Welcome to the August Edition of WEL-Informed.

In this edition we urge you to email the Treasurer to make the case for social housing investment for women, give you the lowdown on the NSW Government’s support for and WEL’s response to a One Nation led Bill which will undermine the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, report on serious new constraints on abortion and contraceptive access-even as we celebrate the anniversary of the NSW Abortion Law Reform Act 2019, and update you on the latest political and research developments in face of the escalating increase in domestic violence.

Plus we start with more disturbing data on the ways the Covid Crisis is sending women’s economic security backwards.

In this Newsletter we also launch our Fund a Feminist Future: Regular Giving campaign. It’s a simple way you can help us keep up the good work through a regular monthly contribution. Make a regular WEL donation your COVID commitment to women.

Finally WEL members can find information about our Annual General Meeting at 2pm on Saturday 26 September.


General COVID-19 news:

FINANCY WOMEN’s INDEX for April to June 2020 (eS4W Partner Organisation)

Key Results found are:

COVID-19 pushes out timeframe to gender equality by 4 years

  • The timeframe to economic equality in Australia has blown out to 36 years, up from 32 years.
  • The Financy Women’s Index rose by 2.4 points in the June quarter to a revised 73.7 points but largely as a result of male underemployment
    conditions deteriorating faster than female.
  • The Index was helped by an increase in the number of women on ASX 200 boards which rose to 31.3%.
  • The Index was held back by gender gaps widening in the participation rate, full-time employment numbers and the gender pay gap.

Natasha Stott Despoja urges Coalition to apply 'gender lens' to pandemic recovery

"Australia’s candidate to the United Nations committee on the elimination of discrimination against women called on the government to look beyond “shovel-ready” stimulus projects and to support female-dominated, low-paid sectors at the frontline of the pandemic response in the budget in October.

On Wednesday Stott Despoja also urged the government to speed up the delivery of its $150m package to support people experiencing domestic and family violence during the pandemic because experts say “there is still huge need”.

She described how the pandemic was affecting men and women in different ways during an address to the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday in her capacity as the founding chair of Our Watch, a group that campaigns to prevent violence against women and their children in Australia."

Current WEL campaigns

Women Ageing WEL: Our campaign for Government investment in social housing

Jane Bullen, Executive Committee Member, WEL NSW.

Send an urgent message to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg:

Increased social housing in the October Budget will benefit women.

The National Campaign Everybody’s Home and Homelessness Australia are campaigning with us for increased investment in social housing in the October Budget.

Email Josh Frydenberg to ask him to increase social housing to create both affordable homes for renters, as well as new jobs as Australia recovers from the pandemic.

If you missed this on WEL’s Facebook page you can still add your voice.

Create your own feminist message to email the Treasurer.

Select some or all of these points and copy them.

  • Social housing is vital to housing stability for many women and increased levels of social housing will benefit women.
  • Women’s housing disadvantage and our need for housing assistance is reflected in the fact that 62% of social housing tenants are women, 61% of people using homelessness services are women, and 66% of unassisted requests for homelessness services are women (the data on homelessness services includes domestic violence refuges).
  • Governments have not invested to make sure social housing keeps up with population growth and need.
  • Researchers from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report that decades of inadequate funding have left Australia facing a shortfall of 433,000 social housing dwellings.
  • To meet needs over the next 20 years will require around 727,300 additional social dwellings.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Australians are now facing unemployment for the first time as a result of Coronavirus, with women especially impacted.
  • More women are experiencing domestic violence, and will face the prospect of having to flee their homes.
  • Increased social housing will also benefit older women, who have experienced dramatic increases in homelessness, for example the number of NSW women aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness increased by 78%.

Click the button below, and then paste your points in the space provided for the email and then follow the instructions to send.


WEL makes submission opposing NSW One Nation led Bill intended to undermine Anti-Discrimination Act

Mary O’Sullivan, WEL NSW Executive

WEL is deeply disappointed that the NSW Government has given a platform (via a Joint Select Committee) to the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020 put (as a private members bill) by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation leader Mark Latham.

