Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) represents more than two-million disabled women and girls in Australia. We are run by and for women with disabilities. We operate as a transnational human rights and systemic advocacy organisation.


In This Edition:

  • National Forum for Women and Girls with Disability
  • New Sex Discrimination Commissioner: Gender Equality and Economic Security
  • Australian Government to Reinstate National Disability Discrimination Commissioner
  • Free Online Course: Thinking Through Disability (UNSW)
  • Opportunity to Contribute to Review of the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP)
  • Recent Submissions from the Australian Cross Disability Alliance
  • United Nations Release General Comment No. 22 on ‘The Right to Sexual and Reproductive Health’
  • United Nations Urge Governments to Engage Directly With Organisations Run By and For People with Disability

General News

National Forum for Women and Girls with Disability

On 6th April 2016 in Melbourne, WWDA held our National Forum for Women and Girls with Disability. The forum was attended by over 40 women and girls with disability who were invited to attend from across Australia, along with representatives from Government, women’s alliances and stakeholders.

By all accounts the day was a great success. It was particularly fabulous to hear contributions from young women with disability, as well as the more familiar faces.

A huge congratulations to WWDA members and advocates, Karin Swift and Jules Anderson, who were presented with certificates of life membership of WWDA.

Our sincere thanks to the Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash who has been a long time supporter of WWDA and who flew all the way to Melbourne to appear at the forum.

Thanks also to Medibank, who provided a fantastic venue, catering, tech support and various other bits and pieces, all in-kind.

Most importantly, thank you to the 40+ women and girls with disability who participated in the forum, along with women’s sector and government representatives.

WWDA is currently compiling photos and a report on the outcomes of the forum and we look forward to sharing these with you soon!

New Sex Discrimination Commissioner Speaks on Gender Equality and Economic Security

Newly appointed Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, based at the Australian Human Rights Commission, recently made her first address to the National Press Club. In her speech, ‘Accelerating change: gender equality from the household to the workplace’, Jenkin’s identified ending violence against women, economic security and access to decision-making as immediate priorities for the pursuit of gender equality in Australia.

Highlighting the complexity and intersectional nature of discrimination, the commissioner acknowledged that different groups of women have different experiences of discrimination:

I know, from my previous role, that women with disability have very different experiences from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LBTI) women, women from different cultural and faith backgrounds, older women and young women. […] I believe that by better understanding the details of diverse groups of women’s different experiences, we can more effectively target out programs and messages and drive faster, long-lasting change.

WWDA worked extensively with the previous Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Liz Broderick, and we look forward to continuing our work alongside Kate Jenkins as she takes on this important national role.

For further information:

Australian Government to Reinstate Disability Discrimination Commissioner

Pro Bono Australia has reported that the Australian Government has moved to reinstate the position of Disability Discrimination Commissioner, a position formerly held by Graeme Innes AM. The Attorney General’s department advertised the full-time Sydney based position on their website in late March, along with advertisements for an Age Discrimination Commissioner and Human Rights Commissioner.

It is unclear how the appointment will affect existing commissioner roles. The five-year statutory appointment will begin on 1st July 2016, coinciding with the full national rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

For further information:

Free Online Course: Thinking Through Disability (UNSW)

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) is offering a free online course titled ‘Disability and a Good Life: Thinking through Disability’. From the course description:

“Today we recognise disability as a part of human diversity. But what does it mean to work with disability in a way that enables a good life for ourselves and others?   will explore a human rights approach to disability and examine how disability politics and policy, advocacy and activism can inform what we mean by a good life.

To begin, you’ll reflect on the meaning and significance of human diversity. As you move through the topics, you will engage with different approaches to disability by examining the concepts of inclusion, access and support. At the end of the course we will challenge you to consider how you work with disability to enable a good life for all.”

