Make Australia's Parliament a SAFE place to work - Implementing Jenkins Report

WEL calls for leaders to make Australia’s Parliament a safe place to work by implementing all 28 recommendations of the Jenkins Report. 


Kate Jenkins’ Report, released today, shows that Australia’s Parliament is a dangerous place for people to work, especially for women. No wonder women in Australia hesitate to enter politics.

This is the antithesis of a democratic and inclusive culture. It is a destructive culture festering at the heart of our democracy.

It took Brittney Higgins, and this comprehensive inquiry undertaken by Kate Jenkins the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, to expose this culture and its workplace dynamics to the public. It is a “win at all costs” culture where complaining has repercussions for careers.

The testimonies of 1700 contributors tell a story of intimidation and fear, lack of accountability, entitlement and exclusion cutting careers and dashing hopes. The trauma has put lives on hold and crushing ambition and idealism.  

The Set the Standard report shows that women in Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces (CPW’s) experienced sexual harassment at a higher rate (40%) compared with men (26%).

They have experienced bullying at a higher rate (42%), compared with men (32%).

Women experienced both bullying and sexual harassment at a higher rate (24%) compared with men (14%), with actual or attempted sexual assault also typically experienced by women.

More female parliamentarians (63%) have experienced sexual harassment, compared with male parliamentarians (24%) and the national average for women (39%).

People who identify as LGBTIQ+ experienced sexual harassment at a higher rate (53%) than people who identify as heterosexual (31%) or who preferred not to say (29%)

“The Prime Minister missed the opportunity to show the leadership it calls for, preferring to deflect responsibility for its shocking findings to the Parliament as a whole. This leadership deficit contributes to the problem,” commented Jozefa Sobski WEL National Convenor. “Instead the implementation process has been delegated to a joint Government Opposition process. This should not be allowed to delay action,” said Ms Sobski.

Kate Jenkins has stated that the Report recommendations should not be ‘cherry picked.

WEL expects that the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and all parties and MP’s will commit to implementing the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s 28 recommendations.

Read the Executive Summary for the Report hereRead the Full report here.

Download this WEL Media Statement HERE

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NSW makes its biggest investment in tackling domestic violence

WEL NSW welcomes the announcement by the Minister for Women, Bronnie Taylor on behalf of the NSW Government of a $500 million investment in additional refuges for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence. WEL spokesperson Jozefa Sobski said: “Women’s refuges prevent ongoing violence by enabling women and children experiencing violence to leave. This investment is even more important at this time because we know violence against women has increased during COVID”.

WEL has been campaigning for a major increase in these specialist services for many years. The new funding over four years to support self-contained accommodation will definitely have an impact on addressing the scourge of violence. 
“WEL hopes that staff recruited to run these additional services will be experienced and receive appropriate training for the diverse cultural contexts in which they will have to work. WEL Spokesperson, Jozefa Sobski said,   “We recognise the need for additional purpose built refuges to meet demand, but many of the existing refuges are in old unsuitable housing stock and urgently require upgrading to a core and cluster model. We also hope that funding does not simply flow to large organisations. Many community based women’s organisations are better placed to respond to local needs.” 

Ms Sobski also supported the announcement of $52.5 m funding for community housing to provide 200 social and affordable dwellings for women experiencing domestic violence. Ms Sobski pointed out that many women had experienced financial abuse as part of the violence, and did not have financial resources to access ongoing housing after leaving crisis accommodation in a refuge. She noted that there was a great need in this area, especially with spiralling housing prices.

Media Contact: Jozefa Sobski 0403 895929

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WEL Statement on new Premier of NSW


Women’s Electoral Lobby congratulates Dominic Perrottet on his accession as Premier of NSW. 

It is a sad comment on the political culture of our state that the leaders of Government and the main opposition party are now men and that there were no Liberal women leadership contenders.  We await the outcome of the National Party Leadership ballot, where Melinda Pavey has put herself forward. 

