Here we go again: Women and Covid
Our hearts go out to women in NSW, and also Victoria and South Australia facing a new and more dangerous wave of the Pandemic, in the wake of a thoroughly botched Federal Government vaccine rollout.
During the first Covid waves in 2020 women suffered serious economic and health consequences from lockdowns, including loss of employment and income, greater burdens of care and increased levels of violence and sexual assault.
This time the additional disaster payments to be paid by the Federal and State governments exclude those who receive income support, including people who have lost low paid or casual work, students, single mothers, parents, older women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with a disability and migrants. Many have children and others in their care and live in rental housing.
Many women rely on social security to supplement paid part-time or casual work.
As Cassandra Goldie head of the Australian Council of Social Service said:
‘One in three women receiving social security are also in employment. They were earning barely enough to keep a roof over their head. Now with no paid work, they are facing destitution and many of them care for children and others’.
See ACOSS media release here
March 4 Justice promises, half promises, omissions, and some movement
Economic (in)Security for Women
In other news, the Morrison Government’s post-March 4 Justice resolve to map a new course for women crawls along, with bits dropping off along the way. The Prime Minister’s promise to put an Economic Security Plan for Women on the 9 July National Cabinet Agenda proved premature.
The Minister for Women announced two days before this much anticipated Cabinet meeting that the Morrison government was in fact defunding the Security4Women Alliance, one of the six national women’s alliances that has been dedicated to raising the issue of women’s economic security for more than two decades. No need for a Cabinet Agenda Item then!
Meanwhile, we are still waiting for a date for the Summit to discuss women's economic security and safety which Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in April would be held in Darwin in July.
National Summit on Women’s Safety
The Federal Government has followed through on the National Summit on Women’s safety which will underpin the next National Plan to Prevent Violence against Women. The Summit will be held in Canberra on 6 and 7 September 2021.
You can see the draft program here
Senate Inquiry into Government Bill responding to Respect@Work Report
In its heady rush to make reparation to Australian women following the Brittany Higgins testimony and the March 4 Justice, the Government indicated its support for the 55 recommendations of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ Respect @Work report on workplace sexual harassment.
True to form it later emerged that the Morrison government had only accepted 40 of 55 recommendations. Among those they did not accept was the ‘pivotal’ principal recommendation to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to provide for a ‘positive duty’ on employers to take meaningful action to prevent sexual harassment.
Last week on 19 July the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and a broad range of women’s advocacy and expert organisations appeared before a Senate Inquiry into the Government’s Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 to argue that without putting any obligation on employers to help prevent sexual harassment the Government’s Bill continues to throw legislative responsibility for addressing sexual harassment back onto its victims.
See their testimony here
Sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, says research by the Australian Human Rights Commission shows sexual harassment ‘almost thrives in some workplaces’ and some industries are particularly high risk. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Find WEL’s sister organisation The National Foundation for Australian Women’s submission (13) here
The Senate Committee will report by August 6.
Making Parliament a safe place for women to work
Foster Review Recommendations
WEL is heartened by the news just to hand that the Government has accepted all ten recommendations from the Foster Review report made by Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet deputy secretary Stephanie Foster, who reviewed parliamentary workplace processes in response to Brittany Higgins’ testimony to being raped by a colleague in Parliament House in 2019.
That the Government promises to establish an independent complaints mechanism for serious incidents at Parliament House within the next six weeks indicates that they are attempting to address some aspects of the profoundly regressive, misogynistic, and at times criminal aspects of the political culture in the ‘home’ of our representative democracy. It is also very disappointing that the remit of the complaints process will not extend prior to the current parliament.
While it is an advance that all Coalition ministers and their staff will be required to do an hour of face-to-face training, we can’t understand why such training should not be mandatory for all MPs and their staff. That an hour is considered sufficient is laughable. We also predict that there will be ‘fringe’ MP’s who will make a ‘refuse’ to register for voluntary training and their absence from the public register a badge of honour with some of their followers.
Human Rights Commission Interim Report - Jenkins Review
On 19 July Kate Jenkins, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner handed down her interim report from the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces. The terms of reference for this Review are much broader than those for the Foster Review with the aim ‘to ensure all Commonwealth Parliamentary workplaces are safe and respectful and that our national Parliament reflects best practice in the prevention and handling of bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault’. The Commissioner reports that so far staffers of current or former federal parliamentarians make up the overwhelming number of participants, with 256 current and former employees speaking to the commission. Over 72% of participants so far are women and to date, very few MPs have engaged.
