WWDA Submission to the Review of the National Women’s Non-Government Organisation (NGO) Funding Program


In February 1999, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women (Senator Jocelyn Newman) announced a Review of the the National Women’s Non-Goverenment Organisation’s Funding Program, which is administered by the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women. Each year under the the National Women’s NGO Funding Program, a total of $500,000 is available for funding national women’s organisations. This is a copy of WWDA’s submission to Review of the the National Women’s Non-Goverenment Organisation’s Funding Program. Copyright WWDA March 1999.


About Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA)

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with 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. WWDA is a woman centred organisation which works on a collective model. This means that decisions are made using a consensus approach. 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. It links women with disabilities from around Australia, providing opportunities to identify and discuss issues of common concern. The objectives of the organisation include:

  • to develop a network of women with disabilities throughout Australia to work together for their mutual benefit;
  • to advocate for every woman with a disability to have the opportunity for true involvement in all levels of society;
  • to develop leadership and the sharing of responsibilities to enable women with disabilities to take their place in whatever section of society they choose;
  • to change social attitudes, practices, and power relationships which discriminate against women with disabilities;
  • to lobby for the implementation of procedures and enactment of legislation which will advance and benefit all women with disabilities and combat sexism;
  • to inform and educate the public with a view to advancing the opportunities for women in the political, creative, civil and social fields.

WWDA is managed by a National Executive Committee, 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 at the forefront of advocacy with, and on behalf of, women with disabilities in Australia. WWDA’s major policy and program areas for 1998-99 include: violence against women with disabilities; improving access to information technologies for women with disabilities; leadership and mentoring; housing; ageing; health; links with the women’s movement; organisational development; development of State, Territory and Regional WWDA groups; and systemic advocacy.

More information about WWDA is provided in Appendix 1.


WWDA and the National Women’s NGO Funding Program

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) recognises the context of progressive change to the National Women’s NGO Funding Program and the need to review and monitor outcomes of funded programs.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) does not currently receive funding under the National Women’s NGO Funding Program. WWDA has been funded under this Program in the past, however. WWDA did apply for funding under the Program in the 1998-99 year, however the submission for funding was unsuccessful. There were no reasons given by the Program for this. It is not clear to WWDA what criteria are used by the Program in determining which applications receive funding.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is currently funded on an annual basis under the Commonwealth Department of Family & Community Services Disability Programs Research and Development Grants.

A copy of WWDA’s submission to the 1998-99 National Women’s NGO Funding Program is provided in Appendix 2.


WWDA’s Stake in the National Women’s NGO Funding Program – Gender and Disability

Women with disabilities live in a society that, in many ways, has little faith in them. They are invalidated in 2 ways: as people with disabilities they are often stereotyped as dependent and non-productive; as women they are judged incompetent to perform women’s work. The verdict is double incompetence. Women with disabilities are stripped of their roles. They are not expected to be workers, romantic partners, caregivers or mothers. Socially, they are in limbo – not quite children, but not adults; not men, but not real women either. As Gill (1996) puts it: “It is difficult to get your bearings and struggle out from under that kind of unremitting yet subtle oppression, because it steals from you the very sense of self you need in order to fight”.

The position from which women with disabilities seek to participate fully in the community is socially constructed rather than in direct relationship with medically defined impairment. That is, social, economic and political realities impact directly on, and give meaning to, the degree to which a person with an impairment is regarded as disabled. In many respects disabling arises from the community’s response to impairment. These social, economic and political realities are made up of a multiplicity of factors which are reflected in a multitude of ever changing attitudes, relationships and communications. Each of these impinge on a person’s ability to take part in the life of the community on an equal level with others.

Approximately 18% of all women are disabled and more than 50% of people with disabilities are women (Mulder 1996). Despite this fact, women with disabilities have been rendered invisible by the women’s movement and they have also been rendered peripheral by the disability movement (Wendell 1989, Mulder 1996, Morris 1992, Cooper 1991, Waxman 1991, Hershey 1994, Morris 1995, Hilyer 1993, Blackwell-Stratton et al 1988, Davis 1987, Finger 1985).

The disability rights movement has traditionally been male dominated and patriarchal. The women’s movement has a long history of fighting for women’s rights to self-determination and bodily integrity. An important part of the feminist agenda has been an argument against biological determinism and support for all women’s rights to make decisions about their bodies, sexuality and childbearing. Yet, according to disabled feminists, neither movement has adequately addressed the rights of disabled women. Disabled women have begun to articulate their criticism of the disability rights movements domination by men and its failure to address gender issues; as well as the feminist movement’s failure to integrate into its agenda the perspectives of disabled women (Kallianes & Rubenfeld 1997).

In Australia, it is only since the establishment of the National Women’s Network within Disabled Peoples International -Australia (DPIA) in 1984 (later to become Women With Disabilities Australia) that the needs of women with disabilities have begun to be articulated and recognised. This National Women’s Network (DPIA) was formed by a group of women with disabilities who believed that the needs and issues of women with disabilities in Australia were not being acknowledged or addressed. Australian women with disabilities were concerned to explore issues of sexuality and sexual identity; to challenge stereotypical images and oppressive mores relating to child-bearing and rearing; to integrate physical and social aspects of self-presentation with critical analysis of the dependent, non-assertive disabled woman which society ‘requires’. For many women with disabilities in Australia, these issues were seen as central, not adjunctive to the disability rights movement.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has been the only force for affirmative action for women with disabilities in Australia.

