WWDA ‘Advancement through Advocacy for Women With Disabilities’ Project Report


In 2006-07 Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) undertook a project to enhance the orgnisations’ capacity to undertake systemic advocacy work. The Project aimed to develop systems to recruit women with disabilities for systemic advocacy work; develop tools to support them in their representative/advocacy roles; and, develop systems to maintain capacity building mechanisms for WWDA’s representative work. This is the report of the Project, which was funded by the Australian Government under the Women’s Leadership & Development Programme, Office for Women, Department of Family, Community Services & Indigenous Affairs. Written by Sue Salthouse, Project Officer. Copyright WWDA 2007.


Thanks

Thanks are extended to the six members of the Reference Group – Louise Bannister, Michele Castagna, Rayna Lamb, Karen McQuigg, Lina Pane and Belinda Wardlaw, for the support they gave to the Project Officer in contributing feedback, expertise, and ideas on Project Activities, as well as giving thoughtful evaluation comments.

Thanks are similarly extended to the three women, Margaret Bayley, Vicki Humphries and Madge Sceriha, who were among the first to put their names on the Register, with whom the Project Officer had ongoing contact, and who consented to contribute to the evaluation of the Project.

WWDA also thanks those who assisted with the Project, including Louise Bannister who researched and developed the Guide for Representatives, and Sheila King who developed the Access Database. The administrative support given by the WWDA Business Manager, Angela Court, is also greatly appreciated. In addition, thanks go to the Workplace Training Advisory of Australia for its contribution to some leadership training.

Finally, thanks are due to the women who are now on the WWDA Register which was developed over the time of the Project. In a spirit of enthusiasm, dedication and hope, they bring to this endeavour a wide range of qualifications and experiences. Their responses reveal a pool of exceptional talent which is as yet, largely untapped. They share the vision of the Project to bring about improvement in the status of women with disabilities in Australian society, by making themselves available to take up representative positions on Advisory Boards in the workplace, in government and in the community.

Sue Salthouse
Project Officer
January 2007


Executive Summary & Recommendations

Background

Women with disabilities number approximately 2 million and comprise just over ten per cent of the population of Australia. They continue to be one of the most marginalised groups in the population, with a low participation rate in the workforce and over representation in the lowest income strata of our society. Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), commenced in 1995 and is a human rights, feminist, disability organisation run by women with disabilities for women with disabilities. It also has a primary role in advocacy, supporting its constituents both individually and at a systemic level. WWDA is one of the peak disability bodies in Australia, and one of very few of its kind in the world.

Project Aim & Objectives

The long term goal of the Project is to improve the status of women with disabilities in all aspects of life. In the short term the Project aimed to: develop systems to recruit women with disabilities for systemic advocacy work; develop tools to support them in their representative/advocacy roles; develop systems to maintain capacity building mechanisms for WWDA’s representative work. This included identifying a range of systemic advocacy opportunities. The three primary Project objectives were to build a database Register of WWDA constituents capable of representative work; build a database of potential representative positions, and develop the guidelines which would promote and support high standards of representative work. Particular focus was on areas identified in the WWDA Strategic Plan 2004-2009.

Project Rationale

Over the last 11 years, WWDA’s extensive and successful systemic advocacy work has helped to focus widespread recognition of the low status of women. One consequence is a constant inflow of requests for WWDA constituents to undertake representative work on a wide range of government and non-government bodies. These demands have overstretched WWDA’s capacity. An urgent need to expand the core group of experienced Representatives has become evident. This Capacity Building Project, funded under the Office for Women’s (OfW), Department of Family, Community Services & Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA) Women’s Leadership & Development Program, provided a means of addressing this need.

Project Outcomes

The stated Project Outcomes were a practical iteration of the Project Aims & Objectives. In essence two Databases were built, and a Representatives Manual written. Underpinning these pr�cis-ed outcomes are a wealth of research activities, coupled with intensive liaison with officers in State/Territory/Commonwealth Government departments as well as non government (NGO) personnel to set up the systems and processes necessary to achieve successful placement of Representatives. Although initially envisaged as sequential actions, all major Project activities were progressed simultaneously. In this Report the term ‘Advisory Body’ was used to describe a number of entities including Advisory Boards, Reference Groups, Management Committees, Boards of Directors, etc. A Registrant is a person whose name and details are held on a Register Database.

Project Milestones

In early January 2006, WWDA was notified of its successful Grant Application, with funding approved by March, and Project activities officially commenced in April. In fact, the required Project Plan was developed in the interim period between January and March. The Plan identified the Project Milestones and the Timeframe in which they were to be achieved.

(1, 2, 3) Develop Project Plan, Appoint Project Officer and Reference Group
The Project Plan was developed as outlined above, with Sue Salthouse provisionally appointed as Project Officer in March. The need for a Reference Group (RG) was canvassed with WWDA Management Committee and a number of other women with disabilities who had indicated interest. The 6-member group thus formed had a wide range of expertise with excellent backgrounds in systemic advocacy, community development and leadership. Geographically widespread, they were located in Perth, Alice Springs, Noosa, Melbourne and Canberra. The RG ‘conversed’ electronically. Additional liaison was established with the Project Officers of the NSW Network of Women With Disability.

(4) Publicise the Project widely
Two Project flyers were developed, one with graphics and one suitable for screen reader programs. These, and information about the Project were circulated widely through electronic networks, with the WWDA Update Bulletins, through hardcopy mail out and distribution at conferences, service provider offices, educational institutions and government departments. Publicity articles were written for a range of magazines and newsletters. Success of the initial phase became obvious when enquiries and expressions of interest were received from all over Australia including far north Queensland (Cairns), the far north of WA (Broome), the NT and western Tasmania. The publicity elicited responses from a large number of organisations with specific interest in disability and/or systemic advocacy. An operational database with a total of about 100 addresses was built from these enquirers. In addition more than 50 responses from prospective Registrants were received.

(5) Develop information management capacity building systems
These responses were used to begin development of the information management systems. A prototype Register database was begun using all available contact details supplied by the initial Registrants. In addition a separate softcopy folder for each Registrant was opened. These folders contain e-copies of all correspondence with the woman, and a copy of any relevant documents such as CV. Parameters for the WWDA Register Database were drawn up. To develop a uniform set of Registrant details a Registration proforma and curriculum vitae proforma were written. These were sent to respondents by email (plus hardcopy where required). Responses to the publicity campaign continued to flow in with the Register growing to 80 by August, and a December total of 108. High numbers of responses came from the ACT (21%), Victoria (22%) and Queensland (18%). The Project Officer researched all women’s registers at State/Territory/Commonwealth levels and made personal contact with register administrators. All Registrants were urged to enlist on the appropriate government registers. Getting Registrants to update their initial responses by returning proformas required intensive work which will be ongoing. Details supplied thus far allow some analysis of the characteristics of respondents. There is a wide spectrum of ability and experience levels, with those at the already-skilled end having limited availability for additional advocacy work, in contrast to those at the other end of the spectrum who lack confidence and expertise to undertake work. There is a need for mentoring support, peer support networks, and formal leadership/representative training. This needs to be coupled with awareness training of secretariat/Advocacy Body personnel/government Ministers. Register administration is a time intensive task which could be partially alleviated by establishing online registration facilities. Both measures require funding.

(6) Research and Develop tools which can be adapted to support women with disabilities in their representative and advocacy roles
By early May, work had commenced to develop the ‘Guide for Representatives’ outlining roles and responsibilities of WWDA and its representatives, as well as those of the Advocacy Body. There was no need to reinvent the wheel, excellent exemplars were sought from different sources, including Consumers Health Forum (CHF) & Health Care Consumers Association (HCCA) (ACT branch, and attribution of material directly used is given in the Guide. Coincidental comments from Registrants about consigning voluminous manuals to the ’round file’ directed the work so that a concise, chatty style booklet was produced. The Guide contains a comprehensive reading list for those interested to pursue this, and indications of where to find the WWDA ‘Guide Extras’ which includes the Representatives’ Code of Ethics, Policies on Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest, Privacy Statement, and Consultants’ Contract proforma. Graphic layout is in the WWDA house style. Initial distribution, along with loose sheet Report proformas, will be to all current representatives. In keeping with WWDA policy for publications, the Guide will be made available in alternative formats as required.

