Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Update Bulletin September/October 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. It is the only organisation of its kind in Australia and one of only a very small number internationally. WWDA is inclusive and does not discriminate against any disability. WWDA is unique, in that it operates as a national disability organisation; a national women’s organisation; and a national human rights organisation (more information about WWDA can be found at the organisation’s extensive website: www.wwda.org.au). Please find below a brief Update Report on some of WWDA’s activities for the months of September/October 2004. If you have any questions, or would like more information on anything in this report, please email Carolyn at: wwda@wwda.org.au


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1. Submission from Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) request for comments on the possible public inquiry on employment and disability issues

Human Rights Commissioner and Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM is considering recommending to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission a possible public inquiry on issues affecting equal employment opportunity for people with a disability in Australia.

Improving employment opportunity and outcomes for people with disabilities was a large part of the original motivation for introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in 1992. However, as indicated by the review published by the Commission in March 2003 of the first ten years of experience in implementation of the DDA, the employment area is one where progress since the passage of the DDA is hardest to identify. Concerns in this area have been further highlighted by the review of the Disability Discrimination Act conducted by the Productivity Commission over the last 16 months and the report of that review released in July 2004. Such statistics as the Commission is aware of indicate that:

  • the proportion of people with a disability of working age who are participating in the workforce remains very much lower than the proportion for the population overall;
  • among those people with a disability who are in the workforce the unemployment rate remains very much higher than for the population overall;
  • in Australian Public Service employment (which both provides a significant sample of employment experience and might be expected having regard to Commonwealth Government policy and to available resources to provide a model of good practice) the proportion of people with a disability has fallen significantly.

In September 2004, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) requested comments on the possible public inquiry on employment and disability issues. WWDA developed a Submission to HREOC in response to this request. WWDA’s submission, informed by the members of WWDA, demonstrates the need for a Public Inquiry into the employment of people with disabilities. WWDA’s submission stressed the need for any inquiry to examine the impact of gender and disability on employment, and the need for Governments to employ focused, gender-specific measures to ensure that women with disabilities experience full and effective enjoyment of their human rights in relation to employment.

A copy of WWDA’s Submission to the ‘Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) request for comments on the possible public inquiry on employment and disability issues’ will soon be made available on WWDA’s website.

If anyone would like a copy of the Submission emailed to them, please contact the WWDA Office via email on: wwda@wwda.org.au


2. Submission from Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) to the Tasmanian 2005-06 Budget Community Consultation Process

In early October 2004, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) developed a Submission to the Tasmanian Government’s 2005-06 Budget Community Consultation Process.

WWDA’s Submission highlights the limited statistical, and lack of demographic information available regarding women with disabilities in Tasmania. It provides information about what we know at a national level – that is, in 2003, there were 3.9 million people in Australia with a disability (one in five), making up 20% of the total population (ABS 2004). The proportion of males and females with a disability is similar (around 10% each) although it varies across age groups, with more women with disabilities in the older age cohorts (ABS 2003). Of those with a disability, 86% (3.3 million) are limited in the core activities of self care, mobility or communication, or restricted in schooling or employment. Most people with a disability (76%) are limited in one or more of these core activities. (ABS 2004).

WWDA’s Submission highlights the fact that, in Tasmania, the rates of people with a disability are higher than the national average. Some 23% of Tasmanians have a disability (ABS 2004, DHHS 2001), and approximately half these will be women with disabilities. This translates into some 50,000 women with disabilities in Tasmania. Despite the fact that 20% of Tasmania’s women have a disability, there is no service, organization or program funded by the Tasmanian Government which undertakes focused, gender-specific advocacy on behalf of women with disabilities in Tasmania.

WWDA’s Submission recommends, amongst other things, that the Tasmanian Government employ focused, gender-specific measures to ensure that Tasmanian women and girls with disabilities experience full and effective enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms and full participation on the basis of equality.

A copy of WWDA’s Submission to the to the ‘Tasmanian Government’s 2005-06 Budget Community Consultation Process’ will soon be made available on WWDA’s website.

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. WWDA Presentation at the Disabled People’s International (DPI) World Summit, Canada, September 2004.

The Disabled People’s International (DPI) World Summit in Winnipeg, Canada, September 8-10, 2004. The Summit was held over two and half days with over 800 participants from 105 countries. WWDA was represented at the Summit by Leanne Dowse and Annie Parkinson. The Global Fund for Women (USA) kindly provided WWDA with a travel grant to fund the cost of WWDA’s delegates attendance at the Summit.