Along with many of our progressive and feminist partners, WEL has made a submission to the Joint Select Committee set up by the Attorney General to consider the Bill.

We will join with our partners to fight this ill-conceived legislation.

WEL’s submission calls for the Parliament and the Government to oppose the Bill. In case the Government support for the Bill persists, we endorse a set of detailed amendments which would remove the most dangerous sections. We show that if the One Nation led Bill passed, it would amend the NSW Anti- Discrimination Act, so that religious belief and religious organisations would be protected against almost all other claims of discrimination but would themselves be free to discriminate.

Religious charities control many organisations which receive public funding to deliver health, education, domestic violence, aged care, disability, adoption and other community services. The overwhelming majority of employees in the care workforce are women and the majority of employees in health and education.

The Amendment would undermine the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act ‘s capacity to protect people of diverse racial backgrounds, people with disability, women, older people, unmarried people, transgender and gay and lesbian people and others. It would strike at the foundations of employers’ efforts to build and maintain healthy and tolerant workplaces and education and training environments.

The One Nation leader’s Amendment carries grave implications for our access to reproductive health, especially in rural and regional areas, as well as for domestic violence and sexual assault services, where they are managed by religious charities.

In the coming weeks we will be in contact with members and followers on ways you can support our campaign to persuade the Government to abandon support for a Bill which could set back many of the advances women and other marginalised groups have made since the 1977 passage of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act.

Regular giving campaign - Fund a Feminist Future

For over 45 years, WEL has relied on the donations of our wonderful supporters for carrying out its advocacy work.

Regular monthly donations give us funding certainty. We can build capacity and plan our advocacy work into the future. Our regular donors are secure in knowing that month by month they are supporting WEL’s work.

Our goal is to reach fifty regular donors by December.

Will you be one of these?

Your regular monthly deduction will help us to plan ahead to do more for women.

In the six months since COVID-19 struck, women’s lives have been affected in multiple ways, and their short and long-term financial and housing risks have surged. At the same time, WEL has to campaign to simply maintain the achievements women have already made, against those who want to reverse our gains. The One Nation Bill to undermine the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act and place religious rights above all other rights and the Inquiry into the Australia’s Family Law System (with Pauline Hanson as Deputy Chair) are just two examples.

Behind the scenes, with our feminist partners and through direct advocacy, WEL is working to reduce the impact of the crisis in exacerbating women’s inequality: advocating for free childcare, reducing dramatically higher rates of domestic violence, overcoming restricted access to reproductive health care and for policies which aim to reduce loss of wages and super leading to increasing poverty.

Through its Women Ageing Well campaign, WEL has been lobbying to address the rapid rise in homelessness among older women. The social and economic impact of COVID-19 has starkly revealed additional risks of homelessness among all adult women.

We need to ACT NOW to help avert this crisis. Women cannot be left to carry the social and financial burden of recovery from the pandemic. We must preserve and build on advances already achieved.

Make a regular WEL donation your COVID commitment to women.

Donations keep WEL going and we are grateful to our donors for the generous support provided. If you are not able to make a monthly donation, please consider making a one-off donation to our Women Ageing Well campaign, or becoming a member. You can also help secure the future of WEL by leaving a legacy gift via a bequest.

One year since passage of Abortion Law Reform Act:

Cutbacks to Medicare funded telehealth severely limit access to contraception, abortion and other essential health services

Mary O’Sullivan, Executive Committee Member, WEL NSW.

The NSW Parliament passed the Abortion Law Reform Bill on September 26 2019. With the Governor’s assent the Bill became law on October 2 2019. Finally NSW women were able to access reproductive health services including abortion without the shadow of crime hanging over them. Medical and health practitioners were now free to provide reproductive health services under equivalent legal conditions to those regulating any other medical procedure.

WEL is proud of the role we played with Women’s Health NSW and Family Planning NSW in that historic win.

