October 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 October 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. Attorney General’s NGO Forum on Domestic Human Rights

The Attorney General’s NGO Forum on Domestic Human Rights is to be held on November 28 in Canberra. WWDA has a place on this Forum, and Helen Meekosha (WWDA’s Human Rights representative) will be attending the Forum. WWDA has put the following two questions on notice to the Attorney General via the Agenda Committee:

1.1. The Sterilisation of Girls and Women with Disabilities

QUESTION: WWDA understands that at the Standing Committee of Attorney’s General (SCAG) in August 2003, the meeting agreed that a nationally consistent approach to the issue of sterilisation of minors with a ‘decision-making disability’ was necessary and requested a Working Party be formed to develop Model Legislation. Can you please advise on the progress of this call for action? Can you also please advise on the status of the Government’s response to the Recommendations outlined in WWDA’s published Report “Moving Forward”: Sterilisation and Reproductive Health of Women and Girls with Disabilities.

1.2. Development of a Draft UN Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights of People with Disabilities

QUESTION: Could the AG please advise why Australia has not strongly endorsed the development of a UN Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities? The statement by the Australian Delegation to New York in June 3002 stated “It may be the case that, rather than a free-standing new convention, a protocol or annex to one of the existing core human rights treaties would provide more effective protection (for people with disabilities)”. In the light of this statement, what advice was given to the delegation by the government to convey to the meeting? Is the government distancing itself from the Convention? Australia also suggested “extensive consultations” (should take place) between governments and stakeholders, including people with disabilities. Could the AG further advise what consultations have been undertaken to date. What are future plans in this regard?

WWDA will keep members updated on the outcomes of the November meeting of the Attorney General’s NGO Forum on Domestic Human Rights.

For summaries of the proceedings of past meetings of the Attorney General’s NGO Forum on Domestic Human Rights, go to: http://www.ag.gov.au/www/civiljusticeHome.nsf/AllDocs/RWPE3C734ECE0518B5FCA256B3C00811C73?OpenDocument

2. Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) Accessible 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 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.

WWDA has been invited to participate in this Forum, which will be held at Parliament House in Canberra on 28 November. WWDA’s delegate will be Ms Sue Salthouse, who is the Convenor of WWDA’s Telecommunications Working Party.

WWDA will keep members updated on the outcomes of the November meeting of the Accessible Telecommunications Forum. For those wishing to access a copy of the discussion paper entitled “When the tide comes in: Towards accessible telecommunications for people with disabilities in Australia”, go to:

3. Submission to the Board of Taxation Consultation on the Definition of a Charity

WWDA’s submission to the Exposure Draft of the Charities Bill 2003 was lodged in September. The Submission is now available on WWDA’s website (‘Submissions to Government’). Go to: www.wwda.org.au/charity1.htm

4. Upcoming Conference Presentations

4.1. ACOSS National Congress

WWDA will be presenting a paper at the ACOSS Congress 2003: ‘Piecing it Together – Equity, Empowerment, Change’ which is to be held in Canberra 13 November 2003 – 14 November 2003. WWDA’s newly elected President, Ms Samantha Jenkinson, will be presenting a Paper on ‘Welfare to Work’ which will examine some of the barriers people with disabilities face in obtaining employment. For more information about the ACOSS Congress, go to: www.acoss.org.au

4.2. 2003 ACROD Convention ‘Competing Voices’

WWDA will present at the 2003 ACROD Convention ‘Competing Voices’ in Hobart 24-25 November. WWDA’s presentation will be around the theme ‘The Next Big Thing’ – discussing what initiative is most needed today to advance the interests of people with disabilities. WWDA’s presentation will focus on the need for a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. For more information about the ACROD Convention, contact ACROD: 02 62833204 or visit the ACROD Website: www.acrod.org.au

4.3. DPI International World Summit

Disabled Peoples’ International is holding its World Summit in Winnipeg, Canada from September 8 to 10, 2004. The Summit’s theme is ‘Diversity Within’, with its primary focus on women, youth, and indigenous peoples with disabilities. WWDA has submitted two abstracts for presentations – around the issues of: ‘Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities’ and ‘Leadership and Mentoring of Women with Disabilities’. The selection process for presentations takes place in January 2004 and we can expect to hear about the status of our abstracts in February or early March next year. For a more detailed description of the Summit and its theme, go to: http://www.dpi.org/en/events/world_summit/06-23-03_summit2004.htm

5. 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 considers 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.