(7) Research and identify opportunities for representation of women with disabilities on relevant committees, Advisory Bodies and other relevant forums at State, Territory and national levels
(8) Develop WWDA Representation Opportunities Database

There is overlap in the above 2 Project Milestones. Two databases of Advisory Bodies have been built – one using the Access program, and the other Excel program. Diverse sources were used to build each. Work on the Access Database has been held in abeyance from October, when it became obvious from contact with register administrators that information about vacancies arising would not be immediately forthcoming from governments. At this stage the Access Database had 84 entries, with 49% from Queensland, 17% from SA, and 11% from Tasmania. This skewed response was dependent how personnel contacted gave feedback. A WWDA volunteer working on the Access Database is a Hervey Bay (Q’ld) resident. The types of Advisory Bodies include disability related (31%), community (19%), and education (17%) with 13% being from NGO organisations. This reflects the requests for information about Advisory Bodies in areas of strategic interest to WWDA.

Contact was made with the secretariats of Women’s Advisory Councils, Disability Advisory Councils, directors of State/Territory/Commonwealth Offices for Women and Disability Services as well as register administrators. Discussion is ongoing about workable systems for WWDA to make nominations in response to notification of vacancies. WWDA holds detailed information about Advisory Bodies in State/Territory/Commonwealth government departments except NSW. WWDA now routinely receives notification of vacancies from the Office for Women’s Policy in Victoria. However all other searches for government representative vacancies are conducted internally by the register administrators. Again, this highlights the need for women with disabilities to register at the appropriate government level (including Commonwealth). Obviously it is beyond the scope of the Project to build Databases comparable to those held by governments across Australia.

Information about NGO Advisory Bodies continues to be built. Organisations accredited with the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace (EOWA) continue to be contacted. This is time consuming work, and often does not elicit any response. There are a large number of individual organisations which have responded to WWDA’s request for Registrants. Not all have been personally contacted and only a small percentage will notify WWDA of vacancies. The administrative task of contacting NGOs for vacancy information is onerous.

An increase in the size of all databases is anticipated once the final Project Report is distributed nationally and internationally. Maintaining all databases will require ongoing administrative work.

(9, 10, 11, 12) Develop Progress Performance Report to OFW, Develop Final Report for the funding body (OFW), Distribute Project Report widely, Undertake Audit of the Project
Required Project Reports were delivered to OfW on time. Both the RG members and 3 Project participants contributed to evaluating the Project in January 2007. The final Report will be disseminated widely in hardcopy, including government ministers and departmental personnel at all levels. Softcopies of this Executive Summary will be distributed in the same manner as that used for the initial dissemination of information about the Project. The distribution network will be expanded to include contacts made during the Project. The complete Report will be supplied in hard or soft copy on request, with versions for screen reader programs made available. The last official Project activity will be completed by 28 February 2007. The systems set up during the life of the Project need to continue to operate into the future.

During the course of the Project, a number of additional activities were undertaken.

Matching

As increasing contact was made with the administrators of State/Territory registers, the Project Officer began to receive information about positions where a WWDA Representative was needed. These included invitations to participate in workshops/forums; join Boards/Management Committees; apply for employment positions; or nominate for achievement awards. An increasing amount of time was taken up with trying to make successful matches. A total of 60 attempted matches were made. These included 36% Victorian positions, 21% national and 14% from Queensland. Forty-four percent of the positions offered were with NGO organisations. The types of positions for which matches were sought included 47% Advisory Body members, 25% forum participation, and 9% Management Committee membership.

Overall there was a relatively low uptake of invitations to apply for any of these positions, with only 25% of the invitations eliciting any response from Registrants. Nevertheless in 5 cases, Registrants applied for employment positions advertised (no successful appointments have been made to date); there were 2 successful applications to Advisory Board positions, 7 successful nominations of Registrants to participate in conferences or forums, and 2 occasions of Registrants acting as ad hoc advisors to government personnel in response to enquiry.

Matching is intensive work even where there are internal government notification systems in place. WWDA has to rely on goodwill and personal contact to ‘piggy back’ on these mechanisms. An added complication is that WWDA is trying to also coordinate NGO positions. In addition constant updating of all databases is needed and there is a high turnover of staff at all government levels so that personal contacts can be lost.

Mentoring & Training

Many WWDA Registrants expressed a need for mentoring. Irrespective of confidence or experience levels, both mentor and mentee benefit from such a partnership. The Project Officer sought opportunities for mentoring partnerships to be set up, although this was not done with any formality. Two successful partnerships were achieved, one of which virtually operated for only one meeting. The second partnership is ongoing. Although face-to-face mentoring would be ideal, WWDA Register members are likely to be in different locations, and mentoring will have to be done via phone, internet and correspondence. These can still be very effective and empowering partnerships.

Advocacy training will be essential to enable many of the Registrants to confidently take up representative positions for WWDA. Lack of confidence and lack of experience make many women, whether having disabilities or able-bodies, reticent to even take the initial step of putting in an application to be on the WWDA Register. It was beyond the scope of the Project to organise and/or conduct training for Registrants or prospective Registrants. Opportunities for training have been identified and a database set up. However, funding to locate appropriate training courses and then support Registrants’ participation will be necessary. Considerable time was spent investigating the possibility of a Community Business Partnership between a workplace training business and WWDA. No partnership has been forged as yet.

RECOMMENDATIONS are outlined below. The Recommendations highlight actions to be taken arising from Project activities. They encapsulate the KEY LESSONS learned from the Project, and give an indication of what needs to be done to SUSTAIN the momentum gained during the execution of the Project activities.

Conclusion

The Project met all its Aims and Objectives, achieving all Milestones within the designated Timeframe. It has been instrumental in raising the profile of both women with disabilities and that of WWDA. Maintaining the systems set up will take considerable administrative input for which funding assistance will be sought. The impetus provided by the intensive work of the Project cannot be allowed to dissipate.

Recommendations

1. When building a Register of community representatives, it is advisable to minimise the registration formalities. WWDA will continue to work to improve the returns of Registration and CV proformas.

2. An information dissemination exercise in which responses are required must clearly state what core information needs to be supplied. For this Project, concise contact details were needed. Respondents to WWDA’s call for ‘expressions of interest’ in being included on the Register came in a wide variety of forms, making it difficult to undertake follow up contact.

3. WWDA should continue to investigate means of setting up online registration facilities. In the interim, WWDA Registration and CV proformas should be made available on the website.

4. WWDA should continue its liaison with register administrators, Offices for Women and Departments of Disability so as to be notified of appropriate vacancies on Advisory Bodies.

5. WWDA should investigate means of setting up mentoring partnerships between registrants.

6. WWDA should investigate means of enabling registrants to participate in leadership and training courses.

7. WWDA should investigate opportunities to develop a Community Business Partnership with a leadership or workplace training enterprise.

8. WWDA will maintain confidentiality in the operation of its Register, including always contacting Registrants using the ‘BCC’ function in emails, and adhere to the Privacy Statement developed.

9. Guides for Community Representatives, along with reporting requirements, should be kept as simple as possible.

10. An electronic copy of the Guide along with supporting documents and registration proformas should be available on the WWDA website.

11. WWDA should continue to develop contacts with government and non government organisations. As a national peak disability organisation it should prioritise its energies to undertake representational work at a national level in the first instance. This does not negate the importance of representation at the local level.

12. WWDA should investigate mechanisms for raising gendered disability awareness with government personnel in order to alert them to the need to engage women with disabilities as representatives.

13. WWDA should continue to promote appropriate levels of remuneration for all representatives especially those who are unsalaried. Remuneration up to a certain level should be exempt from affecting pension income. Remuneration of out of pocket expenses should be automatic.

14. WWDA should continue to encourage all Registrants to also register at their appropriate state government level and with AppointWomen at the Commonwealth level.

15. WWDA should investigate funding opportunities for Recommendations #s 3 – 7 and 11- 14.


1. Background

NB: This Report follows the proforma set out in the Project Plan submitted to the Office for Women (OfW), Department of Family, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA) in March 2006. Project Activities are summarised according to the outline of Milestones to be met. Comments on Milestones are followed by a discussion of Project outcomes and achievements where appropriate. Recommendations through the text give an indication of the key lessons learned and of actions needed to sustain the initiatives for the future.

Women with disabilities number approximately 2 million and comprise just over ten per cent of the population of Australia. They continue to be one of the most marginalised groups in the population, with a low participation rate in the workforce and over representation in the lowest income strata of our society. Systemic and individual advocacy are needed in order to improve their economic status and ability to participate in all aspects of community life. Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has a primary role in advocacy, aiming to support women with disabilities and improve their status in society. It functions as a systemic advocacy body, but also inevitably plays an important role in advising and assisting individuals.

