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WOMEN’S ELECTORAL LOBBY NSW
ANNUAL REPORT 2016-2017
2016-2017 has been a vibrant period for WEL NSW as we joined in global feminist activities, continued our state-based campaigns, as well as leading WEL's national work. Our team prepared submissions and correspondence on national issues as well as championing issues affecting women at a local level. We continue to advocate for women in leadership, decision making roles and in policy formulation.
This year marked 45 years since WEL began in 1972. WEL still exists today due to the passion, drive and commitment of many women over the years who have given their time and skills to further equality and raise the voices of Australian women about the issues that matter to them.
WEL NSW’s priority campaigns are violence against women and reproductive rights.
Violence against women
This year WEL continued to campaign for secure and increased long-term funding for specialist domestic violence services including women’s refuges/shelters and safe-houses. Despite the increased media attention given to the rates of violence against women in Australia, with the exception of Victoria, funding to frontline services that respond to the immediate and longer term needs of women and children experiencing and escaping domestic and family violence remain inadequate.
For over two years WEL has been advocating for a dedicated Women and Children’s Safety Program. Traditionally women’s refuges and associated services have been funded under the Commonwealth/State homelessness program. WEL advocated for the portion of those funds that resource women and children’s domestic violence services to be shifted into a separate, dedicated Women and Children’s Safety Program. The need for a separate program was initially identified through consultations with the NSW sector following the loss of specialist women’s domestic violence services in NSW homeless reforms. Specifically, the NSW State Government’s Going Home Staying Home reforms applied a generalist homelessness lens to a reform and resulted in women’s specialist domestic violence refuges and their associated services losing approximately 80% of their services in NSW.
WEL’s analysis of the NSW reforms was that a separate Women and Children’s Safety Program, funded through a Commonwealth/State agreement would safeguard women’s specialist services that work to respond and prevent domestic and family violence. Whilst there was a high level of organisational, bureaucratic and political support for the program there was also some opposition.
After further consultation, WEL refocused the campaign towards achieving prioritisation of women’s specialist domestic and family violence services within the Commonwealth/State Homelessness Program. We worked in partnership with the Equality Rights Alliance (ERA) and Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA) in advocating for a prioritisation of women specialist services in the Commonwealth National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA).
In October the Commonwealth released the Primary Commonwealth Agreement. The 3 main categories in the agreement are: general housing, homelessness and improvement in data collection. Domestic and Family Violence is one of five primary cohorts in the Supplementary (Bilateral) Agreements to be negotiated with States and Territories.
WEL has written to the Federal treasurer recommending the following elements be included in supplementary components of the Agreements during the negotiations with States and territories:
- A nationally agreed definition of women’s specialist domestic and family violence (D&FV) refuges/shelters/safehouses.
- Outcome measures based on this definition in each of the new bilateral agreements.
- Treating Specialist women’s D&FV services as a priority program, with quarantined funding in each State/Territory for these services.
- Enhancing services that work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with disabilities, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, LGBTQI services; services for women who live in regional, rural or remote areas and services for women exiting prison.
- More funds for specialist women’s D&FV services. The national level of funding is inadequate and many women and their children are turned away from homelessness shelters.
- Equitable access to services. WEL advocates that Commonwealth and state governments match the Victorian Government’s commitment of $1.9b new money in its 2017 state budget.
- Direct funding to providers and services with demonstrated expertise and experience.
The above elements have been shared with WEL’s State and Territory supporters and National Alliances.
WEL still sees merit in a moving domestic and family violence services funded under the Commonwealth/State homelessness and housing agreement into a dedicated Women and Children’s Safety Program.
Other VAW campaign activities
· Partnering with Sydney University on research projects
· Ongoing work on design specifications for research project on evaluating the effectiveness of women’s refuges
· Planning session to develop and cost strategies for next 12 months
· WEL at national Department of Social Services workshop on 3rd Action Plan of National Plan to Reduce Violence Against women and their children
· Teleconference with DSS following the release of the Commonwealth Primary Agreement
Paige Fletcher at Flinders University, College of Business, Government and Law, researched the impact of WEL for her Honours thesis. Some of her findings are summarised:
Women’s Electoral Lobby had a significant direct influence on public policies aimed at addressing violence against women and domestic violence. Working with women within government was identified as one effective means of influencing policy, with a direct influence through access to policymakers, and the policy agenda. Many women working within government were members of the Women’s Electoral Lobby, and often involved the organisation in policy consultation. In this way, the Women’s Electoral Lobby had direct influence on public policies addressing violence against women and domestic violence.
