WWDA Submission to the Public Inquiry into the Definition of Charities and Related Organisations


In early 2000, the Australian Government announced a Public Inquiry into the Definition of Charities and Related Organisations. This is Women With Disabilities Australia’s (WWDA) Submission to the Inquiry. Copyright WWDA 2000.


Executive Summary

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with all types of disabilities in Australia. WWDA is run by women with disabilities, for women with disabilities. It is the only organisation of its kind in Australia and one of only a very small number internationally. WWDA seeks to ensure the advancement of education of society to the status and needs of women with disabilities in order to promote equity, reduce suffering, poverty, discrimination and exploitation of women with disabilities. WWDA is a registered charitable organisation with Public Benevolent Institution status.

WWDA believes that Governments have a duty to all citizens, not just those who have organised themselves into the loudest and best-resourced groups and organisations. Many of those who are most in need of government assistance and protection cannot put their case. Women with disabilities in Australia fall into this category. Without an organisation to research and represent their needs and concerns, women with disabilities are excluded from public debate.

Democracy is about debate, consultation, and differences of opinion. A democratic society is characterised by: participation and consultation, the protection of human rights and social well-being, representative and accountable government, and, the rule of the law (Rayner 1998). Part of the exercise of democracy is to ensure that the relatively powerless become more powerful in their capacity to exercise choice, not only for themselves but for their communities, their preferred futures, and for the futures of others. In Australia, the charitable sector underscores many basic values in Australian democracy. It exemplifies the principles of pluralism, free choice and the rights of citizens to participate in and take responsibility for their community. It helps ensure that no government has a monopoly on the way society deals with its citizens – especially those which are most vulnerable because of economic or personal need (Industry Commission, 1994).

Over the past three years, WWDA has witnessed a dramatic increase in the numbers of both women and men with disabilities (and their families, advocates and carers) contacting the organisation for direct assistance in often crisis situations. What is notable here, is that many of these people have exhausted all other avenues before contacting WWDA, and/or have been referred to WWDA by other organisations, including Commonwealth, State, and Local Government Departments and agencies (including for example, Centrelink; public hospitals; health service providers and so on). It is of great concern to WWDA that many of these individuals are being turned away from the very crisis services designed to help people in need. This submission provides a number of case studies to highlight this growing trend.

WWDA has also seen a substantial rise in the number of people with disabilities (and their families, carers and advocates) contacting WWDA because they have been unable to access or obtain the services they require. These services include for example: attendant/personal care; transport; supported accommodation; nutrition; housing; respite; counselling; home help; community nursing; health/medical; income support; crisis support and so on. WWDA is now dealing more and more with individuals who contact the organisation requiring immediate assistance because they cannot get the basic services they need to survive. Once again, many of these individuals are contacting WWDA after exhausting all other avenues. Many of them are being referred to WWDA by Government agencies, and other organisations.

Current definitions, with exception of that set out by our members, are entirely imposed from external sources, each for their own purposes. Emeshed in this cross weaving web of definitions, WWDA has had to learn to tread as skillfully as any insect in a real spider’s web. Our freedom to ‘change attributes’ is, of course limited in these circumstances. Indeed, it is the very purpose of this submission to seek some redefinition of what constitutes a ‘charity’ or a ‘PBI’ so as to encompass the kinds of work that WWDA and other community organisations like it perform.

Traditional concepts of ‘charity’ and ‘public benevolence’ do not readily encompass the nature and extent of the work an organisation like WWDA undertakes, which does include elements of self advocacy, empowerment, rights and political action. These are actions taken by those who experience their needs as obstacles to be overcome, rather than as travails to be endured until relieved by a charitable benefactor. Therefore, it would seem appropriate and timely to expand the definitions of these terms so that they include the new ideas and methods which drive modern attempts to ‘relieve distress’, and so on. This would include recognition of contemporary methods such as advocacy (systemic and individual) and political action for, and by citizens who have social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights.

One of the most important ways of seeking fundamental rights for women with disabilities, and in addressing the vast inequities experienced by women with disabilities in Australia, is through organised individual and systemic advocacy. Individual advocacy directly assists in improving the social and material conditions of life experienced by women with disabilities. Systemic advocacy can take these individual experiences and provide information and critiques to policy makers, community leaders and the wider community, thereby informing and stimulating public debate. The National Disability Advocacy Review Report (funded and conducted by the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services) acknowledges that it is not always possible to delineate between individual and systemic advocacy in practice, and that there is an interrelationship between individual and systemic advocacy (National Advocacy Review Report, FACS, 1999). Clearly it is one thing to ‘acknowledge’ such a fact, but the challenge is to recognise this interrelationship formally, by building it into definitions, and resourcing charitable and related organisations appropriately for the work they do (which, as has been well documented, is a cheap yet highly effective alternative to Governments having to do the work themselves).

It seems clear that the current definitions of charitable organisations and Public Benevolent Institutions are outdated, conservative, and do not accurately reflect the changing nature of Australian society, or the extent and diversity of work that these organisations are undertaking. It is also apparent that the charitable sector in Australia is growing and will continue to grow, particularly in the context of the Government’s desire to shift responsibility for welfare support to the charitable sector. It will be important that any framework or criteria developed for the classification of charitable and related organisations, reflect the current social, economic and political climate, and provide scope for the many ideas and methods which drive modern attempts to ‘relieve distress’, and so on. This would include recognition of contemporary methods such as advocacy (systemic and individual) and political action for, and by citizens who have social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights. Many charitable organisations and public benevolent institutions have always served a political purpose. It needs to be expected and accepted that some of these organisations will have a right and proper role as actors in the political processes on behalf of their constituents, whose distress is often exacerbated by these processes.

There is no question that charities serve the public benefit and must be appropriately open and accountable. However, their independence is crucial and any regulation must make account for, and enhance that. Obviously there is an obligation by Government to protect the public by ensuring high standards among charities, but at the same time it is vital that the Government avoids placing over-burdensome administrative requirements on these charities.


Section One: Background

1.1. About Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with all types of disabilities in Australia. It is a federating body of individuals and networks in each State and Territory of Australia and is made up of women with disabilities and associated organisations. The national secretariat is located in Canberra. WWDA is run by women with disabilities, for 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 seeks to ensure opportunities in all walks of life for all women with disabilities. In this it aims to increase awareness of, and address issues faced by, women with disabilities in the community. WWDA seeks to ensure the advancement of education of society to the status and needs of women with disabilities in order to promote equity, reduce suffering, poverty, discrimination and exploitation of women with disabilities.

Aim
The main aim of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is to improve the status of women with disabilities through education; support, information; and systemic and individual advocacy.

Objectives
The objectives of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) include:

  • To develop a network of women with disabilities throughout Australia to work together for the mutual benefits of all women with disabilities.
  • To provide information, education, support, practical assistance, referral, counselling and other forms of service provision to promote equity for women with disabilities.
  • To change social attitudes, practices, and power relationships which discriminate against women with disabilities.
  • To advocate for the implementation of procedures and enactment legislation which will advance and benefit women with disabilities and combat sexism.
  • To inform and educate the public with a view to advancing the opportunities for conditions of women with disabilities in the political, creative, civil and social fields as well as in industry, commerce, the professions and in the community generally.
  • To continue advocacy work in the government system for the interests of women with disabilities.
  • To advocate for women with disabilities true involvement in all levels of society.
  • To ensure women with disabilities have sufficient information to enable them to make an informed choice about matters which concern their lives.
  • To support national and local work of members.
  • To develop leadership and sharing of responsibilities to enable women with disabilities to take their place in what ever section of society they choose.
  • To promote the feminist goals of achieving social, economic, educational and sexual equality for women with disabilities.

WWDA is managed by a National Executive Committee, which is made up of women with disabilities and which is elected each year at the Annual General Meeting. Each State and Territory of Australia is represented on the National Executive Committee. The members of WWDA are actively involved in the decision making processes of the organisation. All programs and activities conducted by WWDA are in direct response to the identified issues and concerns of women with disabilities in Australia. WWDA is a registered charitable organisation with Public Benevolent Institution status which means that donations made to the organisation over $2 are tax deductible.