The organisation was formed in 1995 by a small group of women who had been involved with the Disabled People’s International [DPI] (Australia) movement from its inception and as it gained momentum at the time of the 1981 International Year of People with Disability. They persevered within DPI (Australia) for more than a decade, but realised they were being denied an equal role in the disability movement, with issues of concern to them – such as reproductive rights, sterilisation, mothering and violence, being largely ignored by the men in the movement who were concerned with addressing concrete issues such as housing and transport. As committed feminists, the women also found that disability issues were largely ignored by the women’s movement which, in turn, was absorbed in addressing issues of equality in the workplace.

Whilst realising the validity of all of these issues, these women with disabilities nevertheless saw a need to simultaneously address both gender and disability matters. WWDA took shape as a human rights, women’s, disability organisation run by women with disabilities for women with disabilities. It is a pan-disability organisation, recognising that disability rarely manifests itself in isolation or in a manner neatly fitting a designated definition. WWDA believes that disability is largely a social construct where attitude dictates an environment which does not accommodate difference. It is one of the peak disability bodies in Australia, and one of very few of its kind in the world.


2. Project Aim & Objectives

The overall aim and long term goal of the Project is to improve the status of women with disabilities in all aspects of social, economic, political and cultural life. There are many avenues through which this may be achieved including systemic advocacy. This Project aimed to increase the capacity of WWDA to undertake systemic advocacy through representation. The short term Project activities aim to:

  • Develop systems and processes whereby women with disabilities can be identified, trained and recruited to act as advocates to improve the status of women with disabilities;
  • Develop the necessary tools to support women with disabilities in their representative and advocacy roles;
  • Develop information management capacity building systems to promote women with disabilities’ access to positions of leadership and decision-making; and
  • Research and identify representation, leadership and systemic advocacy opportunities for women with disabilities.

A major Project objective was to develop WWDA’s capacity for systemic advocacy by building a Register of constituents who can undertake representative and systemic advocacy work. Through use of the Register WWDA will be better able to respond to requests which it frequently receives for representation.

In conjunction with this, a second Project objective was to build a database of information about strategic representative positions, especially those where the presence of a woman representative with disabilities could conceivably make a difference in improving the status of women with disabilities as a whole. Particular focus was on areas identified in the WWDA Strategic Plan 2004-2009.

In order to achieve a high level of competence and professionalism in the representative work, the Project’s final primary objective was to develop a Representation Manual which outlines the roles and responsibilities of WWDA and its Representatives and that of an Advocacy Body, and which guides the behaviour and actions of all parties.


3. Project Rationale

Women with disabilities continue to be one of the most marginalised groups within Australia. In order to improve their status, systemic advocacy is necessary. Consistent with the aims of the OfW (FaCSIA) this Project was instrumental in improving the position of women with disabilities and achieving their Optimal Status in society.

Over the last 11 years WWDA has worked extensively in systemic advocacy, and has made substantial gains in focusing recognition of the low status of women with disabilities. This has resulted in a constant inflow of requests for women with disabilities to fill representative roles on Advisory Bodies on a wide range of government and non-government bodies. WWDA has a core group of qualified, experienced members who undertake representational and systemic advocacy work. However, the requests and opportunities for representation far exceed WWDA’s capacity to provide skilled representatives. In addition, WWDA knows the empowering role that participation plays and wants to develop opportunities for more women to do so. A reasonable proportion of new members express interest in taking an active role in the organisation. WWDA’s rapid growth as an organisation has meant in practice that there have been insufficient resources to undertake the necessary capacity building initiatives to support and strengthen its systemic advocacy work. WWDA therefore needs to enhance its capacity to recruit, support and strategically places its representatives, enabling them to take on leadership roles both within WWDA and in the wider community.

It is now widely recognised that the twin discriminations of disability and gender operate to exclude women with disabilities from many forms of participation in society. The strong influence of body image itself enabling both men and women to take up leadership positions is now researched and documented. Many disabilities are associated with physical attributes which mark a person as not having a ‘positive body image’. This must be factored in as an additional discrimination against women with disabilities’ being able to take up and hold employment and leadership positions.


4. Project Outcomes

1. Research and identification of representation, leadership and systemic advocacy opportunities for women with disabilities.
2. Development of the necessary tools to support women with disabilities in their representative and advocacy roles.
3. Development of information management capacity building systems to promote women with disabilities’ access to positions of leadership and decision-making.

The Project outcomes will be discussed in reverse order. Although outlined as sequential actions in the Project Plan, all activities were progressed simultaneously. In this Report ‘Advisory Body’ is a term used to describe a number of entities including Advisory Boards, Reference Groups, Management Committees, Boards of Directors, etc. A ‘Registrant’ is a person whose name and details are held on a Register Database.


5. Project Milestones

In early January 2006, WWDA was notified by the Minister for Family & Community Services ([then] Senator Kay Patterson) that our Application for a Project Grant under the Capacity Building Grants category in the OfW ‘Women’s Leadership & Development Program’ had been successful. The starting date of the Project was then delayed by 2 months due to a delay in ratification of the Grant Deed. This meant that the Timeframe was accordingly moved forward. All Project Milestones were achieved within the new Timeframe.

5.1. Develop Project Plan

The Project Plan was developed by the WWDA Executive Director in the interim period between notification of the granting of Project funding and the signing of the Grant Deed. It was ready for approval by the OfW immediately after signing of the latter document. The Project Plan was forwarded to the Project Reference Group (RG) for background information, and was also sent to a number of respondents who had expressed interest and requested additional information about the Project.

5.2. Obtain the services of a woman with a disability as the Project Officer to implement the Project in conjunction with the Project Manager.

The Project Plan was completed and submitted to FaCSIA in early March 2006, and the Grant Deed signed in early April. Expressions of interest in Project Implementation were sought. Sue Salthouse was provisionally appointed as Project Officer in late March, with the appointment later ratified by the WWDA Management Committee. Project work was commenced in early April. Operational planning sessions were conducted by telephone with the WWDA Executive Director.

5.3. Establish a Project Reference Group made up of women with disabilities.

In March 2006 prior to the official commencement of the Project, WWDA called on the Management Committee for expressions of interest in participating on the Project Reference Group (RG). In addition, approaches were made to a number of women who had previously expressed interest in participating in the work of WWDA. Prospective participants were emailed copies of the Project Plan. The invited RG members were able to contact the Project Officer for further briefing, and this offer was taken up by three women all of whom confirmed their participation. The RG thus formed covers a wide geographical area, a range of different disabilities, and a range and depth of expertise in disability awareness and advocacy.

Additional liaison was established with the Project Officers of the NSW Network of Women With Disability.

The RG commenced operation by sharing their personal and professional histories within the group. These insightful accounts were instrumental in making us feel comfortable with each other, counteracting the shortcoming of operating in cyberspace, and consolidating our purpose as a group dedicated to achieving the best outcomes for women with disabilities from the Project.

By agreement, the RG corresponded predominantly by email exchange. In the initial phase of the project, emails were sent on an approximately weekly basis. Over the life of the Project from April to December 2006 there were a total of 13 emails exchanges with the RG as a whole. There were frequent exchanges with some individual members.

The Reference Group comprises (in alphabetical order):

Louise Bannister (Canberra), a community leader, mentor and systemic advocate with particular interest in Health (including Breast and Cervical Screening), fitness programs for women with disabilities and community inclusion;

Michele Castagna (Alice Springs), a community leader, accessibility expert, mentor and systemic advocate with extensive experience in local government and in all facets of disability awareness;

Rayna Lamb (Perth), a community leader, mentor, informal counsellor, founding member and coordinator of the 100-strong Women With Disabilities WA group;

Karen McQuigg (Melbourne), a community leader, qualified in librarianship, with experience in project management; community and disability sector development, and sports promotion for women with disabilities;

Lina Pane (Melbourne), a community leader qualified in social work, counsellor (to both individuals and groups), consultant to organisations on restructure, policy development, disability awareness and disability program evaluation;

Sue Salthouse (Canberra), Project Officer, a community leader with extensive experience in systemic advocacy, policy and research consultant on disability issues, Vice President of WWDA; and

Belinda Wardlaw (Noosa), a community leader, founder and director of a Respite Service and Training Business dedicated to introducing quality services for people with disabilities in the Noosa community.