WEL calls on the new Premier to commit to women in relation to social, economic, health and education policy, with a priority on prevention of violence and provision of social housing for older women. 

Women have suffered disproportionately during the Covid crisis, with increased levels of domestic violence, loss of employment in retail, hospitality and other female dominated industries, heightened vulnerability to housing insecurity and homelessness and additional stress arising from working at home, with responsibility for home schooling and childcare.  There is some evidence that women have withdrawn from the workforce in response to such pressures. 

Women’s employment, economic security, health and safety must be central to the new Premier’s Covid recovery plans.

WEL remains concerned that both the successful and unsuccessful candidates for the Liberal leadership both opposed the Abortion Law Reform Act (2019). In his speech during the debate on the Bill the new Premier supported maintenance of the criminalization of medical and health practitioners performing abortions under the NSW Crimes Act 1901.  

It is imperative that the new Premier does not draw on private religious beliefs to impede ongoing implementation of the Abortion Law Reform Act throughout the NSW Public Health System. 

WEL, together with the overwhelming majority of people across the state (irrespective of political preference) who supported the decriminalization of abortion, will be vigilant on this score.

The NSW Parliament has a number of Bills before it that could significantly affect the lives of women and girls in NSW. One Nation’s Education Amendment (Parental Rights in Education) Bill and related proposals to change public school policies and curriculum processes could have a devastating impact on respectful relationships, including consent and sexuality education. The Bill and related proposals cruelly target and marginalize gender non-conforming young people.   

One Nation’s Anti -Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedom) Bill will, if enacted, restrict abortion and reproductive health care, including contraception support and advice, especially in rural and regional NSW. It will allow hierarchically run faith based charities which dominate community service provision in NSW to lawfully discriminate against employees and clients under the guise of religious freedom.

The Perrottet Government’s response to these Bills will be one critical marker of their support for women’s and rights and gender equality. 

Contact Mary O’Sullivan WEL NSW Coordinator 0419444889

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NSW fails thousands of homeless women during pandemic

Social housing crisis accelerates; women aged 65-74 hit hardest

31 July 2021 – On the eve of Homelessness Week (1-7 August) in NSW, the Women's Electoral Lobby (NSW) says COVID is accelerating the state's social housing crisis and tens of thousands of unseen vulnerable homeless women are being acutely impacted by the government's failure to act.

As NSW contends with its 18th pandemic month, NSW WEL Executive Council member Dr Jane Bullen notes that older women are the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness in Australia, and the rate of increase is spiralling in NSW.

“NSW has the highest housing prices in Australia, the highest increases in homelessness and the unmet need," Dr Bullen said. “Homelessness services throughout NSW are struggling with increased demand due to rising rents for people on low incomes and low vacancy rates, and they are turning away more clients than they can support in crisis accommodation - 2 in 3 clients are unable to access long term housing even when supported by a homelessness service.”

“Housing costs are skyrocketing in cities and regions, and the NSW 2021-22 Budget ignored the significance of the problem for women struggling with homelessness related to domestic violence, poverty and insecure employment”.

NSW received an additional $1 billion in stamp duty from the housing market but has failed to use the unexpected windfall to invest in social housing for people who become homeless. Social housing availability in Australia has plummeted by over 50% over the last 30 years. 

Between 2013/14 and 2016/17, NSW saw an 88 per cent growth in the number of women over the age of 55 years accessing homelessness services.

In NSW the number of women aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness increased between 2011 and 2016 by 48% and the number between 65 and 74 increased by a staggering 78%. 

“While WEL supports the NSW government’s initiatives to house people identified as sleeping rough through the Premier’s Priority on Street Homelessness and, during the COVID lockdown, through the provision of emergency hotel accommodation – many vulnerable women will not be assisted by these initiatives and are unseen by homeless services.”

“COVID is exacerbating the crisis of women without housing. Unable to get early assistance to prevent housing insecurity, women rapidly spiral into homelessness and are forced to live in cars or sleep rough in concealed locations.” Said Dr Bullen.

