Conference Papers, Other Articles and Reports 2011 – 2015


Women With Disabilities Australia: REVISED and UPDATED: ‘Preventing Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities: Integrating A Human Rights Perspective’. By Carolyn Frohmader (WWDA), Associate Professor Leanne Dowse (UNSW) and Dr Aminath Didi (UNSW) (September 2015) [PDF] [Word]

Current policies and discourses around addressing and preventing violence against women in Australia have locked us into a particular way of conceptualising violence against women, which falls short in encompassing the key experiences of many women and girls with disabilities. These experiences have been recognised internationally as a central concern, where attention to the nature and scope of gendered disability violence has been integral to the violence prevention agenda. Current efforts in Australia have less successfully tackled this key intersectional issue, where the agenda is characterised by inadequate conceptualisation and recognition of, and response to, the needs and rights of women and girls with disabilities who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing violence. This paper articulates the imperative of a comprehensive human rights perspective and approach to the prevention of violence against women. This approach recognises and demonstrates that responses to violence against women cannot be considered in isolation from the context of individuals, households, settings, communities or States. It recognises that discrimination affects women in different ways depending on how they are positioned within the social, economic and cultural hierarchies that prohibit or further compromise certain women’s ability to enjoy universal human rights. This paper argues that without a grounding in a comprehensive human rights frame, current approaches to violence prevention run the risk of reinscribing the marginalisation of gendered disability violence, resulting in the inadvertent perpetuation of the systemic violence and abuse experienced by women with disabilities in a wide range of settings. This paper has been substantially rewritten and revised. It was previously published in January 2015. Copyright 2015.


Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and People with Disability Australia (PWDA): Disability international participation funding program: 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women Post-Event Report (April 2015) [PDF] [Word]

In January 2015, PWDA and WWDA successfully applied for and received funding to support two delegates to participate in the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) held at the United Nations in New York from 9-20th March 2015. CSW is the key UN global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women.  Every year, State Parties and non-government organisations come together to evaluate progress, gaps and future actions in implementing the key global policy document on gender equality, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA). For CSW59, the WWDA delegate, Ms Carolyn Frohmader and the PWDA delegate, Ms Therese Sands worked together as an Australian delegation to represent issues and concerns of women with disability at CSW59.  The key purpose of the delegation was to ensure that the intersection of disability and gender was recognised and translated into tangible outcomes for women with disability. This post-event report is made jointly by WWDA and PWDA in recognition of the collaborative role of both organisations in forming an Australian delegation to CSW59.


Human Rights Watch: ‘What to do if someone hurts you or does bad things to you: Information about Gender-Based Violence for People with Disabilities’ (March 2015) [PDF Only]

Women and girls with disabilities are too often the victims of violence, yet get too little information on where to go for help. Information on gender-based violence needs to reach the people who need it most, especially women and girls with disabilities. This resource, produced in easy to read language was developed by Human Rights Watch in collaboration with disabled persons’ organisations (DPOs) and gender-based violence service providers. The resource shows how to recognise, prevent, and protect against gender-based violence, including by distinguishing between “good” and “bad” touch, and explains how to seek legal, medical, and psychosocial support.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Preventing Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities: Integrating A Human Rights Perspective’. By Carolyn Frohmader (WWDA), Associate Professor Leanne Dowse (UNSW) and Dr Aminath Didi (UNSW) (January 2015) [PDF] [Word]

Current policies and discourses around addressing and preventing violence against women in Australia have locked us into a particular way of conceptualising violence against women, which falls short in encompassing the key experiences of many women and girls with disabilities. These experiences have been recognised internationally as a central concern, where attention to the nature and scope of gendered disability violence has been integral to the violence prevention agenda. Current efforts in Australia have less successfully tackled this key intersectional issue, where the agenda is characterised by inadequate conceptualisation and recognition of, and response to, the needs and rights of women and girls with disabilities who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing violence. This paper articulates the imperative of a comprehensive human rights perspective and approach to the prevention of violence against women. This approach recognises and demonstrates that responses to violence against women cannot be considered in isolation from the context of individuals, households, settings, communities or States. It recognises that discrimination affects women in different ways depending on how they are positioned within the social, economic and cultural hierarchies that prohibit or further compromise certain women’s ability to enjoy universal human rights. This paper argues that without a grounding in a comprehensive human rights frame, current approaches to violence prevention run the risk of reinscribing the marginalisation of gendered disability violence, resulting in the inadvertent perpetuation of the systemic violence and abuse experienced by women with disabilities in a wide range of settings. Copyright 2015.


Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law – Anti-Torture Initiative: ‘Torture in Healthcare Settings: Reflections on the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2013 Thematic Report’ (2014) [PDF Only – Large File]

Torture in Healthcare Settings: Reflections on the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2013 Thematic Report brings together contributions by more than thirty international experts in response to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez’s provocative thematic report on torture and other abusive practices in healthcare settings. Each piece in this unique volume provides novel insights into essential topics and pressing issues at the forefront of the intersecting medical, legal, and policy fields. The questions raised by the Special Rapporteur’s report and the array of innovative perspectives offered in response by each contributing author illustrate a profound commitment to tackling the challenges that continue to arise in promoting and protecting the human rights of persons in diverse healthcare settings globally.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Building on the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls with Disabilities – A Long Way to Go’. By Carolyn Frohmader and Margie Charlesworth (March 2014) [PDF] [Word]

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide. The theme for the 2014 CSW 58th session is ‘Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls’. WWDA member and past Vice President Margie Charlesworth is representing WWDA at the 58th session of CSW in New York from 10 to 21 March 2014. Margie is participating in a number of events, including a Parallel Event entitled ‘Disability and Inclusion’. This document is a copy of the presentation Margie will be giving at the Parallel Event. This brief presentation highlights some of the key shortcomings of the MDG’s as they relate to women and girls with disabilities. It also canvasses the main principles that women with disabilities argue must be embedded in the Post 15 Development Agenda, in order to ensure that the new global development framework is inclusive of, and responsive to, women and girls with disabilities all over world. Copyright WWDA 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Mid Term Progress Report for the Disability Employment Services (DES) Consumer Engagement Project’ (February 2014) [PDF] [Word]

In July 2013, the then Minister for Employment Participation, Hon Kate Ellis, advised Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) that the Australian Government would be providing a small, one-off funding grant to a number of national disability organisations, including WWDA, to assist in improving the delivery of Disability Employment Services (DES). The specific purpose of the one of funding grant is to lift consumer engagement and knowledge of the DES program, facilitate provision of consumer advice to the Government about the needs of women with disabilities in the context of the DES, and look at ways to improve future disability employment services. This mid-term progress Report from WWDA details work undertaken on the Project to 31 January 2014. In the context of WWDA’s human rights based approach, WWDA’s report not only provides information on specific activities and deliverables of the Project, but highlights a range of key systemic advocacy and public policy themes that WWDA has identified during the Project to date. Furthermore, the Report includes information on systemic advocacy initiatives undertaken by WWDA in response to those issues and themes identified. Copyright WWDA 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Stop the Violence Project: Report of the Proceedings and Outcomes of the National Symposium on Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities’. (December 2013) [PDF] [Word]

The one-day National Symposium on Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities was held at the Australian Human Rights Commission, Sydney on Friday 25 October 2013. The National Symposium was part of the activities of the Stop the Violence Project (STVP) funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services and implemented by Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA). The purpose of the National Symposium was to engage high-level stakeholders and decision-makers to address issues of violence against women and girls with disabilities in Australia in order to develop measures for longer term sustainability for change relating to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2010-2022. The National Symposium sought to foster collaborative approaches to policy development by strengthening cross-sector relationships and leadership for sustaining change in the identification and implementation of better practice models to prevent violence against women and girls with disabilities. The National Symposium consisted of two plenary and panel discussion sessions followed by eight simultaneous working group discussions which addressed key emerging issues and mechanisms for directing good policy and practice emerging from the project followed by presentations and discussions at a plenary session. Copyright 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Stop the Violence: Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia – Background Paper’. Prepared by Leanne Dowse, Karen Soldatic, Aminath Did, Carolyn Frohmader and Georgia van Toorn (October 2013) [PDF] [Word]