DPI has consultative status with a number of international bodies including UNESCO, the World Health Organisation and the UN. It campaigns on a broad range of issues which affect the lives of disabled people including the environment, population, international labour and bioethics. As such it is a key player in international disability politics and its work is likely to have a direct effect on women with disabilities in Australia. Every four years DPI holds a World Congress where members come together to identify priority issues for the organisation. The last World Congress was held in Sapporo Japan in 2002. DPI also holds a World Summit every four years, usually two years following its Congress. The purpose of the World Summit is to bring delegates together to discuss the critical issues identified by the Congress and to put forward resolutions to the International Committee regarding actions which the organisation should undertake to address these identified issues.

WWDA presented a paper at the DPI World Summit. The Paper, entitled ‘Moving Forward or Losing Ground? The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia’ outlined WWDA’s work in the area (including its national project on sterilisation and reproductive health of women and girls with disabilities), traces developments in Australia and discusses some of the critical issues in the consideration of sterilisation and reproductive rights as a human rights issue.

The Paper was very well received. Questions were taken from delegates from Jamaica, Canada, the US, the UK, Germany and Australia. Throughout the remainder of the Summit, delegates continued to make contact and comment favourably that the paper raised important issues for women with disabilities all over the world. They also expressed surprise and dismay that the issue had been so difficult to resolve in a ‘developed’ country such as Australia. A resolution, derived from the presentation was put to the closing plenary which called for DPI to call on governments all over the world to ban the sterilisation of disabled women and girls (the exact text will be available on the DPI website sometime in Sept 2004).

WWDA’s Paper ‘Moving Forward or Losing Ground? The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia’ is now available on the WWDA website (‘Reports, Articles, Papers, Submissions’). Go to: http://wwda.org.au/steril3.htm

A full report of the Summit from WWDA’s delegates is also available from the WWDA Office. If anyone would like a copy of the Report emailed to them, please contact the WWDA Office via email on: wwda@wwda.org.au


4. New WWDA Project – Development of an Accessible Information and Referral Portal for Women With Disabilities in Australia

In early October, WWDA was notified by the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women (OSW) that WWDA’s Application for capacity building project funds, had been successful.

This project will seek to enhance WWDA’s capacity to better respond to meeting the needs and concerns of women with disabilities. It will do this by developing internal information systems which enable WWDA to provide effective information, advice and referral to women with disabilities, their associates and the broader community. Specifically, WWDA will research and develop an accessible Information and Referral Portal of relevant services, agencies, and organizations at national, State/Territory, regional and local levels. WWDA will also develop a Data Collection System which records incoming requests for information from women with disabilities. This data will inform WWDA’s systemic advocacy work and will enhance WWDA’s capacity to act as a two way conduit between the Government and the community on social policy issues as they affect women with disabilities. Once developed, the Information and Referral Portal will be made available on WWDA’s website, and will be developed in line with international Standards of Web accessibility for people with disabilities. The Information and Referral Portal will also be linked to the Women.gov.au website, developed by the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women.

The Project will run for 8 months. Project Planning has commenced, and members will be kept informed of the progress. If anyone would like a copy of the Project Plan, please contact the WWDA Office via email on: wwda@wwda.org.au


5. WWDA Annual General Meeting

The WWDA Annual General Meeting (AGM) was conducted on October 19th, via teleconference. WWDA’s major achievements and key areas of work over the past year were reported to the AGM. Major achievements for the year included:

5.1. Invitation from the French Government to apply for the French Republic’s Human Rights Prize 2003

WWDA was one of only two Australian entries for this most prestigious Award, and the only Australian entry invited to apply around the theme of ‘Discrimination Against Women’. Although WWDA’s entry was unsuccessful, the organization received a letter of congratulations from the French Government.

5.2. Systemic Advocacy on Government Policy and Service Delivery Issues

Major areas of activity included: Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities; Development of a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities; Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) National Summit on Access to Health Services for People with Disabilities; National Human Rights Action Plan. More than twenty – five formal submissions were provided to a range of Federal Government and related Policy Reviews and processes.

5.3. Corporate Governance

Areas of activity included: Development of Five Year WWDA Strategic Plan; Development of Standard WWDA Information Kit and Orientation Package; Development of an Orientation and Procedure Manual for WWDA Management Committee Members; Development of a WWDA Library, Administration Information Management System and Electronic Mailing Database.

5.4. WWDA Representation and Conference Presentations

During the past year, WWDA has presented papers at 10 major Conferences, and has been represented on, or at, over 33 national, State/Territory and local working parties, committees, advisory bodies, and other fora.

5.5. WWDA Funding Submissions

During the past year, WWDA has written 16 formal submissions for project and related funding. Eight of these submissions have been successful, with a further six yet to be decided.

5.6. WWDA Website Development

For the period September 2003 – July 2004, the WWDA website has received 192,733 visits (not ‘hits’). This is up by 82,105 visits from the previous year, where the total number of visits was 110,628.

WWDA’s Annual Report is in the process of being completed. A copy will be forwarded to WWDA members and other key stakeholders in the coming weeks.