The Review will report in November.
You can read the interim report here
Contribute to the work of our Federal Election Action Group
WEL’s Federal Election Action Group meets every fortnight via zoom. We are anticipating an election in the first half of 2022, a year which serendipitously marks WEL’s 50th anniversary – we were born in the lead-up to the 1972 election. Our policy priorities for 2022 are: ending violence against women; housing and homelessness; education and training; income adequacy and equality for women; health; childcare and strengthening women's representation. We are working on a survey of members’ and supporters’ experiences and views in relation to our policy priorities. From all this work, we’ll produce an election scorecard, rating the parties' election promises in relation to WEL's ‘asks’.
If you want to contribute to the Group, contact WEL Convenor Philippa Hall on:
[email protected] or 0466 273 308
Support the Call!
I want every girl to know that her voice can change the world – Malala Yousafzai
Women and girls are often left to be talked about, however, at WEL with YOUR SUPPORT we can continue to hold the platform for feminists to have a say as to the type of society we want to live in.
Our voices have cried ENOUGH and our march for change continues because we still see equality in the distance. To continue our essential work of lobbying and campaigning to protect the rights of Australian women, we need your ongoing support!
Consider becoming a member and be kept WEL-Informed with our regular newsletter or become a monthly supporter – all proceeds go towards WEL’s work gathering research, meeting with industry leaders, lobbying politicians, collaborating with other women’s organisations, holding policy roundtables and conducting political education programs for women in the community.
To read more on our current campaigns see here
Landmark Human Rights Commission report on Aboriginal Women and Girls perspectives on policies, programs and services, and human rights.
Wiyi Yani U Thangani - Women’s Voices: Securing Our Rights, Securing Our Future Report of the Australian Human Rights Commission released in October 2020 was presented to the Federal Attorney General by June Oscar AO, Commissioner. In her words, it,
'lays out what ATSI women and girls consider to be their key strengths and concerns, what principles they think ought to be enshrined in the design of policies, programs and services, and what measures they recommend ought to be taken to effectively promote the enjoyment of their human rights.'
In its 576 pages, the report presents a comprehensive blueprint for policymakers. It makes seven overarching recommendations detailing how they should be implemented. Its most significant pleas are to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in the design and delivery of programs, the protection, support, and revival of cultural practices and knowledge systems, and an urgent focus on healing from intergenerational trauma.
Access the full report here with a video from June Oskar
The Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) project builds on the legacy of the 1986 Women’s Business Report, which was the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were heard as a collective.
Draft NSW legislation to criminalise Coercive Control
The report of the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control in Domestic Relationships was released in late June. It makes 23 recommendations chief of which is that coercive control be criminalised, but not before ‘a program of education, training and consultation with police, stakeholders and the frontline sector’. With this caveat, which will certainly delay the introduction of a new law, it recommends amendment to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 to redefine domestic abuse to include coercive and controlling behaviour.
The full report can be accessed on the Parliament of NSW website
WEL remains concerned that many Aboriginal women’s organisations and legal experts are wary of the potential impact of such legislation on further criminalising Aboriginal people and particularly Aboriginal women.
NSW 2021-22 Budget funding for Affordable Housing and Domestic & Family Violence
The NSW 2021-22 Budget ignored NSW women struggling with insecure employment, poverty, marginal housing and homelessness.
As WEL’s Press release says we are: ‘Confounded by the Berejiklian government’s decision to not use the unexpected windfall in stamp duty revenue from the state’s soaring housing prices to invest in the looming crisis in women’s housing security in NSW, and to house those who cannot even afford to rent a home’.
Read the full release here
The NSW Budget allocated $204.9 million to prevent family, domestic and sexual violence with an annual allocation of $70 million to fund frontline family, domestic and sexual violence services across NSW.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to establish what is new money and an actual increase and what is simply a continuing program. This difficulty is compounded by the clustering of agencies responsible for different elements of a program or State Outcome.