1.2. Major Functions of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) as a national non-government charitable organisation

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is at the forefront of support and advocacy, with, and on behalf of, women with disabilities in Australia, both individually and collectively. WWDA’s major roles, functions, and activities include (but are not restricted to):

  • Provision of direct practical assistance to individual women with disabilities – which can include crisis intervention; transport; emotional support; counselling; information provision; referral; organising accommodation, respite etc; provision of attendant care support; arranging appointments; assisting with communication needs; processing information in accessible formats; organising provision of services from other organisations; accompanying women with disabilities to meetings and other functions; assisting women with disabilities to understand and fill out forms; assisting women with disabilities to access bureaucracies; provision of advocacy on their behalf as required; provision of training; rehabilitation; employment, volunteering opportunities, and so on.
  • Provision of systemic advocacy for women with disabilities collectively – which can include: community education; awareness raising; consultation; representation on advisory bodies, Committees, Working Parties, Steering Groups; submission writing; lobbying; ministerial delegations; appearances at parliamentary or other types of inquiries; development of public campaigns; use of the media; training and education of service providers; development of models of best practice in accessible website design and content; production of accessible journals and Newsletters; conducting of national, State/Territory, regional and local Conferences, seminars and forums; and so on.
  • Research and policy development – which can include qualitative and quantitative research methodologies; provision of the structures, mechanisms and expertise for research into issues of concern to women with disabilities such as: violence; the interaction between gender and disability; sexuality and reproductive health; telecommunications; ageing; health; employment; stereotyping in the media; citizenship; leadership and mentoring; unlawful sterilisation; disability service provision; and much more; development and publishing of Resource Kits, Training Manuals, research reports, Conference papers; journal articles; etc.
  • Project development and implementation – which can include needs based planning; issue based project development and implementation at national, State/territory, regional, and local levels; development of models of best practice in project development for people with disabilities (including models of inclusive training and education packages etc); publishing of Project Reports; advocacy stemming from Project recommendations and outcomes; production of Disability Project Management Guidelines; etc.
  • Addressing the issue of empowerment and women with disabilities, both individually and collectively – which can include provision of opportunities for women with disabilities to come together in groups; share experiences; share information; develop relationships; organise around issues or problems that are unique to them; provide support to one another; and develop social networks and alliances (such processes assist women with disabilities to improve their self-esteem, increase self confidence, and develop new knowledge and skills); creating opportunities for, and supporting women with disabilities in leadership and mentoring roles; creating and facilitating opportunities for women with disabilities to develop the confidence and skills to take up representation activities and positions within their local communities and at state, national and international levels; provision of information, knowledge, resources and analytical skills on how bureaucratic and political structures function, as well as provide an entry point into the political decision-making processes.
  • Quality Improvement – this includes self-assessment of performance utilising the Community Health and Primary Health Care Accreditation Standards Program (as there are no specific Practice Standards in Australia for national charitable organisations; national advocacy organisations; national disability organisations; or national women’s organisations). Other quality improvement processes include: strategic planning; program and project evaluation; development of, and reporting against performance measurers and indicators; random surveys of member satisfaction; development and implementation of mechanisms to enable feedback from members and other stakeholders, such as electronic based discussion group; website feedback form; Newsletter Evaluation form; and so on.

1.3. Major Functions of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) as a national non-government peak body

A Peak Body has been defined as: ‘a representative organisation that provides information dissemination services, membership support, coordination, advocacy and representation, and research and development services for its members and other interested parties (Industry Commission Draft Report 1994 cited in Melville 1999). Other definitions of peak bodies have recognised and included the importance of the relationship peak bodies have with Government in providing a conduit for consultation and coordination to occur between governments and the particular sector. These definitions have also recognised the policy making and coordination role played by peaks, and acknowledge that these roles not only enhance the performance of community organisations, but also result in better policy outcomes for Government (Melville et al 1998).

National Peak bodies in Australia have a number of roles and functions. In general terms, both individually and collectively, national peak bodies in the non-government charitable sector:

  • Provide a cost effective channel for consultation with, and access to the views, of disadvantaged or marginalised groups to improve the development and design of Government policy and programs;
  • Provide a source of expertise and knowledge in relation to the needs and circumstances of specific groups in the community, both directly and through membership networks;
  • Promote public debate which is essential to sound policy formulation and implementation in a participatory democracy;
  • Offer an efficient source of dialogue at the national level on issues which may impact across states and territories, and across the non government sector;
  • Provide a vehicle through which government can work to enhance the quality and efficiency of its human services programs, at relatively little cost to government;
  • Assist in the process of accountability of government to the wider community, by providing feedback on the impacts of policy and programs on specific groups in the community;
  • Contribute directly or indirectly to the resolution or alleviation of specific social and health problems in a way which is cost effective for governments;
  • Present important perspectives and information which can counter or balance the views put forward by other organised interests;
  • Facilitate wide community understanding of government policies and programs, and
  • Offer an efficient vehicle for disseminating information on government initiatives.

(Draft ACOSS Paper Community Welfare Peak Bodies and the Social Coalition 2000)

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is an organisation which is multi-functional, has an extensive reach across all sectors and the community in general; and is extremely diverse in the range of activities it undertakes, and roles it performs. WWDA works closely with member organisations, other peak bodies, other disability organisations, women’s organisations, and organisations across a range of sectors, including health, aged care, community welfare, transport, arts and communication, employment, education and training, environment and more. WWDA has extensive links and networks with government departments and agencies at all levels, as well as links with industry, the private sector, and a large number of international organisations and institutions.


Section Two: The implications of current social expectations and experiences for defining charities and related organisations.

2.1. The Status of Women With Disabilities in Australia – A Snapshot

Women with disabilities are, from the government record, one of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups in Australia. Analysis of data available from a variety of sources, gives us the following information about women with disabilities in Australia.

  • There are 3.6 million people in Australia with a disability, making up 19% of the total population. The proportion of males and females with a disability is similar (around 9.5% each) although it varies across age groups.
  • There are 1.8 million women with disabilities in Australia. There are more women with disabilities in the older age groups, most notably those 79 years onwards.
  • Of the 1.1 million people with a profound or severe core activity restriction, 616,000 are women with disabilities (56%). Among older people with disabilities, the rates of severe and profound disability are markedly greater for females.
  • Over 57% of women with disabilities living in households need assistance to move around or go out, shower or dress, prepare meals, do housework, undertake property maintenance or paperwork, or communicate.
  • Women with disabilities are less likely to be in paid work than other women, men with disabilities or the population as a whole. Men with disabilities are almost twice as likely to have jobs than women with disabilities. In 1997-98 Commonwealth Government funded open employment services assisted over 31,000 people with disabilities in their efforts to find and maintain jobs on the open labour market. 66.6% of those assisted were men with disabilities. Annual Census of Commonwealth Government funded open employment services show that the percentage of women with disabilities being assisted by these services has continued to decline.
  • Women with disabilities’ participation rates in the labour market are lower than men with disabilities’ participation rates across all disability levels and types. Women with disabilities are less likely than men with disabilities to receive vocational rehabilitation or entry to labour market programs. Commonwealth Rehabilitation Services statistics for 1994/5 indicate only 35% of referred clients were female with women more likely to be rehabilitated to independent living (45%) than vocational goals (36%).
  • Women with disabilities earn less than their male counterparts. 51% of women with a disability earn less than $200 per week compared to 36% of men with a disability. Only 16% of women with a disability earn over $400 per week, compared to 33% of men with a disability.
  • There is a higher incidence of incapacity (10.2%) for unemployed females in Australia compared to unemployed males (7.6%). This applies consistently across all age groups. Unemployed females have a one-third greater incidence of incapacity than unemployed males. The higher incidence of incapacity for unemployed females is more pronounced for those under 50 years age, and especially for 30-39 and under 21 year olds.
  • Women with disabilities are less likely than their male counterparts to receive a senior secondary and/or tertiary education. Only 16% of all women with disabilities are likely to have any secondary education compared to 28% of men with disabilities.
  • Women with disabilities are substantially over-represented in public housing, comprising over 40% of all persons in Australia aged 15-64 in this form of tenure. Women with disabilities are less likely to own their own houses than their male counterparts.
  • Women with disabilities pay the highest level of their gross income on housing, yet are in the lowest income earning bracket. Some women with disabilities pay almost 50 per cent of their gross income on housing and housing related costs. Over 20% of women with disabilities living in public housing are dissatisfied with the service they receive from their State or Territory housing authority.
  • Women with disabilities spend more of their income on medical care and health related expenses than men with disabilities.
  • Women with disabilities have a consistently higher level of unmet need than their male counterparts across all disability levels and types. Women with disabilities are less likely to receive appropriate services than men with equivalent needs or other women. 60% of recipients of disability support services funded under the Commonwealth/State Disability Agreement are men with disabilities.
  • Women with disabilities are less likely than women without disabilities to receive appropriate health services, particularly breast and cervical cancer screening programs, bone density testing, menopause and incontinence management. In Australia, 41% of women with disabilities with core activity restriction aged 70-75 have never had a mammogram. Almost 30% of women with disabilities aged 70-75 with core activity restriction have never had a pap smear. Of those women with disabilities aged 70-75 core activity restriction who have had a pap smear, 39% have not had regular pap smears (every 2 years). These figures are likely to be much higher for women with disabilities with different disability types (eg: intellectual, cognitive, psychiatric, deaf/hearing impaired, blind/visually impaired) across all age groups.
  • Girls and women with disabilities are more likely to be unlawfully sterilised than their male counterparts. Between 1992-1997 at least 1045 girls with disabilities in Australia have been unlawfully sterilised. Comparisons with other data sources suggest that the true number is much greater, perhaps by a factor of several times.
  • Regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or class, women with disabilities are assaulted, raped and abused at a rate of at least two times greater than non-disabled women. Statistics indicate that 90% of women with intellectual disabilities have been sexually abused. 68% of women with an intellectual disability will be subjected to sexual abuse before they reach 18.
  • Women with disabilities are more likely to be institutionalised than their male counterparts.
  • Women with disabilities are often forced to live in situations in which they are vulnerable to violence. They are more likely to experience violence at work than other women, men with disabilities or the population as a whole.
  • Access to telecommunications is a major area of inequity for women with disabilities in Australia. A national survey in 1999 found that 84% of women with disabilities are restricted in their access to telecommunications. 49% of women with disabilities are restricted by issues of affordability; 76% by poor design of telecommunications equipment; 20% by lack of training; 20% by lack of information; and 18% by discrimination.

