May – June 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 May and June 2005. If you have any questions, or would like more information on anything in this report, please email Carolyn at: wwda@wwda.org.au


Contents

WWDA Project – Development of an Accessible Information and Referral Directory for Women With Disabilities in Australia

Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) National Inquiry into Employment and Disability – Update

Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) and Royal College of General Practitioner’s National Meeting

National Cervical Cancer Screening Program Forum

Australian Electoral Commission Meeting

Evaluation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy Update

Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) Discussion Paper Released

Women With Disabilities and Mammography Screening Research Project

WWDA Telecommunications Working Group Report

Sterilisation Update

New on the WWDA Website


WWDA Project – Development of an Accessible Information and Referral Directory for Women With Disabilities in Australia

In early October 2004, WWDA received funding from the then Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women (OSW) to conduct a capacity building project. Specifically, the project was to research and develop an accessible Information and Referral Directory of relevant services, agencies, and organizations at national, State/Territory, regional and local levels.

WWDA has been very busy over the past few months working on the Project, which has now been completed. The WWDA Information and Referral Directory is now available on the WWDA website (www.wwda.org.au). The Directory information has been organised into various groups and sub-groups to enable easy access, and the listings are arranged alphabetically. It is our intention to keep developing and expanding the Directory, and we are eager to receive suggestions in relation to further services available that may be useful to include in the Directory.

The WWDA Information and Referral Directory contains an extensive amount of information about services and organizations across a wide range of issue areas. Just some examples of what you can find include:

  • All disability and related organizations across Australia, including national organizations;
  • Every legal centre and service in Australia;
  • Organisatons Australia wide that provide individual advocacy services to people with disabilities;
  • Information on where to go to get aids and equipment;
  • Details of services that can help with assisted reproduction;
  • Agencies that deal with violence and abuse, including listings of crisis services, women’s shelters and more;
  • All women’s health centres, services and organizations around Australia;

And much, much more!!!


Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) National Inquiry into Employment and Disability – Update

In March 2005, the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) announced that over the course of 2005, it would conduct a public inquiry on the issues that affect equal opportunity in employment for people with disabilities in Australia. The aim of the Inquiry is to identify the reasons for the disadvantages faced by people with disabilities in the open workplace and to work towards practical, achievable solutions.

WWDA has contributed to the early stages of this Inquiry by attending a National Roundtable on the issues, as well as submitting a written submission to the Inquiry (a copy of WWDA’s Submission is available on the WWDA website at www.wwda.org.au).

The Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) is currently in the process of developing an Interim Report on the Inquiry to date. This Interim Report will include an analysis of the submissions received to date, as well as the results of a national mapping exercise on the services offered by the Commonwealth regarding employment of people with disabilities. The Interim Report will be available for comment and feedback by end July 2005.

For more information you can contact:

Disability Rights Unit
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
GPO Box 5218
Sydney NSW 2001
Phone: 02 9284 9767


Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) and Royal College of General Practitioner’s National Meeting

In mid 2004, as a direct result of lobbying by WWDA, the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) held a national Summit on Access to Medical Services for People with Disabilities. A paper written by Sue Salthouse & Keran Howe on ‘Access to Breast & Cervical Screening for Women With Disabilities’ was presented by Keran Howe on behalf of WWDA at this National Summit. As a result of the Summit, WWDA was invited to attend a national meeting of 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 2004. 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.

Another recent spin-off from the HREOC National Summit has seen WWDA invited to attend a National meeting organised by the Royal College of General Practitioners in conjunction with HREOC. The meeting is being conducted specifically to discuss ways of improving access to Australian general practice by people with disability.

The RACGP has stated that ‘amongst the challenges faced by people with disability and their general practitioners is the structure of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) through with the Australian Government subsidises care for Australians. The RACGP has been working closely with the other national general practice organisations on a proposal to restructure the MBS. The RACGP is keen to explore some of the challenges that such a restructure holds, and to discuss short-term strategies to improve the responsiveness of the MBS to the needs of people with disability. The RACGP is also nearing completion of the 3rd Edition of our Standards for General Practices, and we would be interested in discussing some of the issues for people with disability that have arisen in the preparatory work.’

The national meeting of the RACGP, HREOC and representatives from the disability sector is taking place on Wednesday 29 June 2005 in Sydney. Annie Parkinson will be representing WWDA at this meeting. WWDA will report back to members on the outcomes of this meeting in future Update Reports.


National Cervical Cancer Screening Program Forum

In March 2005, WWDA delegates (Sue Salthouse and Annie Parkinson) attended the national forum ‘Cervical Health, Future Directions – A Women’s Health Forum’ which was held in Canberra on March 15, 2005 and organized by the Targeted Prevention Programs Branch (Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing). The purpose of the Forum was to discuss the revised draft National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Guidelines for the management of well women with an abnormal pap smear result.

