2022 Federal Election - A most consequential election for women

In 2022 we are celebrating the Women's Electoral Lobby’s 50th anniversary. During the Federal Election in December 1972 WEL inspired women to vote for candidates committed to practical changes to support women’s equality. WEL policies and campaigning on health, childcare, equal pay, work and education shaped the actions of the Whitlam Government.

The 2022 Federal Election will be the most consequential for women in many decades. The extent to which Australia now lags behind other OECD countries on so many indicators of gender equality is truly shocking: political representation and leadership, economic security, workforce participation, paid parental leave, pay equity, homelessness, reproductive and maternal health access, cost and accessibility of childcare.

Since 2006 Australia has fallen 35 places to be 50th in the Global Gender Gap Index. In addition rates of domestic and family violence and sexual assault are frightening.

Some recent developments are promising but WEL will be closely monitoring for follow through.

After the March4Justice the Government made a number of commitments, including varying the childcare subsidy so that childcare is cheaper for some families. They have initiated a review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act and mooted a Plan for Economic Security.

In news just to hand, the Federal Government has announced establishment of a Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commission to support policy development to address violence against women.

Almost simultaneously Labor has also pledged to appoint a Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner to advocate on behalf of victims and survivors and fund 500 extra frontline workers in the sector.

It is especially disturbing however that the Morrison government seems determined to bury and deny cases of possible sexual assault within their own ranks and marginalise figures such as Grace Tame and Brittney Higgins who call them out. Individual MPs and their allies have targeted feminist critics, with even the Older Women’s Network in their sights.

Bad Faith Religious Discrimination Bill

The Prime Minister’s apparent last minute determination to proceed with the Religious Discrimination Bill in the final sitting weeks of this year, casts further doubt on the Government’s commitment to policies which support women.

The Bill, which Attorney General Michaelia Cash is tabling in the next day or so, will provide much broader powers for religious controlled education, health and care services to actively discriminate against their own employees of different or no faith and against clients on religious grounds.

Governments have outsourced most care services to religious charities which also control health and education services. Women comprise the overwhelming majority of workers in the care and health industries. Many are vulnerable, low paid workers from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.

The Bill will protect statements of belief, with some constraints.

We know that statements of religious belief can include deeply misogynistic and homophobic views that may not threaten but will often disturb their targets.

A woman could go to a doctor or social worker for advice about accessing an abortion and be told that she is sinning in the eyes of God for contemplating an abortion, and the Bill would authorise that despite the potential impact on the patient, thereby undermining professional codes of conduct, as well as existing anti-discrimination protections.

The power of religious authorities to hire and fire teachers in religious schools, based on moral and doctrinal compliance will be enhanced.

Elements of the Bill will override state anti-discrimination laws, creating legal quagmires and uncertainty and further inhibiting complainants.

Together with many other organizations, WEL has endorsed Equality Australia’s open letter to the Prime Minister, calling for the Bill to be withdrawn. We have also written separately to the Minister for Women and the Attorney General. See the joint letter to the Prime Minister here. You can review the full text online, see the Equality Australia media release here.

WEL Election Action Group (EAG)

The EAG IS finalising our WEL Policy Priorities document in preparation for the 2022 Federal Election. We will publish and distribute it widely to members, supporters, MPs, women's alliances and groups. We will seek discussion with MPs on our election asks.

Our policy platform is the basis for the famous WEL scorecard, which rigorously grades the extent to which published positions of parties and candidates address the needs of Australian women. It will be launched closer to the election as policies become available. (Having no policy will earn a fail!)

On 9 November we sent out our online survey for members and supporters to have their say on policies and priorities. Please do complete the survey and encourage as many others as you can to do so. Your input is important for our campaign. You can fill in the survey here.

We are developing information resources about how voting works for the voter awareness section of our website. Women are the majority of the population and of many electorates. Women's votes count, and they decide elections.

Please do contact us with any queries, and if you would like to be involved.

Philippa Hall 0466273308 | [email protected]

Women decide Elections & we NEED your support!

WEL depends more than ever on the support of our members and followers, to continue our essential work of lobbying and campaigning to protect the rights of Australian women. Armed with policies setting out our demands, we will mount a campaign that will make women’s equality a key area of contestation during the election

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.

WEL action on Review of Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012

Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia (WELA) has made a substantial submission to the Review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.