(Sources: Anderson 1996; Frohmader 1998; WWDA 1998; WWDA 1999, ABS 1999, ABS 1993, AIHW 1998, AIHW 1999, AIHW 2000, Currie 1996, Brady and Grover 1997, Temby 1997, Cooper and Temby 1997, Horsley 1991, Binstead 1997, Rutnam, Martin-Murray and Smith 1999, Warburton et al 1999).

The principal source of population data for disability comes from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Disability Surveys, which have been conducted in 1981, 1988, 1993 and 1998. Due to the ABS user pays system, the only material which is easily available from these surveys is that which has already been published, and the published material does not necessarily provide the depth of information required. For example, very little disability data collected by the ABS contains gender breakdowns. Similarly, the major publications published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare ‘Australia’s Welfare’ and ‘Australia’s Health’ contain data on people with disabilities in Australia, but tends to focus on age breakdown and disability type rather than gender breakdowns.

The limited statistical information on gender and disability which is available is spread over a wide range of services and sources, and has not been collected together by governments to give a cohesive picture of the status of women with disabilities.

2.2. Current social and economic environment WWDA operates in and how it is changing.

WWDA was established in 1994, and became incorporated in 1995. The organisation began with a small seeding grant from the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women (OSW). In 1996, the then Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services (later to be restructured into 2 separate Departments – the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care; and the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services) took over responsibility for WWDA’s operational funding. Between 1996-98 WWDA was funded on a six monthly basis, and was required to reapply for funding every 6 months. In 1998, after much negotiation, the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) agreed to provide WWDA’s operational funding on an annual basis. WWDA’s operational funding from FACS is currently $112,000 per annum. Since 1996, WWDA’s operational funding has remained the same.

Over the past three years, WWDA has gone from a relatively small organisation to become one of Australia’s better known national charitable organisations. WWDA’s membership has more than quadrupled in the past 3 years. It now services over 2000 individual members; 500 organisational members, and 200 international organisational members. WWDA is routinely accessed by all levels of Government (Commonwealth, State, and Local Governments) to provide expertise, education, information, consultancy services, referral, practical assistance and so on. The organisation has become one of Australia’s major coordinating points for all sectors in regard to not only women with disabilities, but people with disabilities, including their advocates, carers, guardians and families. WWDA provides extensive support and services not only to people with disabilities, but organisations, agencies and individuals across a wide range of sectors, including for example: housing; welfare; health; education; transport; crisis services; and much more. WWDA also provides extensive support and services to the government, non-government, private, corporate, and voluntary sectors. In this context, it is worthy to note that WWDA’s operational funding has not increased at all in the last 5 years. The demands on the organisation have exploded in the past 3 years. WWDA has, and continues to find it increasingly difficult to service its membership and meet the demands on the organisation in the absence of growth funding from the Government. WWDA’s current operational funding enables WWDA to employ only one full time Executive Director and one part time bookkeeper at 10 hours per week. Naturally, the dramatic increase in memberships, along with the increasing demands on WWDA from all sectors, have resulted in increased overheads and related costs for the organisation. WWDA relies heavily on the goodwill and volunteerism of its members in order to exist. The volunteer efforts of WWDA members (particularly individual women with disabilities) cannot be over-emphasised. In the past 3 years, WWDA has been forced to draw heavily on the volunteer efforts of its members in order to meet (or at least try and cope with) the increasing demands on the organisation. It is important to note that many of the women with disabilities volunteering their efforts to WWDA, are themselves trying to exist without adequate services, and experience high levels of unmet need.

WWDA is not in a position to generate its own resources. Unlike many other national organisations, WWDA cannot rely on membership fees to boost its revenue base. The majority of WWDA’s individual members are already significantly economically disadvantaged, which is why WWDA membership fees are $5 per annum for individual women with disabilities or free to those unable to pay.

The current Federal government has articulated its commitment to reducing the reliance of community organisations on government, and its belief that community organisations need to develop partnerships with the business and corporate sectors. Prime Minister John Howard has spoken of his belief that the business sector needs to adopt a more ‘philanthropic approach’ to supporting community groups in Australia (ACOSS Conference 1999). WWDA has, and continues to look at ways it can develop ‘partnerships’ with the corporate sector. However, it must be said that there are some charitable organisations which will be much more ‘attractive’ to the business community than Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA). It is naive to expect that businesses will develop partnerships with, or sponsor WWDA out of a sense of ‘civic duty’. Rather, businesses will look to how they can benefit from such partnerships, and often this translates into ‘how much profit’ they can make from the potential consumers of their products and/or services.

This is borne out in a study undertaken by the Allen Consulting Group, Corporate Community Involvement, which surveyed 115 large Australian companies, and provides 65 case studies of partnership or sponsorship arrangements between business firms and community organisations. Three-quarters of the respondents agreed that corporate community involvement is related to their long-term business interests. They identified 4 main benefits :

  • Reputation enhancement
  • Improved relationship with communities
  • Increased employee morale
  • Symbol of corporate ethos

It is to be noted that the largest single group of cases involved sponsorship of sport, followed by sponsorship of cultural activities. These do not, on the whole, fit the model of ‘sharing’ described above. It may also be noted that the smallest group of cases related to ‘social development’. (Allen Consulting Group).

In a recent paper (1998) Mark Lyons, a long-time observer of the charitable sector and its relations with business and government, suggests that Australian business is moving from a model that viewed support of nonprofit organisations as philanthropy to one of support as a business transaction, with the shareholders taking the view that it should advance the positioning of the business in a consumer market. This move from an ‘altruistic’ to a ‘shareholder’ position is coming under increasing criticism from international NGOs such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International (Lyons, 1998).

A similar situation appears to be developing in the UK, according to the latest report by Corporate Citizen magazine, which carries out an annual review of company giving for charitable and philanthropic purposes. Despite a substantial increase in total donations by the 100 largest corporate donors (from 275 million pounds in 1999 to 310 million in 2000), there has been a major shift from cash gifts to investment in cash and kind. An example is that of British Telecom, one of the largest corporate donors. In 1999-2000, its total giving amounted to 15 million pounds, but only 4 million was given in the form of charitable donations. The rest was classified as investment, for which the company expects returns. The magazine also quotes the case of United Biscuits, a prominent donor to charity over a number of years, which cut its charitable contributions by 80 per cent following a change of management (Morell, 2001).

Given that the majority of Australian women with disabilities are less likely to be in paid work than other women or the population as a whole; earn less than $200 per week; are less likely to own their own houses; pay the highest level of their gross income on housing; are more likely to be institutionalised and so on, they are not likely to be viewed by the business sector as an attractive market proposition.

The capacity of charitable organisations to generate their own resources varies significantly. It must be recognised by Government that an organisation representing women with disabilities has very limited scope to generate its own resources either from its constituency and membership who are generally amongst societies poorest, or from business who generally find it difficult to envisage a beneficial partnership with such an organisation. WWDA is unlikely (in the short term) to become financially self-reliant and should not be expected by government to do so.

Over the past three years, WWDA has witnessed a dramatic increase in the numbers of both women and men with disabilities (and their families, advocates and carers) contacting the organisation for direct assistance in often crisis situations. What is notable here, is that many of these people have exhausted all other avenues before contacting WWDA, and/or have been referred to WWDA by other organisations, including Commonwealth, State, and Local Government Departments and agencies (including for example, Centrelink; public hospitals; health service providers and so on). It is of great concern to WWDA that many of these individuals are being turned away from the very crisis services designed to help people in need. It may be useful here to provide a recent Case Study to highlight this growing trend. The following case study is by no means an isolated incident – it is used here merely to demonstrate the type of situations WWDA deals with on a daily basis.

