March 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 March 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 Funding Submission to the Tasmanian Community Fund (TCF)

WWDA’s systemic advocacy around the issue of Access to Breast and Cervical Screening for Women with Disabilities has been acknowledged at both State/Territory and Federal Government levels. For example, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), in responding to WWDA’s calls for a Public Inquiry into the issue, has agreed to conduct a National Summit on Access to Health & Medical Services for People with Disabilities, with a specific focus on access to breast and cervical screening for women with disabilities. In agreeing to this course of action, the HREOC Commissioner Dr Sev Ozdowski, has acknowledged that the issues raised by WWDA “are clearly of critical significance for women with disabilities and involve serious issues of human rights.”

Similarly, the problem of women with disabilities in Tasmania accessing breast and cervical screening programs has been acknowledged by the Tasmanian Minister for Health, David Llewellyn. In a letter to WWDA about the problem, the Tasmanian Health Minister stated “…..detailed statistical and demographic information regarding women with disabilities in Tasmania is not available. This makes it very difficult to appropriately target marketing and educational strategies for the purpose of recruiting women with disabilities to the Breastscreen and Cervical Cancer Prevention Programs. We would be grateful of any assistance you could offer in this area…” (March 2nd, 2004).

In March, WWDA developed an Application for funding to the Tasmanian Community Fund (TCF) to conduct a project on Access to Breast and Cervical Screening for Women with Disabilities. The proposed project, “Promoting Access to Breast and Cervical Screening for Women with Disabilities” is a consumer driven and focused project which seeks to firstly, research and evaluate the delivery of screening services for breast and cervical cancers to women with disabilities in Tasmania. The Project will identify inherent barriers which preclude Tasmanian women with all types of disabilities from accessing these screening programs. It will also research a State/Territory, national and international perspective of the range of initiatives and models of best practice regarding breast and cervical screening for women with disabilities. The Project will also identify remedies to these barriers, through the delivery of a report with recommendations that are critical to increasing access to, and uptake of these services by Tasmanian women with disabilities.

It is intended this project will be developed as a pilot for service delivery throughout Australia and it will deliver recommendations designed to support international best practice in service delivery for women with disabilities. Importantly, as the national peak advocacy organisation for women with disabilities it is WWDA’s responsibility to ensure the voices of women with disabilities are heard on issues that affect their lives. The limited research that has occurred in the area of reproductive health of women with disabilities has seldom included or involved women with disabilities. They have had little opportunity to speak about their experiences, or participate in legislative, policy and/or program development. This Project seeks to redress this imbalance.

Successful applicants will be announced later in the year. If anyone would like more information about this proposed project, please contact Carolyn at: wwda@wwda.org.au


2. WWDA Submission to the South Australian Government’s Discussion Paper: “Valuing South Australia’s Women: Towards A Women’s Safety Strategy For South Australia”

In March 2004, the South Australian Minister for Social Justice and the Status of Women, the Hon Stephanie Key, released a Discussion Paper entitled “Valuing South Australia’s Women: Towards A Women’s Safety Strategy For South Australia”, identifying it as ‘an essential step in fulfilling the Government’s pledge made at the last election to reduce violence against women’. The Discussion Paper proposes four key directions for a Women’s Safety Strategy for South Australia, and seeks comments from the community on the proposed directions, as well as seeking comment on any identified gaps in the Paper.

In late March 2004, WWDA developed a Draft Submission in response to the Discussion Paper. WWDA’s draft submission has been circulated to members for input and comments are due by April 9th. The submission will then be finalized and forwarded to the South Australian Government.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is deeply concerned that the Discussion Paper “Valuing South Australia’s Women: Towards A Women’s Safety Strategy for South Australia” fails to recognise the major and largely unaddressed issue of violence against women with disabilities. The paper ignores the extent, pervasive nature, and incidence of violence against women with disabilities. It ignores the serious failure of services to respond adequately to women with disabilities experiencing violence. It ignores the need for responses tailored to the specific circumstances of women with disabilities experiencing violence, and at risk of violence.

In its submission, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) strongly urges the South Australian Government to address these serious omissions, and ensure that the Women’s Safety Strategy for South Australia specifically address the over-representation of women with disabilities as victims of all forms of violence, along with the urgent need to not only reduce, but prevent violence against women with disabilities.

A copy of WWDA’s Submission to the South Australian Government’s Discussion Paper “Valuing South Australia’s Women: Towards A Women’s Safety Strategy for South Australia” will be made available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’) in late April. 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. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) Forum on the ‘Draft Text for a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities’

In March, the Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Sev Ozdowski convened two ‘expert’ workshops to discuss the current development through the United Nations system of a draft international Convention on human rights and disability. A workshop in Sydney was held on March 12th, in conjunction with the International Law Association (Australian Branch and the Australian Centre for Human Rights). A further workshop was held in Canberra on March 25th, in conjunction with the Centre for International and Public Law at the Australian National University. HREOC identified one of the main aims of these workshops as: ‘Discussions are intended to inform HREOC and disability community participants in making ongoing contributions to development of a draft Convention, and may also assist in informing further development of the Government’s contributions’.