There is a need for more help to resolve unsafe and insecure housing, increased emergency measures and a sustained programme of building social housing.

Blur Projects in partnerhsip with WEL is spotlighting the personal experiences of homelessness for women in NSW through the UNSEEN project.

Blur Projects Creative Director Belinda Mason has spent the past six months working closely with NSW women impacted by the crisis to create the multimedia arts project UNSEEN. This project puts faces and voices to the stories behind the awful statistics.

“The nature and scale of women’s experiences cannot be underestimated in NSW. Women from all backgrounds and life experiences are sharing their stories about homelessness and are unlikely to see their situation change. Some women experiencing homelessness sleep rough but remain unseen, hidden from view for fear of violence and stigmatisation.

“The lived experiences of women should inform an urgent response to the immediate need, as well as addressing the root causes of their vulnerability to homelessness," Ms Mason said.

Thirty-eight per cent of people requesting assistance from specialist homelessness agencies in 2019/20 have experienced domestic violence - these are overwhelmingly women and children.

“Domestic and family violence are a contributing factor to most women experiencing housing insecurity. In too many cases this began in childhood and has been compounded by systemic failure. Their housing insecurity is due to significant economic, employment and educational disadvantage which get progressively worse with age,” said Ms Mason.

Homelessness services and domestic violence refuges report their inability to meet crisis accommodation demand, with the waiting list for social housing in NSW approaching 60,000 people—many waiting for over 10 years. Women and children escaping domestic violence are forced to return to dangerous situations because they have nowhere to live.

WEL calls upon the NSW Government to immediately expand its priorities on homelessness and include vulnerable but less visible women in their COVID responses, and to commit to overhauling the NSW Homelessness Strategy 2018-2023 which is failing NSW women.  


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Housing Security Missing in Budget - State Budget Response JUNE 2021


Media contact: Dr Jane Bullen 0413 806 253



Tuesday 22 June 2021




Sydney – The NSW 2021-22 Budget has today ignored NSW women struggling with insecure employment, poverty, marginal housing and homelessness.


The Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW is 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.


WEL spokesperson Dr Jane Bullen responded to today’s budget stating, “Lifetime factors including the gender wage and wealth gap, discrimination and domestic and other violence mean that women are at particular risk of poverty and housing instability.


Skyrocketing housing costs have combined with these factors and COVID-19 to create a perfect storm. NSW needs 5,000 new social houses built each year to meet the current demand and waiting list, let alone the looming crisis older women face today,” said Dr Bullen.


WEL calls on the NSW Government to establish a program of building 5,000 social housing dwellings per year. NSW has only been building a fraction of this target each year.


Older women are the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness in Australia, and NSW is the state with the fastest rate of increase! Most of these older women are homeless for the first time in their lives because they can’t get rental housing that they can afford, and have no prospect of increasing their income. Between 2013/14 and 2016/17, NSW saw an 88 per cent growth in the number of women over the age of 55 years accessing homelessness services.


The NSW government’s own 2021-22 Intergenerational Report says that there is a need for more social housing for older people who do not own a home, and acknowledges that older people on the social housing waiting list are typically experiencing acute housing stress. Availability of social housing has plummeted by over 50% over the last 30 years. The waiting list for social housing in NSW is around 60,000 people, with many people waiting for over 10 years. There is no priority given to older people on the basis of age until they reach 80 years – female life expectancy is 84.6 years.


The level of the Aged Pension assumes older people have housing they can afford, and best practice approaches promote ageing ‘in place’ (at home). This is not the reality for many older women.


While the Budget does include some measures of benefit to women, there is no increase in funding to build social housing for those who cannot pay the high rents in NSW overheated and expensive property market.


The NSW government recognises the need to house people experiencing homelessness who are sleeping rough – but many women, particularly older women avoid sleeping on the street, but likewise are vulnerable, may be homeless long term and in urgent need of housing.