Case Study 1

A 38 year old woman phoned the National WWDA Office in Canberra. She was in a highly distressed state. She was a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair. She was married with a 2 year old son. She had been experiencing unrelenting violence and abuse from her husband who was also her carer. She lived on an isolated farm in a regional area of Australia, approximately 100kms from the nearest serviced town. In fear for her life, she waited until her husband had left the house to attend to some business, then she managed to get to the phone to ring for help. She phoned the ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Line, expecting that she would receive immediate assistance – it was after all, the 24 hour Crisis Line. After explaining her situation, she was informed by the Domestic Violence Crisis Line workers that they were unable to assist her in any way, due to her quadriplegia. They informed the woman that there were no accessible women’s refuges in the ACT; no way of providing care for her even if there was an accessible refuge; no means of removing her from the situation, as they did not have accessible transport. She was advised by the ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Line workers to “tough it out and apply for emergency housing”. In a state of severe distress and extreme fear, the woman phoned WWDA. Although WWDA is not funded to provide crisis services, the Executive Director immediately arranged to remove the woman and her son from the house. WWDA organised (and paid for) a wheelchair taxi to get the woman and her son out of the house, and accommodated her in an accessible hotel until a more satisfactory solution could be worked out (which is was, by WWDA).

Over the past 3 years, WWDA has also seen a substantial rise in the number of people with disabilities (and their families, carers and advocates) contacting WWDA because they have been unable to access or obtain the services they require. These services include for example: attendant/personal care; transport; supported accommodation; nutrition; housing; respite; counselling; home help; community nursing; health/medical; income support; crisis support and so on. WWDA is now dealing more and more with individuals who contact the organisation requiring immediate assistance because they cannot get the basic services they need to survive. Once again, many of these individuals are contacting WWDA after exhausting all other avenues. Many of them are being referred to WWDA by Government agencies, and other organisations. The following case study can be used to highlight this.

Case Study 2

An elderly gentleman contacted the WWDA Executive Director late one night on her mobile phone at her home. He was in an extremely distressed state and was begging for help. His mother, who was in the 90’s, was about to be discharged from hospital following bilateral leg amputations. She had lived in a public housing unit in NSW. Her unit was inaccessible for a wheelchair and had not been modified in any way for an elderly woman who had just had bilateral amputations of her legs. Her son had contacted the NSW Housing authority and had been granted another unit for his mother – a unit which was fully modified for a person with disabilities. However, the NSW Housing authority had informed the son that he had 5 days to remove his mothers furniture (and all her belongings) from her current unit to the new unit. He was told that if he didn’t have it done within 5 days, he would “lose” the new unit he had managed to secure for his mother. The son was unwell, had a cardiac condition, and had no money. He was the only living relative of his mother. He was unable to move his mother’s furniture himself, and had no money to hire a removalist. He had told the NSW Housing authority of his dilemma, who had informed him to “go to a charity” for help with the situation. He had done this, and approached a number of charitable organisations in NSW, none of who could assist him. When he contacted WWDA, he was distraught. His mother was due to be discharged from hospital the following day, and he had not been able to get her furniture and all her belongings from her old unit to the new, modified unit. WWDA was able to assist this gentleman by doing a number of things. Firstly, we contacted the hospital and asked them to keep the mother for a few more days until we could sort the situation out. Secondly, we contacted the Minister for Community Services in NSW, and told the Ministers Senior Adviser of the man’s dilemma. We demanded that the Ministers Office immediately deal with the situation by authorising the NSW Housing Department to pay for the removal of the woman’s furniture and so on. This was all agreed to by the Ministers Office, and was organised by them the very next day.

What this example highlights, is the fact that many individuals in need, are often completely confused when trying to navigate their way around large government departments. It is also WWDA’s experience that many people trying to access information through government departments, are often given different information depending on the person they happen to end up talking to. More often than not, for many people with disabilities, it ends up being a “hit or miss” approach, depending on who they get on the other end of the phone. Often they are given inaccurate information, or they are referred to another government agency, who then refers them to yet another government agency, and so on, until, in many cases, they end up back at the government department they started with in the first place. For many people with disabilities, this is a stressful and often costly process – many of them are not in a financial position to be footing the bill for endless phone calls and so on. Many of them already have to deal with the impact of their disability, and being given the run around by government departments only adds to their fatigue, stress and, in many cases, poor emotional and physical health.

It is certainly WWDA’s experience that the majority of Government Departments and agencies (at both State and Commonwealth levels) have little or no idea of what other Government Departments and agencies actually do; it would appear that many of them are concerned only with their “patch”. Even within government Departments, it would appear that there is little understanding of the roles and functions of the various elements (or divisions) of such Departments. For a person with a disability trying to access assistance or information etc, it can be particularly frustrating when they find that the person on the other end of the phone has no idea about what happens in their own Government Department.

For many people with disabilities, their issues and concerns cross a number of areas, sectors and government portfolios. For example, a woman with a disability may be experiencing violence; she may have no access to transport; she may require income support assistance; she may require legal aid; she may require supported accommodation; she may require personal care; and so on. If you look at this scenario, the services to address her situation are spread across a number of State/Territory and Commonwealth Government Departments, and portfolio areas with these departments. There seems to be no coordinating point to deal with the woman as a ‘whole person’. The Federal Government, in its Welfare Reform process (and subsequent Reports) identified Centrelink as an agency which could take on a coordinating role to assist individuals in need, using an individual case management approach. Whilst this may sound like a feasible idea in theory, in practice it appears unrealistic, ill informed and not thought through. Firstly, it is WWDA’s experience that Centrelink often refers women with disabilities (and men with disabilities, as well as their families, advocates and carers) back to WWDA and similar charitable organisations. With respect, it is also WWDA’s experience that Centrelink staff are not trained, nor experienced enough, to deal with many people with disabilities, many of whom often have a multiplicity of issues and needs. Many women with disabilities end up “falling through the gaps” and WWDA often finds itself having to pick up the pieces.

Summary
The missions of government departments and agencies are becoming ever more focussed. This is compounded by their staff, which WWDA’s experience has shown often lack awareness of anything but their own ‘patch’. Not surprisingly, they often fail to meet the challenge of serving a whole person, whose life and needs are made complex by gender, disability, ethnicity and geography. Focused departments, complex clients. There is a fundamental mismatch which is too often dealt with by agencies ‘external’ to the system of government, such as WWDA and the many other community organisations like it.

2.3. Should definitions be based on the purpose of the activities carried out by the organisation only, or on the nature of the activity?

Definitions should encompass the nature of the activity conducted by the organisation, not just the purpose. For example, ‘information provision’ and ‘counselling’ may not be considered functions of a public benevolent institution (PBI). Yet, in the case of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) it can very often be ‘information provision’ and/or ‘counselling’ which provides ‘direct relief of suffering, distress, misfortune and helplessness’ for individual women with disabilities. As highlighted earlier in Case Study 1, women with disabilities very often need and/or rely on organisations (such as WWDA) to intervene in crisis situations. An organisation like WWDA often prevents homelessness, suffering, distress etc by the very nature of its individual and systemic advocacy work.

Case Study 3

A mother of a young woman with a mild intellectual disability contacted WWDA by phone in an extremely distressed state. She was deeply concerned about the welfare of the daughter, who was living independently in a flat, was over 18 yrs of age, and was very lonely. According to her mother, men had been “taking advantage” of her daughters disability, and had been visiting her daughters flat “for sex”. The mother was very worried that her daughter may be putting herself at risk by having “unprotected sex” with a number of men. The mother had been to a wide range of services (such as sexual assault; women’s health; welfare rights; disability services), government agencies, as well as doctors and legal services, to seek advice on how she could best protect her daughters welfare. She was not given any assistance in any way from any of the services and agencies she contacted. She was simply informed that “because her daughter was aged over 18, she was legally entitled to do whatever she wanted to do”. Whilst this may have been the case in law, no consideration was given to the support needs of the mother – she was not referred to a social worker; the guardianship board or given any printed information or anything else to relieve her distress. By the time she reached WWDA, she was extremely distraught and felt that she had been treated poorly by the many services she had approached for help. WWDA spent 2 hours providing counselling, information, advice, and practical strategies the mother could employ to assist not only her daughter, but herself. WWDA was also able to send the mother written information about women with disabilities and sexuality; sexual health advice for women with intellectual disabilities and much more. The mothers distress was able to be relieved by WWDA simply by listening; providing counselling; support and information; as well as working out a plan of practical action for the mother to employ to assist her daughter.