The Review is considering if the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has appropriate powers, tools and levers to achieve the objectives of the Workplace Gender Equality Act, including to:

  • promote and improve gender equality in Australian workplaces,
  • support employers to remove barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workplace, and
  • eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender in relation to employment matters.

The Review is also looking at any changes needed for WGEA to implement the recommendations of the Respect@Work national inquiry and options to reduce the regulatory burden on employers while continuing to enable WGEA to promote and improve gender equality.

WELA is concerned by the terms of reference which simultaneously aim to reduce the ‘regulatory burden’ on employers and to simply enable (rather than enhance) WGEA to perform its legislated role.

WELA’s view is that WEGA’s powers under the Act should be enhanced so that it can actively monitor, guide and if necessary require employers to help achieve the Act’s overall objective of ‘eliminating discrimination on the basis of gender in relation to employment matters’. ‘Gender’ should be an inclusive and intersectional category and include women from diverse cultural backgrounds.

A report from the WGEA Review is scheduled to be provided to the Minister for Women and the Minister for Women’s Economic Security before the end of 2021.

WELA calls on the Minister for Women and the Attorney General to make that report public.

We will be watching for the outcomes of this Review leading up to the 2022 election.

Read WELA’s submission here

Sexual assault of women in aged care facilities

Alongside many expert and advocacy organisations WEL is active in the Nurses and Midwives’ Association Aged Care Roundtable. The Roundtable plays an important role in monitoring Federal and State policies on aged care, calling out the pathetically inadequate responses to major reports, such as that of the recent Royal Commission, and keeping a careful eye on the many failures of the sector.

The Roundtable has written to the Aged Care Commissioner, Janet Anderson, outlining its criticism of the Decision Support Tool provided on the website of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The Decision Support Tool is meant to assist carers decide whether or not to report serious incidents occurring in residential aged care facilities.

The Aged Care Roundtable is concerned that the Decision Support Tool may reinforce the appalling myth that sexual assault has no impact on aged and extremely vulnerable victims. There is evidence that sexual assault of women in aged care facilities is underreported and victims are not supported professionally. The Roundtable has sought a review of the Decision Support Tool by the Aged Care Commissioner.

Take Action

National Congress of Women Climate Congress November 30

WEL recognises the close connections between our movement for women’s equality and the movement to halt destruction of the earth’s atmosphere and the exploitation of nature. Patriarchy is underpinned by ideologies which connect male entitlement to ownership and domination of women and destructive exploitation of the natural world.

Australia’s shameful record of non-contribution to the recent COP 25 Conference in Glasgow is on a spectrum with our plunging indicators on gender equity.

We have woven action on climate change into our election policy platform.

That is why we urge you to participate in the Women’s Climate Congress on November 30.

National Congress of Women
Program and registration now live!

Further details are on the National Congress of Women website.

National News

Australian feminist legal scholar Hilary Charlesworth elected to the International Court of Justice

In a rare piece of Australian feminist good news, WEL is celebrating the recent election of the eminent Australian feminist legal scholar Professor Hilary Charlesworth AM to the International Court of Justice.

Professor Charlesworth belongs to an international vanguard of feminist lawyers who have developed theory and practice on the interrelationships between Human Rights and Women’s Rights. This decades long and ongoing work is reflected in international treaties on women’s rights, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Professor Charlesworth has served on many international bodies and in 2006 chaired the Commission which led to the ACT Human Rights Act.

See the entry on Hilary Charlesworth in the Australian Women’s Register.

Minister for Women and Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Attorney General Michaelia Cash nominated her for the position. The Federal Government through DFAT and the Attorney General’s Department supported her election with diplomatic advocacy in the UN Assembly and the Security Council.

Listen to Fran Kelly’s interview with Hilary Charlesworth here.

Playing our part: Champions of Change Workplace framework

Champions of Change has released Playing our Part: a Framework for Workplace Action on Domestic and Family Violence.

Developed in partnership with Challenge DV, No to Violence, Our Watch, The Full Stop Foundation, UNSW Gendered Violence Research Network and WESNET, the report provides a framework with practical actions and resources for organisations to advance their approach to the prevention and response to domestic and family violence in the workplace.

Edna Awards

Older Women’s Network did a fabulous job hosting the Edna Ryan Awards this year. Congratulations to National Chair Bev Baker and to the extraordinary recipients, including of course Brittany Higgins winner of the Grand Stirrer award.