WWDA’s Vice President Annie Parkinson, attended the Sydney forum on behalf of WWDA. Due to lack of resources, WWDA was unable to send a delegate to the Canberra forum. WWDA’s request to HREOC for funding assistance to enable a delegate to attend was turned down.


4. WWDA Meeting with Senator Kay Patterson, Minister for Family and Community Services (FACS) and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women

On Friday 26th March, a WWDA delegation met with Senator Kay Patterson, in Hobart. Annie Parkinson (WWDA Vice President), Helen Meekosha (WWDA Human Rights Delegate), Jenny Bridge-Wright (WWDA Treasurer), Carolyn Frohmader (Executive Director) and Angela Court (Business Manager) met with the Minister, her Adviser, Senator Richard Colbeck (Liberal Senator for Tasmania) and representatives from the FACS Hobart Office.

At the meeting, WWDA raised and discussed five main issues with the Minister, and suggested specific action by the Minister in relation to these issues. A brief synopsis of the issues discussed is provided here.

Sterilisation

WWDA has been working on the issue of sterilization and reproductive health for several years. WWDA conducted a National Project on the issue in 2001; which resulted in the report ‘Moving Forward’. WWDA’s work in this area has seen the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) agree to develop draft model State and Territory provisions to confer on State and Territory guardianship or similar tribunals jurisdiction to authorise sterilisation procedures on minors with a decision-making disability (August 2003). Much more needs to be done to progress the recommendations in ‘Moving Forward’.

WWDA suggests that the Minister:

  • Establish a national working group (cross government and other key stakeholders) to progress the recommendations in WWDA’s Report ‘Moving Forward’.

Violence Against Women With Disabilities

Violence is a major issue for women with disabilities. It takes a number of forms and is perpetrated not just by an intimate partner or spouse but by relatives, caregivers (paid and unpaid, male and female), co-patients, residential and institutional staff, other service providers. WWDA was responsible for the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence (PADV) Project to develop accessible information resources for women with disabilities re violence (“It’s not OK – It’s Violence”). The Kit was produced but no ‘implementation’ has ever occurred. Women with disabilities in Australia still cannot access women’s refuges, despite the pervasive nature and increased incidence of violence against women with disabilities. There is no data collection on disability by SAAP funded services in Australia.

WWDA suggests that the Minister:

  • Ensure that the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence (PADV) follow up the “It’s not OK – It’s Violence” Kit with an Implementation Strategy which includes training and education of both women with disabilities and service providers.
  • Ensure that the SAAP National Data Collection (NDC) include data collection on women with disabilities.
  • Support WWDA to conduct a national audit of SAAP funded services in Australia in relation to access of women with disabilities.

Access to Breast and Cervical Screening for Women With Disabilities

Many women with disabilities are unable to access breast and cervical screening programs, and remain one of the most under-screened groups of women in Australia. WWDA has requested that the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) undertake a Public Inquiry into the issue. There is no data collected in Australia on uptake rates of breast and/or cervical screening for women with disabilities. National Breast and Cervical Screening Policies do not include women with disabilities as a target group for screening.

WWDA suggests that the Minister:

  • Meet with the Minister for Health, Tony Abbott and request that disability indicators be developed for inclusion into breast and cervical screening policies and services, at both national and State/Territory levels. Further request that women with disabilities be included as an identifiable target group by the national breast and cervical screening policies.
  • Support WWDA’s call to the Commonwealth Government for a Public Inquiry into Access to Breast and Cervical Screening for Women with Disabilities in Australia.

Individual Advocacy

Over the past 12 months WWDA has witnessed a significant increase in requests for individual advocacy, often from people in crisis. Requests are very diverse and come from a cross section of the community. WWDA spends considerable time on responding to these requests, particularly in the area of information provision and referral. Many of the people coming to WWDA for help are not having their needs met by existing services.

WWDA suggests that the Minister:

  • Provide capacity building project funding to WWDA to research and develop a database of services, agencies, and organizations at national, State/Territory, regional and local levels.
  • Conduct a Government Inquiry into the gaps in current services for meeting the needs of people with disabilities in relation to individual advocacy, particularly those in crisis.

WWDA also raised the issue of operational funding and the need for increased operational funds to better reflect WWDA’s work, as well as recognition of the significant increases in operational costs. WWDA is funded as a National Secretariat Support Organisation, and receives $120,000pa (net) through the National Secretariat Program (NSP) of FACS. WWDA has not received any growth funding from FACS since WWDA’s inception in 1995.


