APRIL 2024

WEL, newly constituted as one national, feminist advocacy and campaigning organisation, is working hard to create a new national policy platform as the basis for our lobbying activities in future national and state election campaigns. We will be seeking feedback from members as we revise our policy platform.

WEL has congratulated the Federal Government and Women’s Minister Katy Gallagher on the decision to pay superannuation on Paid Maternity Leave - a long overdue decision consistently advocated by WEL.

New levels of accountability and transparency are opened up through The Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) publication on 27 February of the base salary and total remuneration gender based pay gaps in private sector organisations with 100 or more employees. This data will put pressure on companies to reduce the gap.

Preference for companies with lower gender pay gaps in government procurement contracts will increase that pressure. WEL advocated for these new reporting requirements in submissions and policy proposals in 2021.

2024 Budget

As we do every year, on 14 May WEL will be analysing the 2024/5 Budget through a gender lens. We will be looking closely at the Women’s Budget Statement and evaluating its provisions and other budget measures against our policies and recommendations from a range of reports.

As a voluntary not for profit and active member of the Equality Rights Alliance, we will be particularly interested in funding levels that will be allocated to women’s organisations charged with advising the government on women’s issues.

As the Report for the Women’s Economic Equality Task Force recommended (section 7.4), adequate funding is needed for ‘critical women’s advocacy work, such as the National Women’s Alliances or similar models, to provide a consultative mechanism to elevate the voices of diverse women and girls around the country. These advocacy groups should also provide advice on policy priorities to improve women’s economic equality and life outcomes, including by working with the National Women’s Economic Equality Advisory Body’. 

Keep an eye out for our Media release, socials and commentary on 14 & 15 May.

Jozefa Sobski AM National Convenor

Working for Women: A Strategy for Gender Equality

Ambitious but concerns remain

On 7 March Katy Gallagher, Minister for Women launched Working for Women: A Strategy for Gender Equality at the National Press Club

The Strategy is ambitious and welcome. It envisages ‘an Australia where people are safe, treated with respect, have choices and have access to resources and equal outcomes no matter their gender’.

Working for Women is designed to drive the Federal Government’s gender equality policy formation, programs and initiatives and budgetary decisions through to 2034.

WEL will use the Strategy to evaluate the Government’s progress against its recommendations and how it measures up against our policy platform.

WEL has some concerns and questions which we will pursue with the Minister. Read more HERE.

Rethinking Domestic Violence Solutions 

The appalling and tragic deaths of 26 women so far this year - most often by partners - is prompting a review of state and national programs and approaches. Katy Gallagher, Minister for Women, calls it a crisis, declaring ‘women do not feel safe’. Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner Micaela Cronin has called a national roundtable of stakeholders to find solutions and look at ‘things that need to change’.

There is a need for a broader and deeper review of our approach- based primarily on improving gender equality. In a recent paper Rethinking Primary Prevention Jess Hill and Professor Michael Salter point to the failure of what they call the ‘ameliorative’ approach’ to producean actual reduction of gendered violence’.

WEL believes that governments, peak bodies and service providers need to re-examine the focus of all policies and programs in the light of the evidence, such as escalating violence leading to the deaths of many more women and increases in adolescent perpetrations.

WEL is embarking on a review of its national policy on domestic, family and sexual violence where we will also be undertaking a broad-sweeping and deep re-think of our assumptions and recommended actions.  

Launch of Wiyi Yani U Thangani Institute and Change Agenda for First Nations Gender Justice

On Tuesday 19 March we were excited to tune into the launch of the Wiyi Yani U Thangani Institute and Change Agenda for First Nations Gender Justice at the Australian National University. The Institute and the Change Agenda are set to play a major role in oversight, management and research to make the experiences and voices of First Nations women and girls central in the journey to gender equality.

See information about the Institute, the Change Agenda and the Institute’s latest research HERE.

Elsie Women’s Refuge Conference, held 15 – 16 March 2024

Celebrating a giant step forward for women. Charting a future for women-led community services.