Attorney-General Speakman’s media release of 14 June headlines another figure – $90 million to boost spending in this area. For Budget aficionados, check out the State Budget papers on the NSW Treasury website
Reforming the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act
WEL is joining with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and a wide range of other organisations to make a public case for an independent review process to reform the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, which we believe to be no longer fit for purpose. WEL will be participating in an online PIAC panel discussion on the Act in August and we will keep members posted on developments in this campaign and ways you can access the seminar.
WEL Campaign: Women Ageing Well
WEL is continuing our campaign for government action to end women’s housing insecurity and homelessness. Working with our allies, we are aiming to make affordable housing a key budget and election initiative at State and Federal level so that women, especially older women, are supported to access safe, affordable, and long-term housing.
This is bearing in mind that single older women are more likely than single older men and couples to be private renters or still paying off a mortgage and are one of the fastest-growing groups experiencing homelessness as a result of a lifetime legacy of economic disadvantage including from domestic violence, combined with the lack of available and affordable housing.
‘Everybody’s Home’ has just launched a report Nowhere to Go by Equity Economics, that analyses the benefits of providing long term social housing to victims of domestic and family violence.
It shows that the cost of 16,800 additional social housing units would be dwarfed by the immediate economic benefits and the creation of 47,000 new jobs. The additional social housing would mean 7,690 women not returning to a violent partner because they have nowhere to go, and would prevent 9,120 women becoming homeless. The report will be presented to the Women’s Safety Summit. You can listen to the ABC’s AM segment on the report.
Everybody’s Home is also circulating a petition asking Scott Morrison to invest in more social housing for women and children escaping violence. Please sign and share this to show support for better housing for women and children who have experienced domestic violence – they are the single largest group experiencing homelessness in Australia!
The June activation of the UNSEEN project in Martin Place Sydney went extremely well. UNSEEN thanks all the participants for making the project come alive and all the volunteers from WEL, Blur and Soroptimist that supported this activation. Another six women came forward to share their stories of homelessness and housing insecurity through the UNSEEN Project, bringing the total number of participating women to twenty-six. Fiona Arnold was UNSEEN's artist in residence for June with her project Walk a mile in my shoes. Fiona invited women to bring their shoes and their stories to the UNSEEN Arts Hub and include them in her art installation. More information and photos from the June event are here
Unfortunately, the next UNSEEN events in the City will not be able to proceed on their scheduled dates because of the COVID lockdown. But we are planning for UNSEEN to be back later in the year if possible.
Stay tuned for updates as we know more!
Consider committing your time, skills, and experience to the team that steers WEL in the next 12 months
As a WEL supporter, many of you will already be familiar with WEL’s history and vision. We are an independent, non-party political, not for profit feminist lobby group established in 1972 and an incorporated membership-based volunteer organisation. We are dedicated to creating a society where women’s participation and potential are unrestricted, acknowledged and respected; where women and men share equally in society’s responsibilities and rewards. Have a look at our story and some of our achievements on www.wel.org.au
WEL NSW Office Bearers and Ordinary members of the Executive Committee are elected each year at the Annual General Meeting. To nominate and vote you must be a member of WEL.
This year’s AGM is to be held in September or early October, depending on the COVID situation.
Keep an eye on your inboxes for the notice of the AGM to be sent out soon.
This includes information on the agenda, the formal positions to be elected, and other requirements under our Constitution.
Nominating for the Executive Committee presents an opportunity for passionate and thoughtful feminists who want to make a real difference through public policy and effective campaigning. This especially includes feminists who can give their time and share their expertise and skills in such areas as policy analysis and campaigning, strategic communications, marketing, fundraising, administration of not for profits and team building. We need feminists of diverse experiences and backgrounds who are deeply committed to achieving change in areas where women suffer special disadvantages.
WEL lobbies government and campaigns on many issues such as reform of anti-discrimination laws, reproductive rights, the impact of homelessness on women, elimination of domestic and family violence, pay equity, early childhood education, and care, education, and training, political representation, and ending sexual harassment in the workplace.
If you are interested in nominating for the Executive Committee but want to know more, you are welcome to contact our NSW Coordinator Philippa Hall via
[email protected] OR 0466 273 308
Thanks for your support. Please get in touch if you have any ideas or feedback for our next edition.
Contact WEL NSW [email protected]
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