Disabled women have had little opportunity to portray their experiences within the general culture or within political movements. Their experience is isolated and individualised and the definitions which society places on them focus on judgments of individual capacities and personalities.

Women with disabilities are typically seen as helpless, childlike, dependent, needy, victimised, and passive. They therefore reinforce traditional stereotypes of women. Asch and Fine (1988) suggest this may be one of the reasons why women with disabilities have been excluded from the women’s movement. They suggest, “…non-disabled feminists have severed them from the sisterhood in an effort to advance more powerful, competent, and appealing female icons.”

Like Asch & Fine, Gill (1996) suggests that women with disabilities have been unwelcome in the women’s movement because disability is associated with stereotypes of dependence and weakness. She sees that these are the very images and unfair stereotypes that feminists have been trying to live down, so there may be some fear of “devaluation by association” with women with disabilities. Gill also suggests that many women have fought hard to liberate themselves from the socially imposed role of caregiver to children and ageing or ill family members. She states: “I believe we who have disabilities may threaten women who fear losing ground, women who fear being forced back into these roles and who then see us as part of their oppression”.

Despite the fact that in Australia, approximately 18% of all women are disabled and more than 50% of people with disabilities are women (Mulder 1996), women with disabilities continue to be categorised as a special interest group; their experience isolated from the mainstream and marginalised.

Women with disabilities in Australia:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • are less likely than their male counterparts to receive a senior secondary and tertiary education. Only 16% of all women with disabilities are likely to have any secondary education compared to 28% of men with disabilities.
  • are less likely to own their own houses than their male counterparts.
  • pay the highest level of their gross income on housing, yet are in the lowest income earning bracket.
  • are more likely to be institutionalised than their male counterparts.
  • regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or class are assaulted, raped and abused at a rate of at least two times greater than non-disabled women.
  • are often forced to live in situations in which they are vulnerable to violence.
  • are more likely to experience violence at work than other women, men with disabilities or the population as a whole.
  • are more likely to be unlawfully sterilised than their male counterparts.
  • are less likely to receive vocational rehabilitation or entry to labour market programs.
  • report a greater need for unmet help than their male counterparts.
  • are less likely to receive appropriate services than men with equivalent needs or other women.

(Anderson 1996; Frohmader 1998; WWDA 1998; ABS 1993).

Women with disabilities are among the most economically and socially disadvantaged of all groups in society. Advocacy, both individual and systemic, must play an essential part in seeking fundamental rights for women with disabilities, and in addressing the vast inequities experienced by women with disabilities in Australia.

The National Women’s NGO Funding Program must recognise that not all national women’s non-government organisations are on a ‘level playing field’. There needs to be consideration and recognition given to issues of equity and need in the principles supporting the Program. There must also be a recognition that some women’s groups in society are better placed and better able to advocate for themselves, and that whilst vast inequities remain, there will always be a need for organisations such as WWDA to advocate on behalf of those who cannot, for whatever reason, do so for themselves.

Individual and systemic advocacy undertaken by WWDA plays an important role in assisting women with disabilities to exercise full citizenship and should be supported by government to do so.


National Women’s NGO Funding Program Objectives

WWDA believes that the National Women’s NGO Funding Program needs a clear goal statement and objectives underpinning funding allocation, thus providing a strategic direction in line with any legislative intent, consumer needs and the Government’s policy direction.

A goal statement for the Program should be developed which clearly describes the purpose of the Program rather than a more general principle. For example, the current Program Application Form outlines some priority areas of the Program, one of which states: “areas which advance equality for women, improving their economic, social, political and legal status.” If the overall goal of the National Women’s NGO Funding Program is in fact to advance equality for women, improving their economic, social, political and legal status then this should be reflected in a goal statement for the Program.

The National Women’s NGO Funding Program Objectives need to delineate clear policy directions and strategic milestones for the Program – in line with the Goal and linked to any legislative intent, consumer needs and the Government’s policy direction. The Program Objectives should:

  • reflect the diversity of needs of women;
  • reflect the public policy concerns of the sector;
  • reflect the need to reduce inequities and promote equality.

Any objectives developed for the Program should be measurable; agreed on by the sector; realistic and achievable; be linked to a timeframe for review; and reviewed at least every 5 years in light of achievements of milestones.