2.4. Should account be taken of multiple purposes, or is it appropriate to rely on the sole or dominant purpose of an organisation in order to define it?

Perhaps in years past (or decades) it may have been appropriate to define a charitable organisation on its dominant or sole purpose. However, it needs to be recognised that the nature of society has changed – higher unemployment; little job growth in the ‘blue collar’ labour market etc; an ageing population; more people on Disability Support Pensions; widening of the gap between the affluent and the poor; increased social problems (homelessness; drug problems; loneliness; depression; youth suicide etc). Combine these factors with the cutting of government funded services (health, education, legal, welfare, etc), as well as privatisation, competition policy; competitive tendering; user pays systems; and so on, and it is not surprising that charitable organisations have been forced to expand their role, functions, and services, in order to ‘fill the void’ left by governments in the provision of social support for individuals, groups, and communities. In the case of WWDA (and many other charitable organisations), our organisation has had no option but to expand our role and function in order to address the significant unmet need of our constituents.

For these reasons, WWDA would recommend that when defining a charitable and/or Public Benevolent Institution, it is vital that the multiple purposes of the organisation be taken into account.

2.5. What methodology is appropriate to determine when a purpose is secondary?

This would depend on the organisation. In the case of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), it is not necessarily feasible or possible to categorise the purpose and activities of our organisation into ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’. WWDA’s overall ‘purpose’ or aim, is to advance the status of women with disabilities in society. WWDA seeks to ensure the advancement of education of society to the status and needs of women with disabilities in order to promote equity, reduce suffering, poverty, discrimination and exploitation of women with disabilities. In order to work towards achieving this aim, we undertake a number of functions and activities, many of which overlap, and are of equal importance. It would be very difficult for our organisation to separate the purpose of WWDA into primary purpose and secondary purpose. In terms of a methodology to determine when a purpose is secondary, this may be difficult to develop. It may well be more appropriate for organisations to ‘self-assess’ when a purpose is secondary. Perhaps some type of Self-Assessment Process could be developed which guides the organisation through a process to identify their primary, secondary purposes etc, as well as their major functions and activities.

2.6. For organisations, such as religious organisations, that perform a wide spectrum of activities, is it appropriate to define the various activities differently?

No. This would appear to be a difficult and cumbersome process. There would be so many variables to consider, that it would be extremely difficult to start dividing up ‘activities’ and define them differently. A process such as this might work well with a business, where ‘products’ are easily classifiable and so on, but when dealing with human beings, it is simply not realistic to start trying to classify and/or define activities. If an organisation is considered a charitable organisation, then that’s what it should be. To try and take apart elements of an organisation and make certain ‘bits’ charitable and others not, would seem to be an unrealistic task, and an administrative nightmare.

2.7. Is it appropriate to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial activities undertaken by charities and related organisations?

No. WWDA raises a small amount of revenue through, (for example), selling of publications, provision of consultancy services and so on. However, the main reason WWDA has to do this (and no doubt many other charitable organisations are in the same boat) is simply because we do not receive adequate funds from the Government. It must be pointed out, that more and more charitable organisations (like WWDA) are being forced to do more for their constituents, because Governments are cutting back and/or withdrawing services, and expecting charitable organisations to take on the role of welfare support in the community. The demands on WWDA for example, have increased substantially over the past three years, and our organisation is finding it extremely difficult to meet the demands placed on it – by its members, non-members, by governments, and organisations across all sectors. WWDA has had no growth funding since its establishment, and is somehow expected to do more on the same amount of funding it received 5 years ago. The Federal Government is pushing for more organisations like WWDA to “seek revenue from other sources”. Whilst this sounds all very well in theory, in practice it is a different matter. For an organisation like WWDA, (as outlined earlier in this paper), it is unrealistic to expect our organisation to be able to seek funds from our membership (who are amongst society’s poorest) or from the business sector, who do not view WWDA as an attractive proposition because many women with disabilities do not have disposable income, and are therefore not in a position to buy the ‘products’ of businesses, who are after all, concerned with making a profit, not looking after the welfare of the less fortunate in the community.

It should also be noted that whilst the Federal Government is busy shifting the responsibility for welfare support to the charitable and community services sectors, as well as ‘encouraging’ charitable organisations to seek revenue from sources other than the Government, it is at the same time placing more pressure on Government funded charitable and community organisations by tying funding to often prescriptive outcomes and performance measures. Whilst WWDA recognises and supports outcomes based funding processes, and accountability for public funds, it needs to be done in such a way that meets the needs of the funding body, but doesn’t tie up the organisation in administratively burdensome, cumbersome and unreasonable reporting process. As outlined earlier, WWDA has one full time paid employee (Executive Director) and one part time bookkeeper. Does the Government honestly expect a charitable organisation with one full time employee to “seek revenue from other sources” yet at the same time, be expected to fulfill prescriptive funding contracts full of performance measures which must be met in order for the organisation to be funded? Fundraising, submission writing, researching possible sources of grant monies and so on is a full time job in itself. It is unreasonable on the part of Government to on the one hand, shift the responsibility for welfare support to the charitable sector, whilst on the other hand, expect these organisations to meet the growing demands of Government (outcomes, outputs, performance measures, performance indicators, strategic plans, business plans, progress reports, Annual reports etc etc). This is particularly relevant when you consider that an organisation like WWDA has had no growth funding at all, yet is being expected by Government to “do more with less”. It should be the responsibility of Governments to provide a safety net and services for people in need. This should be an important principle of a democratic and just society.

Charitable organisations like WWDA, are going to have to find more innovative ways of raising revenue, and this may include commercial activities. It is not appropriate to start separating “commercial activities” from “non-commercial activities”. If an organisation is classified as a charitable organisation, then it is one. Charitable organisations often have to resort to undertaking commercial activities in order to raise the funds to meet the needs of the people they serve.

2.8. Is there an expectation that charities and related organisations will undertake commercial activities in order to perform their core purpose effectively? How should these activities be defined and should they have a role in determining the definition of the organisation?

See answer to above question. Commercial activities undertaken by charitable and related organisations should not necessarily have a role in determining the definition of an organisation. The definition of a charitable organisation, for example, should be derived from why it was established, what it is; what it does, who it benefits, and how it benefits its constituents. With the advent of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), an organisation like WWDA for example, declares any revenue raised through ‘commercial activities’ (such as sales of publications), in its 3 monthly Business Activity Statement, and pays the 10% GST accordingly. The main exception to this, is any donations WWDA receives, which are technically ‘income’ but are GST exempt.


Section Three: Existing definitions of charities and related organisations used in Australia.

3.1. Is your organisation ‘defined’ as a charity, PBI, religion organisation or community service not-for-profit organisation for the purposes of any law or administrative practice?

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is defined as a charitable, not-for-profit organisation with Public Benevolent Institution Status, for the purposes of Australian Taxation Law, and administrative practices relating the financial operations of the organisation. Defining WWDA for these purposes is fundamental to the ability of the organisation to undertake its role, and achieve its aims and objectives. Having charitable and PBI status means in practice that WWDA can apply for grants and funds for sources other than government, (which is consistent with the Governments emphasis on organisations like WWDA to “seek revenue from sources other than Government”). For example, the majority of philanthropic organisations in Australia (such as Trusts, Foundations and so on) will only allocate funds to not-for-profit organisations with PBI status (see for example ‘The Australian Directory of Philanthropic Organisations’, published by Philanthropy Australia). Similarly, in relation to WWDA obtaining corporate sponsorship, donations and/or developing partnerships with the corporate sector, it is much easier to do so if WWDA has PBI status, because it makes our organisation a more attractive proposition for the corporate sector – and in truth, this is simply because any donations over $2 are tax deductible. It is difficult enough for WWDA to attract sponsorship from the corporate sector (for reasons outlined earlier in this submission), however, without PBI status, it would be virtually impossible.

3.2. Is your organisation ‘defined’ differently by different agencies or jurisdictions?

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is a unique organisation, unlike many other charitable and/or not-for-profit community organisations. Firstly, it is the only organisation of its kind in Australia, and one of only a small number internationally. It is the only national organisation in Australia which is multi-diagnostic, grass roots, run by women with disabilities for women with disabilities, and inclusive of women with all types of disabilities – regardless of age, class, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, marital status, disability type, and so on. WWDA is also unique in that it operates as a national women’s organisation, a national disability organisation, and a national human rights organisation.