5. WWDA Telecommunications Group – Activities for March 2004

General

During March, Christine Tilley participated in the quarterly TEDICORE PAB (Telecommunications Disability Consumer Representation Project Advisory Body) meeting in Melbourne, and Sue Salthouse participated in the half-yearly TDF (Telstra Disability Forum) meetings in Melbourne. Under new operational objectives for the TDF, Sue conducted an election for a new Consumer Co-Chair and Deputy for the TDF. Tony Starkey and Harold Hartfield were elected. When a handover is complete, Sue will resign her position on the TDF. Margaret Cooper will then take over as the WWDA representative, with Jo-An Partridge acting as alternative rep.

TEDICORE PAB (Telecommunications Disability Consumer Representation Project Advisory Body)

Christine has already reported separately to wwda-discuss on the items under discussion at this meeting. In summary the major issues were:

Payphones: TEDICORE is developing a Payphone Policy which they hope will serve as a guideline for government to regulate the various payphone suppliers and thus maximise accessiblity for people with disabilities. WWDA has provided considerable input to this exercise.

Disability Equipment Programs: TEDICORE is promoting the concept of an independent Disability Equipment Program (at present Telstra has the major DEP, Optus has a smaller DEP, and other companies which purchase wholesale from Tesltra can also enable their customers to access the Telstra DEP. TEDICORE is in discussion with ACIF to develop a model as to how an independent DEP might be run.

Any-to-Any Text Connectivity: the working party which has commissioned research into various aspects of how mobile phones can be made compatible with TTY machines has been making good progress. However funding uncertainties could mean that the work of this group will stop in June 2004.

TELSTRA DEP CAG (Telstra Disability Equipment Program Consumer Advisory Group)

Disability Enquiry Helpline:this area is now the centre for handling requests for DEP (Disability Equipment Program). Statistics giving volume of calls, equipment loaned and response times for handling enquiries were tabled.

Disability Liaison Managers: following the closure of the Aged and Disability Centres, these 2 officers have the responsibility for training disability officers at the many Telstra.

DEP (Disability Equipment Program) centres around Australia: the work done and areas covered under the new system is potentially much better, but WWDA still has concerns about how well the DEP is operating for consumers. We will continue to ask Telstra for strict monitoring of the situation.

Big Button phone: a new Big Button phone with features which will assist many different disabilities is under development, due for production and release later this year.

New Equipment: other items under consideration for addition to the DEP were reviewed by the group.

Payphone Working Party: This group reported on work done with Telstra to develop a set of guidelines for payphone units, booths, signage, location, etc. to submit to the ACA (Australian Communications Authority). WWDA, along with other reps. still has concerns about the size of units under consideration, and the affect that this has on the overall height of payphones.

TDF (Telstra Disability Forum)

Co-Chair: Bruce Lang, National General Manager for Consumer Advocacy co-chaired the meeting. Consumer Advocacy is new section for Telstra and advises customers about Telstra products and services. It is completely separate from Customer Complaints.

Other items discussed were:

NowTalk Software: This software enables TTY’s to talk directly to computers. This will enhance TTY-users ability to access all sections of Telstra. Wider applications are still in the development phase.

Report from TCCC (Telstra Consumer Consultative Council): Major issues were pros and cons for consumers of ‘bundling’ of accounts; the New Look Telstra Stores and their accessibility for people with disabilities. Disability consumer organisations have great interest in all consumer issues on the TCCC’s agenda. The strengthened ties between the two organisations is timely.

TAPRIC (Telecommunications Action Plan for Remote Indigenous Communities) Update: an initiative to improve services to indigenous communities.

Reports: from all working parties discussed.

Presentations: from CAUS about ongoing difficulties getting suitable equipment to enable use of telephone services; from a Metropolitan General Manager about their new role as ‘the face’ of Telstra in metropolitan areas.

Updates: about a number of Telstra developments including promotion and advertising of Telstra Disability Services.


6. Information on Initiatives from other NGO’s

6.1. The Women’s Safety After Separation Project

This Project is a joint project of the National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children and The Australian Coalition of Women Against Violence. The Project aims to:

  • Develop a network of organisations assisting women negotiating children’s matters after separation, particularly in cases involving violence and abuse.
  • Develop resources to support individuals and organisations assisting women negotiating children’s matters after separation, particularly in cases involving violence and abuse.
  • Identify policy approaches to support women negotiating children’s matters after separation, particularly in cases involving violence and abuse.
  • Publish a web-based resource for access by individuals and organisations supporting women negotiating children’s matters after separation, particularly in cases involving violence and abuse.
  • Support research into assisting women negotiating children’s matters after separation, particularly in cases involving violence and abuse.
  • Provide a continuing focal point for the support of individuals and organisations assisting women negotiating children’s matters after separation, particularly in cases involving violence and abuse.

The Project will be conducting consultations, including focus groups, around the country. For more information contact:
Women’s Safety After Separation Project
National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children and The Australian Coalition of Women Against Violence
Ph. 08 82262505 Fax 08 82262509
Coordinator: Marie Hume – Email: marie@ncsmc.org.au
Project worker: Heather Joy – Email: heather@ncsmc.org.au