National Women’s NGO Funding Program Processes

Eligibility for Funding

WWDA is a national peak women’s organisation as well as a national peak disability organisation. WWDA is concerned with the apparent trend of the National Women’s NGO Funding Program to refer organisations like WWDA back to the ‘mainstream’ government agency for operational funding. For example, it would appear that because WWDA has a disability focus, the National Women’s NGO Funding Program sees that the Department of Family and Community Services (which incorporates the Disability Portfolio) should bear the responsibility for funding WWDA. Whilst there is some merit in this approach, WWDA believes that the National Women’s NGO Funding Program should fund those women’s organisations which best demonstrate their ability to advance the goal and meet the objectives of the National Women’s NGO Funding Program. Just because WWDA has a disability focus, the National Women’s NGO Funding Program should not exclude WWDA from being funded under the Program. One of the key objectives of WWDA is to advance the opportunities and create equality for women with disabilities in the political, creative, civil and social fields. This is consistent with the objectives of the National Women’s NGO Funding Program. If organisations like WWDA are able to secure funding from other sources (whatever they may be) they should not be ‘penalised’ for this by being excluded from applying for funding under the National Women’s NGO Funding Program. Given that WWDA is a national non-government women’s organisation, it could be argued that Government departments such as the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women have as much responsibility for funding WWDA as the Government department responsible for disability.

WWDA supports the National Women’s NGO Funding Program need for increased accountability processes and funding linked to outcomes. However, WWDA rejects a model of unit cost funding based on a case mix model. WWDA supports outputs/outcomes based funding with measurable indicators and associated unit costs where outputs and outcomes are understood to represent quantitative and qualitative results of advocacy work undertaken in the interests of women with disabilities (See section of this paper entitled: Need for Recognition of the Nature of Advocacy Work in Accountability Mechanisms).

Determining Outcomes for the National Women’s NGO Funding Program

The outcomes which are sought through the funding of national women’s non-government organisations should reflect the goals and objectives of the National Women’s NGO Funding Program, as well as the governments policy agenda. For example, if the goal of the National Women’s NGO Funding Program is to ‘advance equality for women, improving their economic, social, political and legal status’, then outcomes would need to be linked to this goal. If the National Women’s NGO Funding Program develops objectives which delineate clear policy directions and strategic milestones for the Program, then desired outcomes should be a natural extension of these objectives.

Need for Three Year Funding Cycles

The National Women’s NGO Funding Program currently funds national women’s organisations on an annual funding cycle. Given that one of the Programs current objectives is to: ‘advance equality for women, improving their economic, social, political and legal status, it needs to be recognised that achieving outcomes for an objective like this will take longer than one year. Funding organisations on an annual basis is unrealistic and detracts from optimal performance. For example, it is difficult to attract and retain quality staff where their tenure can only be assured for one year. Organisational planning processes are also hampered by one year funding contracts. Organisations need to be able to develop at least 3 year Strategic plans for their organisations and their constituents.

Annual funding contracts are burdensome on organisations like WWDA. For example, WWDA is currently funded on an annual basis through the Office of Disability (and prior to June 1998, was funded on a six monthly basis). To secure annual funding, WWDA is required to develop an Annual Strategic Plan, an Annual submission for funding; an Annual Evaluation Process (which measures performance against the Strategic Plan); an Annual Report; a mid-term Grant Report, as well as an annual audit of finances (each grant/project funding obtained by WWDA is required to be separately audited). It needs to be re-stated here that WWDA employs only one FTE position (Executive Officer) and only one .25 FTE position (Bookkeeper). These reporting processes are those which are required by the funding body and do not include reports that WWDA provides on other activities. Once organisations like WWDA have established a sound track record and credibility with the funding bodies like the Office of the Status of Women and the Office of Disability, their funding contracts should be extended to at least 3 years. Service agreements could be developed which include performance measures and agreements on outputs during that three year term. As it currently stands, WWDA has trouble getting on with its core business because it spends an awful lot of time either reporting to government or undertaking processes required by government to apply for funds each year. It should be pointed out here, that WWDA’s current annual grant from the Office of Disability is $110,000. It could be suggested that the current reporting requirements (and applying for funding requirements) are excessive given the amount of funds received.

Capacity to Generate Resources

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. With this in mind, WWDA is currently applying for funding through the Business and Community Partnerships Grants Program (Department of Family and Community Services) to look at ways the organisation can foster partnerships with the corporate sector. However, it must be said that there are some community 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. 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 Discussion Paper prepared for this Review states: “the capacity of women’s NGOs generally to generate their own resources varies significantly”. This is certainly true and it needs to be recognised 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 believes that the National Women’s NGO Funding Program must recognise these factors. WWDA is unlikely (in the short term) to become financially self-reliant and should not be expected by government to do so. Unlike many other national women’s organisations, WWDA cannot rely on membership fees to boost its revenue base. WWDA members are already significantly economically disadvantaged, which is why WWDA membership fees are $5 per annum for individual women or free to those unable to pay.

WWDA is also less likely to be able to raise revenue through the sale of merchandise or products. Although the current government advocates for community organisations to raise revenue, the government’s own policies negate this. An example can be used here to highlight this point. Last year, WWDA received ad hoc funding from the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women (OSW) to conduct a project on violence against women with disabilities. One of the outcomes of this project was a report WWDA published entitled “Violence Against Women With Disabilities” (WWDA, January 1999). The report was the first of its kind in Australia and in fact internationally. WWDA printed 500 copies of this report and could have sold them for anywhere between $25-$50 each. However, because the funding for the project (and the report) came from the Commonwealth Government, WWDA was not able to sell the reports.