Formal Evaluation of the Project has been contributed by 4 of the Reference Group. In addition, after submission of the Project Progress Report, WWDA was asked to identify 3 Project Participants who would be able to give feedback on their experience of the Project. Margaret Bayley (Melbourne), Vicki Humphries (Brisbane) and Madge Sceriha (Mackay) agreed to take on this role. Contact details for both groups were supplied to the Office for Women with the Progress Report. Their names are listed in this Report in Appendix 1.

5.4. Publicise the Project widely.

The initial publicity phase of the Project was intensive with WWDA using its existing networks. Most importantly a Flyer (see Appendix 2) was developed for distribution in hardcopy and online. A second version of the flyer contained just the written information so that it was accessible to screen reader software programmes.

Distribution included use of an extensive network of email discussion lists (including ‘wwda-discuss’, Pamela’s List, OzAdvocacy, Australian Women’s Health Network List; Disabled Women’s Network List; Young Women’s Christian Association List; Business & Professional Women’s List; Rural Women’s Network List; Australian Women’s Coalition List; Physical Disability Council List; Attendant Care Users List etc). The members of the RG also distributed information through their networks.

In addition, the Project was publicised in the WWDA Update Bulletin which is distributed via email to all WWDA members, State/Territory Premiers; Federal/State politicians; national & State/Territory peak bodies across a range of sectors; relevant government departments and agencies; relevant research institutions etc all federal politicians and a range of non-government organisations and contacts. The Update Bulletin is also sent in hardcopy to all members who do not have email contact. Initial information appeared in the February-March 2006 Bulletin with update summaries included in each successive bulletin. All new WWDA members and people requesting information about the organisation were sent a hardcopy kit which included the flyer.

Publicity articles were written for magazines, including the ‘Link’ Magazine and its online twin ‘CommonLink’, the Tweed Shire women’s magazine ‘FeMail’, and the ACT’s ‘CityNEWS’. A number of organisations in the disability, health and women’s sectors carried information about the Project in their newsletters.

Success of the initial phase became obvious when enquiries and expressions of interest were received from all over Australia including far north Queensland (Cairns), the far north of WA (Broome), the NT and western Tasmania. Once a piece of information is launched using the core networks known to WWDA, it then largely travels into unknown territory where there are no direct links to WWDA. Therefore, an information dissemination Database of specific links has been drawn up from the responses received. These include the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET), the Disability In-Service Training Support Service (DISTSS), Regional Disability Liaison Officers (Department of Education Science and Training [DEST]) and Disability Coordination Office (DCO). There are a total of about 100 addresses on a secondary distribution list which are drawn from this wider circle of general enquiries.

In more than 50 instances the responses were from women who wished to be placed on the Register. Some contacts, in particular the Disability Support Officers of educational institutions, requested hardcopy flyers. About 200 copies were sent in this way. In addition, the Project Officer distributed hardcopies at interstate meetings and conferences attended during the year, (these included the Women’s Secretariats’ meeting in Melbourne in June, and the ‘Our Work, Our Lives’ Griffith University/Queensland Women’s Working Service conference in Brisbane in July). Flyers were also made available to service providers and government offices.

5.5. Develop information management capacity building systems.

In the initial information dissemination phase of the Project specific information had not been requested, so that the contact details supplied by each woman varied. Some replies included a curriculum vitae (CV). At this stage a large number of phone calls were also received by the Project Officer and a considerable amount of time spent talking to women with disabilities about their experiences. Whilst this was time consuming it did enable a relationship to be built up with a number of Registrants. A prototype database was begun. In addition a separate softcopy folder for each Registrant was opened. These folders contain e-copies of all correspondence with the woman, and a copy of any relevant documents such as CV.

Data for the Register database needs to be recorded in a uniform way. To this end a Register proforma was drawn up. The Project Officer researched the women’s register in each State/Territory and at a Commonwealth level. By selecting the best ideas from the established registers, the WWDA Register was built. At the same time, it was decided to ask Registrants to complete a 1-page CV proforma similar to that required in the SA Women’s Register registration process. Many of the details were duplicated in the two proformas but the short CV is to fulfil requests from secretariats of Advisory Bodies when they seek nominations for positions. On the CV Registrants were able to submit a succinct synopsis of information about themselves. This is cumbersome to enter on a database. In contrast, each item from the Register proforma could be entered into a field on the database.

The Register proforma incorporates the following information:

  • Privacy/Participation Agreement. This is an obligatory Field.
  • Contact details. Basic details also constitute obligatory Fields.

All other Fields are optional:

  • Age Range ([18-25], [26-35], [36-59], [60+].
  • Cultural identity (Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or a woman from a culturally and linguistically diverse background) and languages spoken.
  • Disability type and representation support needs (Registrants were not obligated to disclose their disabilities, although most did. However, information about any travel, accommodation and meeting attendance requirements (such as wheelchair accessibility) is important.
  • Areas of Expertise/Interest. Registrants were requested to nominate 4 areas of expertise/interest from a list of 23 areas. These included the Priority Areas identified in the WWDA Strategic Plan (2004-09).
  • Qualifications & Achievements (Registrants were limited to choosing 3 of each). This enables the register administrator to get an overview of professional/personal skills and experience.
  • Employment/Volunteering history (Once again Registrants were limited to 3 items.) It was important to legitimise Volunteering because many women with disabilities have limited experience of formal or paid employment.
  • Board/Committee experience (limited to a history of 3).
  • Company Directorships (limited to a history of 3).

Registrants were also urged to register with their State or Territory, and with the Commonwealth AppointWomen register. Each State/Territory and the Commonwealth has its own register and even where there is not a dedicated Women’s Register, all have places where gender and disability can be disclosed. All governments have a policy of promoting representation of women. WWDA believes that it is important for women with disabilities to see themselves as participants at the government level, and that maintaining the WWDA Register is an interim step of empowerment. It also became evident at this stage that there was much duplication in the area of Register development by non government (NGO) organisations, e.g. Leadership Plus, Disability Advocacy Network of Victoria and the Victorian Women with Disabilities Network. WWDA is concerned about this plethora of representation registers (including its own) because this causes fragmentation of the process of locating suitable representatives. However, WWDA acknowledges that minority and marginalised groups do currently need pro-active supports to increase their advocacy capacity.

The CV proforma asked for additional details. Once again, the space provided was limited so that Registrants had to make decisions about what pertinent information they would include. Since individuals’ CVs come in many different formats, and some have formidable length, it is important for the register administrator to have uniformity in the way information is presented. Registrants were provided with an exemplar which gave an indication of the detail of information required.

The CV proforma included:

  • Qualifications
  • Current Position
  • Industry and Sector Experience
  • Board and Committee experience (Past and present)
  • Professional memberships
  • Key Expertise
  • Career highlights (Here, women were asked to provide a couple of paragraphs written in the third person)
  • Areas of interest
  • Community Involvement
  • Contact Details

The draft documents were sent to the RG for feedback in July, with the final version approved and distributed to all Registrants in early August (by email where possible, and by hardcopy where this was not available). At this stage there were more than 80 names on the Register. A reminder email was sent in late August. By the end of December, most existing WWDA representatives had also been added to the database and there were 108 names on the Register including one prospective immigrant from New Zealand. Registrants have a wide range of qualifications, experience and areas of expertise. The location of Registrants is given in Diagram 1. In July a new Excel database was set up using the fields on the proformas, ready to enter details when replies were received. It will eventually supersede the prototype database.

To date only 30% of Registrants are financial members of WWDA. This is an important requirement. WWDA is aware of the low income of many prospective registrants and will always be sympathetic to requests for concession or complimentary membership. Registrants will continue to be asked to formalise their membership status.

Discussion

All Registrants, at the initial point of contact with the Project Officer, were asked to reply with phone/address details and a list of any current representative positions held. This rarely occurred. When the proformas were sent out, there was an extremely low initial response. A second set of requests for registrations was sent out in September, and in response to this a couple more registrations were received. In October, hardcopy proformas, a WWDA membership form, and details of government registers were sent by letter to the 40 women who had supplied their postal addresses. A return stamped, addressed envelope was included. Once again, there was a limited response. A third set of email requests for registration was sent by email in October.

During the life of the Project, WWDA was contacted by ORIMA Research which was conducting an audit on behalf of the OfW of materials and initiatives within Australia aimed at increasing the membership of women on boards. Among the stated objectives of this audit are to determine what is being done to assist women with disabilities to gain board positions, and to develop more effective strategies for the future in this regard. In feedback given to ORIMA, the Project Officer outlined the need for mentoring links, peer support networks for women with disabilities within and across workplaces, and leadership training. This needs to be coupled with awareness training for those who make representative selections.

a pie chart showing location of WWDA registrants.