To build capacity, Women’s Electoral Lobby worked with other feminist organisations, whilst lobbying and making submissions to Senate Inquiries drew attention to WEL’s policy positions.
Indirect methods of influencing public policy were also identified. These methods were found to be employed by the Women’s Electoral Lobby to influence public opinion and challenge societal norms that reinforce violence against women. Consciousness-raising was found to occur during the early days of WEL. In recent times, it was found that Facebook has been used as a platform for influencing public opinion.
Overall, Paige found that the Women’s Electoral Lobby has had both a direct and indirect influence on public policies aimed at addressing violence against women and domestic violence.
Abortion is still in the Criminal Code in NSW. Decisions under case law mean that women are able to access abortion lawfully. However retention of abortion in the Criminal Code marginalises doctors and clinics providing abortion, potentially shames women seeking abortion and seriously constrains availability in rural and regional areas. This means that most services are confined to relatively expensive private clinics, rather than public hospitals and facilities.
In May 2017 a Bill by Mehreen Faruqi (Greens MP) to decriminalise abortion was defeated in the NSW Legislative Council. WEL anticipates that in 2018 Penny Sharpe, a Labor MP, will put a Bill to establish exclusion zones around abortion clinics in NSW.
Spurred by the Faruqi and Sharpe Bills, as well as by the narrow failure in 2014 of the Bill known as Zoe’s Law (which if passed would have established ‘foetal personhood’), WEL organised an inaugural Decriminalisation of Abortion Roundtable on October 2016. Members there requested that WEL continue to support the Roundtable as a directions setting forum. The aim of the Roundtable is to develop a campaign to decriminalise abortion and to improve access for women to abortion services. We want legislation that will free women, doctors, nurses and midwives from any threat of criminal prosecution for what is now a normal medical procedure in NSW and ensure women have safe access to facilities and services.
Chaired by Wendy McCarthy OA, the Roundtable has met regularly during 2017, as a coalition of peak groups. These include women’s health, medical and legal experts. Intensive work is ongoing on building alliances, drafting a framework and principles for law reform, mapping the context, polling, staged communications and strategic messaging. The Roundtable has formed a small and focussed Strategy Group to lead campaign planning. The WEL Abortion Action Group (WELAAG) will also contribute to implementation of the Plan and Strategy in 2018. Members of the Round Table and WELAAG are also meeting with MPs and broader community groups and organisations.
This WEL campaign will launch in 2018 with the aim of securing community and political support to legislate to decriminalise abortion. To seed the campaign WEL members have set up a donations based fund. Fundraising will be a priority over the coming months.
- Minister for Women, the Honourable Tanya Davies (LNP), regarding introducing WEL, focusing on WEL’s work on violence against women, especially the campaign for priority funding at an adequate level for refuges, and on women’s reproductive rights.
- Penny Sharpe – MLC (ALP) regarding exclusion zones around abortion clinics and related issues.
- Dr Mehreen Fahruqi – MLC (Greens) regarding decriminalisation of abortion.
SUBMISSIONS & REPORTS
WEL made a submission to the ALP’s consultation on its women’s policy, Setting the Agenda. The submission covers violence against women, women’s health and well-being, work and caring responsibilities, women’s economic security and independence, improving gender equality within education and training and through education and training. This work provides a useful basis for reviewing and developing our policies ahead of upcoming elections.
We made a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission Elder Abuse Inquiry, recommending that policy formulation be informed by the greater vulnerability of older women to abuse from family members and in the aged care system.
We also contributed to the National Foundation for Australian Women’s Gender Lens on the Budget Report, published in May this year. The report noted that among the positives in the Budget for women and girls, there was cause for concern about the overall economic environment and apprehension around housing affordability in particular. There were also many concerning measures, policy vacuums, and a lack of strategy for coordinated action on gender equity.
WEL contributed to the University of Sydney Roundtable on Women and the BIG Issues in March, and we participated in the Women’s Strategy Workshop hosted by Women NSW.
During the year, Jozefa Sobski has led our work on developing a new constitution for consideration at our AGM. The new constitution meets the requirements of the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, NSW Fair Trading, resolves some governance issues, and provides a simpler constitution document.
