January 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 months of December 2003 and January 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 Federal Government’s Discussion Paper ‘Resolving Deadlocks: A Discussion Paper on Section 57 of the Australian Constitution’

On 8 October 2003 the Prime Minister released ‘Resolving deadlocks: a discussion paper on section 57 of the Australian Constitution’. This paper considered additional options for resolution of deadlocks between the Senate and the House of Representatives. Section 57 currently provides for deadlocks between the House of Representatives and the Senate to be resolved by a double dissolution election. The first option canvassed by the discussion paper would allow the Governor General to convene a joint sitting of both houses to consider a deadlocked bill, without the need for an election. The second option would allow the Governor General to convene a joint sitting of both houses after an ordinary general election.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) developed a Submission in response to ‘Resolving deadlocks’ Discussion Paper. WWDA believed it was important to make the Submission because women with disabilities disproportionately experience breaches of their citizenship right to participate in democratic decision-making. These breaches occur at all levels of Australian society, including the national parliamentary one.

A copy of WWDA’s Submission to the Federal Government’s ‘Resolving deadlocks’ Discussion Paper is now available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’). Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/deadlock.htm


2. WWDA Submission to the National Evaluation of the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) IV 2003/2004

SAAP is a support program assisting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, through a range of support and supported accommodation services. It is an important part of Australia’s overall response to homelessness and of the broader social safety net designed to prevent disadvantage in the community. The overall aim of SAAP, as set down in the Supported Accommodation Assistance Act, is to provide transitional supported accommodation and a range of related support services, in order to help people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness to achieve the maximum possible degree of self-reliance and independence. Within this aim the goals are to: resolve crisis; re-establish family links where appropriate; and, re-establish the capacity of clients to live independently of SAAP.

SAAP IV was evaluated in late 2003 – early 2004. The purpose of the evaluation was to examine the progress and effectiveness of SAAP IV and to advise on the future directions of the program. Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) developed a submission to the National Evaluation Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP IV).

A copy of WWDA’s Submission to the National Evaluation of the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) IV 2003/2004 is now available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’). Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/saap1.htm


3. WWDA Submission to the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services on its Draft Strategic Framework for Disability Services 2003 – 2008

In late 2003, the Tasmanian Government released its Draft Strategic Framework for Disability Services 2003 – 2008. WWDA developed a submission in response to this Draft Framework. WWDA’s Submission provides discussion around a number of areas, including: definitions of ‘disability services’, ‘quality of life’, and ‘people with disabilities’; Commonwealth/State Relations; the model of disability underpinning the Strategic Framework; the human rights imperative for reforming mainstream services to meet the needs of people with disabilities; acknowledgement of the self-determination of people with disabilities; and more.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has made this Submission, because women with disabilities disproportionately experience breaches of their human right to adequate health and community services. Where the Submission recommends changes to the Framework, it clearly evidences how they are practicable ones that significantly add to the Framework’s efficacy.

A copy of WWDA’s Submission to the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services on its Draft Strategic Framework For Disability Services 2003 – 2008 is now available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’). Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/tasdis1.htm


4. Productivity Commission 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. Among other things, the Commission is required to assess the costs and benefits of the DDA and its effectiveness in achieving its objectives, which in summary are to: eliminate as far as possible discrimination on the grounds of disability; ensure equality of people with disabilities before the law; and; promote recognition and acceptance of the rights of people with disabilities.

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. Some of the key points of Draft Report are:

The DDA appears likely to have provided net benefits to the Australian community.

  • many benefits are intangible but widespread
  • costs of complying with the DDA should be quite small for many organisations
  • in-built safeguards help ensure costs are outweighed by benefits
  • its impact on competition is likely to be limited.

But there is not enough information to quantify these costs and benefits. Comment is requested on costs and benefits both for people with disabilities and businesses.

Overall, the DDA has been reasonably effective in reducing discrimination. But its report card is mixed and there is some way to go before its objectives are achieved. People with physical disabilities have been helped more than those with mental and intellectual disabilities. Access to transport and education has improved more than employment opportunities. People in regional areas, from non-English speaking backgrounds and Indigenous Australians still face particular disadvantages – but race discrimination, language, socioeconomic background and remoteness also play a part. Minor changes would make the DDA more effective, including:

  • changes to the Act (to clarify definitions, extend the power to make disability standards and restrict the scope of exemptions);
  • changes to complaints processes (to provide more certainty about court costs and allow organisations and HREOC to initiate complaints);

Further measures may be considered to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities, consistent with economic efficiency. Comment is sought on:

  • the appropriate sharing of costs of adjustments between government and business;
  • the introduction of a ‘positive duty’ on employers to identify and work toward removing barriers to the employment of people with disabilities.

The DDA, and HREOC, need the support of mainstream mechanisms wherever possible:

  • in monitoring and enforcing disability standards;
  • through co-regulation (backed by disability standards).

