Thank you to everyone who donated to our end of financial year appeal!
We raised $9000! Your individual donations will help sustain our campaign and advocacy work such as support for the Voice, affordable housing and access to reproductive health services.
Western Sydney Women: Saying Yes to the Voice is a women-led campaign, created by Women’s Electoral Lobby and Immigrant Women’s Speak Out Association in support of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to parliament. We are energised by generations of Western Sydney Women with many cultures and languages working together for a just Australia.. Time and again, women have proven themselves to be a force to be reckoned with, and this referendum will be no different.
Join us on September 5 at 2pm, for this community gathering taking place on Darug Country at Max Webber Function centre - Blacktown Library.
It’s a FREE event, but places are filling fast so book now!
WEL meets with Jodie Harrison NSW Minister for Women
In late April, WEL wrote to NSW Cabinet Ministers with responsibility for portfolios relevant to women to outline our expectations of the new government and remind them of specific policies highlighted in WEL’s election campaign and scorecard.
We recently met with Jodie Harrison MP, NSW Minister for Women. Leading up to the 19th of September budget, we are advocating for policies centered on gender equality as a key driver in the Minns' government’s economic, social, health, justice and education agendas.
Click here to read the letter to Jodie and issues discussed
First the very good news. The Minister supports an independent Working Women’s Centre (on the model of South Australia) and NSW will supplement Federal Government funding to establish a Centre in NSW.
The Minister advised that the existing Women’s, Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault strategies will continue to be funded, as will the previous Government’s commitments to Early Childhood Education and Care, with some changes in priorities to reflect those of the new Labor Government. As Minister, she indicated she is working with her federal and state colleagues to ensure that state and national plans align.
Release of Action plans under the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children
Since WEL’s meeting with Minister Harrison, the federal and all state and territory governments have announced they will work together on the National Plan to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Children to end gender based violence within a generation.
WEL is encouraged that, for the first time, the First Action Plan sets some measurable targets for ending violence.
See the Action Plans on the Australian Government Department of Social Security website here.
Academic researchers Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Marie Segrave and Silke Meyer ask in The Conversation whether the Action Plans are enough?
The unprecedented funding commitment of $2.3 billion over the 2022-23 and 2023-24 budgets to address women’s safety and support delivery of these action plans sounds impressive, but WEL agrees it is not commensurate with the scale of the crisis.
Read their analysis here.
Minister Harrison, along with Health Minister Ryan Park and Federal Assistant Minister for Social Services and the Prevention of Family Violence Justine Elliot have also announced the most recent of 14 projects receiving joint Commonwealth and NSW Funding as part of Sexual Violence Project Grants.
Who’s Afraid of Affirmative Consent? (Senate hearings on Uniform Consent Laws)
Despite the brave leadership of young feminists like Saxon Mullins and Chanel Contos, consent laws still differ across Australia and their relevance is often unclear. The damage caused by some religious opponents to inclusion of age appropriate consent, respectful relationships and sex and sexuality education in school curriculum is identified in a brilliant piece on the ABC News website.
WEL strongly advocated the introduction of consent education in both the Federal and NSW elections.
The Senate Constitutional and Legal Affairs References Committee is conducting an Inquiry into consent laws across Australia. Its Terms of Reference are wide ranging with a focus on the consistency and effectiveness of current and proposed sexual consent laws in Australia. It reports on 13 September 2023. Universities are a focus of the Inquiry. Years of feminist and union campaigns for universities to take action against high rates of rape and sexual assault with low rates of formal complaints have faced resistance.
WEL congratulates Labor Senator Nita Green, Deputy Chair of the Committee and Greens Senator Larissa Watters, Committee member for leading the questioning of review witnesses and especially the powerful testimony provided by Jess Hill and Tosca Looby which you can read here in the Hansard transcript.
Trumpist tactics drive attacks on shop workers and authors of Welcome to Sex
WEL Informed readers should enthusiastically buy up copies of the recently published 'Welcome to Sex' and make it available to younger people in their lives.
The sex education and consent book was removed from the shelves of Big W stores after staff members were abused following a campaign instigated by far right anti-sex education and anti-abortion groups, including the Australian Women’s Forum headed up by Rachel Wong. Yumi Stynes has been subjected to virulent attacks on social media and sales of the book have escalated.
Thirty six recommendations from Senate Inquiry on Reproductive Health Access: one big step forward - 35 to go
Following the Senate inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare, the Federal Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney, announced on 10 July that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will remove a number of restrictions around prescribing and dispensing of the medical abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol.
