Papers, Articles, Reports & Submissions 2001 – 2005


‘The Reproductive Rights of Women with Disabilities’ – By Natalie Tomas (2004)

This paper outlines the legislative framework in Victoria and the role of the Office of the Public Advocate within that framework with regard to the reproductive rights of women with disabilities. It is particularly concerned with the non-therapeutic sterilisation of young women with intellectual disabilities. Copyright 2004.


‘Moving Forward or Losing Ground? The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia’ – By Leanne Dowse (September 2004)

The forced sterilisation of disabled women and girls is an act of unnecessary and dehumanising violence which denies the right to bodily integrity. Forced sterilisation refers to medical procedures which permanently remove an individuals ability to reproduce and are conducted without the consent of the individual. In many countries across the world this practice continues to be debated and justified by governments, legal, medical and other professionals and even family members and carers as being in the ‘best interests’ of disabled women and girls. In reality the justification has more to do with eugenic fears, the best interest of the state, community or family and the social control of the unruly bodies of disabled women and girls. Of great concern to the disability rights movement is the absence of the voices of disabled women and girls who have been or may be affected by forced sterilisation. In order to address this issue in Australia, Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) conducted a National Project on the Sterilisation and Reproductive Health of Women and Girls with Disabilities. The project brought together disabled women and girls in a safe space to share their experiences, name the impacts of forced sterilisation and identify future actions. The resulting report “Moving Forward” recommended the banning of all sterilisations of girls under the age of 18 years and the prohibition of sterilisation of adults in the absence of informed consent, except in circumstances where there is a serious threat to health or life. This paper outlines WWDA’s work in the area, 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 presented by Leanne Dowse on behalf of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) to the Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) World Summit, Winnipeg, September 8-10, 2004. Copyright WWDA 2004.


Women With Disabilities Australia: Submission to the Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments regarding Non-Therapeutic Sterilisation of Minors with a Decision-Making Disability (May 2004)

This paper is a Submission in response to the Issues Paper developed by the Australian Government’s Standing Committee of Attorney’s-General (SCAG) Working Group on the Non-Therapeutic Sterilisation of Minors with a Decision-Making Disability. This Issues Paper was released in April 2004. Submission prepared by: Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) in association with The Disability Studies and Research Institute (DSaRI) and Assoc. Prof. Lee Ann Basser, La Trobe Law, La Trobe University Melbourne. Copyright WWDA May 2004.


“Walk In Our Shoes” – Four Corners (ABC TV) explores the issue of sterilisation of people with disabilities (16 June, 2003)

On Monday 16 June, 2003 Four Corners (ABC TV) broadcast a program entitled “Walk in Our Shoes”. The Program explored the issue of whether, and in what circumstances, disabled women (and men) should be sterilised. The transcript of the Program, along with transcripts of interviews conducted for the program have been reproduced here, with permission of Four Corners (ABC TV). Copyright ABC 2003.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Moving Forward – Sterilisation and Reproductive Health Of Women and Girls with Disabilities’ – By Leanne Dowse and Carolyn Frohmader (2001) [PDF]

In mid 2000, WWDA applied for, and received project funding from the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women, to conduct a National Project on the issue of Sterilisation and Reproductive Health of Women and Girls with Disabilities. While developments in the legislation have been ongoing since the early 1990′s, WWDA saw the need for a project to address the issues for women whose lives had been affected. The Project comprised of two main components – a background research phase, which examined international and national developments in the area; and a National Forum phase, which drew together women with disabilities to critically analyse the issue and develop strategies to advance debate and action. ‘Moving Forward– Sterilisation and Reproductive Health Of Women and Girls with Disabilities’, is the comprehensive report of WWDA’s National Project on the issue of Sterilisation and Reproductive Health of Women and Girls with Disabilities. Copyright WWDA 2001.


‘The Sterilisation of Girls and Young Women in Australia: Issues and Progress’ – By Susan Brady, John Briton, and Sonia Grover for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (April 2001)

This report was commissioned jointly by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and the Disability Discrimination Commissioner at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. This report summarises some developments since the 1997 Report (‘The Sterilisation of Girls and Young Women in Australia – A Legal, Medical and Social Context’) also commissioned by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. This ‘Issues and Progress’ Report includes responses to the 1997 report, most notably debate about the numbers of sterilisations being performed. It provides up-to-date information on the number of applications to the Family Court or relevant State Guardianship Tribunals. It is written to contribute to further community discussion in this sensitive area. Copyright 2001.


The sterilisation of girls and young women with intellectual disabilities in Australia: An audit of Family Court and Guardianship Tribunal cases between 1992-1998. By Susan Brady (2001) [Word]

This paper will highlight the findings of research examining Family Court and state Guardianship Tribunal’s originating materials and written reports from ‘experts’ and family members. It includes all sterilisation cases involving minors that have proceeded to legal judgment in Australia between 1992-1998. The central assertion is that non-consensual sterilisation continues to be framed as a medical problem to be ‘cured’ for family and social reasons. The findings raise systemic questions about the continuing social obstacles of discrimination, prejudice, and oppression facing girls and women with intellectual disabilities in Australia.