Barriers to Efficient Financial Management

Another factor that impinges on WWDA’s ability to operate efficiently financially, is the fact that many Government departments (including the Office of the Status of Women) require their funding to be located in a separate bank account and be accounted for and audited separately from other grant funding or operational funding. An example can be used here to illustrate. WWDA currently receives research and development funding from the Office of Disability. It also obtains grant funding for projects from a variety of government departments as well as other sources. Each Department requires their particular funding to be accounted for and audited separately. Given that WWDA’s funding allows for only 1 FTE position (Executive Officer) and a .2 FTE position (Bookkeeper), the current accounting requirements are incredibly time consuming and inefficient. When government departments require that their funding is held in a separate bank account, this creates additional expense for WWDA – ie: bank fees and charges and so on. At the end of the financial year, WWDA is required to have each grant etc audited separately and this is very expensive. WWDA’s auditors have suggested that it would be cheaper and more efficient if they could just do one audit of WWDA’s finances, rather than having to conduct a series of separate audits. These accounting requirements are administratively burdensome on both sides since the funding department must ensure that requirements are met and must deal with the excessive detail required when it arrives.

Financial accountability should be limited to ensuring that the money provided by Government has been spent for the purpose(s) intended. Accountability could be simplified by permitting organisations like WWDA receiving project funds to nominate their overhead/administration charges at a fixed rate or proportion and simply deduct these from the moneys received, leaving them to account only for material items of project expenditure (the level of materiality could be set in guidelines) outside their general administrative costs. In general the determination that an amount of funds is reasonable for the purposes set out in a proposal is made at the time the decision to fund the proposal is made. Once the level of funding for achievement of the purposes has been agreed as reasonable, the primary accountability should be whether the activities funded were undertaken satisfactorily; whether the purpose was met.

Ensuring diversity of women’s views are represented through the National Women’s NGO Funding Program

The Discussion Paper developed for this Review asks for suggestions on how the Program could best ensure the diversity of women’s views are reflected and represented, and how organisations could demonstrate that they are able to work effectively with governments and the Office of the Status of Women.

It may be useful here to demonstrate one way that national disability consumer organisations work effectively with government and aim to ensure that the diversity of views from the sector are represented. The Federal Government (through the Office of Disability) currently funds a National Network known as the National Caucus of Disability Consumer Organisations. The National Caucus of Disability Consumer Organisations was established in August 1995. Caucus members include the ten peak consumer groups in the disability sector and its functions are:

  • Policy development and advice
  • Providing a forum for discussion and action
  • Information sharing
  • Facilitating appointment of consumer representatives to government, business and community working groups
  • Coordination of campaigns on issues of mutual issues.

The Caucus member organisations rotate the responsibility of housing the Caucus Secretariat. Each of the ten peak organisations which make up the Caucus are funded separately through the Office of Disability. Each organisation is unique and represents the interests of their particular consumers, but come together under the Caucus to facilitate the working relationship between the sector and government. The Caucus is one effective way that the sector can work with government on generic issues which affect people with disabilities.

In the non-government national women’s organisations sector, a structure like this could be one way of ensuring that the diversity of views from the sector are represented, and that the sector can work effectively with government and Office of the Status of Women. However, it would need to be stressed that a structure like the Caucus would not absolve government from the responsibility of funding national women’s non-government organisations. Rather, it may be a useful model to explore in terms of a consultative structure the government could use to work with the national non-government women’s organisations sector.


WWDA’s Current Accountability Mechanisms

WWDA is committed to ensuring that the organisation is relevant, accessible, appropriate and accountable to its members and funding bodies. WWDA currently has internal and external accountability mechanisms which it uses to demonstrate and report on its achievements and performance.

WWDA Strategic and Business Plan
Each year WWDA develops a Strategic/Business Plan which sets out key and continuing strategies, targets and timelines, resource implications and indicators of performance for each goal area. Each goal area is supported by a goal statement. The Plan is detailed and the way it has been developed allows for accurate evaluation against measurable targets. The Strategic/Business Plan has been developed in consultation with the membership of the organisation and accepted and endorsed by the National Executive Committee. It has been developed to reflect the identified needs and aspirations of the membership, whilst taking into account resource restraints. Attainment of the Strategic/Business Plan is evaluated approximately 4 times a year in conjunction with the National Executive Committee. The Strategic/Business Plan also provides the framework for the WWDA Annual Report. The Strategic/Business Plan is advertised in the WWDA Newsletter and is made available at no cost to members of the organisation if they request a copy. The Strategic/Business Plan forms the basis of WWDA’s annual submission for funding to the Office of Disability (Department of Family and Community Services). The Plan is forwarded each year to the funding body and also the Minister for Family and Community Services and the Minister for the Status of Women.