WWDA is perceived and/or ‘defined’ differently by different agencies and organisations, depending on the particular agency, their particular agenda, and, at times, the issues WWDA addresses. For example, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) see us as in the context of a national non-government human rights organisation, (reflected for example by WWDA’s position on the Attorney General’s Non-Government Organisations Forum on Domestic Human Rights). The Commonwealth Department of the Office of the Status of Women (OSW) see WWDA in the context of a national women’s organisation (reflected for example, by WWDA’s annual invitation to the National Women’s Round Table in Canberra). The Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) sees WWDA in the context of a national disability organisation which includes a national secretariat function. Industry bodies (such as the Australian Communication Industry Forum) see WWDA in the context of a national non-government organisation representing the interests of a marginalised section of the community, as well as a mechanism for seeking advice and expertise about disability and gender in relation to their particular industry functions (reflected for example by the fact that WWDA is represented on more than 25 national industry advisory boards and so on).

For organisations across a wide range of sectors, WWDA is more and more being seen as one of the major national co-ordinating points for the provision of information, programs, services, support, policy, research, etc, for all issues relating to women; women with disabilities; people with disabilities; carers and advocates of people with disabilities; human rights issues affecting women; human rights issues affecting people with disabilities; and so on. WWDA is routinely accessed by all levels of government; organisations across a wide range of sectors; industry bodies; the private sector; educational institutions (such as Universities, TAFE colleges, secondary and primary schools) and more, for not only WWDA’s expertise in its fields, but also for its extensive networks and links both within Australia and overseas. WWDA is also recognised internationally as a leader in its field. WWDA undertakes a significant amount of community development and/or relief work with disability organisations in other countries, particularly those in developing countries. WWDA is currently in the process of being accredited by AUSAID.

For women with disabilities themselves, WWDA is perceived as their organisation that is there to help them. On an individual level, this ‘help’ can be in the form of practical assistance; crisis intervention; support; counselling; information provision; referral; advocating on their behalf in order to have their needs and/or particular issue addressed; provision of training, rehabilitation, and employment (where possible); and so on. For women with disabilities on a collective level, WWDA again is seen by them as their organisation that is there to help them collectively, as well as individually. At the collective level, this ‘help’ can be in the form of systemic advocacy; training and education of service providers; community education; undertaking research; conducting particular projects and programs based on identified needs; lobbying governments and other institutions; representing the interests of women with disabilities on government, non-government; industry; and private sector Advisory bodies; Working Parties; Steering Committees and so on; acting as a conduit between governments (and other sectors etc) and WWDA members; providing a mechanism for consultation with women with disabilities; and much more.

What this demonstrates is that an organisation like WWDA is multi-functional, has an extensive reach across all sectors and the community in general; and is extremely diverse in the range of activities it undertakes, and roles it performs.

What also needs to be recognised in any discussion about definitions, (particularly those in the context of this Inquiry) is the politics involved. For example, the definition of ‘disability’ (as in a ‘disability’ organisation) is a construct which serves as an administrative category in modern welfare states. Disability is a complex social and political construct and a key category in welfare state policies in areas like housing, education and the labour market. The way in which people with power respond to what they perceive as disability actively constructs the nature of disability. Fulcher (1989) looks at this issue. Her analysis begins from the premise that all societies have at least two distributive systems, one based on work ad the other based on need, and that the coexistence of these systems is a “thorny problem” of social policy. The tension between these two systems is the fundamental distributive dilemma. Societies develop sets of rules to determine the boundaries of the two systems and different societies will resolve the dilemma differently. However, according to Fulcher, “the boundary’s dimensions are not given by nature; rather, they derive from a set of ideas about need and justice, and a set of social arrangements that carry out those ideas” (Fulcher 1989).

In the context of an organisation like WWDA, it is clear that WWDA is a charitable organisation, and Public Benevolent Institution. Given the changing nature of society, combined with current policy climate (which is unlikely to change), it seems that current definitions do not accurately reflect the nature of the work that charities and Public Benevolent Institutions (like WWDA) undertake. Many charitable organisations and public benevolent institutions have always served a political purpose. It needs to be expected and accepted that some of these organisations will have a right and proper role as actors in the political processes on behalf of their constituents, whose distress is often exacerbated by these processes.

3.3. Does the current definition of your organisation impose any constraints on the ability of your organisation to provide a service?

At times yes. As discussed in the response to the previous question, different agencies have differing ‘definitions’ of WWDA, depending on their particular agenda and what they are trying to achieve. For example, if we take the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) as an example, they consider WWDA as a national disability organisation with a national secretariat function. This is because it suits their needs and agenda, rather than accurately reflecting what WWDA was set up for, and what it does. The Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) has made it abundantly clear that it sees the role of government funded, national non-government organisations (such as WWDA) as an ‘extension of government’, with the specific job of “assisting the Government to meet its policy objectives” (see for example: Funding Peak Bodies: A Discussion Paper; FACS, July 2000). This statement alone clearly reflects the Government’s agenda, and highlights the fact that WWDA has been cast into the role of political actor by government itself.

This places an organisation like WWDA in a very difficult situation – the organisation was not set up by government, but came from a grass roots level – WWDA exists to improve the status of women with disabilities in society (amongst other things), not to necessarily “assist the Government to meet its policy objectives”, particularly when many of these policy objectives are often be in direct conflict with the views and issues of the constituents the organisation represents.

As discussed earlier in this paper, WWDA receives it’s operational funding from the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FACS). WWDA relies on government funding to exist (for reasons outlined earlier). Over the past three years, WWDA’s funding contract with FACS has become far more prescriptive, with an emphasis on outcomes, set performance indicators (not developed in consultation with the organisation, and also ‘non-negotiable’), and complex, administratively burdensome reporting processes. Whilst WWDA recognises the importance of accounting for public funds, the current cumbersome, and ill thought out reporting processes detract from WWDA’s ability to focus on its performance to effectively meet the needs of the constituents it represents.

Technically speaking, WWDA is not currently funded to provide individual advocacy. However, as outlined in the Charities Inquiry Issues Paper (p.8), the nature of the social and economic environment in which the charitable and NGO sector operates has been changing over recent years, to a point where WWDA has found itself in the position of having to ‘fill the void’ left by governments in the provision of social support for individuals, groups, and communities. It is unrealistic, unfair, and ignorant, for a Government to preclude WWDA from undertaking individual advocacy when required, particularly given that WWDA is the only organisation for women with disabilities in Australia. For a Government to assume that there are services out there adequately and equitably assisting women with disabilities in need, shows a complete lack of understanding of the interaction between gender and disability, and the issues that women with disabilities face on a daily basis. WWDA is inundated on a daily basis with phone calls, emails, faxes etc from individual women with disabilities who are unable to get the basic assistance they require to survive. As outlined earlier in this paper, often many of these women have exhausted all other avenues, and/or have been referred to WWDA by the very services designed to assist them.

Case Study 4

A severely disabled elderly woman from Queensland phoned the WWDA Executive Officer at home at 1am on a Sunday morning. She was experiencing extreme physical and emotional abuse from her husband, who was also her carer. She waited until he had gone to bed and then managed to ring the police. The police had no idea what to do. She was told to apply for an AVO. She was not removed from her home immediately because the police did not know where to take her, as no women’s refuges were accessible to women with severe disabilities, and she also required a high level of direct personal care, which women’s refuges are unable to provide. WWDA’s actions in this case were numerous and included: organising emergency 24 hour personal care for the woman; providing information, emotional support and counselling to the woman; assisting the woman to organise an advocate to help her navigate her way through the legal system in order to apply for an AVO; providing written information to the emergency carer and advocate on violence against women with disabilities; working the woman and other agencies to work out a longer term solution and so on.

One only has to look at the current data available on the status of women with disabilities in Australia to see that they are not only one of the most socially disadvantaged groups in society, but also clearly one of the most marginalised, neglected, excluded and isolated. Women with disabilities are ignored in Government legislation, policies and programs. Their issues and needs are neglected within services and programs across all sectors. They are excluded from social movements designed to advance the position of women, and the position of people with disabilities. Women with disabilities in Australia are raped, abused, unlawfully sterilised, chemically restrained, medically exploited, institutionalised, denied control over their bodies, their finances and living situations. They are denied employment, education and training. They are denied social contact and opportunities to participate in their community. They are discriminated against, harassed, humiliated, victimised, and vilified. They are often denied the fundamental pre-requisites for health, which include: shelter, education, social security, social relations, food, income, empowerment of women, a stable eco-system, sustainable resource use, social justice, respect for human rights and equity (World Health Organisation 1997). The Jakarta Declaration on Health Promotion into the 21st Century (WHO 1997), to which Australia is a signatory, states that: ‘above all, poverty is the greatest threat to health’ (WHO 1997).