WEL NSW was originally incorporated on 1 November, 1989. There have been no amendments of substance since then and the Associations Incorporation Act of that time was replaced in 2009 and its regulations most recently updated in 2016. In order to make any amendments to the WEL NSW Constitution of 1989 WEL must comply with the new legislation and regulation. WEL NSW Executive determined that the old Constitution needs to be replaced and formed a small sub-committee to draft a new Constitution. This will be presented to the 2017 AGM as also a Special General Meeting for its discussion and endorsement.
FUNDRAISING AND EVENTS
Community events are a successful way to raise our profile, speak to people about our campaigns and encourage women to take action to support our work.
On 21 January 2017 WEL joined the Sydney Women’s March, in solidarity with marches happening all around the world. The march attracted a large, diverse crowd, voicing a wide range of issues. Humorous and pointed hand-made placards were a prominent feature, as were pussy hats. WEL marched as a group with our banner and were able to have plenty of conversations about the work of WEL with others marching. It was a great day for solidarity and equality in Sydney, around the country and across the world.
As part of our public facing work we’ve had a presence at various community events this year. WEL was a stallholder at the 2017 Mardi Gras Fair Day in Camperdown Park, Newtown. We also had stalls at the Women’s Legal Service and Marrickville Legal Service IWD Fair, and at the Newtown Festival in November. These events are a chance for Executive Committee members and our volunteers to speak directly with the public to promote the work of WEL and raise awareness of the organisation with women of all ages.
WEL participated in the Sydney International Women’s Day (IWD) planning group, contributed to social media management for the event and had a large representation of members at the march. The march was another opportunity to raise the profile of the organisation as we attended with the WEL banner, placards and our WEL t-shirts . A WEL representative also gave a speech as part of IWD celebrations at Carlingford High School.
WEL contributed to the 2017 IWD event at Liverpool Women’s Resources Centre, after running well attended elector education sessions at the centre in 2016. Philippa Hall (WEL Convenor) spoke on pay equity. and executive members Jane Bullen and Sandy Killick also joined the event.
Other presentations included Women on Boards Australia and Soroptomists International, Northern Sydney Branch. These talks were opportunities to speak to shared values around women in leadership, and highlight how WEL uses the support of leaders and influencers to bring about change.
At WEL’s invitation, 60 people attended a free preview screening of the film Miss Sloane (about a formidable Washington lobbyist) at the Dendy Newtown in March. Members were also invited to see the film Their Finest, dealing with the contribution of women to the war effort through screen writing for British Ministry of Information films.
WEL’s Pussy Hat Project
WEL was involved in the “Pussy hat” project, knitting and selling over 600 “pussy hats”. The project arose from the Women’s Marches in the USA protesting President Trump’s disrespect for women and his anti-women policies. The pussy hat itself is a reference to President Trump’s acknowledgement that he sexually assaults women by grabbing their genitals. Wearing the pussy hats is a way of showing solidarity with others (of any gender) who reject his crude and offensive comments and his anti-women policies. The hats depict pussy cat ears, providing a humorous way of referencing the original comments without repeating them. The protests have spread internationally and become much broader. They incorporate the recognition that women’s rights are human rights and symbolise an inclusive commitment to defend and promote everyone’s human rights.
This successful project (led by Helen L’Orange) involved many women knitting the hats including a “Knit-in” session. WEL acknowledges the support of the Powerhouse Museum who kindly hosted the ‘Knit-in”. Presentations were made to five knitting Clubs - Turramurra, Crows Nest, North Sydney, Chatswood and Burwood. WEL posted the pattern for knitting the hats on our website, encouraging women to be involved. The project attracted a lot of attention, generated much demand, and provided a visible WEL presence at International Women’s Day and other events whilst raising around $10 000 for WEL.
Terese Hayward, WEL’s Volunteer Coordinator led our first feminist book club project, a grassroots movement to grow spaces for feminist discussion. Terese developed an online facilitator’s pack and 13 book clubs have been launched in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and the Sunshine Coast. The book clubs provide a way for women to get together and discuss books that raise feminist perspectives. WEL’s Feminist Book Clubs have their own Facebook page. We encourage members to start up more book clubs in 2018.
Celebrating 45 years
In June WEL hosted a 45th anniversary celebratory lunch and panel discussion Challenging Gender Assumptions at the Progress 2017 national conference for Australia’s leading campaigners and change makers. Executive Member Sandy Killick facilitated the discussion with Lenore Taylor, Guardian Australia Editor, Fiona McLeod SC, President of the Law Council of Australia, and Jerril Rechter, CEO VicHealth. Each panelist spoke about how the innovative ways they are calling out unconscious bias and gender assumptions in their respective fields. We thank Gilbert + Tobin for sponsoring this event.