Pep yourself up by watching or rewatching the awards ceremony here on youtube

Image: 2021 Edna Awardees - Brittany Higgins, Adina Jacobs, and Ann Reynolds


Passing the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Consent Reforms) Bill 2021

The NSW Parliament has just passed the historic Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Consent Reforms) Bill 2021.

The Bill was introduced by Attorney General Mark Speakman. The NSW Government supported, or supported in principle, all 44 recommendations made by the NSW Law Reform Commission in its report. It amends the Crimes Act to clarify consent provisions including that consent is a free and voluntary agreement that should not be presumed, and that it involves ongoing and mutual communication. WEL made a submission to the Law Reform Commission Inquiry

A number of amendments proposed by women’s expert groups, such as Women’s Legal Service and Rape and Domestic Violence Services (now Full Stop) were debated during the Bill’s passage. While not all were adopted, the version finally passed in the Legislative Assembly on 23 November includes important amendments for an initial three year review of the Act based on cases heard in that period and a report to Parliament on training on communicative consent for police, judicial officers and legal practitioners. Amendments also include clarification of the section of the original Bill relating to a mental health impairment as a consideration when seeking consent.

The passing of this Bill is a testimony to the power of survivors. WEL especially congratulates and thanks Saxon Mullins whose courage and tenacity to bring justice for herself and all victims drove this major reform.

Chantal Contos and the Teach us Consent petition

On 21 October Greens MP Jenny Leong tabled the Teach Us Consent petition in the NSW Parliament. With over 20,000 signatures the Petition was the culmination of the inspiring leadership of another young victim survivor, Chantal Contos, who has collected testimonials from young women across the country on the assaults, harassment and misogyny they experienced every single day in school settings. Since February this year thousands of young women have contributed their stories.

This petition called on legislators to act to ensure that holistic consent sex education—which acknowledges toxic masculinity, rape culture, slut shaming, victim blaming and sexual coercion, and which emphasises communicative, affirmative consent and offers content for all people in our school system and community—is included in school curriculums.

WEL is calling for holistic consent sex education in our 2022 Federal election education policy.

The Petition also called for urgent reform to sexual consent laws in New South Wales. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Consent Reforms) Bill 2021 fulfils that call.

Crimes Legislation Amendment (Loss of Foetus) Bill 2021

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Loss of Foetus) Bill 2021 was introduced into the NSW Parliament by the Attorney General Mark Speakman on 10 November and had passed both houses by November 19. The Greens opposed the Bill which was supported by the other parties and passed as a Government Bill without amendment.

‘Zoe’s Law’ has taken various forms and been a matter of debate in NSW for more than a decade. Previous iterations of Zoe’s Law, based on campaigning by Brodie Donegan who suffered severe injury when struck by a car while pregnant, sought to create a separate criminal offence for the death of a foetus, raising grave issues around abortion provision and granting legal personhood to a foetus.

Family Planning NSW, the Women’s Electoral Lobby, Women’s Health NSW, community legal centres and legal societies have worked closely to voice our strong opposition to previous iterations of the Bill.

The 2021 Bill now enacted differs from earlier iterations of Zoe’s Law, most specifically that it does not create a separate criminal offence for the death of a foetus. Rather, it will make the death of a foetus an ‘aggravating factor’ to criminal acts, therefore increasing penalties. Though other existing legislation already exists to prosecute those whose criminal actions result in the death of a foetus, it is our view that this concession at least protects a woman’s right to access healthcare.

It will always be an absolute priority for us that Bills like this do not impact on a woman’s right to choose or a health professionals’ role in providing essential care.

The Bill excludes abortion and only applies penalties where the death of a foetus is the result of a criminal act against a woman when she is at 20 weeks or more and 400gm gestation.

The threshold of 20 weeks is important as the lowest gestation limit in relation to the legislation. It aligns with Births, Death, and Marriages. It would have been ideal, however, if the weeks were aligned with the Abortion Reform Act 2019 which allows abortion to 22 weeks.

Read the joint statement of advice on the Bill from Family Planning NSW, Women’s Health NSW, Julie Hamlyn (a feminist medical lawyer who served on our Abortion Law Reform Round Table) and Women’s Electoral Lobby here.

We outline provisions of the Bill and our serious concerns prior to its passage.