WWDA Grant Reports to Funding Bodies and Other Key Stakeholders
WWDA is funded on an annual basis by the Office of Disability (Department of Family and Community Services). Each year WWDA provides a mid-term grant report and an end of grant report to the Office of Disability. These reports provide detailed information on WWDA’s work. The reports are written in a way that reflects the Strategic/Business Plan – the Plan contains 7 goal areas for WWDA and the grant reports to the Office of Disability report on WWDA’s performance against each goal area. The reports provide a blend of quantitative and qualitative information.

These reports are also sent to other key stakeholders for their information and reference. For example, WWDA’s mid term and end of year grant reports are sent to the Office of the Status of Women, the Minister for Family and Community Services and the Minister for the Status of Women, as well as other national women’s organisations. Although WWDA is not required by the funding body to do this, WWDA considers it an important part of its relationship with Office of the Status of Women and other organisations in the sector.

Production of an Annual Report
Each year WWDA produces an Annual Report which details WWDA’s activities and achievements over the past year. This Report contains:

  • Chairperson’s Report
  • WWDA Executive Officer’s Annual Report
  • WWDA Treasurer’s Report
  • Auditors Report
  • WWDA State, Territory and Regional Groups Reports
  • Minutes of the Annual General Meeting
  • WWDA National Executive Committee Members

The Annual Report is advertised in the WWDA Newsletters and is made available free of charge to WWDA members. The Annual Report is forwarded to the Office of Disability, the Minister for Family and Community Services and the Minister for the Status of Women, national women’s organisations, national disability organisations and other key stakeholders.

WWDA Annual General Meeting
Each year WWDA conducts an Annual General Meeting. All members of the organisation are invited to attend the AGM or have issues placed on the Agenda. Invitations to the AGM are sent to each member as well as being advertised in the WWDA Newsletter. All Federal Members of Parliament are also sent formal invitations to attend. As well as standard AGM procedures, WWDA also reports on its achievements and activities of the past year.

Production of WWDA Newsletter and Other Reports
WWDA develops a Newsletter 3 times per year which includes detailed information on its activities and includes information for members on how they can have input to the organisation. This Newsletter is sent to over 1500 members as well as other key stakeholders.

WWDA’s achievements are also recognised by its production of a range of reports, publications, papers and articles. WWDA has a practice of widely publicising its reports and also makes a practice of sending any publications, reports, documents etc to the Office of Disability, the Minister for Family and Community Services and the Minister for the Status of Women, national women’s organisations, national disability organisations and other key stakeholders. This is an important way of keeping stakeholders informed of WWDA’s activities as well as raising the awareness of the needs of women with disabilities.

Process, Impact and Outcome Evaluation
Evaluation is an important component of any of WWDA’s projects and organised activities. Evaluation processes are built into all of the projects WWDA undertakes. In regard to projects, there are three types of evaluation which WWDA employs and these are process evaluation, impact evaluation and outcome evaluation.

Process Evaluation – This type of evaluation measures the activities of particular projects and areas of work. It determines to what extent a project plan has been implemented, by measuring for example: project reach, participant satisfaction, implementation of project activities, production of materials or other components and ongoing quality assurance. Process evaluation is also used to measure the implementation of the Strategic & Business Plan by assessing the level of attainment of targets and timelines against performance indicators.

Impact Evaluation – This type of evaluation measures the immediate changes and effects of particular programs, projects and activities. It helps to ascertain whether the organisation is meeting its objectives. Impact evaluation for WWDA includes things like: level of input to the organisation/project from target group/service providers; evaluation of increase in awareness of women with disabilities and relevant service providers to the role of the organisation and its particular projects/activities; assessment of any changes as a result of projects/activities – such as: participants initiating action such as formation of working groups and/or support groups; policy initiatives; media involvement etc.

Outcome Evaluation – This type of evaluation measures the long term effects of programs/projects to ascertain whether the organisation is meeting it’s goals. In WWDA’s case, evidence of successful outcome evaluation includes outcomes like: evidence of changes in mainstream services which see those services being, or becoming more responsive to the needs of women with disabilities; evidence of an increase in the accessibility of services for women with disabilities who have been subjected to violence; evidence of better access to information technology for women with disabilities; the existence of state/territory WWDA branches that are incorporated and self-funding; evidence of an ongoing increase in WWDA membership; and so on. Outcome evaluation is an ongoing process and is assisted by the availability of baseline data which an organisation can use to assess quantifiable changes over a number of years.


Mechanisms Which Could Assist Accountability of National Women’s Non-Government Organisations

Minimum Set of Principles

WWDA supports a diversity of women’s non-government organisations which reflect the diversity of need within the sector.

In this context, the Government needs to be assured that services are provided by women’s non-government 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 national women’s non-government organisations carry out.

A minimum set of principles could be developed for the work of national non-government women’s organisations. These principles could be developed in consultation with national women’s non-government organisations and funding could be conditional on acceptance of these minimum set of principles.

Practice Standards

Practice Standards could be developed to guide and support the work of national women’s non-government organisations. The development of standards would help to define and describe the requirements for quality and effectiveness in national women’s non-government organisations. The standards could be designed to:

  • reflect the principles and values underpinning the work of national women’s non-government 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 national women’s non-government 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 national women’s non-government organisations.

