November 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 November 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. Australian Research Council Project Proposal

WWDA has joined with the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), University of New South Wales (UNSW), University of Queensland, and the Disability Studies and Research Institute of Australia to seek funding from the Australian Research Council to undertake a national project on disability and the media. The project ‘Disability in the Media: Exploring a Decade of Change in Search of Best Practice’ explores the changes in the way the media have responded to disabled people and disability issues in the decade since the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act. 1992. Drawing on media data bases from the early and mid-1990s, and using current material, a typology of media representation of disability will be developed. This typology will be used to examine case studies selected by experts in different media that demonstrate best current practice. A website will be produced to report the outcomes and form the basis for the development of media industry best-practice projects.


2. Conference Presentations

2.1. Australian Council Of Social Service (Acoss) National Congress

WWDA’s President, Samantha Jenkinson, attended the ACOSS National Congress in November. Samantha conducted a Workshop on behalf of the national disability peak bodies which make up the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO). The Workshop examined the issues around ‘Welfare to Work’ as it affects people with disabilities. The Workshop not only provided a historical perspective on the needs of people with disabilities in relation to income support and employment assistance, but also examined the barriers (particularly the structural barriers) people with disabilities face in accessing employment.

2.2. Acrod National Convention

Ms Samantha Salvaneschi, a member of WWDA’s Management Committee, represented WWDA at the ACROD Convention and participated in a panel discussion ‘The Next Big Thing’. This presentation was to consider what initiative is most needed today to advance the interests of Australians with Disabilities. Samantha’s presentation on the panel was around the need for a United Nations Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. The Commonwealth of Australia has been one of the very few United Nations (UN) members to express reluctance for supporting the development of a UN convention on disability rights. However, Australian non-government organisations for the rights of people with disabilities have been overwhelmingly supportive of a convention, on the basis that it will enshrine a social model of disability and formal legal protections against arrangements that nation-states make which detract from the substantive citizenship of people with disabilities. A Paper prepared by Samantha on the issue will be made available on the WWDA website in coming weeks.

2.3. Diversity In Health Conference

Helen Meekosha represented WWDA at the Diversity in Health Conference held at Darling Harbour, Sydney. Helen presented a paper on behalf of WWDA, entitled: “Diversity and Creativity in Health and Wellbeing”.


3. Disability Studies Research Institute Of Australia (Dsari)

The Disability Studies and Research Institute (DSaRI) was established in early 2002. DSaRI undertakes research into disability issues from a social perspective, and promotes community debate associated with the rights of disabled people. The Institute involves stakeholders from organisations of people with disabilities, universities, the research community, service delivery bodies and industry. It aims for a wider understanding of the social causes and responses to processes that disable people with impairments, and promotes their participation in the social, economic, cultural and political life of the nation. WWDA is a founding member of DSaRI, and in early 2002, WWDA donated $1,000 to DSaRI to assist in its establishment. The DSARI AGM was held in early November 2003. A WWDA member, Dr Kate List, was nominated, and elected to the DSARI Board. For more information on DSARI, go to the website at: http/www.dsari.org.au/


4. National Secretariat Program (Nsp) Review

During November, WWDA participated in the Review of the National Secretariat Program (NSP). The role of the National Secretariat Program (Department of Family & Community Services) is essentially to contribute to the development and implementation of Government policies affecting Australian families and communities, and to act as a two way conduit between the Government and the community on social policy issues. It achieves this by providing operational funding to a number of national peak bodies within the community and family services sector (including those which represent welfare, disability, family, homelessness and children’s services). Implicit in the financial support to these national peak bodies is the understanding and expectation that the peaks will contribute to the development of Government policies, and act as a two-way conduit between the community and Government on social policy issues.WWDA participated in an interview with representatives from the NSP, and also provided a written submission to the Review. WWDA’s submission covered issues such as the need for simplification of funding contracts and more streamlined reporting processes. WWDA also recommended that peak bodies funded under the NSP be funded on a triennial basis as opposed to the current arrangements of one year funding cycles. Issues such as the rise in operational costs and the need for increased resources were also raised by WWDA in its submission to the Review.

If anyone would like a copy of WWDA’s submission to the NSP Review, please email WWDA at: wwda@wwda.org.au


5. Submission To The National Evaluation Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (Saap Iv)

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 contains four strategic themes which have been committed to by the Commonwealth and all States and Territories:

  • client-focused service delivery – which includes testing new and flexible service delivery models, enhancing and promoting existing good practice, and strengthening client capacity to live independently of SAAP,
  • integration and collaboration between SAAP and other service systems, – recognising the complexity of factors affecting pathways to homelessness, and the need to establish links with other human service delivery agencies,
  • increasing performance, knowledge and skills, to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of service for clients, and
  • working together, so that the Commonwealth and the States and Territories will work in partnership with communities to enhance the capacity for SAAP to respond to homelessness.