The United Nations has recognised that women with disabilities are among the poorest of all groups in society. Poverty is a fact of life for many women with disabilities who often lack the resources to attain what is considered essential in Australian society, including employment, adequate and appropriate housing, nutrition and health care. The impact of poverty on the health status and quality of life experienced by women with disabilities is undeniable. Poverty also exacerbates the negative self image that many women with disabilities have about themselves in relation to others in society (WWDA 1996). Poverty can increase the effect of disability. Many women with disabilities who are poor are often unable to afford to buy healthy food or eat regular meals. This can lead to vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition and other illnesses. In Australia, the social security system validates the need for, and offers income support to, women facing specific disadvantage, including women who are aged, unemployed, sick or with a disability. Additional support is available to families to assist with the costs of raising children. However, women with disabilities face extra costs directly related to disability and these costs are often not accounted for in the calculation of benefits. Women with a disability who have a waged partner can lose all benefits related to their disability. With the increasing feminisation of poverty, women with disabilities face a bleak future unless specific interventions are made to remedy the current inequalities in resources (Frohmader 1998).

It is clear: when left to governments, the general disability sector, the women’s sector, and other organisations and services, the needs and concerns of women with disabilities are routinely ignored and excluded. One only has to look at the data available on Commonwealth funded programs designed to assist people with disabilities, in order to see that women with disabilities are discriminated against by the very services designed to assist the. For example:

  • In 1997-98 Commonwealth Government funded open employment services assisted over 31,000 people with disabilities in their efforts to find and maintain jobs on the open labour market. 66.6% of those assisted were men with disabilities. Annual Census of Commonwealth Government funded open employment services show that the percentage of women with disabilities being assisted by these services has continued to decline.
  • Women with disabilities are less likely than men with disabilities to receive vocational rehabilitation or entry to labour market programs. Commonwealth Rehabilitation Services statistics for 1994/5 indicate only 35% of referred clients were female with women more likely to be rehabilitated to independent living (45%) than vocational goals (36%).
  • Women with disabilities have a consistently higher level of unmet need than their male counterparts across all disability levels and types. Women with disabilities are less likely to receive appropriate services than men with equivalent needs or other women. 60% of recipients of disability support services funded under the Commonwealth/State Disability Agreement are men with disabilities.

One of the most important ways of seeking fundamental rights for women with disabilities, and in addressing the vast inequities experienced by women with disabilities in Australia, is through organised individual and systemic advocacy. Individual advocacy directly assists in improving the social and material conditions of life experienced by women with disabilities. Systemic advocacy can take these individual experiences and provide information and critiques to policy makers, community leaders and the wider community, thereby informing and stimulating public debate. The National Disability Advocacy Review Report (funded and conducted by the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services) acknowledges that it is not always possible to delineate between individual and systemic advocacy in practice, and that there is an interrelationship between individual and systemic advocacy (National Advocacy Review Report, FACS, 1999). Clearly it is one thing to ‘acknowledge’ such a fact, but the challenge is to recognise this interrelationship formally, by building it into definitions, and resourcing charitable and related organisations appropriately for the work they do (which, as has been well documented, is a cheap yet highly effective alternative to Governments having to do the work themselves).

3.4. Does the current definition of your organisation impose any constraints on your ability to adjust your ‘attributes, purpose and behaviour’ to respond to changing demands?

Yes. See answer to previous question. It should be stressed that having a national charitable organisation like WWDA funded by the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) is constraining on the ability of WWDA to adjust to the changing environment and meet the increasing demands on the organisation. As discussed earlier, this is largely because the FACS funding contract with WWDA is far too prescriptive, and reflects a reluctance to acknowledge the diversity of the work WWDA does. The work WWDA undertakes encompasses all portfolio areas, not just those of the funding body, FACS.

Current definitions, with exception of that set out by our members, are entirely imposed from external sources, each for their own purposes. Emeshed in this cross weaving web of definitions, WWDA has had to learn to tread as skillfully as any insect in a real spider’s web. Our freedom to ‘change attributes’ is, of course limited in these circumstances. Indeed, it is the very purpose of this submission to seek some redefinition of what constitutes a ‘charity’ or a ‘PBI’ so as to encompass the kinds of work that WWDA and other community organisations like it perform.

3.5. Do current definitions allow regard to be taken of the social and economic environment that your organisation operates in?

As discussed earlier in this submission, traditional concepts of ‘charity’ and ‘public benevolence’ do not readily encompass the nature and extent of the work an organisation like WWDA undertakes, which does include elements of self advocacy, empowerment, rights and political action. These are actions taken by those who experience their needs as obstacles to be overcome, rather than as travails to be endured until relieved by a charitable benefactor.

3.6. Do the terms ‘charity’, ‘religious organisation’ and ‘community service not-for-profit organisation’ continue to have relevance in the current social and economic environment?

It is clear that in the current social, economic and political climate, these terms are of the utmost relevance – probably have not been more relevant since the soup kitchens of the Great Depression, since we live in a land whose governments and a world whose economic institutions are clearly bent on creating greater inequality and uncertainty for those in the labour market (therefore greater need) and bent on reducing the role of government as the equaliser, investor and regulator, with consequent greater reliance on charities. As discussed in the response to the previous question, these terms as traditionally conceived, do not reflect the current social, economic and political climate, or the work that these organisations undertake within this climate.

Therefore, it would seem appropriate and timely to expand the definitions of these terms so that they include the new ideas and methods which drive modern attempts to ‘relieve distress’, and so on. This would include recognition of contemporary methods such as advocacy (systemic and individual) and political action for, and by citizens who have social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights.

3.7. Do the four ‘purposes’ of charity in the common law continue to have relevance?

As discussed earlier, the four purposes of charity in common law are still relevant, if not more relevant, and clearly need to be revisited in order to reflect more accurately the current nature of Australian society. It is unclear as to why the ‘needs of the aged’ are specified within the current definition, but not the ‘needs of the disabled’. This is perplexing, as people with disabilities are, from the government record, one of the most marginalised and poorest groups in our community. A similar argument could be made for indigenous Australians. The purposes could perhaps be made more relevant by including the word ‘prevention’ as well as ‘relief’. The activities of many charitable organisations in Australia do not only deal with the ‘relief’ of poverty, distress, etc, but also focus on the ‘prevention’ of poverty, distress and so on.

3.8. Is the concept of PBI of continuing relevance?

The concept of a public benevolent institution is still of continuing relevance, for many of the reasons already outlined in this submission. Again, it may be useful to update the language to be more fitting to the current nature of Australian society. The need for PBI to exist is extremely important for many organisations, who rely heavily on donations etc in order to carry out their activities and meet the ever increasing demands on them. With Government shifting responsibility for welfare to the charitable, not-for-profit community sector, (while at the same time reducing the funding provided to this sector), it is obvious that there is going to be more and more organisations (like WWDA) having to rely on donations and sponsorship etc in order to meet the needs of the people they serve.

Again, it would be more appropriate if the definition of a PBI was expanded to include ‘prevention’ as well as ‘relief”.

3.9. Is there a place for ‘direct’ assistance to be distinguished from other forms of assistance?

Only if the definition of ‘direct assistance’ is conceptualised in a way which encompasses the variety of activities that charitable and related organisations undertake (like those described for WWDA earlier in this submission). The term ‘direct assistance’, as traditionally conceived, does not reflect the true nature and scope of the work organisations like WWDA actually do. Traditional understandings of ‘direct assistance’ (in relation to definitions of charities, PBI’s etc) could be considered to be conservative and outdated. For example: would giving a woman with a disability information about how to access a women’s refuge be considered ‘direct assistance’? Would counselling a woman with a disability who has been sexually abused be considered ‘direct assistance’? Would such counselling have to occur face to face to be considered ‘direct assistance’ or could it occur via telephone, or TTY (Telephone Typewriter)? With the increasing use of technology, with many services now going ‘on-line’, the traditional concept of ‘direct assistance’ needs to be revisited.

3.10. Should the definitions of charitable, religious and community service not-for-profit organisations be left to the courts or enacted in legislation? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches?

At this stage, the definitions of charitable, religious, and community service ‘not-for-profit’ organisations should be left to the courts. It may be unwise to move too hastily to a rigid codification in law when the very existence of this Public Inquiry into the Definition of Charities and Related Organisations demonstrates that these concepts are open to contest and innovation. The Inquiry could consider recommending that the Parliament drafts legislation only after a suitable period has passed for the results of the present public debate and testing of the boundaries of definitions to have reached a broad consensus.


Section Four: Definitions Used in Overseas Jurisdictions.