The development of standards for national women’s non-government organisations would assist these organisations in working towards best practice, and knowing what constitutes best practice.

Many other social and community services sectors have developed standards for use within their sector. Many of these standards aim to:

  • ensure quality of service to consumers;
  • guide organisations and workers in service improvement;
  • enable quality improvement, evaluation and accountability.

Their purpose is to develop a consistent, high level of quality across services and organisations. They do not aim to impose uniformity, standardisation or a minimum level of quality.

Examples of some sectors/areas where standards have been developed include:

  • Sexual Assault Sector Standards
  • Women’s Health Sector Standards
  • Community Health Sector Standards
  • Supported Accommodation Assistance Program Standards
  • Disability Services Standards
  • Home and Community Care Standards
  • Aboriginal Health Standards
  • Mental Health Standards

Data Collection

One of the problems for national women’s non-government 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 national women’s non-government 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 national women’s non-government organisations would need to address issues of what data would be collected; how issues of confidentiality/privacy would be addressed and so on.

Need for Recognition of the Nature of Advocacy Work in Accountability Mechanisms

Advocacy challenges the viewpoint that people with disabilities can be treated in ways that are less than for other human beings in terms of their needs and rights to make decisions for themselves.

Disability advocacy is integral to any social, economic and political advancement for women with disabilities. It is the nature of advocacy that its focus will shift as changes occur in the social and material conditions of those for whom advocacy takes place. Advocacy is not something which can be completed. It is dynamic and integral to the social, economic and political processes and debates in our community. Disability advocacy operates in this changing reality to:

  • clarify and focus the opportunities for women with disabilities to participate fully in society;
  • to inform and develop public debate around the position of women with disabilities;
  • to grow and maintain that debate within, and for the benefit of, the broad community.

Whether it is individual or systemic, the importance of advocacy is that it advances and maintains the debate at a community level and amongst women with disabilities so that change can occur in the reality and perception of what is valued in human persons and human behaviour. Inevitably, the parameters of this debate change as milestones are achieved and incremental gains made in the advancement of the community, and the role of people with disabilities within that community.

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. This is essential to the full participation by women with disabilities in the diverse life of our community.

WWDA plays an important role in providing a voice for women with disabilities at a policy, program and service level and in communicating their needs directly to government. This role is not fulfilled by any other organisation in the disability or women’s sector. A broader community goal of WWDA is to develop acceptance of difference so that we have an Australian society that is inclusive of people with disabilities and one that is responsive to their interest and human needs.

Because of the nature of the work that WWDA does, it is important to recognise that it is difficult to measure all outcomes using quantitative methodologies.

Quantitative evaluation methodologies are based on methodological principles of positivism and neopositivism. Quantitative methodologies use measurement and statistical principles and models familiar to many natural and physical scientists (Sarantakos 1994). Quantitative methodologies are primarily concerned with offering explanations about causal factors based on observed phenomena. Quantitative techniques are necessarily reductionist and so cannot capture the particular experiences and the subject’s own perceptions of their experiences. Quantitative methods rely on structured techniques of data collection that allow quantification and measurement, and data is usually presented in terms of numbers, percentages and formulas.

Qualitative evaluation approaches, on the other hand, recognise the social and behavioural context in which events occur. Qualitative approaches allow the evaluator to explore, with greater richness and detail, the type and quality of response and allows greater interaction between the evaluator and the respondents. A qualitative approach aims towards exploration of social relations; and describes reality as experienced by people (Sarantakos 1994).

Qualitative approaches highlight the qualities of values, purposes, feelings, plans and empathic understanding which belong to humans (Guray 1989; South Australian Health Commission 1991). Qualitative methods can obtain greater density of information, vividness of description, and greater clarity of meaning than is possible in quantitative processes. Qualitative data is usually presented from information that is gathered verbally or expressed in words.

There are several aspects of WWDA’s work where quantitative approaches are, and can be used. For example, WWDA is able to report (in quantifiable terms) on areas like:

  • numbers of members;
  • percentage of increase in membership;
  • numbers of reports developed;
  • numbers of participants in various programs;
  • and so on.

Qualitative evaluation and reporting methods are very important in WWDA’s work. An example can be used here to highlight.

In the last 6 months WWDA has had a significant impact on mainstream women’s services, in particular domestic violence services. WWDA could express this as an outcome in terms of numbers of violence services taking up WWDA membership; number of violence services requesting information from WWDA and so on. However, qualitative methods are vital in ascertaining what impact WWDA’s work has had on these organisations.

Where outcomes are expressed in numbers (or other quantifiable ways) the picture may be distorted. For example, suppose WWDA had only managed to get 2 domestic violence services in Australia to take up membership in a 12 month period. As an outcome expressed in numbers, this would look pretty dismal. However, if through their association with WWDA, those 2 services had developed a Disability Action Plan, developed disability policies, made their service accessible, undertaken disability awareness training with their staff, developed programs for women with disabilities etc – this would be a much more significant achievement. And it is these types of achievements which are difficult to express quantifiable terms.