Although the Guidelines are aimed at the management of asymptomatic women who present for Pap tests, WWDA is concerned that the Guidelines do not tackle many of the issues and concerns which WWDA has raised over a number of years. These issues include for example: the lack of data around participation of women with disabilities in screening programs; incidence of cervical cancer amongst women with disabilities; and mortality from cervical cancer for women with disabilities.

Following the Forum, WWDA wrote to the Commonwealth Department of Health & Ageing (Targeted Prevention Programs Branch) outlining our concerns and requesting an opportunity to meet with the relevant stakeholders to further discuss these issues and look at strategies to address them. To date, no response has been received to our correspondence. WWDA will keep members informed of any progress in this area.


Australian Electoral Commission Meeting

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) conducts federal elections and referendums and maintains the Commonwealth Electoral Roll. It is a Commonwealth statutory authority which was established on 21 February 1984. WWDA has been invited to attend a meeting with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) on Tuesday 28 June 2005. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the October 2004 election arrangements and any proposed areas of improvement for the next election. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is also working to progress the establishment of a disability reference group which would include agreeing the terms of reference and membership for such a group. It is anticipated that WWDA will have an ongoing participation in such a Disability Reference Group, so if WWDA members have any issues they would like us to raise on their behalf, please contact the WWDA Office via email at: wwda@wwda.org.au or phone: 03 62448288.


Evaluation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy Update

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 Commonwealth 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 is available on the WWDA website at www.wwda.org.au).

The Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) has recently appointed a Consultancy firm (Erebus International) to undertake the next stage of the Evaluation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. WWDA understands that FaCS has also appointed a Steering Committee to oversee the Evaluation, although it is not clear at this stage who is represented on the Steering Committee. WWDA has requested that FaCS make information available on its website about the Evaluation, including ways that interested organizations and individuals can have input to the Evaluation process.


Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) Discussion Paper Released

A new discussion paper was launched on 22 June 2005 by Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward. The Discussion Paper, entitled ‘Striking the Balance: Women, men, work and family’ explores men’s and women’s choices for balancing their competing work and family responsibilities. Commissioner Goward said the paper will tease out various aspects of the work and family debate by looking at choices people make between the ‘public’ realm of the paid workforce and the ‘private’ realm of the home.

“This project has important implications for women, men, their families and the nation. Australian families are caught between the pressures of paid work and the responsibilities of caring, and everyone is suffering as a result,” said Ms Goward. “Work and family balance is essentially about choices. It’s not about favouring some forms of arrangements for managing paid work and family responsibilities over others, but rather an exploration of whether all types of families are provided with real choices for balancing their competing responsibilities.”

The Discussion Paper focuses on the particular issues faced by men and women in balancing their various responsibilities, on the gender relations that underpin the lives men and women lead, and on the legal, policy and attitudinal frameworks that both facilitate and constrain the choices open to men and women.

Submissions are invited on the issues raised in the discussion paper. The closing date for submissions is 30 September 2005. Copies of the Discussion Paper can be downloaded from the HREOC website at:

www.hreoc.gov.au/sex_discrimination/strikingbalance/index.html

For more information, or to request hard copies of the Discussion Paper, you can contact:

Sex Discrimination Unit
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
GPO Box 5218
Sydney NSW 2001
Ph: 02 9284 9600


Women With Disabilities and Mammography Screening Research Project

The University of Sydney in partnership with BreastScreen NSW, and with the support of a National Breast Cancer Foundation’s Kathleen Cuningham Research Grant, is recruiting women with disabilities aged between 50-69 years to participate in a three year research project.

The aim of the project is to make sure that women with disabilities in this age group have access to breast screening services.

Participation in the project would include a face-to-face interview, lasting from 1-2 hours, in a place that suits you. If you like you can ask a friend or carer to be there with you. Interviews would be tape-recorded. During this interview we would be asking about what you know about breast cancer screening and whether you have ever been screened. The Interview stage of the Project will be occurring over the next few months.

Participation in the Project is voluntary. If you decide to take part, you do not have to answer any questions that you do not want to answer. All the information you provide to the researchers will be kept strictly confidential. When the project is finished, a report about the study will be written.