We recognize the leadership of those Members of Parliament who made it happen and thank them.

That we are now experiencing a drastic Australia wide curtailment of access to reproductive health services is a reminder that our gains can be fragile and we must exercise vigilance

Federal Government initiated changes to Medicare mean that Telehealth consultations can now only be covered by Medicare if the consultation is with a doctor seen in the previous twelve months. An unintended consequence of these changes is that women who need to access a doctor for reproductive health reasons but have no local medical practitioner they can trust or turn to, can no longer access the services of Family Planning NSW via a free Telehealth consultation. People needing contraception, medical abortions, treatment for STIs and who are contacting a doctor for the first time in the past twelve months are also excluded. This is having a devastating impact on women from rural and regional areas and from marginalized communities in outer metropolitan areas.

The information below is provided by Family Planning NSW and illustrates how these changes to Medicare are affecting poor, vulnerable, isolated and young people across NSW who need reproductive health services and can no longer access them.


*These comparisons are based on average weekly telehealth use across Family Planning NSW clinics before Medicare rebate restrictions were introduced.


The reality for many people is that no telehealth can mean no healthcare and this glaring failing in access has been highlighted by The Family Planning NSW Medical Director Dr Deborah Bateson in MJA Insight+ Telehealth changes risk sexual and reproductive healthcare delivery

Ending Violence Against Women and COVID-19

Jozefa Sobski, Executive Committee Member, WEL NSW.

Nationally, the COAG Women’s Safety Council co-chaired by Senators Maris Payne and Anne Ruston met on 7th August. The outcomes from this meeting were extremely disappointing for domestic violence, women’s refuges and other women’s safety services. The Ministers noted evidence of the escalation of violence and abuse of women due to the COVID -19 pandemic, but chose merely to acknowledge the trends indicated by data gathered by the Australian Institute of Criminology.

WEL understands that the focus of the Ministers Meeting was welcoming progress on the National Partnership on COVID-19 Domestic and Family Violence Responses; the decision of National Cabinet in May to continue to prioritise women’s safety; noted that women often face disproportionate impacts in times of crisis; noted the ongoing work in supporting women on temporary visas who are experiencing violence; and noted work underway to develop the next National Plan.

In short, there were no new commitments of resources to fill the substantial service gaps. There was no concrete outcome.

Ministers continue with a rhetoric of concern and commitment unmatched by the substantial public investment required to make a real difference to rates and frequency of domestic violence across the nation.

KPMG Evaluation of the NSW Domestic and Family Violence Blueprint for Reform 2016-2021: Final Report prepared for the Department of Communities and Justice. May, 2020 was released on 25th August. This evaluation was commissioned by Women NSW to establish how effective the NSW Government’s policies and programs have been in addressing domestic and family violence. The evaluation examined the Blueprint’s six priority areas. It reports that 37 of 49 actions have been implemented by NSW Government agencies.

It makes a number of strategic level recommendations. Among the most noteworthy are the recommendations relating to strengthening the scope and focus of DFV reforms by including children and young people as victims in their own right; developing a strategy in collaboration with Aboriginal communities for strengthening their communities and an approach that focuses on healing and is culturally appropriate in its responses.

Read the report here.

COVID -19 NSW Government DFV Grants Program worth $9million has opened for applications. Applicants must provide a direct and frontline service to people experiencing or at risk of sexual, domestic and family violence or provide services or programs for perpetrators. For more information: visit the Women NSW website. Applications close on Wednesday 23rd September.

Impact of COVID on culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women. Women’s Safety NSW has reported on its findings from extensive consultation with frontline multicultural domestic and family violence specialists on how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting clients of the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service.

The findings point to an increase in the number of migrant and refuges women seeking services. These women reported an escalation or worsening of violence. A majority of the workers said that women were placing the basic needs of families over and above their own safety during this time. Workers complained of a lack of legal and social service options to support migrant and refugee women. This report and one published earlier on the Experience of Indigenous Women impacted by violence during COVID-19 can be accessed here.