At the Register level, initiatives such as the WWDA Register need ongoing support in the short term, coupled with greater transparency from government departments which could post on their websites a list of the Boards and Committees under each department’s jurisdiction, accompanied by listings of board vacancies. Such Advisory Board information could then be ‘trawled’ by individuals or a NGO organisation’s register administrator acting on their behalf.

Early in the life of the Project an additional activity was commenced to find a way to streamline the Registration process. Investigations began into the feasibility of setting up a new website, linked to the WWDA website, to enable online registration, with the information being collated automatically on a Database. A meeting was held with Ruth Medd, a Director of the national Women On Boards (WOB), Register. At the same time contact was made with the administrator of the AppointWomen register of the OfW. Discussions were ongoing, but for the remainder of the Project time this latter register was undergoing re-development. At a later date, a phone conversation and then a meeting was held with Claire Braund, also a Director of WOB, to discuss an online registration process and general matters. A Registrant in Queensland volunteered to try to set up the type of register needed. A prototype register was built which could capture online registrations details without automatically putting them into a database. The InfoXchange administrator was also contacted for information about their electronic-Service Provider (e-SP) website hosting facility on that portal. Despite considerable time being spent on this exercise, it proved to be far beyond the scope and finances of this Project. WWDA would like to thank Registrant Vicki Humphries for the time and effort she put into developing the fledging website referred to above, and for her encouragement of WWDA’s pursuit of this line of investigation.

It is of vital importance that an affordable means of automatic registration is found. Even with the present level of Project activity, data entry is time consuming. Lack of an online registration facility may be one of the major impediments to women completing the Registration proforma. This problem is ongoing, and will become more complex as both the Women’s Register and the Advocacy Body Database grow, and more matching of women to vacancies is done. If the Register is to function properly, a way must be found to overcome this problem in the long term.

It is not readily evident why formal registrations rates remain low. The proformas are simple compared to those of government registers. Encouragement to formalise registration has been made frequently and through a number of different channels, but these overtures have not elicited a high response rate. Fortunately, the 108-member prototype register is proving useful and practical in the interim. The Project Officer will continue to request formal registrations.

Recommendations

1. When building a Register of community representatives, it is advisable to minimise the registration formalities. WWDA will continue to work to improve the returns of Registration and CV proformas.

2. An information dissemination exercise in which responses are required must clearly state what core information needs to be supplied. For this Project, concise contact details were needed. Respondents to WWDA’s call for ‘expressions of interest’ in being included on the Register came in a wide variety of forms, making it difficult to undertake follow up contact.

3. WWDA should continue to investigate means of setting up online registration facilities. In the interim, WWDA Registration and CV proformas should be made available on the website.

4. WWDA should continue its liaison with register administrators, Offices for Women and Departments of Disability so as to be notified of appropriate vacancies on Advisory Bodies.

5. WWDA should investigate means of setting up mentoring partnerships between registrants.

6. WWDA should investigate means of enabling registrants to participate in leadership and training courses.

7. WWDA should investigate opportunities to develop a Community Business Partnership with a leadership or workplace training enterprise.

8. WWDA will maintain confidentiality in the operation of its Register, including always contacting Registrants using the ‘BCC’ function in emails, and adhere to the Privacy Statement developed.

5.6. Research and Develop tools which can be adapted to support women with disabilities in their representative and advocacy roles.

By early May, work had commenced to develop the roles and responsibilities guideline, WWDA Guide for Representatives, for WWDA and its representatives. A plethora of manuals is available from services and organisations across a range of sectors, including disability, human rights, health and welfare. The core information contained is essentially the same in all cases. Exemplars of documents were sought from a variety of sources, including Consumers Health Forum (CHF), Health Care Consumers Association (HCCA) (ACT branch), the Australian Council of Social Services, the Secretariat of the Centrelink Consumer Participation Group, the WA Guide for Government, WA Guide for Consumers, and the Consumer Communication Group of Medicare Australia. Since these documents were all comprehensive and detailed, the RG decided to limit intensive scrutiny of these to a small number of exemplars. Permission to use material was sought from all the owners of any exemplars from which it was adapted (these included HCCA and HCA). RG member, Louise Bannister, undertook the scoping exercise for this component of the Project.

Coincidental comments from Registrants indicated that a factor which limited their ability and desire to do representative work was the length and complexity of protocol documents. The RG was also aware of the need to present material in plain English. A number of key respondents noted that complex responsibility requirements are not met, with large manuals gathering dust on shelves or being consigned to the ’round file’. It was decided that the final product needed to be concise, written in a casual, chatty style; that procedures needed to be easily understood and simple, and the reporting requirement kept short and manageable.

Clarification about some terminology used was sought from specific disability organisations (e.g. correct use of Deaf to describe members of that community). In order to keep the document short and simple, the WWDA Representatives’ Code of Ethics, Policies on Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest, Privacy Statement and a Consultants’ Contract proforma were developed separately, with reference on where to read this Guide Extras made in the Guide. Both will be made available on the WWDA website during 2007 and available in hardcopy from the WWDA office on application. WWDA thanks Louise Bannister for the innovative, inspired work she did locating/analysing exemplars both online and in hardcopy, and for focusing on the essential bits to draw up the final Guide document.

A draft of the manual was completed in early October. Feedback was sought from the RG and selected Project Participants before the final was sent to the WWDA office for completion of layout and graphic design. Five hundred copies will be printed with initial distribution to all current representatives.

The WWDA Guide for Representatives includes:

  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Meeting Report Proforma
  • Governance/operational information about committees
  • Common representation problems & solutions
  • Tips (reality checks) for consumer representatives
  • Glossary of Terms in common use by Advisory Bodies
  • Background Reading (References) (This section includes reference to the additional WWDA Guide Extras referred to above.)

In keeping with WWDA policy for publications, the guideline will be made available in alternative formats as required.

Recommendations

9. Guides for Community Representatives, along with reporting requirements, should be kept as simple as possible.

10. An electronic copy of the Guide along with supporting documents and registration proformas should be available on the WWDA website.

5.7. Research and identify opportunities for representation of women with disabilities on relevant committees, Advisory Bodies and other relevant forums at State, Territory and national levels.
5.8. Develop WWDA Representation Opportunities Database

There is considerable overlap in the above 2 Project Milestones. They are therefore considered together. Two databases of Advisory Bodies have been built. These databases were compiled from a number of information sources including contact details flowing in to the Project from recipients of the information flyers and information requested supplied by prospective Registrants (this included information about both Representative positions held and Representative positions known to the prospective Registrant.

At the May meeting with the Director of the OfW’s Women On Boards Program, discussion centred on the development of a database of Advocacy Bodies. The experience of WOB has been that once a ‘seeding’ register has been set up and the fact of its existence more widely known, the further expansion of the database occurs more easily. Initially it was decided to use this approach in the development of the database of Advocacy Bodies. Thus far it has not proved to be a successful method for the WWDA Project. The WOB program naturally has a very high profile and bears the imprimata of the OfW, arguably having a greater prominence than the AppointWomen database at the present time. It could also be that WOB has been in existence since 2001, with this 5-year lead time bringing about a certain momentum. It is also evident that the WOB register has a core of very high profile women from which to draw. There would of course be women on the WWDA Register who fit this cohort, but for the most part the women WWDA wishes to empower are operating at a different level.

In building the Advisory Board database, it was decided to compile twin databases using both Access and Excel programmes, so that a decision could be made at a later date as to which programme was more suitable. WWDA Management Committee member, Sheila King, volunteered to set up the Access Database, and to assist in contacting State/Territory government departments for information. Comprehensive information was sought about each Advisory Body with which contact was made: its title, to whom the body reported, chairperson, length of appointment terms, year/month of appointment/expiration of term, number of members, ratio of male to female members, presence of any women with disabilities, vacancies, and secretariat contact details. Contact was made both by email and by letter, but information when supplied, was not given in a uniform way and often lacked the requested specific information as to when vacancies might arise. Eighty-seven percent of the Access database Advisory Bodies are government based. Inevitably because the enquiries were being made in Queensland, the database has a larger proportion of information about that state. Nevertheless between June and October over 80 entries were made. Diagram 2 shows the distribution of Advisory Bodies by location. Only 13% of these are NGO Advisory Bodies and include advocacy organisations, and Councils of Social Services.