When a Women’s Liberation collective, led by Anne Summers, squatted in an empty house in Westmoreland St in Sydney’s Glebe on 16 March 1973 they were driven by the knowledge that women desperately needed somewhere to escape the deadly violence of male partners.

This act created Elsie, the first Women’s Refuge in Australia.

Over the following decades, the refuge movement became an Australia wide front line service and advocate for endangered women and their children.

The Elsie Conference in March celebrated that day back in 1973 and charted the revolutionary consequences, culminating in the critical role refuges play in pushing for government initiatives to eliminate violence against women.

WEL has always fought to defend and extend these services. Our WEL National Convener Jozefa Sobski AM and Jane Bullen from WEL’s National Coordinating Committee participated in the Conference. Jozefa is a 1973 Elsie ‘occupation’ veteran. WEL Coordinator Amanda Keeling also participated.

The Conference was hosted by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). It brought together over 500 women’s refuge workers, advocacy and peak organisation representatives, researchers and public policymakers with the aim of celebrating past achievements and providing a national platform for considering emerging challenges and solutions. It had a particular focus on the issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse women and other high risk groups.

A welcome from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was followed by a speech from Senator, the Hon Jenny McAllister. Christine Robinson, a Bundjalung woman and CEO of Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Service delivered the opening address. She shared her intensely sad and distressing story of domestic violence. She articulated the conference theme through her lived experience, just as the Elsie founders had done.

Women workers in refuges over the last five decades, nominated by their communities, were honoured with an Elsie Award. WEL Australia congratulates the fifty recipients of this award.

The Conference participants recognised that governments’ attempts to roll back feminist leadership of the refuge movement under the guise of ‘efficiencies’, money saving or under pressure from some religious or other influences, are an ever present danger.

The following statement was issued in the final Conference session:

We call on the Labor Government:

  1. To end the practice of tendering for women’s services where criteria privilege cheap service delivery over excellence.
  2. In future funding rounds prioritise community based and run services which have a demonstrated history of promoting and supporting women’s rights (including reproductive rights, and equal pay) and which must be women-led and have mechanisms for lived experience in and across decision making. 

A moving tribute - the ghosts of all the women who have died so far this year from gender-based violence - presented by the Taree Women's Refuge at the Elsie Conference

Padma Raman PSM pays tribute to Susan Ryan: warns against complacency 

The annual Susan Ryan oration at the ANU celebrates a great WEL activist and her feminist leadership as a Senator, Minister and later as a Commissioner for the Human Rights Commission.

Padma Raman PSM, Executive Director of The Office for Women delivered the 2024 Susan Ryan Oration.

She began by paying tribute to Susan as a mentor and a friend. Susan Ryan’s pragmatism, sense of timing and ‘political nous’ set the framework for the Hawke Government’s major achievements for women. The 1984 passage of the landmark Sex Discrimination Act was testimony to her understanding of effective political processes.

In her talk Padma Raman also addressed the extensive work undertaken by The Office for Women on ‘Working for Women: A Strategy for Gender Equality’.  She drew attention to the ways Working for Women, as a 10 year strategy, tackles the structural and systemic changes critical to improving the lives of women, with gender embedded in all government budget decisions.

Susan’s mantra of ‘eternal vigilance focussing on the long game’, also informed Padma’s comments on the need to avoid complacency.  She cited evidence on the attitudes of young people from the 2024 Status of Women Report Card indicating the distance we have to travel before we reach gender equality in Australia. Despite significant efforts, the rates of violence against women and poor justice responses remain alarmingly high.

Padma ended by introducing a note of realism that Susan would have approved:

Whilst we think we’re headed in the right direction, changing attitudes around gender is stubborn and non-linear. Data has shown that 43% of women aged between 16 and 24 reject attitudes that support gender inequality compared with only 20% of men in the same age group. These are complex structural problems that require sophisticated and sustained solutions.

You can enjoy Padma Raman’s impressive and insightful oration HERE.

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