The members of the WWDA Management Committee for 2004-05, ratified at the WWDA AGM, are:
Annie Parkinson (NSW)
Samantha Jenkinson (VIC)
Pamela Menere (VIC)
Sheila King (QLD)
Joyce Deering (NT)
Sue Salthouse (ACT)
Margie Charlesworth (SA)
Kate List (NSW)
Jill Fowler (SA)
Fiona Given (NSW)


6. WWDA Presentation at the National Conference on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault – Melbourne September 2004

The ‘Home Truths’ Conference was held in Melbourne 15-17 September 2004. This National Conference aimed to discuss, debate and highlight practice and policy issues relating to sexual assault and domestic and family violence.

WWDA was selected to present a paper at this Conference on Domestic Violence and Women with Disabilities. WWDA’s paper ‘Double the Odds’ – Domestic Violence and Women with Disabilities’ examines the reasons for the higher incidence of domestic violence experienced by women with disabilities. It looks at the extra barriers which prevent women with disabilities from leaving a situation of domestic violence – from a refuge with no ramp to the erosion of self esteem which is a legacy of living with disability. It questions the attitude of women’s organisations which ignore the experiences of the sisterhood of women with disabilities. It pries into the world of policy makers which ignore the particular needs of women with disabilities in addressing the question of domestic violence. The paper also peers outside the home to uncover the way society’s perceptions perpetuate the predicament of women with disabilities. Sue Salthouse presented the paper on behalf of WWDA.

A copy of WWDA’s paper ‘Double the Odds’ – Domestic Violence and Women with Disabilities’ will soon be made available on WWDA’s website (‘Reports, Articles, Papers, Submissions’).

If anyone would like a copy of the paper emailed to them, please contact the WWDA Office via email on: wwda@wwda.org.au


7. WWDA Policy and Advocacy Network (PAN) Project Report

WWDA PAN ended August with a teleconference and work during the month of September has been as arising from that meeting.

Sue Salthouse presented a paper “Double the Odds – Domestic Violence and Women with Disabilities” co-written by herself and Carolyn Frohmader to the ‘Home Truths’ conference hosted by the Centres Against Sexual Assault Inc (Victoria) and Domestic Violence Victoria and held in Melbourne from 15-17 September. Audience feedback showed that most had not considered potential for increased vulnerability to domestic violence for many women with disabilities. Unfortunately also there seemed to be low attendance by women with disabilities.

Discussions have been held with the Project Officer of Security4Women (S4W) about the need to include input from women with disabilities in any research about the economic status of women in Australia. S4W is one of the 4 Secretariats funded by the Office of the Status of Women to represent the interests of Australian women and is an arm of the Australian Federation of Business and Professional Women Inc. They undertake research into various aspects of economic security for women, with particular attention paid to gender related issues. One of their current projects is: ‘Case Study: Girls’ and young women’s working futures – VET and VET in schools’. The project will now have input from young women with disabilities.

Discussions were held with the Disability Programs Section of the ACT Department of Education and Family Services. They will generate disaggregated statistics on the number of male and female students with disabilities currently in the public education system in the ACT.

A Report on the Project was prepared for the WWDA AGM.


8. WWDA Telecommunications Group – Activities Report

Discussions were held with a Research Statistician at the University of Canberra about the feasibility of conducting research into the market potential of a large, minimal functions mobile phone (as opposed to the high tech multi-function small versions currently predominating on the market).

Feedback was given to the Australian Communications Authority on its issues paper ‘Consumer Driven Communications’. Invitation to attend public consultation was posted on wwda-discuss (29 September).

Feedback was given to the Australian Communications Industry Forum Disability Advisory Body, and direct to the Australian Mobile Telephone Association on the latter organisation’s ‘Good Practice Guide to Servicing Customers with Disabilities’.

Following a call posted on wwda-discuss for feedback about the experience of getting assistive equipment when a customers primary carrier is not Telstra, a number of responses were received. The information is being presented to the Australian Communications Authority.

Eight postings on ‘wwda-discuss’ relating to telecommunications have been made by the WWDA Telecommunications Group during the month.


9. News from Other Organisations

9.1. Launch of the Australian Women’s Mentoring Network (AWMN)

The two priorities of the Australian Women’s Mentoring Network (AWMN) are to:

  • promote, encourage and implement women’s mentoring programs in the workplace (and for members of women’s organisations), and
  • provide a free web-based mentoring service for women who don’t otherwise have access to suitable mentors.

The AWMN is currently looking for organisations and companies who wish to demonstrate their commitment to EEO and women’s career development by becoming founding organisational members of the AWMN and trialing a women’s mentoring network in their organisation. The AWMN is also very eager to promote the free service by encouraging women to register with the AWMN online as mentors and mentees.