Public hearings to discuss the draft report will commence in Melbourne on 29 January 2004 and conclude in early March. WWDA will be attending the Public Hearings. WWDA will also be preparing a written Submission to the Productivity Commission on the draft report. More information about the Productivity Commission Review of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992, including copies of the draft Report is available via the Productivity Commission’s website: http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiry/dda/index.html


5. International Encyclopedia of Disability – SAGE Publications

In late 2003, WWDA was invited to contribute to the International Encyclopedia of Disability which will be published by SAGE publications in Chicago in 2004. The project involves the written contributions of 400 international scholars in disability, and will be marketed to every major library in the world. Each of the five volumes will be about 900 pages in length. The first four volumes consist of original material written for the encyclopedia and organised alphabetically. The fifth volume will consist of primary source material with short commentaries contextualising each source. Part of this fifth volume will attempt to illustrate Australian disability history and culture. This includes source material that epitomises (positive and negative) values and attitudes towards disability, and that relates to pointed and poignant moments in Australian disability history.

WWDA contributed an entry to the International Encyclopedia of Disability, which gives a brief overview of WWDA’s evolution, role and major achievements. Helen Meekosha, Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales, is jointly responsible for compiling and editing the International Encyclopedia of Disability.


6. Update on French Republic’s Human Rights Prize 2003

In early September 2003, WWDA was formally invited by the French Government to apply for the French Republic’s Human Rights Prize for 2003. The prize distinguishes field work and projects connected with the practical defence and furtherance of human rights, in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. WWDA was one of only two Australian entries for this most prestigious Award, and the only Australian entry invited to apply.

Unfortunately, WWDA’s entry was unsuccessful. The winners of the Prize for 2003 came from Iran and Cambodia. WWDA received the following letter from the French Ambassador in Canberra:

AMBASSADE DE FRANCE
EN AUSTRALIE
Canberra, 21 November 2003

Ms Carolyn Frohmader
Executive Director
Women With Disabilities (Australia)
PO Box 605
ROSNY PARK TAS 7018

Dear Ms Frohmader,
I refer to your submission for the French Government’s Human Rights Awards 2003.

I have much regret in informing you that your submission has been unsuccessful. Rest assured that, although your organisation was not chosen among the very many candidates received from all over the world, we found your action aiming at improving the condition of women with disabilities a very deserving one indeed. May I take this opportunity to congratulate your organisation for devoting so much efforts to such a worthy cause and wish you every success in your endeavours.

Yours sincerely,
Patrick Henault
Ambassador of France


7. Submission to The Reichstein Foundation

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 extensively 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. If you would like more information about this Project, please contact Carolyn Frohmader at: wwda@wwda.org.au


8. Draft Disability Standards for Access to Premises and proposed changes to the Building Code of Australia

In early 2004, the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) released documents for public comment as part of consultation on the proposed Disability Standards for Access to Premises (Premises Standard). The package also includes proposed changes to the Building Code of Australia (BCA), revised Australian Standards, a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS), Guidelines to the Premises Standard and amendments to the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport.

Comment on the proposals has been invited by the end of April 2004.

Public awareness sessions are being held to provide an opportunity to understand why these changes are taking place; a broad understanding of what changes are being proposed; and information on how you can have your say on the proposed changes. Speakers include representatives from the ABCB, Disability Sector, Property Sector, Attorney-General’s Department and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Public awareness sessions will be held in each capital city. Anyone can attend these free sessions. However, you must register if you wish to attend. Details of the Public awareness sessions, including Registration details, are available from the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) website: http://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/index.html

Copies of the relevant consultation documents are also available from the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) website. WWDA will be attending the Public awareness sessions in Hobart and Melbourne.


9. Update on the WWDA Strategic Plan

WWDA’s Strategic Plan for 2004-2009 is currently being drafted. This follows WWDA’s National Strategic Planning Forum held in Hobart in late 2003. WWDA’s Strategic Plan will detail specific action areas under the policy priority areas identified by the WWDA membership, which include:

  • violence against women with disabilities, including unlawful sterilisation;
  • health, with particular focus on cervical screening; breast screening; and screening for osteoporosis;
  • housing and accommodation;
  • disability support;
  • employment and income support;
  • information and communication technologies;
  • education;
  • women with disabilities at risk.

It is anticipated the WWDA Strategic Plan will be available in the coming weeks.


10. WWDA Newsletter

Due to the limited resources of WWDA, and the spiralling operational costs (such as Insurance!), WWDA is having to re-think how it produces the WWDA Newsletter. It is becoming increasingly clear that the costs of printing and mailing out the Newsletter to an ever growing membership, is no longer possible within our small budget. However, the WWDA Newsletter is very popular and important to our members, so we are currently working on producing an ‘in-house’ version of WWDA News. It is anticipated that the next issue of the WWDA Newsletter will be available in April 2004.


11. Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO)

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) has been registered as a Company with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). A Board of Directors has been established. The initial Board is made up of representatives from the eight current FACS funded peak disability organisations, plus a representative from the Indigenous Disability Network. WWDA’s representative on the Federation Board is Samantha Jenkinson from Victoria, who is also WWDA’s President. The Board of the AFDO will hold its inaugural meeting in Canberra on 27-28 January 2004.


12. New on the WWDA Website

Recent additions to the WWDA website include:

WWDA Submission to the Federal Government’s ‘Resolving Deadlocks’ Discussion Paper
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/deadlock.htm

WWDA Submission to the National Evaluation of the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) IV 2003/2004.
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/saap1.htm

WWDA Submission to the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services on its Draft Strategic Framework For Disability Services 2003 – 2008.
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/tasdis1.htm

WWDA Update Report October 2003.
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/bulloct03.htm

WWDA Update Report November 2003.
Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/bullnov03.htm