The aims of the foundational course are to support learners to:

  • identify how understandings of people with disabilities have changed over time
  • critically reflect on changing understandings of disability
  • identify core concepts in the social understanding of disability
  • appreciate the intersections between individual, social, political and cultural aspects of disability
  • understand what a good life might mean for a diversity of people, including people with disabilities.
  • The course begins on 16th May 2016 and will run for six weeks and requires a commitment of approximately five hours per week. The educators include Leanne Dowse, Kelley Johnson, Louisa Smith and Karen Soldatic. Both Leanne and Karen have collaborated with WWDA for many years.

For further information:

Opportunity to Contribute to Review of the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP)

The Australian Government is reviewing the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP) in consultation with stakeholders.

NDAP provides people with disability with access to disability advocacy that promotes, protects and seeks to ensure their full and equal enjoyment of all human rights enabling community participation.

This review is part of an on-going continuous improvement and reform process. The Australian Government wants to hear from all stakeholders including people with disability, advocacy agencies, disability peaks, human rights organisations and the offices of public advocates and ombudsman, to find out what is and is not working in the current NDAP.

The discussion paper outlines the reasons for the review and includes questions to use as a guide when developing your response.

For further information:

Australian Cross Disability Alliance

Recent Submissions from the Australian Cross Disability Alliance

  • ACDA Submission to Senate Inquiry into Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairment in Australia (April 2016) [Submission]
  • ACDA Submission to NDIA Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) Commissioning Framework Consultation (April 2016) [Submission]
  • ACDA Submission to Senate Inquiry into the “Impact on service quality, efficiency and sustainability of recent Commonwealth community service tendering processes by the Department of Social Services” (March 2016) [Submission]

Keep Up-to-Date with the Australian Cross Disability Alliance

WWDA is a founding member of the Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA). ACDA has an online presence at crossdisabilityalliance.org.au and are also on Twitter.

International News

United Nations Release General Comment No. 22 on ‘The Right to Sexual and Reproductive Health’

In late March the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) released their General Comment No. 22 (2016) on the ‘Right to sexual and reproductive health’ (Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).

In a media statement CESCR noted that,

“The right to sexual and reproductive health is not only an integral part of the general right to health but fundamentally linked to the enjoyment of many other human rights, including the rights to education, work and equality, as well as the rights to life, privacy and freedom from torture, and individual autonomy”.

The General Comment specifically identifies people with disabilities, women and girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, as populations who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence that exacerbate their exclusion in law and practice.

The purpose of United Nations General Comments are to assist countries to understand and implement international treaties such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

For further information:

United Nations Urge Governments to Engage Directly With Organisations Run by and For People with Disability

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities presented her latest report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2016. Extract of media release provided below:

“People with disabilities constitute at least 15 percent of the world population – the equivalent of the entire population of the Americas,”

“Due to stigma we are mostly invisible, we rarely occupy positions in governments, and we are normally not consulted about policy-making, even when the issue directly affects us,”

The human rights expert recalled that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has been ratified by 162 countries, obliges States to consult closely with people with disabilities, recognising their right to participate in all areas of public decision-making, not just those related to their disabilities.

However, according to the Special Rapporteur this is still a distant dream. “Our voices are simply not heard. Our exclusion is a loss for society as a whole. And it goes against the idea of ‘leaving no one behind’. At this rate we won`t meet the new Sustainable Development Goals unless people with disabilities are treated differently,” she warned.

In her report, Ms. Devandas Aguilar urges all governments to engage in direct consultation with organisations of people with disabilities, rather than only those that advocate on their behalf.

“States must prioritize the participation of organizations led and operated by persons with disabilities and support their establishment and functioning,” she explained.

The Special Rapporteur stressed the importance of engaging with groups who need considerable support, such as autistic people and those with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities.

“States must consult everyone and take their views into account; it’s simply not acceptable to exclude some people”, she said. Ms. Devandas Aguilar also raised concerns about the precarious situation of women and girls with disabilities, pointing out that in many places it is still unsafe for them to take part in open consultations.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

For further information:

WWDA Youth Network

As always, get the latest from WWDA Youth Network on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and the website!

Keep up to date with WWDA by liking the WWDA Facebook page, following us on Twitter, or checking out the WWDA website