SAAP IV is currently being evaluated. The purpose of the evaluation is to examine the progress and effectiveness of SAAP IV and to advise on the future directions of the program. Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has developed a submission to the National Evaluation Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP IV). Housing situations are precarious for many women with disabilities. A decline in the supply of low cost housing, an increase in unemployment and the level of poverty, and changes in the service delivery policies of specialist services, have increased the risk of homelessness for many Australians. The impact of these changes is even greater on the more vulnerable among the homeless, most notably, women with disabilities. There are a range of factors which make women with disabilities the most vulnerable group to homelessness or risk of homelessness in our society.

WWDA’s submission will soon be made available on WWDA’s website. If anyone would like a copy of the submission, please email WWDA at: wwda@wwda.org.au


6. Submission To The Reichstein Foundation

WWDA has submitted a funding submission to the Reichstein Foundation. The Reichstein Foundation funds projects which effect structural change to benefit disadvantaged communities. Projects designed to challenge and change systems (such as policies, laws and practices) are a priority. Reichstein Foundation is not a charity but a philanthropic foundation committed to systemic advocacy. The Foundation works in partnership with community organisations to improve, maintain or restore human rights and social justice.

WWDA has requested funds from the Reichstein Foundation to ‘improve the status of women with disabilities through systemic advocacy at a national level’. The main objective of the Project is to develop a range of systems, activities and processes that:

  • provide informed and representative advice to government on women’s policy development and implementation relevant to the views and circumstances of women with disabilities;
  • represent the views of women with disabilities through consultation with the WWDA constituency and other groups and organisations relevant to women with disabilities’ concerns;
  • enable specific policy analysis on individual areas of organisational expertise and concern;
  • contribute to WWDA’s commitment to creating leadership opportunities for women with disabilities.

WWDA’s submission has been shortlisted by the Reichstein Foundation and in late November, a WWDA delegation met with staff of the Reichstein Foundation to further discuss WWDA’s proposal. A decision on the successful funding applicants will be made in mid December 2003.


7. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission National Telecommunications Forum

Dr Sev Ozdowski, (Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner) recently commissioned a discussion paper entitled “When the tide comes in: Towards accessible telecommunications for people with disabilities in Australia.” This paper explores trends in telecommunications technologies and services, and their impact on accessibility for people with disabilities, having regard to the legislative background and regulatory framework in Australia. It reviews the major issues for access to telecommunications services and equipment for people with disabilities, recommending strategies for maximising access and minimising discrimination. One of the Recommendations stemming from the Paper, was the call for HREOC to convene a high level forum to consider the issues which the paper raised, with the aim of developing partnerships between organisations in the telecommunications industry to address or continue to address those issues.

The National Telecommunications Forum was held at Parliament House in Canberra on 28 November. Some of the key issues examined at the forum included:

  • What are the key principles for an industry code on text telephony?
  • Do we need an industry code on public payphones, and what should it contain?
  • Do we need a mobile telecommunications action plan, what should it contain?
  • Are groups who primarily rely on SMS communications disadvantaged by current pricing?
  • What is the best means of including mobile phones in disability equipment programs?
  • Do we need a more comprehensive telecommunications Disability Standard and if so what areas should it cover?

WWDA’s delegate to the Forum was Ms Sue Salthouse, who is the Convenor of WWDA’s Telecommunications Working Party. WWDA is currently preparing a report from the National Telecommunications Forum, which will be made available to members and will also be available from the WWDA Website.


8. Victorian Women With Disabilities Strategic Consumer Advocacy Project

The Women with Disabilities Advocacy Service (WDAS) will build on an existing partnership between two statewide women’s advocacy organisations – Women’s Health Victoria (WHV) and the Victorian Women with Disabilities Network (VWDN). The current partnership is successfully implementing the Women with Disabilities Strategic Consumer Advocacy Project. Over the next year this project is working to identify and prioritise issues that require advocacy work for women with disabilities and to scope current and potential activities to meet these needs. The focus on women with disabilities recognises the need for gender-specific advocacy. Women with disabilities have significant needs that are not being adequately met by current government policy, disability services, the advocacy sector or community planning and services in general. Women’s Health Victoria (WHV) and the Victorian Women with Disabilities Network (VWDN) are currently seeking funding from the Victorian Department of Human Services to develop an innovative, comprehensive and empowering statewide advocacy service for all women with disabilities in Victoria, and to assist in implementing the outcomes of the current WHV/VWDN project. For more information about this project, contact: Sarah Waters, Project Officer, Ph 03 96623755 Fax 03 96637955. Email: sarah.waters@whv.org.au