difficulties in obtaining any form of appropriate housing;
  • People with disabilities who require assistance in navigating and understanding the Centelink system, including a myriad of issues relating to the Disability Support Pension;
  • People with disabilities unable to access support with legal issues;
  • People with disabilities requesting information and support on assisted reproduction, including surrogacy;
  • People with disabilities who require attendant care but cannot locate assistance;

Although WWDA is not funded to provide individual advocacy services, the reality is that we spend an enormous amount of time dealing with these incoming requests. Often, we find ourselves undertaking the role of assisting to find services and other supports available for people who contact us. The reality is that many of these people who request our assistance, are in crisis and very distressed by the time they get to WWDA. Many express their distress at having been ‘referred on’ and feel they are being shoved from pillar to post.

WWDA will be forwarding this issue onto State and Federal Governments, and will also be arguing that WWDA’s funding body, (whilst it doesn’t currently fund WWDA to undertake individual advocacy), must recognise the time and resources spent by WWDA in this role.


8. Information on Initiatives from other NGO’s

8.1. Physical Disability Council of NSW – Women With Disability Network NSW

The NSW Department For Women has awarded the Physical Disability Council of NSW (PDCN) a ‘large project’ grant to work in partnership with the Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association to establish a statewide network of women with disability. The network, which will be autonomous and directed by the women who participate in it, will be supported for at least the next twelve months by staff based at PDCN. The first meeting of the network’s steering group took place on Wednesday, 18th February. It is anticipated that the Network will be formally launched in early March. WWDA has written to PDCN and provided some resource materials to assist the Project, in particular WWDA’s Leadership and mentoring Kit ‘Taking the Lead’ which provides extensive information to individuals and groups interested in community development, group formation, and systemic advocacy for women with disabilities.

Anyone wishing to find out more information about PDCN’s Project, can contact Sharon on ph: 02 9552 1606, or via email on: po@pdcnsw.org.au

8.2. Regional Network for Women with Disabilities, Asia-Pacific Project

Disabled Peoples’ International, Asia-Pacific Regional Office (Thailand) is working towards the creation of a Network of Women with Disabilities (WWDs) in the Asia-Pacific Region. The Network aims to promote the positive image of WWDs through meetings, newsletters, e-mail updates, a Web site, and eventually an on-line forum. The main objective of the Network will be to advance the issues, action plans and strategies outlined in the Biwako Millennium Framework. This framework promotes an, “Inclusive, Barrier-free and Rights-based Society for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific.” It was adopted by UNESCAP in May 2002, and includes “Women with Disabilities” as a priority area. Three targets are set to ensure anti-discrimination measures to protect WWDs; to ensure self-help organizations adopt policies to promote full participation of WWDs; and, to ensure inclusion of WWDs in the membership of national mainstream women’s associations and self-help organizations.

At this stage, the Project workers are looking to collect information from each country in the Asia-Pacific region outlining country specific critical issues for WWDs, including information on the organization’s initiatives or activities. A report will be compiled and sent to the Thematic Working Group on Disability Related Concerns, under UNESCAP. The Working groups meets twice per year, with the next two meetings scheduled for the end of May and the first week of December, 2004.

WWDA has provided information to the Project workers on WWDA, including our current activities and priority areas for action over the next 5 years. If anyone would like more information about this Project, please contact:

Ms. Supattraporn Tanatikom and Ms. Heather Tilbury
Regional Network for Women with Disabilities, Asia-Pacific Project
Disabled Peoples’ International, Asia-Pacific Regional Office
325 Bondstreet Road, Muangthong Thani,
Pakkred, Nonthaburi 11120 THAILAND
Tel/Fax 66-2984-1007, 66-2984-1008
Email: heather@dpiap.org

More information on the Biwako Millennium Framework can be found at:
http://www.worldenable.net/bangkok2003/biwako1.htm

8.3. Leadership Plus – Victoria

Leadership Plus is an organisation based in Victoria that promotes people with disabilities as leaders. It is a partnership initiative of the Disability Advocacy sector, the philanthropic sector and the Department of Human Services (DHS) Victoria. It’s focus is on the civic participation and inclusion as citizens in Australian society, and it’s objectives are:

  • Encouraging those who are already leaders (in particular leaders with a disability) to champion the benefits of diversity in leadership;
  • Developing the leadership potential of people with disabilities;
  • Create opportunities for leadership by working with the Community, Business and Environment Sectors. Build an understanding of the need and benefits of including people with disabilities as leaders in their strategies and structures.

To achieve these Objectives, the organisation has Strategic Goals and a number of Initiatives in progress. Some highlights are:

  • A Leadership Innovation Incubator driven by a network of leaders with a disability in business, government and the community
  • A Leadership Mentor and Internship Program for tertiary students and graduates with a disability
  • A Pilot Training course in leadership delivered by a TAFE provider to 4 groups of 15 people with a disability

For more information on Leadership Plus, contact:
Stephen Gianni (Director),
Ph: (03) 9481 7154 Email: sgianni@leadershipplus.com

For a copy of the Leadership Plus Strategic and Implementation Plan go to:
http://www.advocacyhouse.org/leadershipplus.doc


9. WWDA Funding Submissions

During February, WWDA developed several submissions for funding, in particular seeking funding to assist the organisation in purchasing much needed office equipment, including updated computer software.


10. Updated WWDA Membership Brochures

WWDA has recently updated and re-published its Membership Brochure. Please contact WWDA if you would like copies of the brochure to distribute through your Networks.