The Stop the Violence Project (STVP) emerges from WWDA’s long standing commitment to addressing one of the most pressing issues for our membership: violence against women and girls with disabilities in Australia. Managed and implemented by WWDA, in conjunction with a research team at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and a project team from People with Disabilities Australia (PWDA), the project is national in scope and is intended to lay the groundwork for improved service provision by building the evidence-base for future reforms so that the service system is more responsive to the needs of women and girls with disabilities. The immediate objective of the project is to investigate and promote ways to support better practice and evidence-based service system improvements to prevent violence and, improve access to, and responses of, governments and services for women and girls with disabilities experiencing, or at risk of violence. The Stop the Violence Project (STVP) forms one of the Commonwealth Government’s projects that address two key immediate national initiatives specifically focussed on women and girls with disabilities, as outlined in the First Action Plan of the Government’s 12 year National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 (the National Plan). This Background Report presents outcomes of an evidence-building project, providing in-depth material to support the Stop the Violence Project. This background Report provides information on the the project context, activities and outcomes, highlighting six key issues and their implications that are considered a priority in addressing reform in the area of violence against women and girls with disabilities. The Background Report was used to inform deliberations at the National Symposium on Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities conducted in Sydney in October 2013. Copyright 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Report from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) 10th Session – Review of Australia’ – By Carolyn Frohmader (October 2013) [PDF]  [Word]

In August 2013, WWDA Executive Director Carolyn Frohmader, was selected as a member of the six person ‘Australian Civil Society Parallel Report Group Delegation’ to represent the views of people with disabilities in Australia to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during its formal review of Australia’s compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Review took place during the CRPD Committee’s 10th Session in Geneva, 2-13 September 2013. Carolyn spent a week at the United Nations in Geneva, working with the CRPD Committee as a member of the Civil Society Parallel Report Group, as well as participating in a number of other events during the week. During her time in Geneva, Carolyn was also able to take up a range of opportunities to meet with several key stakeholders to specifically focus on WWDA’s work and also to provide advice and expertise on issues concerning women and girls with disabilities. This Report has been prepared by Carolyn to highlight her work and experiences during her time in Geneva. Copyright October 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia: WWDA Presentation to the National Roundtable “Political Participation, Inclusion and Decision Making” (August 2013) [PDF] [Word]

On 9th August 2013, WWDA gave a presentation to the National Roundtable ‘Political Participation, Inclusion and Decision Making,’ held in Sydney, and hosted by the Disability Rights Research Collaboration. The Roundtable brought together researchers and Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO’s) to explore how political participation and decision making for people with disabilities can be reconceptualised, particularly in light of CRPD Articles 12, 19, 29, 30 and 33. WWDA President Karin Swift represented WWDA at the National Roundtable, where she presented a keynote address authored by WWDA Executive Director (Carolyn Frohmader) and Karin Swift. WWDA’s presentation highlighted the fact that whilst access to decision-making, political participation and representation are essential markers of gender equality, women and girls with disabilities in Australia are often excluded from, and denied opportunities to participate in decision-making about issues that affect their lives and those of their families, community and nation. WWDA’s presentation examined some of the ways this exclusion manifests, and also highlighted the kinds of reforms that are required to create full and meaningful participation and inclusion for disabled women and girls. The presentation also highlighted some activities WWDA has been involved with at an international level as a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) to promote the participation, inclusion and representation of women with disabilities. Copyright WWDA August 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and Women Enabled: ‘The Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities’ – By Carolyn Frohmader and Stephanie Ortoleva (July 2013) [PDF]  [Word]

This Paper was written by WWDA’s Executive Director (Carolyn Frohmader) and the President of Women Enabled (Stephanie Ortoleva) for the ICPD Beyond 2014 International Conference on Human Rights held at the Hague, Netherlands from 7 – 10 July 2013. The Conference was part of the United Nations (UN) mandated review of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action. The Conference was hosted by the Government of The Netherlands, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). It focused on the nexus between human rights, equality, accountability and population and development, with a focus on gender, discrimination, empowerment and sexual and reproduction health and rights. Carolyn Frohmader participated on the International Reference Committee for the Conference, providing technical advice, assisting with the development of the Conference Program, and advocating strongly for women with disabilities to be included on the invitation only participant list, and to be included in all Conference deliberations and outcome documents. This Paper ‘The Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities’, was commissioned by the Conference organisers to inform this work. Copyright July 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Report from the Sixth Session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ – By Margie Charlesworth (July 2013) [PDF] [Word]