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2021-2022 Women’s Budget Statement – A Rationale and Rations for women.


“The Women’s Budget Statement is full of promises. It provides a strong rationale for addressing a range of issues, but fails to match this with newly funded initiatives. The government has missed its opportunity. This is very disappointing,” said Ms Sobski.

It is a mixed picture and a missed opportunity to do much more for those in the caring economy and those in need of care and support.

WELA is part of NFAW independent gender lens analysis.
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$10 Million over Two Years – Are you Serious Treasurer?


17th November, 2020

$10 Million over Two Years – Are you Serious Treasurer?

Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW expressed dismay at the State Budget’s lack of any Women’s Statement or government media on women’s priorities.

With unemployment among women in NSW reaching a record high – 130,000 plus in September, 2020 and predicted to grow, the NSW Government’s initiative to provide $10 million over two years to assist women to retrain and return to work, is an insult.

“Does the Treasurer really think that this will make any tangible difference to the high numbers of unemployed women looking for work or to retrain? “  said Jozefa Sobski, spokeswoman for WEL NSW.

“These funds will be consumed by administration costs and will reach possibly 1,000 women a year.”

WEL condemned the government for ignoring women’s priorities and desperate needs at this time. The NSW Women’s Alliance set out comprehensive priorities in its Emergency Briefing on COVID-19 in March, 2020 which should have been accorded serious consideration. NCOSS’s Pre-Budget Submission did likewise and should have been considered.

The NSW Women’s Strategy sitting on a government website continues to languish uselessly. Its promise of delivering an annual report on NSW Government spending on women is totally ignored. Its many strategies under-funded or not funded at all.  Give Women NSW some resources to unpack the Budget for the vast community of women’s organisations working tirelessly to advocate for women and their needs at all the intersections of disadvantage.

WEL welcomes the FIFA Women’s World Cup, but any stadium upgrade does not cheer the homeless or those unemployed.

Bronnie Taylor, the energetic Minister for Women obviously lacks the clout to make an impact on this gender-blind Treasurer. The Premier’s cross government priorities need urgent revision. They are no longer fit for these COVID times.

“The Treasurer’s optimism about a future surplus is as unbelievable as his lack of awareness of the importance of a gender lens on the budget. Stronger communities require the needs of the most vulnerable to be addressed. The Treasurer needs to get serious and get real.” 

Available for comment:

Jozefa Sobski AM, Contact for WEL Violence Against Women Action Group.

Email - [email protected]


NSW Budget 2020 falls short on women’s housing and homelessness


17th November, 2020

Budget falls short on women’s housing and homelessness

Women’s Electoral Lobby says the NSW Budget has failed to address the growing gender gap and increased poverty and homelessness among women, resulting from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has disproportionately impacted on women, because of a combination of loss of income and superannuation savings, a double burden of work and caring responsibilities, increased domestic violence and negative effects on mental health and wellbeing. 

Women’s greater poverty is already reflected in housing disadvantage with 62% of social housing tenants being women. Today’s Budget suggests the Government expects to build around 780 new social housing properties over four years, a drop in the ocean compared to the over 50,000 households on the social housing waiting list, most of whom are women.  WEL and other community and social housing organisations had asked for an increase of 5,000 new dwellings per year for the next decade.

“There is no information about the net growth of social housing properties and how much of the announced development is for projects already underway. The announcement that $200 million will be spent on repairs and maintenance of existing social housing properties fails to meet the need to significantly increase the stock of social and affordable housing,” said Dr Jane Bullen, spokeswoman for WEL NSW.

“WEL welcomes ongoing funding for homelessness services and investment to provide housing and support for people sleeping rough. However those sleeping rough comprise only 7% of all people experiencing homelessness. Few women sleep rough. Funding for this group will not help the largest cohort of those seeking help from services, women and their children who have experienced domestic violence. There is no other new money in the budget to assist those women and children.