WEL has written to congratulate Assistant Minister Kearney and to urge her to implement other key recommendations from the Inquiry.
This decision will implement recommendation 20: it will make abortion more accessible to women, especially for about 30% of women in regional and rural areas and up to 50% in remote areas without easy access to a GP authorised to prescribe the drugs.
‘Ending the Postcode Lottery’ contains 35 other recommendations which WEL is urging the Federal Government to implement. Extending contraception options and providing public hospital terminations, should be on the top of the list.
Australian Women’s Health Council gets into stride
The Previous Federal Health Minister launched the very well received National Women’s Health Strategy in 2018. Since then WEL has consistently called for the strategy to have an implementation plan, clear priorities and a budget.
We are pleased that the strategy implementation and monitoring progress now sits under the National Women’s Health Advisory Council, Chaired by the Assistant Minister for Health and Ageing, Ged Kearney.
Take the Australian Women’s Health Advisory Council Survey
The National Women’s Health Advisory Council has launched the #EndGenderBias survey to better understand the barriers and bias that women face in Australia’s health system.
Responses can remain anonymous and are submitted online via text, video or audio recordings. The survey is open until 13 October 2023 and can be accessed here
ACCC calls out hike in childcare fees
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released the Interim Report for its inquiry into costs and pricing in Early Childhood Education and Care.
WEL applauds the ACCC focus on the ways prices and costs drive access and affordability.
Crucially the ACCC interim report recommends a review of the Child Care Subsidy Activity Tests which prevent many vulnerable families from accessing high quality ECEC.
The report also highlights the ongoing impact on the productivity and quality of ECEC, where a high turnover of poorly resourced and low paid educators suffering from limited career paths contributes to ongoing acute staff shortages.The final report is due towards the end of 2023.
Later in the year the Productivity Commission will issue its interim report into ECEC, which will have a much broader focus, but be informed by the ACCC findings.
Family Law Amendment Inquiry to report 24 August
On 24 August the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee is reporting on its Inquiry into the draft Family Law Amendment Bill.
The Bill gives effect to key recommendations in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2019 review of the family law system. These changes were stalled by the former Morrison government.
Since the Howard Government initiated amendments to the Family Law Act to make equal parental access a primary consideration, children’s safety and views have not been the guiding principles in family law.
As part of the proposed reforms, the Government is now repealing the presumption of ‘equal shared parental responsibility’ (section 61DA) and the related provisions to consider specific care-time arrangements (section 65DAA).
WEL congratulates the Government on the draft legislation. Certainly it does not go nearly far enough to protect children and women in Family Court proceedings. But it does begin to reverse at least two decades of retrograde efforts to undermine the foundations and vision accompanying the Whitlam Government’s establishment of the Family Court in 1975.
We can expect yet another outcry from Men’s Rights Groups, Pauline Hanson and some of their other enablers in the Federal parliament, including some in the Coalition.
See the Report here
See Guardian Reporter Tory Shepherd’s excellent quick analysis of the report here
Everybody’s home petition
No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone deserves a safe, decent and affordable home.
But right now, tens of thousands of Australians are homeless and hundreds of thousands are experiencing housing stress.
For years Federal Governments have been shirking responsibility, propping up investors with tax-payer handouts rather than planning for and building the social and affordable homes we need.
Join us in calling on the Federal Government to fix the housing crisis. If this Government is serious about tackling the housing crisis, they must fund a pipeline of at least 25,000 social and affordable homes each year.
WEL warns that Religious Vilification Amendment to NSW Anti-Discrimination Act could threaten Safe Access Zones
In a possible effort to appease religious groups aggrieved by forecast legislation to ban so called ‘gay conversion therapy’, the NSW Government, with the support of the Coalition, has legislated an amendment to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 to make it unlawful to: “by a public act, to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons, because of their religious belief, affiliation or activity”.
A “public act” includes any form of communication to the public, verbal and non-verbal.
WEL wrote to the Minister for Women, the Minister for Health, the Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council and the Attorney General asking for the Bill to be delayed because it fails to exclude illegal activities undertaken by religious groups from protection on the grounds of vilification. Our specific concern is that religious groups could test safe access zones prohibitions by claiming religious vilification from those who call out quiet praying or other passive religiously based activities within hitherto prohibited zones.
We anticipate another opportunity to critique the amendment as well as the whole clunky NSW Anti- Discrimination Act, when the NSW Law Reform Commission hands down the report of its Inquiry on the Act. See the Terms of Reference here.
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