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 61/106 of 13 December 2006. Article 40 of the Convention stipulates that “The States Parties shall meet regularly in a Conference of States Parties in order to consider any matter with regard to the implementation of the present Convention.” The Sixth session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the CRPD was held in New York from 17-19 July 2013. The theme of the 6th Session was “Ensuring adequate standard of living: empowerment and participation of persons with disabilities within the framework of the CRPD”. WWDA sought a grant from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) under its Disability International Participation Funding Program to contribute to the costs of a WWDA delegate (Ms Margie Charlesworth) to attend and participate in the sixth session of the COSP to the CRPD. This Report has been compiled by Margie Charlesworth following her return to Australia from the 6th Session of the COSP, held in New York 17-19 July 2013. The Report describes Margie’s experiences as a woman with a disability representing WWDA for the first time at an international event. Copyright WWDA July 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Gender, Disability and Violence: Denial of Sexual & Reproductive Rights’ – By Therese Sands (May 2013) [Powerpoint]

On Wednesday 29th May, WWDA member Therese Sands, gave a presentation on behalf of WWDA, at a panel session on Gender-Based Violence and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, at the 2013 Women Deliver Conference, the largest global event of the decade to focus on the health and empowerment of girls and women. The Conference was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 28-30 May 2013. WWDA’s presentation was delivered as part of a panel that examined the ways in which gender-based violence prevents individuals from exercising their sexual and reproductive rights and ways to enable individuals to exercise these rights free from coercion, discrimination and violence. Copyright WWDA May 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia: Violating the Human Right to Health’ – By Carolyn Frohmader (May 2013) [PDF] [Word] [Powerpoint]

This paper was written by WWDA Executive Director, Carolyn Frohmader and presented by WWDA President, Karin Swift on behalf of Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) at the 7th Australian Women’s Health Network Conference, Sydney, 8 May, 2013. The paper and the accompanying Powerpoint presentation is based on WWDA’s Submission to the Senate Inquiry into the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia. WWDA’s Submission to the Senate Inquiry is entitled ‘Dehumanised: The Forced Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia’ (ISBN: 978-0-9876035-0-0) is available for download in PDF and Word versions, from the WWDA website at: http://www.wwda.org.au/senateinquiry2012.htm. Copyright WWDA May 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Behind Closed Doors: Who would believe me?’ – By Margie Charlesworth (May 2013) [PDF]  [Word]

This paper was written by WWDA’s Vice President, Margie Charlesworth, and presented by Margie on behalf of Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) at the 7th Australian Women’s Health Network Conference, Sydney, 8 May, 2013. The paper explores the issue of the credibility afforded to women with communication impairments who report that they are victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Copyright WWDA May 2013.


Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Moving Forward and Gaining Ground: The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia’ – By Carolyn Frohmader (June 2012) [PDF]  [Word] [Large Print Text Only]  [Powerpoint]

In early 2012, WWDA was invited to present the Keynote Address on ‘Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities’ at the International Women with Disabilities Conference, held in Madrid from June 27th to June 29th 2012. The Conference was hosted by the Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities. WWDA was invited to showcase, on the international stage, our organisations internationally lauded work in the area of the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities. Specifically, the Conference organisers requested that WWDA “present the excellent and significant work you are doing in the fight against forced sterilisation and coerced abortion of women and girls with disabilities.” This Paper ‘Moving Forward and Gaining Ground: The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia’ by WWDA’s Executive Director Carolyn Frohmader, was presented at the Conference on behalf of WWDA by Christina Ryan. The paper was also presented by Karin Swift on behalf of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) at the National Symposium on Women With Disabilities, ‘Critical Reflections on the Status of Women with Disabilities in a Globalised World’, UNSW, Sydney, 10 August 2012. Copyright WWDA July 2012.


Article on Sterilisation in marie claire Magazine – By Stepahnie Osfield (June Issue 2012) [PDF]  [Word]

This article, published in the June 2012 issue of marie claire magazine, looks at the issue of forced and coerced sterilisation of girls and women with disabilities in Australia. It examines the issues from a range of perspectives – that of Bella, a 34 year old disabled woman who was forcibly sterilised as a child; Claire, a mother seeking sterilisation for her 26 year old disabled daughter; and Amanda, a 29 year old woman with a mild intellectual disability who is successfully raising her twin daughters. The article also includes interviews with a number of people with an interest in the issue, including WWDA CEO Carolyn Frohmader, Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes; Senator Sue Boyce; disability activist Stella Young; Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn; Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Steve Hambleton; Guardianship Board President, Anita Smith; and Dr Margaret Spencer, from the Intellectual Disability Rights Service. Copyright marie claire June 2012.