Assistance for those sleeping rough will also not help the fastest growing cohort of homeless people, older women. The NSW rate of increase is the worst nationally. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of women aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness increased by 48% and the number aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness increased by 78%.

Available for Comment – Dr Jane Bullen, WEL NSW Executive email - [email protected]



MEDIA RELEASE: One Nation's NSW Bill threatens women’s rights


One Nation Leader’s Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedom and Equality) Bill 2020 threatens women’s rights.

Ahead of today’s second hearing of the NSW Parliament Committee looking into One Nation Leader Mark Latham’s Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedom) Bill, a coalition of prominent organisations warn NSW women’s rights to health, secure employment and protection from discrimination may be under threat from the Bill.

Representatives from WEL, Women’s Safety NSW and NSW Women’s Legal Service will be questioned by the 14-member Joint Select Committee looking into the Bill from 9am to 10.15 am in the Macquarie Room at Parliament House. The hearing can be viewed on the Parliament’s live web.

Adjunct Professor Ann Brassil, CEO of Family Planning NSW said medical experts were concerned that;”The Bill includes provisions which could allow health practitioners to contravene professional standards and codes of conduct in the name of religious belief.”

This Bill could allow a medical practitioner to contravene such codes by refusing to refer a patient to a practitioner without a conscientious objection and claim protection from any disciplinary procedure on the grounds of religious discrimination,” she said

Adjunct Professor Brassil pointed out that the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ submission to the Inquiry noted provisions of the Bill seem ‘inconsistent with the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 (NSW)’ which allows conscientious objection but requires referral either to a non-objecting practitioner or through information identifying non-objecting practitioners.

Denele Crozier, CEO Women’s Health NSW is especially worried that access to prescribed contraception and contraceptive education could be restricted by the Bill.  

‘The Code of Conduct of the Pharmacy Board of Australia requires pharmacists to:

‘not use {conscientious objection} to impede access to treatments that are legal’, and to ‘not allow moral or religious views to deny patients or clients access to healthcare,” Ms Crozier said.

The Bill could allow health practitioners with a religious objection to prescribed contraception to refuse prescriptions for contraception or a contraceptive treatment and refuse to provide patients with information on practitioners without such objections.

“Pharmacists in rural and regional NSW could refuse to stock common contraceptives, including the morning after pill, without providing advice on alternative suppliers. Medical practitioners could refuse contraception to single women and to young women.  Education and advice about contraceptive options such as Long Acting Contraceptives could be impeded.

“This could further limit access to reproductive health services in marginalised communities and in rural and regional NSW where there are fewer pharmacies and greater distances between them,” she said.

Mary O’Sullivan from Women’s Electoral Lobby said that the Bill proposes a new category of Religious Ethos Organisations which could limit women’s access to emergency reproductive health services.  ‘It is possible that publicly funded hospitals and clinics run by religious organisations could refuse to provide reproductive health services, even in an emergency,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

Haley Foster, CEO of Women’s Safety NSW is especially concerned that access to reproductive health services could be restricted for women who are victims of reproductive coercion, such as forced sex or sabotaging of contraception methods, both of which commonly occur in domestically violent and abusive relationships.

WEL is concerned that the Bill could also impact on women of culturally diverse backgrounds employed in the health and care industries run by religious charities. “Many women from minority religious backgrounds work in these industries. Large Christian religious charities now dominate government funded service provision,” WEL spokeswoman Mary O’Sullivan said.

“The Bill could even allow religious organisations to themselves discriminate against their employees on the grounds of their compliance with religious teachings on marriage, contraception and abortion, or simply on the basis of preferential consideration for employees of the same religion as the organisation.

“Employers could also discriminate on the basis of religious dress, which has implications for women as well as men from minority faith communities.”

Kellie McDonald, who will represent NSW Women’s Legal Service at the hearing, called for “A comprehensive Review of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act to introduce protections against religious discrimination, but not at the expense of other protections such as those for race, disability and for transgender people.”