Substantial increase in NSW funding for Domestic Violence and Women’s Refuges

WEL NSW welcomed the new money for tackling the critical shortage of domestic violence services and women’s refuges announced by the NSW Government on 19 October. An additional $484 million is being committed over four years. WEL has advocated over many years for an increase in funding for these services through its Keep the Lights On in Women’s Refuges campaign and for secure long-term funding for these services.

This funding is focussed on new refuges built on the core and cluster model and on new community housing initiatives which include 200 social and affordable dwellings for women fleeing domestic violence.

Emphasis is being placed on providing services that support Aboriginal families, older women and young people and children. Most of the funding is to support communities in regional areas. WEL asks that staff recruited to run these new services will be appropriately trained for the diverse cultural contexts in which they will have to work. Co-designing with local community advocates will be essential to successful operation.

WEL congratulates the NSW State Government on this long overdue initiative.

16 Days of Activism and UNSEEN

Policy and campaign work on women’s housing and homelessness

Violence against women and poverty are the two major causes of women’s disadvantage in housing. During Anti-Poverty week WEL ran a program of member actions on policies affecting women’s homelessness. These included sharing:

  • the Everybody’s Home petition calling on the Federal Government to increase Jobseeker and other income support payments and invest in social housing;
  • details of an online event about Poverty, the Indue card and Women’s Rights;
  • letter writing by the Housing for the Aged Action Group, targeted to Federal representatives about the need for action on older women’s homelessness;
  • NCOSS Anti-Poverty week Pink Hi-Vis campaign on the need to invest in women’s economic security, and
  • a report by Equity Economics Rebuilding for Women’s Economic Security – Investing in Social Housing in NSW.

WEL also continued to work on issues related to women’s housing and homelessness at State and Commonwealth levels.

In NSW we continued to press for better responses to older women’s homelessness through the Ageing on the Edge coalition, which is seeking to engage with key Ministers and MPs about the issue, and is including women with lived experience in these contacts.

We also attended the Housing for the Aged Action Group ‘At Risk 2021’ online national forum on older women facing homelessness in Australia.

In our preparations for the Federal election we are highlighting women’s housing and homelessness as a key area in our election scorecard.

UNSEEN is back in December and we need you!

Good news - UNSEEN is back now that we are out of lockdown.

WEL auspiced the initial grant from the City of Sydney and partnered with award-winning photographer and social documentarian Belinda Mason to activate UNSEEN in the city this year. The UNSEEN Arts Hub aims to give voice to women with lived experience of homelessness and raise awareness about women’s homelessness and the fact that it is often hidden. In order for community and political awareness of this ‘unseen’ homelessness to be addressed in policy it is important that women’s voices are heard and their experiences made visible.

The December activation will be held at Alfred Street, Circular Quay on the following dates:

1-5 December

11-12 December

22-23 December

We are seeking volunteers to support the activation of the UNSEEN Arts Hub by answering questions by participants about the project and the opportunities it provides and offering information about services for women experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness. You will be provided with information to assist you to do this.

Click HERE for further information on volunteering time slots available.


Although COVID-19 restrictions postponed UNSEEN ‘s participation in VIVID and an exhibition at NSW Parliament House, UNSEEN’s presence and message remained active with the Chrome Car and Tiny House in the ARTPark Walsh Bay Sculpture Walk.

During lockdown Belinda and the other artists involved in the project have been very busy in the background planning the UNSEEN activation for December 2021 and, with the assistance of Homelessness NSW, planning a regional tour of NSW commencing late 2022.

Find out more information about UNSEEN activities here

The NSW Gender Equality Dashboard is now live

The NSW Gender Equality Dashboard is an interactive tool that makes valuable data about 51% of the population more easily accessible to researchers, policy and decision makers and the general public.

The data gives visibility to trends in gender representation and offers insight into the ways women are impacted by specific gender issues, to support conversations around policies, initiatives and programs needed to achieve gender equality in NSW.

According to Minister for Women, Bronnie Taylor: ‘This tool will not just inspire conversations about issues affecting women, it will help the government and non-government sectors work together on effective solutions'.

The new dashboard brings together publicly available data in one place for the first time, to make it easier to access .Topics include the gender pay gap, maternal health and higher education completion for women.

For more information and to start exploring the data, visit the Women NSW website.

WEL is in this for the long haul

We need your help. Our work is voluntary with pro-bono experts giving unlimited hours. We work in alliance with feminist and expert organisations and in conversation with the political process across the party spectrum. We need to fund research, databases, professional communications, and events for members and media.

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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