CSW56 Presentation and Report ‘Rural Women and Girls With Disabilities: Economic Empowerment & Political Participation’ – By Associate Professor Helen Meekosha (March 2012)  [Presentation PDF]  [Presentation Word]   [CSW56 Report PDF]  [CSW56 Report Word]

In late February 2012, WWDA member Associate Professor Helen Meekosha represented WWDA at the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. As part of CSW56, WWDA worked with our international colleagues Women Enabled, the Women’s United Nations Report Network (WUNRN) and the Secretariat of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to plan, organise, and co-sponsor a High Level Panel Event on ‘Rural Women and Girls With Disabilities’. Associate Professor Meekosha represented WWDA on the Panel and gave a Presentation on ‘Rural Women & Girls With Disabilities: Economic Empowerment & Political Participation’ from the Australian perspective. Associate Professor Meekosha’s Presentation is made available here, along with a Report of her experience during her week attending CSW56. Copyright 2012.


Women With Disabilities Australia: Submission to the United Nations Thematic Study on Violence Against Women With Disabilities (December 2011) [PDF]  [Word]  [Text Only/Large Print]

In mid June 2011, at its 17th session, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a Resolution to accelerate efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The Resolution called for a study to be conducted on the issue of violence against women and girls and disabilities, with the report of the study to be presented to the 20th session of the Human Rights Council in 2012. WWDA’s Submission to the preparation phase of the UN Analytical Study on Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities, provides an overview of the legislation, regulatory frameworks, policy, administrative procedures, services and support available within Australia to prevent and address violence against women and girls with disabilities. It provides detailed information under the following themes: data and statistics; legislation and policies; prevention and protection; prosecution and punishment, and recovery, rehabilitation and social integration. Copyright WWDA December 2011.


Global Campaign to Stop Torture in Health Care: Sterilization of Women and Girls with Disabilities: A Briefing Paper (November 2011) [PDF]  [Word]

In many parts of the world, women rely on access to a range of methods to control their fertility, including voluntary sterilisation. However, too often, sterilisation is not a choice. Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to forced sterilisations performed under the auspices of legitimate medical care. The practice of forced sterilisation is part of a broader pattern of denial of the human rights of women and girls with disabilities. This denial also includes systematic exclusion from comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care, limited voluntary contraceptive choices, a focus on menstrual suppression, poorly managed pregnancy and birth, involuntary abortion, and the denial of rights to parenting. These practices are framed within traditional social attitudes that characterize disability as a personal tragedy or a matter for medical management and rehabilitation. The difficulty some women with disabilities may have in understanding or communicating what was done to them increases their vulnerability to forced sterilisation. A further aggravating factor is the widespread practice of legal guardians or others making life-altering decisions for persons with disabilities, including consenting to sterilisation on their behalf. This briefing paper has been jointly prepared by WWDA, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Open Society Foundations, and the International Disability Alliance (IDA) as part of the Global Campaign to Stop Torture in Health Care. The paper gives a background to the issue of forced sterilisation, outlines various international human rights standards that prohibit forced sterilization, and offers several recommendations for improving laws, policies, and professional guidelines governing sterilisation practices. Copyright November 2011.


Women With Disabilities Australia: Policy Paper: ‘Assessing the situation of women with disabilities in Australia: A human rights approach'(July 2011) [PDF]  [Word]

This Paper uses a human rights framework to document the range of data, research and information needed in order to give a comprehensive assessment of the situation of women with disabilities in Australia. The paper provides the context for this work by giving an overview of the intersection of gender and disability, as well as a brief background to the human rights imperative. Using key articles from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the paper then prescribes the key quantitative and qualitative data and research required under each article, and links this to Australia’s international human rights obligations and domestic policy context. Copyright WWDA July 2011.


‘Tunnel Vision or Fine Tuning? – a focus on government & women with disabilities’ – By Sue Salthouse (2011) [PDF]  [Word]

This Paper was presented by Sue Salthouse on behalf of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) at the ANU Conference ‘Historical Moments: The View from the WNGOs’, 29-30 November 2011, Canberra. The paper examines WWDA’s use of international human rights instruments to advance an advocacy campaign nationally and internationally. Domestically, it considers the effect on WWDA of the current national evaluation of the not-for-profit sector; comments on WWDA’s interactions with its funding body; and conjectures on the possible effects of social media on government interactions with civil society. Copyright WWDA November 2011.