Whilst WWDA supports the need for organisations to be accountable for their funding, and to report on outcomes, it is vitally important that any accountability mechanisms recognise the nature of the work that women’s organisations do. Any reporting mechanisms which are developed must reflect this.

Need to Simplify Accounting Procedures under an Outputs Based Funding Model

The current accounting practices required from WWDAWWDA by government are administratively burdensome on both sides (as has been discussed earlier in this paper).

The importance of accounting for public moneys is unquestionable. However this should be achieved in a way which gives the appropriate level of accountability for the materiality of the expenditure. Excessive requirements for accountability are burdensome for both the funded organisations and those who must police the requirements and deal with the excessive detail provided. Excessive requirements for accountability detract from the performance of the both the funded organisation and the funders.

Financial accountability should be limited to ensuring that the funds provided were spent for the purpose(s) intended. Accountability could be simplified by permitting organisations receiving project funds to nominate their overhead/administration charges at a specified amount or proportion in any project (recognising that this may legitimately vary from project to project and organisation to organisation) and to simply deduct these from the moneys received, leaving them to account only for material items of project expenditure (the level of materiality could be established in guidelines with discretion to vary this in particular funding agreements) outside their general administrative costs. There should not be a requirement for separate banking provided appropriate records are kept. A statement of material items of project expenditure, consistent with the project budget, with any material variations explained should be all that is required to acquit funds. The statement would include an item for total administrative charges or overheads levied. Funded organisations should also be required to maintain and be able to produce records of expenditure, including receipts etc, for material items but should not have to routinely provide these as part of reporting. Appropriate record keeping and availability of records could be certified in their general audit.

In general the determination that an amount of funds is reasonable for the purposes set out in a proposal is made at the time the decision to fund the proposal is made. Once the level of funding for achievement of the purposes has been agreed as reasonable, the primary accountability should be whether the activities funded were undertaken satisfactorily – whether the purpose was met.


References

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Appendices

Appendix One: About Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA)

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with 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. WWDA is a woman centred organisation which works on a collective model. This means that decisions are made using a consensus approach. 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. It links women with disabilities from around Australia, providing opportunities to identify and discuss issues of common concern. The objectives of the organisation include:

  • to develop a network of women with disabilities throughout Australia to work together for their mutual benefit;
  • to advocate for every woman with a disability to have the opportunity for true involvement in all levels of society;
  • to develop leadership and the sharing of responsibilities to enable women with disabilities to take their place in whatever section of society they choose;
  • to change social attitudes, practices, and power relationships which discriminate against women with disabilities;
  • to lobby for the implementation of procedures and enactment of legislation which will advance and benefit all women with disabilities and combat sexism;
  • to inform and educate the public with a view to advancing the opportunities for women in the political, creative, civil and social fields.

WWDA has a comprehensive understanding of issues for people with disabilities, particularly women. WWDA has a commitment to providing employment and training opportunities for women with disabilities. This means that where possible, WWDA employs women with disabilities to conduct projects, undertake consultations etc. Women with disabilities manage WWDA projects and programs and provide consultancy services to the organisation as required. The philosophy of WWDA asserts that women with disabilities be equitably remunerated for their work and expertise, including for their input into consultative and review processes; management and advisory committees, reference and working groups.

Management

WWDA is managed by a National Executive Committee, which is elected each year at the Annual General Meeting. There are 12 members on the Committee, including at least 1 representative from each State and Territory branch. All members are women with disabilities.

The National Secretariat is managed on a day to day basis by an Executive Director, who reports directly to the National Executive Committee. There is a branch of WWDA in each State and Territory of Australia (6 States and 2 Territories), including a regional WWDA Group in Newcastle. All the State and Territory branches operate on a voluntary level. Contact details for State, Territory and Regional WWDA branches can be obtained by contacting the National WWDA Office. The national WWDA office employs 2 staff – one full time Executive Officer and 1 part time bookkeeper. The national WWDA office also provides opportunities for women with disabilities on JobStart and Disability Employment Programs.

Membership of WWDA

There are three classes of membership of WWDA: full membership, organisation membership and associate membership. Full membership of WWDA is open to all women with a disability who live in a State or Territory of Australia (including Australia’s External Territories). Organisation membership is open to organisations which are supportive of the aim and objectives of WWDA, and/or a majority of whose membership are women with a disability or have a proportionally large, active group of women with disabilities within it. Associate membership is open to any other person or organisation supportive of the aim and objectives of WWDA. Membership is also free to those who are unable to pay. No person has to ‘prove’ they re unable to pay – it is listed as an option on the WWDA membership form and those who become members yet are unable to pay, receive the same benefits as paying members.

The total membership of WWDA is currently, approximately 1500. Membership is made of individuals and organisations. WWDA has, and continues to, establish partnerships and alliances with a range of organisations in order to better meet the needs of women with disabilities in Australia. WWDA has established links with a number of relevant international organisations and now has a recognised international presence. WWDA is committed to developing strategic alliances with organisations and fostering collaborative approaches to projects and activities.