Because of the size of the state, Queensland has a large number of regional Advisory Bodies including regional Disability Advisory Councils, and this is reflected in Diagram 3 which shows the types of Advisory Bodies which are on the Access database. The category ‘Disability’ includes Disability Advisory Councils, and all disability related bodies; ‘Community’ includes advocacy organisations; ‘Employment’ includes Small Business advisory groups, and ‘Other’ includes Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander groups, and youth groups.

At the same time as this database was being built, the Project Officer was gathering information about the various State/Territory registers with a view to building the Excel Database. It was obvious that the administrators of registers also have information about their respective State/Territory Advisory Boards. In many cases a complete database is held by the register administrator. Alternatively a register administrator may be approached by government ministers or secretariat personnel when a representative is sought for a vacancy. It was obvious that it was beyond the scope of the Project to build databases comparable to those held by governments across Australia, and an alternative means of gaining access to these databases was sought.

a pie chart showing advisory bodies by location.

a pie chart showing advisory bodies by type.

The administrators of all registers were contacted, and discussion held about ways that WWDA could work cooperatively to increase the representative participation of women with disabilities. The Project Officer ‘registered’ on all Registers. However, since most representatives are nominated by internal searches, rather than by broadcast of vacancy information, the Project Officer is only notified of vacancies in Victoria and of some community participation opportunities in Tasmania. A web search was also begun to locate lists of government Advisory Boards. In some cases the administrators were able to supply these. This information was added to the Excel database. In the more populous states with large numbers of Advisory Boards such addition was not practical.

(a) National
Information obtained from discussions with the directors of WOB, ORIMA Research, and AppointWomen have been outlined above. The Department of Finance website at http://www.directory.gov.au/index.php carries a full listing of Australian Government Advisory Boards with membership, appointment terms, secretariat contacts, etc.

(b) Australian Capital Territory
A full list of the 128 ACT Government Advisory Bodies was supplied to the Project Officer and entered on the Excel database. A meeting held with the director of the ACT OfW and its register administrator was held and suggestions made for the online registration process. All searches for matches between Registrants and vacancies will be done internally. WWDA will have to maintain contact with the administrator and also seek information from the appropriate contact person for individual Advisory Bodies. This will be a high intensity administrative task.

(c) New South Wales
The NSW Government has more than 1,500 Advisory Bodies, with no central website to access information about them. It does not have a dedicated Women’s Register. Instead this exists as a sub-section of the general ‘Get Involved’ Register, which itself has more than 5000 registrants. However, the NSW Government is actively encouraging women from diverse backgrounds to serve on public sector boards. Positions are routinely advertised by the boards concerned on the appropriate website, in the Sydney Morning Herald, or in Regional Dailies. The register administrator is not yet in a position to broadcast vacancies to all registrants. Monitoring NSW government vacancies is beyond the scope of the Project or the ongoing administration of the Register and databases. WWDA can only continue to encourage NSW Registrants to register with their State government. The Project Officer is only able to check the Sydney Morning Herald on a regular basis, and this will be time consuming.

(d) Northern Territory
A full list of government department units is available on the Department of the Chief Minister website at http://www.nt.gov.au/dcm/. The Project does not have a list of NT Advisory Boards. A number of emails have been exchanged with personnel in the Office for Women’s Policy, the administrator of the Women’s Register, and the NT Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment. All searches for women representatives are internal.

(e) Queensland
The Queensland Government does not maintain a separate Women’s Register. Its ‘Register of Names’ does hold search capability for disability and gender. The administrator does only internal searches. A full list of the nearly 700 Queensland Government Advisory Bodies is accessible at http://statauth.premiers.qld.gov.au/stat/list-board.html?list=all. Each of the links opens up to information about the structure of the board, members, when nominations are due etc. After talks with the administrator, contact was made with the Director of Disability Services Queensland (DSQ), and talks on how WWDA can cooperate with DSQ and the OfW to enhance the participation of women with disabilities will be held in early 2007.

(f) South Australia
Discussion with the administrator of the SA Register of Women was initiated in June. A full list of approximately 500 Advisory Bodies SA Government Services agencies is available online at http://www.service.sa.gov.au/agencies.asp?rootEntityID=5#entity30, with links to information about the structure of the board, members, when nominations are due etc. The list also contains information about a number of other government offices. From this extensive list of more than 1000 bodies, selections of Advisory Boards in those areas included in the WWDA Strategic Plan are still being made. Once again it is beyond the scope of the current Project, or a future administrator to keep up to date with vacancies. The SA Women’s Register administrator conducts a short phone interview with each registrant as a part of the registration process. WWDA sees this as a useful part of a registration process, but one which is administratively too intensive for its own purposes. In SA only internal searches are made. However, in August the Administrator agreed to put information about the WWDA Register on the SA Women’s Register Website.

(g) Tasmania
Two Registers for women are maintained – a Women’s Register, and a contact list for women in rural industries. The Department of Premier and Cabinet has completed a database of the Tasmanian Government Advisory Bodies, noting expiry date of appointees etc. Individual departments are responsible for updating this information and for notifying the Administrator 3 and 6 months prior to a vacancy occurring. In the Department of Primary Industry, the Rural Women’s Development Office is matching women with industries, using both the register and individual contacts. Tasmania only does internal searches for women to meet requests for representation. However, the Project Officer has registered on the Women’s Register and receives Community Notices which include Award Nomination advice and Training Course information. This is passed on to Tasmanian Registrants.

(h) Victoria
The Victorian Government maintains a ‘Diversity Register’ on which it is possible to disclose disability. The Project Officer is a Registrant and has received 20 notifications of vacancies from the Office of Women’s Policy in the Department of Victorian Communities. These have been forwarded to WWDA Registrants in Victoria. This is an administratively workable way of getting representation information to Registrant. It may not be a direct enough method to ensure that placements are made because it relies on Registrants responding to the invitation to apply for a position.

(i) Western Australia
The WA Government does not maintain a separate women’s register but has a ‘Register of Interested Persons’, where disability can be disclosed. A list of 466 Boards & Committees WA may be accessed online at: http://www.boards.dpc.wa.gov.au/index.cfm?fuseaction=bcv.displaybcmem&Qbody=1002, with links from each committee giving details of members, chairperson, contacts, and vacancies arising. The administrator conducts only internal searches.

(j) International
The establishment of links with relevant international organisations remains in an early stage, with contact made with Disabled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada. Comprehensive information has been gathered about the operation of Australian government registers, and although the international experience is interesting, it is now thought counterproductive to try to develop a system counter to those already being coordinated through the Ministerial Council of Ministers for Women (MINCO).

(k) Women’s Advisory Councils/Disability Advisory Councils
Because it was seen as important to have information about Women’s Advisory Councils (WACs), the Office for Women, or its equivalent, was contacted in each state and phone discussion held. Similarly, because representation on Disability Advisory Councils (DACs) is important for women with disabilities, the secretariats of these were contacted. In some cases discussion was held with the head of Disability Services or its equivalent. The WWDA website ‘Information & Referral Directory’ portal carries contacts for all government departments of disability and DACs, and similar information for Women’s portfolios and any WACs. This information is now also listed in Project records.

(l) Non Government Advisory Boards
From the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace (EOWA) website at: http://www.eowa.gov.au/, the compliance reports for a large number of non-government organisations are available. Using this, NGO organisations working in areas of strategic importance to women with disabilities were then contacted, sent information about the Project, and requested to supply information their Boards and when vacancies arise. This information is still being added to the Excel database, and constitutes the main source of details on NGO Advisory Bodies. Information has also been extracted for the database from the ‘Links’ page on the InformationXchange website at: http://www.links.infoxchange.net.au/group/ixlinks/.

Discussion

The Project Plan specified that the 3 major project activities would be undertaken sequentially. In fact it was necessary to conduct all activities simultaneously because each was related. This particularly applied to the development of the databases. Many additional activities not mentioned in the Project Plan were undertaken. The Project was able to identify training opportunities, but there was not a budget allocation to conduct any specific training courses.

It was not possible to establish networks with relevant international organisations and groups during the life of the Project. It was more urgent that networks within Australia were consolidated during this time, as it was realised that women with disabilities need to be participating in established government registers at all levels. Once the final Project Report is distributed nationally and internationally, there will be opportunities for feedback from the international sphere, and these can be used in consideration of the operation of the WWDA Register.

The matter of remuneration for representatives was discussed on many occasions. Most jurisdictions now have policies in place to ensure some level of remuneration. This is particularly important for unsalaried community representatives. There is still a high expectation that community representatives will voluntarily provide their expertise. In some cases representative are locked into volunteering because even small amounts of remuneration will affect their pensions. This situation needs to be rectified.