Other news and research updates

Older women homelessness risks

Two recent reports into older women and homelessness, reiterate what we have been saying throughout our “Women Ageing Well” campaign, that older women’s homelessness is “invisible” and also sadly on the rise. Right now and post-covid is a critical point for housing and homelessness policy. This is why WEL is urgently campaigning for reform that recognises the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, and on the already dire situation for older women.

This report released by Dr Emma Power of Western Sydney University outlines that single older women aged 55 and over are overrepresented amongst the asset poor in Australia. They are also one of the fastest growing groups of homeless people nationally.

This Policy Factsheet by Housing for the Aged Action Group and Social Ventures Australia, highlights that 405,000 women aged 45 years and over are estimated as being at risk of homelessness. This includes:
• 165,000 women aged 45-55 years; and,
• 240,000 women aged 55 years and over.)

Annual General Meeting: notice to members

Philippa Hall, Convenor, WEL NSW.

WEL NSW will hold its Annual General Meeting 26 September 2pm. We will have an online meeting on zoom with some executive members and others present at our Newtown office.

The meeting has several formal activities to complete, as required under WEL NSW’s Constitution (on WEL’s website).

All positions fall vacant at the AGM. Only financial WEL members are eligible to vote at the AGM. Interested WEL members are welcome to nominate for Executive positions. Written nominations must be provided to the Secretary at least two days (preferably at least a week) before the AGM. There is a nomination form on our website. If you are planning to nominate, please provide a brief CV for the information of those attending the AGM. Nominations to the WEL Secretary at [email protected].

WEL NSW’s Executive Committee sets strategies and policies, and manages WEL NSW’s affairs. It is made up of the Convenor, Deputy Convenor, Secretary, Treasurer and at least five, and up to ten other committee members.

​WEL NSW is a membership based voluntary feminist organisation and welcomes the participation of everyone who supports its policies and objectives. We strongly encourage women of all ethnicities, sexual orientations, abilities and ages to be involved.

Following the AGM we will hold an online panel discussion, with Nicki Hutley, Partner, Deloitte Access Economics, and Alison Pennington, Senior Economist, Centre for Future Work, Australia Institute, on the issues of housing insecurity and homelessness, WEL’s next major campaign. Before COVID-19, economic and other inequality already created housing problems for women due to multiple lifetime factors such as gaps in pay and superannuation and women’s greater caring responsibilities, as well as the impact of domestic and other gendered violence. We will be discussing how women have been disproportionately affected by the current pandemic, especially low income and younger women, and what needs to be done to ensure long term housing security in our post pandemic world.

Join us for both the AGM (at 2pm) and the following discussion on 26 September at 2.45 pm.

Vale Liz Fell

Jozefa Sobski, Executive Committee Member, WEL NSW.

"It is with sadness that I advise that Liz Fell passed away on 13th August, 2020.

Liz was born in March, 1940 in Sydney and educated at Abbotsleigh Girls and Frensham in Mittagong. She won the Blanka Buring Prize in Psychology at the University of Sydney in 1960. Liz was one of the women who formed the Women’s Broadcasting Cooperative in 1975 which resulted in the radio program - The Coming Out Show, and also an inquiry into women in the ABC. She was involved in the production of many radio programs over the years including: The Coming Out Show, Lateline and Broadband. She was a member of Women’s Liberation, Women Media Workers and Women Behind Bars. She lectured in a range of University departments including sociology, psychology, government, architecture among others. She was a contributor to many publications, pamphlets and articles.

There will be many friends with many cherished memories of Liz during a life full of big political arguments and lots of good alcohol! She identified her special interests in the entry in the original Who’s Who of Australian Women: “getting pissed and arguing a lot!”

Farewell to a staunch feminist and a critical friend."

Photo by Sue Wills

Thank you for your support and for reading our August newsletter. Please get in touch if you have any questions or suggestions for our next edition.


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