The free web-based service that the AWMN provides is available to all Australian women, and the AWMN believes it will particularly benefit those in the following categories:

  • Women who don’t have access to a mentoring program through their place of employment
  • Executive and high level women who’s choice of mentors within their own company is limited
  • Women in male-dominated professions/industries
  • Women who own small, micro or home-based businesses
  • Unemployed women
  • Women returning to the workforce after having children
  • Women in diversity groups (e.g. NESB, ATSI, disabled)
  • Young women aged 18-25
  • Rural/remote women

Further details about the AWMN, it’s vision, resources on mentoring, career development and work/life balance; and other services are available from the website www.womensmentoring.com.au.

For more information you can contact:
Catherine Seton
Director
AWMN
Ph: (08) 9361 6696

9.2. Development of a Women’s Health Policy for South Australia

As part of the South Australian Department of Health’s reform agenda, the Women’s Health Policy will outline the South Australian Government’s key actions over the next five years for improving the health of South Australian women. The purpose of the policy is to provide a guide to women, the general public and decision-makers about the directions for women’s health and the expectations for women’s health services. The policy will do this by:

  • Establishing base-line standards that will support women’s expectations of the system
  • Making a commitment to deal with specific issues that affect the health of women
  • Identifying agreed, realistic priorities and broad commitments over specific timescales
  • Facilitating leadership across government, with decision-makers, practitioners and communities, by providing a tool that helps them to move along the path to change.

The South Australian Government is seeking input to the development of the policy. To access the draft policy, go to the SA Health Reform web site (http://www.sahealthreform.sa.gov.au/) and click on ‘Women’s Health Policy’, in the yellow header under the First Steps Forward title. If you prefer to comment by email, please send your comments to the Women’s Health Policy Writing Team at womenspolicy@health.sa.gov.au. There will also be a number of face to face forums held around the State.

For more information, you can contact:
Diana Hopkinson
Primary Health Care Branch
PO Box 287, Rundle Mall SA 5000
Email: womenspolicy@health.sa.gov.au
Ph: (08) 8226 6668
Fax: (08) 8226 6633

9.3. Queensland Maternity Services Review

The Review of Maternity Services was established by the Queensland Minister for Health in July 2004 to examine existing and future models of maternity care, in particular midwifery models of care, and recommend strategies to enhance choices for women, within a framework of safety and sustainability. Independently chaired by Dr Cherrell Hirst AO, the Review progresses an election commitment made by the Queensland Premier to ‘…undertake a Statewide review of birthing services to determine how midwifery models of delivery and care can be enhanced, without compromising the safety of women and babies.’

The Review is interested in the health services provided to women during pregnancy, birth and one month post-birth. The needs of Indigenous women, women with particular cultural or language needs and women in rural and remote areas are part of the Review’s core terms of reference. A broad process of community consultation is in place.

The Review will provide the Minister for Health with evidence-based recommendations for sustainable maternity service options that meet community needs and that are safe, culturally appropriate and based on best practice. The Review is due to report in February 2005. Terms of Reference are available from the Maternity Services Review website: http://www.maternityservicesreviewqld.net.au/

For more information, you can contact:
Queensland Maternity Services Review
PO Box 910
Brisbane Albert St Qld 4002
Ph: 07 3235 9038
Email: info@maternityservicesreviewqld.net.au
Website: http://www.maternityservicesreviewqld.net.au/

9.4. Australian Federation of Disability Organisations

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations will hold its first Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Parliament House Canberra, Private Dining Room 1 & 2, on Thursday 18th November from 2- 3pm. At the AGM, the members of AFDO will receive the 2003 – 2004 annual report including audited financial statements and consider two resolutions to broaden the membership of AFDO.

In Accordance with clause 7.4 of the AFDO Constitution, the Board of Directors is required to do the following at the 2004 AGM:

  • decide whether State and Territory based organisations should be allowed to join the AFDO, what their qualifications for joining should be and whether they should have the same membership rights as national organisations
  • report what organisations have applied to join during the year and vote on whether to accept the organisations as members.

AFDO has just begun its establishment phase after a number of lengthy delays. Membership is an important and complex issue and there has not been sufficient time to consider this issue fully.

Resolution 1
That AFDO Members agree to: Immediately Co-opt 2 additional Directors, one from each of The Australian Mental Health Consumer Network (AMHCN) and People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).

Resolution 2
That the AFDO board be tasked with the responsibility to undertake, as a matter of urgency, the development of a membership structure which includes:

  • consideration and recommendation on representation from both national and State-wide organisations of people with disability
  • provision for a range of membership classes
  • a membership fee structure
  • that a Special General Meeting be held early in 2005 to consider a recommendation with the view to its immediate implementation.

For more information, you can contact:
Maryanne Diamond
CEO
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
Ross House, 247 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000.
Ph: (03) 9662 3324
Fax / TTY: (03) 9662 3325
Email: afdo@afdo.org.au