Recommendations

11. WWDA should continue to develop contacts with government and non government organisations. As a national peak disability organisation it should prioritise its energies to undertake representational work at a national level in the first instance. This does not negate the importance of representation at the local level.

12. WWDA should investigate mechanisms for raising gendered disability awareness with government personnel in order to alert them to the need to engage women with disabilities as representatives.

13. WWDA should continue to promote appropriate levels of remuneration for all representatives especially those who are unsalaried. Remuneration up to a certain level should be exempt from affecting pension income. Remuneration of out of pocket expenses should be automatic.

14. WWDA should continue to encourage all Registrants to also register at their appropriate state government level and with AppointWomen at the Commonwealth level.

15. WWDA should investigate funding opportunities for Recommendations #s 3 – 7 and 11- 14.

5.9. Develop Progress Performance Report to OFW.

On 22 May the draft WWDA Progress Performance Report was sent for comment to the RG, to 3 Project participants who had agreed to be Evaluation contacts, and to the WWDA Management Committee. The final version was sent to Lauren Nelson, OfW desk officer for this Project, on May 26th and was accepted. The Report was also sent to Michele Primmer, the new OfW desk officer for the Project when she commenced work with the WLDP team. The WWDA component of the Project was thus completed according to Project Plan Milestones.

5.10. Develop Final Report for the funding body (OFW).

On 14 January 2007, the draft final Report and draft Project Evaluation Forms were sent for comment to the RG and to the 3 Project participants. Individuals from both groups provided feedback and returned their completed Evaluation Forms to the Project Officer by 27 January 2007. Comments were incorporated. The WWDA Management Committee members were also forwarded a copy of the Report for information. As per the Project Plan, the completed final Report, the Project Evaluation feedback forms and the Guide for Representatives, were forwarded to the OfW prior to the end of January 2007.

5.11. Distribute Project Report widely.

Distribution of the final Report on the Project is a means of ensuring that the Project Outcomes and Recommendations are promoted and disseminated widely. A hardcopy of the Project Report will be sent to selected government ministers and key members of parliament at all levels of government and appropriate personnel in the OfW. Complete electronic copies will go to OfW and disability offices at the State/Territory level, the Chairs of all DACs, and the Executive Directors of relevant organisations. The Executive Summary and notification of the availability of softcopies of the Reports will be disseminated widely, in a manner similar to the dissemination of information about the Project. This distribution will include those on the WWDA Register of women. This means that information about the project and its outcomes will be disseminated to all corners of all states. This process will be complete by the end of February 2007. It is expected that the dissemination of the final Report will stimulate renewed interest in the WWDA Register, and will provide a link mechanism for further contact with administrators of Advisory Bodies. Further administration of the Register and Advisory Body database will initially be dealt with by the Project Officer working in a voluntary capacity.

5.12. Undertake Audit of the Project.

The financial audit of the Project will be completed and submitted to OfW by 28 February 2007.

In addition to the Milestones outlined above, a number of other activities have been undertaken, and these are discussed below.


6. Matching

From the beginning of May, the Project Officer began to receive information about positions where a WWDA Representative could be appointed. Not all were requests from Advisory Bodies. There were invitations to participate in workshops/forums; join Boards/Management Committees; apply for employment positions; or nominate for achievement awards. The Project Officer was also contacted by the [then] Senior Policy Officer of the Queensland Office for Women to nominate women suitable for a new Ministerial advisory body, and at a later date by a Regional Officer wanting to make contact with key informants from the disability sector in Far North Queensland.

As increasing contact was made with the administrators of State/Territory registers, more information was received. This meant that an increasing amount of Project Officer time was taken up with trying to make successful matches of Registrants to available positions. In some cases, appropriate groups of Registrants were notified of the availability of positions, whilst in others specific nominations were made. A total of 60 attempted matches were made. Diagram 4 shows the location from which information on positions was drawn, whilst Diagram 5 shows the types of positions.

a pie chart showing attempted matches by location.

Forty-four percent of the positions offered were with NGO organisations. Overall there was a relatively low uptake of invitations to apply for any of these positions, with only 25% of the invitations eliciting any response from Registrants. Nevertheless in 5 cases, Registrants applied for employment positions advertised (no successful appointments have been made to date); there were 2 successful applications to Advisory Body positions, 7 successful nominations of Registrants to participate in conferences or forums, and 2 occasions of Registrants acting as ad hoc advisors to government personnel in response to enquiry.

To disseminate information to Registrants, a series of Contact Groups of email addresses was made. The Contact Groups enabled the Registrants to be contacting according to their location state by state. Where numbers warranted, smaller Contact Groups were made for capital cities. Care was taken to maintain the confidentiality of Registrants by always sending email addresses as a ‘BCC’.

Discussion

The amount of time spent by the Project Officer on this aspect of the work was high despite it not having been included as a Project Budget Item. From talks with register administrators it is apparent that this is commonly seen as a time consuming part of the work. Inherent in this exercise is the need for an even larger amount of time to keep updating the contact information from the secretariats of Advisory Bodies. For a Register which manages both government and NGO organisations this process is even more complex than that experienced at the level of government registers. To this is added the need to continually update the contact information from Registrants. In the Government Registers where registration is done online, the responsibility for updating of information is that of the individual registrant. In WWDA’s case, each time notification emails were sent out, there was a possibility that an address would be rejected as no longer valid. This will continue to be a problem, and a continual updating process will be onerous but necessary.

a pie chart showing attempted matches by type.

The matter of maintaining viable contact with Advisory Body secretariats is difficult. In some cases, WWDA only has a list of government advisory bodies, and each one has to be contacted individually to find out when vacancies are likely. Intensive liaison with secretariat officers is necessary so that a personal relationship and a line of communication are established with WWDA. Of course this can be undermined by the frequent transfer of departmental staff.


7. Mentoring

Of great importance among these additional Project activities is the mentoring of women who lack experience or confidence in undertaking representational work. Even where women with disabilities have been able to undertake training in advocacy, many are still diffident about actually commencing in an advocacy role. Having an experienced advocate as a mentor can help build confidence. The Project Officer has actively sought opportunities for mentoring to take place. Because this component of the Project is not funded the mentoring has been done (or arranged for the future) with respondents who are in the same location as a Reference Group member. This aspect of Register administration is still in early stages. A mentoring partnership was set up with two Women With Disabilities ACT (WWDACT) members. Together mentor and mentee have attended a meeting of the Sports and Recreation ACT Women’s Advisory Board, and have been in contact by phone and email with an occasional face-to-face meeting. The mentee has gone on to take up a Representative position on the ACTCOSS Board, and has Represented WWDA at the FaCSIA celebration in Canberra for International Day for People with a Disability.

In addition, a mentoring partnership was set up between the Project Officer and a newer member of the WWDA Management Committee. The duo attended a day of the WomenSpeak Secretariat face-to-face meeting held in Melbourne in June 2006. A couple of months later that Committee member was supported to attend the National Rural Women’s Coalition conference on Family Violence, and since then has independently participated in a number of events on WWDA’s behalf.

The importance of mentoring was discussed at a meeting held with the ACT register administrator. Having a mechanism for Registrants to nominate whether they are willing to be mentors or alternatively wish to find a mentor is being considered for the ACT Women’s Register. It is seen as a measure which will strengthen the operation of the ACT Register.

Similarly, in the long term it should be possible to use the WWDA Register to set up mentoring partnerships. Although face-to-face mentoring would be ideal, the Register members are likely to be in different locations, and mentoring will have to be done via phone, internet and correspondence. These can still be very effective and empowering partnerships.


8. Training

Advocacy training will be essential to enable many of the Registrants to confidently take up representative positions for WWDA. It was beyond the scope of the Project to organise and/or conduct training for Registrants or prospective Registrants. Some Registrants have expressed their desire for leadership and advocacy training.

Nevertheless a database of training courses and organisations that regularly conduct appropriate training is under development. Disability Advocacy and Community Advocacy training is conducted by a large number of organisations both in the government and NGO sectors. The courses may be conducted at a national, State/Territory, local government level, by government or by specific disability/community organisations, and local community groups. Information about a small number of training courses was circulated to Registrants during the course of the project, e.g. courses conducted by the Office of the Employment Advocate in Perth (workshops are for people with disabilities, in particular women with disabilities, to give them skills to improve their chances of gaining employment).