4.1. What are your views on overseas definitions that are considered suitable for adoption in Australia?

WWDA does not have the resources available at this time to research overseas definitions of charities. However, it is interesting to note that Scotland are also currently undertaking a Public Inquiry into Scottish Charity Law. The stated purpose of the Review is to ‘put forward a new framework for charities with the aim of promoting and facilitating the role of the charitable sector in enhancing the social fabric of society.’ For more information on the Scottish Charity Law Review, go to: http://www.charityreview.com/

The Maryland Charitable Solicitations Act (US) defines a charitable organisation in the following way:

(1)”Charitable organization” means:
(i) a person that:
1. is or holds itself out to be a benevolent, educational, eleemosynary, humane, patriotic, philanthropic, or religious organization; and
2. solicits or receives charitable contributions from the public; or
(ii) an ambulance, fire fighting, fraternal, rescue, or police or other law enforcement organization when it solicits charitable contributions from the public.
(2) “Charitable organization” includes an area, branch, chapter, office, or similar affiliate that solicits charitable contributions from the public within the State for a charitable organization that is organized or has its principal place of business outside the State.
(3) “Charitable organization” does not include:
(i) an agency of the State government or of a political subdivision; or
(ii) a political club, committee, or party.

For more information on the Maryland Charitable Solicitations Act go to: http://mlis.state.md.us/cgi-win/web_statutes.exe?gbrand6-101

Although WWDA has not had time to research definitions used overseas, it is worthy to note that the Maryland Charitable Solicitations Act uses the word ‘humane’ in its definition of what constitutes a charity. The Scottish Charity Law Review also talks about the importance of charities ‘enhancing the social fabric of society’. The language used appears much more positive than the language currently used in Australian definitions.

4.2. If your organisation operates overseas, are there any particular issues regarding the definitions used in Australia compared to those in other countries that affect the international activities of your organisation

Unable to answer this question effectively, as WWDA has not had time to research definitions used overseas.


Section Five: Options for enhancing the existing definitions in Australia.

5.1. What do you regard as the framework and key criteria that could form the basis for the classification of charitable, religious and community service not-for-profit organisations?

It seems clear that the current definitions of charitable organisations and Public Benevolent Institutions are outdated, conservative, and do not accurately reflect the changing nature of Australian society, or the extent and diversity of work that these organisations are undertaking. It is also apparent that the charitable sector in Australia is growing and will continue to grow, particularly in the context of the Government’s desire to shift responsibility for welfare support to the charitable sector. It will be important that any framework or criteria developed for the classification of charitable and related organisations, reflect the current social, economic and political climate, and provide scope for the many ideas and methods which drive modern attempts to ‘relieve distress’, and so on. This would include recognition of contemporary methods such as advocacy (systemic and individual) and political action for, and by citizens who have social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights.

There is no question that charities serve the public benefit and must be appropriately open and accountable. However, their independence is crucial and any regulation must make account for, and enhance that. Obviously there is an obligation by Government to protect the public by ensuring high standards among charities, but at the same time it is vital that the Government avoids placing over-burdensome administrative requirements on these charities.

5.1.1. Minimum Set of Principles
The Government needs to be assured that services are provided by charitable and related organisations with clear goals and organisational structures. However, rather than focus Departmental attention on strategic, organisational frameworks (mission, goal, objectives, etc.) a more productive approach may be to support the introduction of an agreed set of guiding principles, practice standards and operational protocols for the work charitable and related organisations carry out. A minimum set of principles could be developed for the work of charitable and related organisations. These principles could be developed in consultation with charitable and related organisations and classification as a charitable organisation could be conditional on acceptance of these minimum set of principles.

5.1.2. Practice Standards
Practice Standards could be developed to guide and support the work of charitable and related organisations. The development of standards would help to define and describe the requirements for quality and effectiveness in charitable and related organisations. The standards could be designed to:

  • reflect the principles and values underpinning the work of charitable and related organisations;
  • encompass the diversity of the sectors forms of practice (eg: size, service mix and management structure);
  • be intersectoral;
  • improve quality not merely assess it;
  • address service delivery/practice and coordination, planning, policy, management and the relationship with the target group and/or community served;
  • promote accountability.

Standards for charitable and related organisations could be used in a variety of ways, including:

  • as guidelines for organisational development;
  • to give a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the operation of an organisation;
  • as evaluative criteria for organisations and funding bodies;
  • as an educational tool for staff, students, management committees, volunteers etc;
  • as a management tool to plan and evaluate the work of charitable and related organisations.

The development of standards for charitable and related organisations would assist these organisations in working towards best practice, and knowing what constitutes best practice. Such standards could aim to:

  • ensure quality of service to consumers;
  • guide organisations and workers in service improvement;
  • enable quality improvement, evaluation and accountability.
  • develop a consistent, high level of quality across services and organisations.

Charitable and related organisations could then be reviewed against the Standards say, every two years, and after a certain number of successful Reviews, they could be accredited. However, it would be important that any Standards Process developed for the charitable sector be participatory, and include peer review processes.

For more information, the Inquiry Committee members may like to refer to the CHASP Standards (Community Health Accreditation Standards Program). This Program has been extremely successful in Australia because it was developed by the sector, is a participatory process, is focused on quality improvement, involves consumers in the process, and so on. The difference between CHASP and many other Standards processes (such as the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program Standards; and Nursing Home Standards) is that the organisations seek to be reviewed. Because the Standards and the Review Process were developed by the sector and are participatory, organisations have a sense of ownership of the process.

5.1.3. Data Collection
One of the problems for charitable and related organisations currently is that there is no uniform or standard way of collecting data on the work the organisation does. There have not been any information management systems developed which charitable and related organisations can use to collect data on the work they do. Most organisations are currently using their own system of data collection and information management and this can often mean that it is difficult to get a national picture of what is occurring in the sector. Any data collection systems developed for charitable and related organisations would need to address issues of what data would be collected; how issues of confidentiality/privacy would be addressed and so on.

5.2. Do you have a preferred definition of a charitable, religious or community service not-for-profit organisation and; if you believe relevant, PBI?

It would be useful if the Public Inquiry Committee could develop a some draft definitions from the submissions it receives, and then circulate these draft definitions for comment. In this submission, WWDA has provided a range of suggestions, ideas and information which could be helpful in developing draft definitions. The definitions of charitable and related organisations (PBI, not-for-profit etc) should encompass some of the following principles:

  • Contribute directly or indirectly to the resolution or alleviation of specific social and health problems.
  • Undertake activities which directly or indirectly address the needs and issues of disadvantaged and/or marginalised groups.
  • Promote equity, reduce suffering, poverty, discrimination and exploitation.
  • Encompass the nature of the activity conducted by the organisation, not just the purpose.
  • Reflect the multiple purposes of the organisation.
  • Provide scope for the many ideas and methods which drive modern attempts to ‘relieve distress’, and so on. This would include recognition of contemporary methods such as advocacy (systemic and individual) and political action for, and by citizens who have social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights. It would also include recognition of the role of ‘prevention’ rather than just provision of ‘relief’.

5.3. Would it be desirable to split out different types of activities into separate entities for definitional purposes? What would be the implications of such an approach for your organisation?

It would not be desirable or wise to split out different types of activities into separate entities for definitional purposes. This would be administratively burdensome on both sides, impossible to regulate effectively; place undue pressure on organisations; would detract from organisations being able to concentrate on their role and their constituents; etc. A BAD idea!

5.4. Is there anything else you consider to be relevant in developing options for new definitions?

Governments have a duty to all citizens, not just those who have organised themselves into the loudest and best-resourced groups and organisations. Many of those who are most in need of government assistance and protection cannot put their case. Women with disabilities in Australia fall into this category. Without an organisation to research and represent their needs and concerns, women with disabilities are excluded from public debate.

Democracy is about debate, consultation, and differences of opinion. A democratic society is characterised by: participation and consultation, the protection of human rights and social well-being, representative and accountable government, and, the rule of the law (Rayner 1998). Part of the exercise of democracy is to ensure that the relatively powerless become more powerful in their capacity to exercise choice, not only for themselves but for their communities, their preferred futures, and for the futures of others. As Labonte (1990) states: ‘Unless the social capacities for choice are made more equitable, we cannot justifiably argue that we are creating democracy’. Putnam (1993) in his long term study of democratic government in Italy, found that ‘good’ government was likely to be found in regions where ordinary people participated in public affairs through strong networks of community organisations and peak bodies. This kind of activity encouraged co-operation, trust and a sense of shared responsibility that spilled over into the quality of government. Peak bodies and community organisations help to form the social capital upon which modern democracy depends.

In Australia, the charitable sector underscores many basic values in Australian democracy. It exemplifies the principles of pluralism, free choice and the rights of citizens to participate in and take responsibility for their community. It helps ensure that no government has a monopoly on the way society deals with its citizens – especially those which are most vulnerable because of economic or personal need (Industry Commission, 1994).

NB: References for this submission are available on request. Contact the WWDA Office.