WWDA is currently preparing a draft response to the “Resolving deadlocks” Discussion Paper. The closing date for Submissions is 31 December 2003. Copies of the Resolving Deadlocks paper can be downloaded via: http://www.pmc.gov.au/docs/constitutionalchange.cfm

6. Submission to the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) Payphones Review

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) is conducting a public review of payphone policy to ensure that the provision of payphones under the universal service obligation (USO) continues to be effective and relevant. The review forms part of the government’s response to the 2002 report of the Regional Telecommunications Inquiry. However, the review will be examining general payphone policy relating to both metropolitan and regional areas.

With regard to women with disabilities, research and consultations undertaken by WWDA in relation to their general socio-economic position and more specifically to their Information and Communication Technology needs, indicate that women with disabilities are more likely to be dependent on payphones for communication with friends and family and in emergencies than any other group. For this reason, WWDA places great importance on this Review of the current and projected future role of payphones in Australia.

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

7. WWDA Telecommunications Working Group and the ‘WWDA Telecommunications Consumer Representation Grant’ Project Final Report

The WWDA Report for the last Telecommunications Consumer Representation Grant Project (1 October ’02 – 30 September ’03) has just been submitted to the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. It summarises the activities of the WWDA Telecommunications Group over the Grant period. Group members are: Louise Bannister (Canberra), Joyce Deering (Darwin), Margaret Cooper (Melbourne), Margherita Coppolino (Melbourne), Jo-An Partridge (Melbourne), Sue Salthouse (Canberra) and Christine Tilley (Brisbane). Between them, the group speaksout for women with disabilities on the Telstra Disability Forum and a number of Telstra sub-committees; the Telstra Consumer Consultative Council meetings in both Brisbane and Darwin; the telecommunications disability consumer representation body (TEDICORE) run by Blind Citizens Australia, and the Australian Consumer Industry Forum disability body. During the year the group members have attended more than 90 hours of meetings, and countless hours of giving feedback about equipment, new technologies and minimum standards to be met so that women with disabilities get the best possible access to telecommunications services.

The group has put 65 postings on ‘wwda-discuss’ to keep subscribers up to date with developments in telecommunications, and written 5 articles for disability magazines. They have made submissions to government and telecommunications bodies about policies and services, and have been consulted by Ph.D. students and given feedback on various projects. The group continues to raise concerns about the lack of accessibility of Information Technology for too large a proportion of women with disabilities. The Digital Divide is a real barrier for far too many WWDA constituents and the group conducted a small project in Canberra to address this issue. The information gained in this project will be ammunition for continued lobbying (‘Women on the Web’ report will be on the WWDA website soon).

The Grant, of $10,700 has enabled the WWDA Telecommunications Working Group members to have some remuneration for some of the work that they do. The current Grant is for $11,075 and the WWDA Telecommunications Working Group will continue to bring the telecommunications issues of women with disabilitiesto the fore.

8. Funding Submissions

WWDA is currently waiting to hear the outcome of several of its funding submissions. As reported in the September update, WWDA has secured Project funds from the Global Fund for Women to enable WWDA to undertake a number of capacity building initiatives. WWDA has also been shortlisted for project funding by the Reichsteion Foundation, and a WWDA delegation is meting with the Foundation in November to further discuss WWDA’s project proposal.

9. New on the WWDA Website

New and existing resource materials are regularly being added to the WWDA Website. Recent additions include: WWDA’s Submission to the Board of Taxation Consultation on the Exposure Draft of the Charities Bill 2003.
Go to: www.wwda.org.au/charity1.htm

WWDA Update Reports are now available on the website.
Go to: www.wwda.org.au/bulletin.htm