Contact was made with the Disability In-Service Training Support Services Inc. at: http://www.distss.org.au/main.html. DISTSS Inc works to improve the lives and workforce participation of people with disabilities. In some cases it delivers services directly to people with disabilities, and also works extensively with the staff of support service agencies. It maintains a database of Disability Consultants, for which primary eligibility is being a person with a disability resident in Victoria, with information available online at: http://www.distss.org.au/consultants/general_information.html.

Soon after commencement of the Project, the Project Officer became aware of the work of the Workplace Training Advisory of Australia (WTAA). This private enterprise provides extensive industry training services to bring about organisational change by empowering employees. In 2006 WTAA conducted a series of workshops for women, Women & Leadership Forums, in a number of different locations around the country. These one-day forums were aimed at middle management women in government and business. Most delegates were sponsored by their departments or companies to attend, and the registration fee was well beyond the reach of many women with disabilities, especially those on any sort of pension. Participation in such forums is of indisputable value to women with disabilities, especially those working from home and not in the formal workforce. Even though the calibre of work these women do may be comparable with that done by middle level government officers, there is no way that this can be recognised. In addition, women working from home generally report feeling extremely isolated. The forums enable such women to familiarise themselves with practices and culture in government/corporate offices, and develop successful strategies for interaction with personnel, and for job seeking.

WWDA held discussions with WTAA between May and September with a view to forming a working partnership with the organisation. WTAA was given information on the development of a Disability Action Plan; encouraged to develop a whole of business philosophy of employment of people with disabilities; and more specifically, to offer subsidised or scholarship places to women with disabilities at their Women & Leadership Forums. These measures were aimed at enabling WTAA and WWDA to work towards recognition in the annual Prime Minister Community Business Partnership Awards for 2007. Guidelines on accessible practices were supplied along with information about the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).

It was felt that the participation of women with disabilities in the Women & Leadership Forums would have a two-fold benefit – a direct benefit for the participants with disabilities, and a secondary benefit for all other participants in bringing the talents of women with disabilities to their attention. Many of those in attendance worked in the Human Relations sections of their organisations, thus being responsible for the recruitment of personnel. Since ‘negative attitude’ is one of the major impediments to the employment of women with disabilities, it is felt there is great potential for positive long term outcomes for the employment of women with disabilities if they are supported to attend such forums.

WWDA would like to thank WTAA for making a subsidised place available to a WWDA member at the forum held in Hervey Bay in June, and a scholarship place available to a WWDA member at the forum held in Canberra in July. In addition, WTAA invited the Project Officer to be the Motivational Speaker at a second forum held in Canberra in August. WWDA will continue to explore possibilities of developing Community Business Partnerships with a private enterprise training organisation after the completion of the Project.

Discussion

The Registrants have a wide range of skill levels. To a large extent, those with well developed skills are already so busy doing representative work that they are unable to commit to further work even though wanting to be on the Register. The possibility of enabling women to indicate in their registration as to whether they are currently available for new positions would be a way of accommodating the desire of these women to be on a register, but not actively seeking positions.

Conversely, some women have a strong desire to undertake systemic advocacy, but largely as a consequence of their disabilities, have limited work and/or representative experience. For these women training is an empowering and confidence building process.

The database of training organisations and opportunities will provide WWDA with a means of locating suitable advocacy training for future representatives. However, funding to support Registrants’ participation will be necessary. In addition, some administrative time will be required to locate a training course at any one time when this is deemed to be needed, and then to make appropriate arrangements for a Registrant to participate. This will also require funding.


9. Recommendations

The Recommendations given in the text of this Report highlight actions to be taken arising from Project activities. They encapsulate the KEY LESSONS learned from the Project, and give an indication of what needs to be done to SUSTAIN the momentum gained during the execution of the Project activities.


10. Expenditure

a table showing total budget expenditure of $25,000.

Project Expenditure has been in accordance with the Budget submitted.


11. Conclusion

The Project met its Aim and all Objectives, achieving all Milestones within the designated Timeframe. The information already disseminated about the Project has been instrumental in raising the profile of both women with disabilities and that of WWDA. The direct contact made with register administrators, OfW and DAC personnel has also effectively raised awareness of WWDA and its constituents. The databases set up provide the framework for continued capacity building, and ongoing work will be needed to maintain them. Project activities have opened several avenues for aligning WWDA activities with mainstream initiatives to further the interests of it constituents, enable greater acceptance of women with disabilities, and further the impetus for a more just and inclusive society.


12. References

Braund, C (2006) Networking through the Glass Ceiling, Australian Pacific Extension Network, accessed online at: http://www.regional.org.au/au/apen/2006/refereed/6/3246_cbraund.htm (May 2006)

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2004), Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings,2003 Cat.No.4430.0, ABS 2004

Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services Office for Women National Strategy for increased participation of women on boards, Australian Government Confidential Report 2005

Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council, Principles for the Appointment of Consumer Representatives: A Process for Governments and Industry, Australian Government, Final Paper, June 2005

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (2006) Advancing Women and Business: 2006 EOWA Australian Census of Woman and Leadership, accessed online at: http://www.eowa.gov.au/Australian_Women_In_Leadership_Census/2006_Australian_Women_In_Leadership_Census/2006__EOWA_Census_Publication.pdf (October 2006)

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (2004) Complete Census Media Kit accessed online at: http://www.eowa.gov.au/Australian_Women_In_Leadership_Census/2003_Australian_Women_In_Leadership_Census.asp (October 2006)

Ministerial Council [of Ministers for Women] (2006) (Draft) What is Leadership?: Challenging Current Understandings, MINCO November 2006

The Regional Institute Online Community Publishing (2006) Open Web Publishing System accessed online at: http://www.regional.org.au/index.htm (May 2006)

Sinclair A (2005) Body Possibilities in Leadership University of Melbourne 2005, accessed online at: http://www.mbs.edu/go/person/amanda-sinclair


13. Appendices

Appendix 1: ‘Advancement Through Advocacy for Women with Disabilities’ Reference Group Members

Bannister, Louise (Canberra, ACT)
Castagna, Michele (Alice Springs, NT)
McQuigg, Karen (Melbourne, VIC)
Pane, Lina (Melbourne, VIC)
Rayna, Lamb (Perth, WA)
Salthouse, Sue (PO) (Canberra, ACT)
Wardlaw, Belinda (Tawantin (Noosa), QLD)

Louise Bannister, Michele Castagna, Karen McQuigg and Rayna Lamb contributed formal Evaluation of the Project.

‘Advancement Through Advocacy for Women with Disabilities’ Participation Contacts

Sceriha, Madge (Townsville)
Bayley, Margaret (Melbourne)
Humphries, Vicki (Brisbane)

Madge Sceriha and Vicki Humphries contributed formal Evaluation of the Project.


Appendix 2: Hard Copy of Flyer

a picture of the project logo which was a mermaid.

“Advancement through Advocacy for Women with Disabilities”

Women with disabilities comprise one of the most marginalised groups in Australia. One of the main aims of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is to improve the present low status of women with disabilities. Improving the status of women with disabilities can be brought about through Advocacy.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is currently undertaking an Australia wide project to increase its ability to have women representatives on strategic government and non-government advisory bodies, boards and management committees. To do this, WWDA will build a Register of potential representatives, along with a Register of suitable advisory bodies. In addition a Manual of policy and guidelines for Representatives will be developed.

Our major tasks in this Project will include:

1. To identify leadership, advocacy and representative opportunities in key areas such as:

  • Health (including access to national health programmes for breast & cervical screening)
  • Housing and Accommodation
  • Violence & Sexual Harassment in the home, the community and the workplace
  • Employment and Income Support
  • Education
  • Disability Support
  • Communications (including Information and Communication Technologies)
  • Transport and Access to the Built Environment

How can you help?

Women with disabilities are routinely overlooked when there are vacancies on a Board, Management Committee, or Community Advisory Committee. If you are a Convenor or Secretariat of an advisory body/ community body/ Board/ Management Committee in any of the above areas, then Please Contact Us!!!!

2. To identify and recruit women with disabilities to act as advocates in the key areas listed above.

How can you help?

Are you a woman with disabilities, with the drive and desire to be involved with WWDA as an advocate? If you are, then Please Contact Us!!!!

Contact: Sue Salthouse Ph: 02 62916842 or 0411 157 164 Email: sudata@optusnet.com.au

The ‘Advancement through Advocacy for Women With Disabilities’ Project is funded by the Department of Family, Community Services & Indigenous Affairs (Office for Women). Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) gratefully acknowledges the Australian Government for this support.