Funding

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is funded on an annual basis by the Department of Health and Family Services through the Office of Disability. WWDA receives $112,000 each year under the Research and Development Grants Program in the Office of Disability. At the end of each financial year WWDA is required to submit a detailed audit of expenses to the Office of Disability, along with an end of year Grant report and a detailed submission for the next years funding. WWDA is also required to submit a mid-term grant report to the Office of Disability. WWDA’s operational funds of $112,00 are paid in four installments over each financial year.

Other sources of funds for WWDA come from grants project funding, a small amount from donations, and some from membership fees.

Grants are administered through the National WWDA office, which is located in Canberra. WWDA has a written contact with the funding body for its main grant, and any project grants are also managed with a written agreement between WWDA and the project funders. The financial management of the organisation is done on a daily basis by a Bookkeeper who works in the National WWDA Office. WWDA also has an accountant and auditor who oversees the financial management of the organisation. A financial report is prepared for the National Executive Committee every 4 weeks and is ratified by the WWDA Treasurer. All grants received by WWDA are audited at the completion of each grant. An audited statement, along with a detailed grant report, are provided by WWDA to the funding body. The audited statements are also made available to WWDA members, and detailed information on the WWDA finances are provided in an Annual Report.

WWDA Policy and Program Areas

WWDA works to respond to issues and needs identified by its members. It is a proactive organisation that works hard to effect systemic change for women with disabilities at all levels of society. To this end, it works closely with all levels of government in order to influence policy and legislation that incorporates the needs and issues of women with disabilities. It works closely with mainstream organisations to ensure that these organisations work towards eliminating discrimination against women with disabilities.

WWDA operates as both a national women’s organisation and a national disability advocacy organisation. This means that WWDA often works on policy and program areas that affect women, and on policy and program areas that affect people with a disability.

WWDA works hard to identify and address the needs and issues of its membership. WWDAWWDA initiates and undertakes research, using qualitative and quantitative methodologies, to identify the needs of women with disabilities in Australia. The organisation also participates in research being conducted through other organisations and institutions. Analysis of research conducted by WWDA informs the development of the organisations policy and programs. As well as formalised and dedicated research initiatives, WWDA also provides a range of mechanisms and opportunities which enable members to raise issues of concern of them.

As an organisation, WWDA has been structured to ensure maximum participation of grass roots membership in decision making processes. This is a fundamental principle underpinning the philosophy of the organisation. It is the obligation of each State/Territory delegate to consult with their membership about decisions. In addition, individual members join the national organisation directly, and are eligible to join issue-based working groups and community-based networks. Communication between the national group and individual members is maintained through the quarterly newsletter, intermittent mailouts, by use of telephone, fax and electronic mail, and other mechanisms such as surveys, evaluation processes etc.

WWDA members are given opportunities to represent the organisation on a range of Committees, Advisory Boards, Organisation Management Boards etc.

Women with disabilities are involved in evaluation of all WWDA programs and activities. WWDA believes this is a fundamental component of any program, project and activity and is an important part of service planning and development. It is also vital in ensuring accountability to both WWDAWWDA members and the funding body. At a broader level, members of the organisation are given many opportunities to have input to all programs and activities conducted by WWDA. There are several ways this occurs:

  • WWDA undertakes random sample surveys of its members to gauge members attitudes to the performance of the organisation;
  • the WWDA Newsletter offers information on mechanisms available to members to have direct input to the organisation;
  • each State/Territory branch of WWDA provides monthly reports to the National Executive Committee;
  • WWDA regularly advertises for WWDA members to participate in Advisory bodies, Committees, Reference Groups and so on;
  • notices are given to all WWDA members of upcoming meetings, including ways they can have input to the meetings;
  • all WWDA members are invited to participate in the Annual General Meeting of the organisation; etc.

WWDA’s priority policy and program areas include:

  • Violence Against Women With Disabilities
  • Leadership and Mentoring
  • Information Technology
  • Ageing
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Links with the Women’s Movement
  • Systemic Advocacy
  • Organisational Development
  • Development of State, Territory and Regional WWDA Groups

WWDA’s policy and program direction is detailed each year in its Strategic and Business Plan. The Strategic Plan includes: Goal Statements; Key and Continuing Strategies; Targets and Timelines; Resource Implications; Performance Indicators.

WWDA Organisational Affiliations

WWDA is committed to developing strategic alliances with organisations and fostering collaborative approaches to projects and activities. Some of the organisations WWDA works in partnership with include: the Women’s Emergency Services Network (WESNET); Womensport Australia; the Australian Women’s Health Network (AWHN); Disabled Women’s Network Canada (DAWN); the Network of Women’s Services (NEWS); CAPOW; and many others.

WWDA is a member organisation of the National Caucus of Disability Consumer Organisations. The National Caucus of Disability Consumer Organisations was established in August 1995. The Caucus meets 4 times each year and works collaboratively on activities and projects to promote the needs of people with disabilities. The Caucus liaises closely with governments and advises government on policy, programs and service delivery affecting people with disabilities. Caucus members include the ten peak consumer groups in the disability sector and its functions are:

  • information sharing and networking amongst its members; and
  • collective campaign action and representation to government on issues affecting people with disabilities.