If you are interested in finding out more about the research or have specific question you would like answered, you can contact:

Louella McCarthy
Ph: (02) 9351 9205
Email: l.mccarthy@fhs.usyd.edu.au

If you require assistance from the National Relay Service (NRS) the number is: 133 677


WWDA Telecommunications Working Group Report

The WWDA Telecommunications Group has continued having a high level of input to the advisory bodies on which it has representatives and to government. Recent activities have included:

    • Application for funding to the Telecommunications Consumer Representation Grants Program (Department of Communications, Information Technology & the Arts) completed and submitted;

 

    • Australian Communication Industry Forum’s Disability Advisory Body (ACIF DAB) Representation Grant for 2005-2006 awarded to WWDA

 

    • Working Group Representatives have participated in the meetings of Telecommunications Disability Consumer Representation Project Advisory Body (TEDICORE PAB); Australian Communication Industry Forum’s Disability Advisory Body (ACIF DAB); and the Telstra Disability Forum (TDF).

 

    • Working Group members conducted a Teleconference in March to review activities. It was decided not to undertake any action research in the current grant period, and to use funds to sponsor Group members to attend relevant conferences and forums.

 

    • Working Group Representatives participated in the Novitatech Roadshow in Canberra. This highlighted adaptations of commercially available telecommunications equipment for people with complex communication needs.

 

    • Working Group Representative participated in the Consumer Telecommunications Network (CTN) forum on ‘Consumer Strengthening’.

 

    • Feedback given to the Australian Communication Industry Forum’s Disability Advisory Body (ACIF DAB) on development of payphone industry Code; development of a registration system for consumer representation; the review of the Priority Assistance Code; review of Guidelines G586:2001 on disability considerations for all ACIF activities; and comments on the issues paper regarding drawing up a single consumer Code.

 

    • Two articles were written for the Australian Communication Industry Forum’s in-house e-magazine ‘Activate’ – the first a synopsis of WWDA, the second an update on the ACIF Disability Advisory Body activities.

 

    • WWDA Working Group member and Convenor Sue Salthouse nominated by WWDA for a position on the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) Council. Sue was short-listed and made it through the Interview stage, but unfortunately was unsuccessful.

 

    • Working Group wrote formally to Minister Helen Coonan (Minister for Communications, Information Technology & the Arts) on the urgent need for an independent Disability Equipment Program (DEP). WWDA also sent a letter to Minister Coonan in March requesting the inclusion of women with disabilities in the upcoming Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) Summit. No reply has been received from the Minister as yet.

 

  • Working Group Convenor assisted WWDA with the development of the Telecommunications section of the WWDA Information and Referral Directory.

Sterilisation Update

In late May 2004, 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. (A copy of the Submission is on WWDA’s website). WWDA did not support the Government’s proposal to develop a nationally consistent approach to the authorisation procedures required for the lawful sterilisation of minors with a decision-making disability. WWDA strongly recommended that the Federal Government develop universal legislation which prohibits sterilisation of children except in those circumstances which amount to those that are a serious threat to health or life. WWDA’s Submission was widely distributed, and included a copy sent to every politician in Australia (at both Federal and State/Territory levels). WWDA received a large number of responses to our Submission.

WWDA has not received any information from the Federal Attorney-General regarding the current status of the Government’s proposal to develop a nationally consistent approach to the authorisation procedures required for the lawful sterilisation of minors with a decision-making disability. In June 2005, WWDA received a letter from Clover Moore (Member for Bligh in NSW) who had been advocating on WWDA’s behalf on the issues as outlined in our Submission. Her letter to WWDA included a response from Bob Debus the NSW Attorney General, who re-iterated the NSW Government’s position on sterilisation of minors.

Mr Debus’ letter of May 17 stated:

‘The Standing Committee of Attorney General (SCAG) is considering an Issues Paper which addresses possible instances where the therapeutic sterilization of children or young people with a decision making disability may be necessary. Women With Disabilities Australia provided a submission on the Issues Paper, and the organisation’s views were fully considered as part of the consultation process. Draft instructions for a Model Bill are currently being finalized.

NSW has advocated that the Model Bill should be in similar terms to arrangements in place under guardianship and child protection legislation. In making its determinations, the NSW Guardianship Tribunal must be satisfied that sterilization is the most appropriate form of treatment for promoting and maintaining the patient’s health and well being, and that sterilization is necessary to either save the patient’s life or prevent serious damage to their health.

The position in NSW is that there is no case for non-therapeutic sterilization of children. Sterilisation of children should only be carried out for immediately necessary therapeutic purposes. Legislation already exists in NSW to deal with these issues, and the Government does not propose to adopt any uniform legislation unless it is satisfied that the legislation would not diminish the protections already in place.’

WWDA will be writing to the Federal Attorney General requesting a status report on the progress of the development of the Model Bill, and requesting information on how that work will progress given the position of the NSW Government (whose Attorney General is a member of the Standing Committee of Attorney’s General (SCAG) which is the group charged with the development of the Model Bill). WWDA will keep members informed of our work in this area.


New on the WWDA Website

Additions to the WWDA website this month include:

WWDA Information and Referral Directory
Go to: www.wwda.org.au/portmain.htm