Statement: Fare-WEL to the Honourable Susan Ryan

Fare-WEL to the Honourable Susan Ryan AO - credible woman, politician, feminist and founder of the Women's Budget Statement

Susan Ryan helped 'change the world' for the women and girls of Australia. 

When Susan Ryan started school (late 1940s), there were things that girls were told they could not do. Maths, science, law, engineering, architecture or accounting. They could not aspire to general management, leading a Department or continue working after they were married, let alone dream of one day entering parliament. 

Susan’s generation came of age in an Australia where Government, the law, workplaces and even the institution of marriage and the family were increasingly out of kilter with growing aspirations for autonomy, independence and a fulfilling life.

After the first heady rush of Women’s Liberation she understood that Australian women needed to marshal the power of Government to translate her generations’ dreams into practical changes to enable women to work, study, love, earn, and control their own lives equally with men.

This meant women had to become 'masters' of democratic politics and processes, policies, parties, lobbying, elections, campaigns and summing up demands in memorable slogans and 'memes'. To this end Susan and other members of the women's liberation movement, founded the Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL).

'We formed the Women's Electoral Lobby in the year leading up to the election of the Whitlam Government in December 1972. WEL utilised shock tactics, the media, persuasion, and a bit of psychological terrorism, to get issues like child care, equal pay, reproductive control, and access to education and training, on to the agenda of the newly elected Whitlam Government... That short and intense period where the Women's Electoral Lobby became an effective part of the 1972 election campaign determined my parliamentary career.'

WEL’s 1972 campaign helped disrupt the parameters of Australian election campaigns. Susan used lessons from the campaign to hone her own plans to take women out of the home and into the House. From shared experiences in WEL and in the Party she chose to join, she observed the practical ways that government policies and even operations failed to deliver for women. She concluded that not only was a woman's place in the House and in the Senate, but a feminist's place was in politics.

Susan would go on to become the first female Labor government cabinet minister, in the government led by Bob Hawke. In Hawke's cabinet Susan was appointed Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women (from 1983). In this role Susan was notably involved in the creation of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunities in Employment) Act 1986. 

A trailblazer in the true sense of the word, Susan was not only a woman in Parliament (shocking enough at the time), but as Susan relayed to Parliament in 1992, "Even more remarkable than my female presence in the Senate, I was a feminist." 

In her tribute to Susan, Wendy McCarthy AO says not only was Susan a loyal and wonderful friend, she was the 'feminist we all aspired to be'. Wendy and Susan were friends for nearly 50 years, after the two were brought together by the feminist politics of the early seventies, and their involvement in founding WEL.

Susan understood the centrality of economic and budgetary policy. Her central objective in Parliament was economic independence for all, including women. In Susan, women and girls not only saw someone in Parliament who spoke out about the discrimination and inequality that they experienced, they saw a woman actively working to change the status quo by using key instruments of policy and legislation to do so.

Her enduring legislative achievements include the Sex Discrimination Act (1984) the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986 and the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987.

As Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women in 1984, Susan authorised the preparation within the Office of Status of Women, of a detailed Women's Budget document. The Gender Lens remained an integral part of the Federal budget until the Abbott Government discontinued it in 2014. Since then feminist policy experts around Australia have undertaken the task with the leadership of NFAW. Susan generously contributed to this process to hold Government to account on behalf of women. It’s potency has grown over time.

Susan Ryan was a truly extraordinary, feminist leader. She blazed a path for all of the #crediblewomen who call out inequality, imbalance and discrimination - in the Budget and economic policy - and anywhere it arises.

Much has changed during Susan's lifetime. A third wave of feminism has crested. Thank you Susan, and fare-WEL.

The Honourable Susan Ryan AO "Fishes on Bicycles'", September 1992

Margaret Guilfoyle and Susan Ryan "The Trailblazers,The First Women in Cabinet*", June 2004

A tribute to Susan Ryan AO, by Wendy McCarthy AO

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