July 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 July 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 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. It has also asked the Board to consult on whether the public benefit test in the draft legislation should require the dominant purpose of a charitable entity to be altruistic, as recommended by the Report of the Inquiry into the Definition of Charities and Related Organisations. WWDA is preparing a submission to the TaxBoard in response to the draft legislation. This will follow up WWDA’s submission to the original inquiry. More details about the TaxBoard Consultations on the definition of a charity, including all relevant documents, are available from: http://www.taxboard.gov.au/content/charities.asp WWDA’s Submission to the original Public Inquiry into the Definition of Charities and Related Organisations is available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’).

The WWDA Submission is available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’). Go to: http://www.wwda.org.au/charity.htm

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

On 16 June, ABC Television screened a program on Four Corners entitled “Walk In Our Shoes”. The program dealt with the issue of sterilisation of people with disabilities. WWDA provided a great deal of assistance to the producer in identifying significant people to interview, providing briefings on the issue as it impacts on women with disabilities and supporting women with disabilities to speak out. The resulting report was disappointing in that it failed to provide a balanced interpretation, but did however, highlight how complex and difficult the issue is and the inadequacy of government responses for all of the stakeholders. The Four Corners Program built on WWDA’s National project on Sterilisation and Reproductive Health of Women and Girls with Disabilities, conducted in 2001.

This Project culminated in the published report by WWDA entitled: “Moving Forward – Sterilisation and Reproductive Health of Women and Girls with Disabilities”. Despite ongoing correspondence with the Commonwealth Attorney General and a meeting with the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), we have had difficulty in progressing the recommendations contained in the Moving Forward Report. Recently WWDA wrote to all State/Territory Attorneys General, requesting their assistance in our efforts, and also recommending that they may wish to consider WWDA’s report at the Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG). Responses from some of the State/Territory AG’s, indicate that the issue of authorisation for the sterilization of women and girls with a decision-making disability has recently been listed as an agenda item for consideration by the Standing Committee of Attorneys General at the next meeting in August this year.

WWDA will keep members informed of progress in this area. Copies of the WWDA publication “Moving Forward – Sterilisation and Reproductive Health of Women and Girls with Disabilities” can be purchased from the WWDA National Office.

3. Submission to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Discussion Paper on the Discussion paper: “Assistance animals under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992”

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) has released a Discussion Paper seeking comment on possible recommendations to the Federal Government to provide a clearer regime for determining which assistance animals should be recognised for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act (“DDA”), and to clarify the relationship of the DDA in this area to laws on health and hygiene. WWDA will be preparing a response to this Paper. If you would like to have input to the development of WWDA’s response, please contact WWDA via email at wwda@wwda.org.au. Copies of the Discussion Paper can be obtained via the HROC website at: http://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/inquiries/animal03/discuss.htm or from the WWDA office.

4. Family Court of Australia Family Violence Committee Consultation Report

Family violence is a significant issue for clients of the Family Court. Changes in staffing, practices and procedures have necessitated the revision of the current policy that has been in place since 1993. In recognition of this the Chief Justice has established a Family Violence Committee, convened by Justice Colleen Moore to conduct a review of the existing Family Violence Policy and development of a comprehensive practice framework. The Family Violence Committee undertook a consultation in late 2002 to inform this work, and a draft report has recently been forward to WWDA for comment. Unfortunately, the Draft Report makes no reference to people with disabilities, although it does deal in detail with the specific needs of NESB clients and indigenous clients of the Family Court. WWDA is working with the Family Violence Committee to ensure that the issues and concerns of people with disabilities are included and addressed – both in the current Family Violence Committee Consultation Report, and any subsequent documents and processes.

Further information about the review of the existing Family Violence Policy and development of a comprehensive practice framework can be obtained by emailing the Project Officer at fvcommittee@familycourt.gov.au.

5. National Women’s Research and Policy Development

In early July, WWDA wrote to the 4 National women’s organisations that are currently funded by the Federal; Government to provide advice on policy development as it affects women. Specifically, WWDA wanted to ensure that the 4 national women’s organisations funded by the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women (OSW) included WWDA in their consultations and other processes. WWDA has been invited to participate in two current national women’s projects which have significant relevance to women with disabilities:

The Women’s Report Card: A Community and UN Report on the Status of Women in Australia – This process will document the experiences of women in relation to human rights and gender equality in Australia. It will provide an NGO perspective on crucial issues for women in Australia when the CEDAW Committee considers the Australian Government’s Fourth and Fifth Periodic Report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Australia. The Project is being undertaken by the Women’s Rights Action Network of Australia (WRANA). More information can be obtained by emailing: wrana_projects@yahoo.com.au

BPW Security For Women Project – BPW Australia has formed a consortium to undertake and deliver research that will significantly inform development of national policies in areas of crucial significance to women. The project aims to identify the varying factors that enhance or hinder a range of women’s ability to seek or choose pathways to acquire economic sustainability, including those that may not be plainly apparent. More information can be obtained by going to: http://www.bpw.com.au/Projects.htm

WWDA has recently established an email based WWDA Working Party for the National Women’s Report Card Project. WWDA is also seeking project funding to develop a National WWDA Working Party on Women’s Policy. For more information, email the National WWDA Office at: wwda@wwda.org.au

6. WWDA Strategic Planning Forum

Work continues on the arrangements for the WWDA National Strategic Planning Forum in September 2003. The WWDA Annual General Meeting will be held prior to the Planning Forum. WWDA has undertaken an analysis of issues which the organisation has received the most contact about (from members), and these issues are:

  • Sexuality
  • Violence
  • Housing & Accommodation
  • Health
  • Telecommunications

WWDA has made this information available to members to seek their input into the processes of prioritizing policy issues for WWDA to work on over the next few years.

7. WWDA Telecommunications Working Group

WWDA’s National Telecommunications Working Group continues to achieve great success in its work. The group, which has been running for a few years now, receives a small amount of funding from the Commonwealth Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA), and has recently secured project funding from DCITA for another year. The members of the Working Group represent WWDA on a wide variety of government and industry telecommunications for a. Ms Sue Salthouse is the Convenor of the WWDA Telecommunications Working Group and for more information, contact Sue via email on: sudata@optusnet.com.au

8. Funding Submissions

WWDA has written 2 funding submissions over the past few weeks for WWDA projects primarily around capacity building for the organisation. More information can be obtained by contacting Carolyn Frohmader at WWDA.