We were also honoured by Sydney's Lord Mayor, who hosted a reception for WEL to mark 45 years of feminist activism. Lord Mayor Clover Moore hosted the event at Sydney Town Hall on 2 August. Eighty guests attended, including long time members and politicians. Wendy McCarthy AO and Susan Ryan AO gave their personal accounts of their involvement with WEL, the rise of the WEL movement in the 1970s, and WEL’s achievements. Executive member, Sinead O’Connell spoke about her feminist journey and her aspirations for WEL’s future. We thank the Lord Mayor for her generosity and also Councillor Jess Scully who spoke on behalf of the City of Sydney.
At the Lord Mayor’s Reception we launched the Making Women Count campaign to raise funds for leadership, tools and training to ensure WEL’s future campaigns can create the same positive benefits as in the. At the reception we had the inaugural viewing of the Making Women Count film. It depicts WEL’s history and hopes, and is now available on our website. A special thanks to Matadora Films, Immigrant Women’s Speakout, Jessie Street National Women's Library, the Australian National University, New Theatre, Wendy McCarthy, Dr Narelle Hooper, Lina Cabaero, Cinzia Myatt, Menaka Cooke, Sandy Killick and Maeva Freeman for their involvement, and Luisa Low for managing the process. Our new brochure celebrates WEL’s 45 years and sets our agenda for the future.
Women Stand up for WEL, Comedy Fundraiser
For a second year, our comedy night, Women Stand Up for WEL, was held at Paddington RSL in March. It was a successful, well-attended and hilarious event. Jackie Loeb headlined the event which included performances by Julia Wilson, Frida Deguise, Sabrina D'Angelo and Lou Pollard (MC). We thank each of the brilliant comedians for donating their comic insights and time to our annual cathartic event. Organisation of the event was facilitated by Liz Stephens and well-supported by Amanda Keeling. Luisa Low, Maeva Freeman, Cinzia Miatt, Sinead O’Connell, and other volunteers assisted on the night. The event raised much needed funds to continue WEL’s campaign planning and development.
Amanda Keeling worked on Fundraising, Membership and Engagement until March, and returned in late August after the birth of her son. Luisa Low also worked on Fundraising, Membership and Engagement, and on some of WEL’s other campaign activities.
Kaitlyn Birkett and Terese Hayward welcomed WEL members wishing to volunteer their expertise, skills and time. Volunteers are contributing to campaigns, policy development, submissions, and supported our events including the Lord Mayor’s Reception, our Annual General Meeting, the IWD march, and the comedy night, among others.
WEL ran volunteer inductions in March/April for 12 volunteers facilitated by Kaitlyn Birkett and Sandy Killick. Several of those volunteers helped knit for the Pussy hat project, and also helped with research for the Making Women Count video.
Courtney Saba (a student from Florida) joined us in the WEL office. Courtney wrote a comparative piece on Australian and US policies that will be available on the WEL website. A key finding was that states that have a high proportion of male MPs are more likely to have abortion in the state criminal code. Lilian Macken-Haynes (law student) joined us on a student placement for four months. Lilian assisted with research, event planning, communications and with the Making Women Count project. Emma McKenzie, WEL member, runs Fight for Your Right to Book Club in South Australia, and wrote an excellent piece on revenge porn for our website, where we have started publishing monthly articles.
Over the past 12 months our WEL NSW Executive Committee and other volunteers have run our two main campaign action groups and helped plan and stage our events. We recognise the contribution volunteers make to our organisation and we value the impact their efforts make in furthering our work.
Transition Implementation Group (TIG)
This WEL subcommittee is in its third year of work, implementing an external review of WEL commissioned in 2014. The subcommittee’s focus is to align WEL’s expertise and strategies to the current political and social issues to increase our lobbying impact.
The 2014 review confirmed WEL has a unique voice and role in Australia’s political system, offering expert advice on a range of issues as well as building the skills of women to raise their voices on local, state and national political issues. The TIG’s focus in 2017 was strengthening the capacity of our Action Groups ahead of NSW and federal elections and ensuring that the updating of our governance processes is complete. Thank you to Jozefa Sobski for leading the update of the WEL NSW constitution. Thanks also to Philippa Hall, Josefa Green, Lorraine Slade and Sandy Killick for their input into the TIG.
WEL MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS
WEL has a community of passionate, engaged and vocal members and supporters. WEL utilises email, traditional media, social media and word of mouth to tell supporters about our work and invite participation in our campaigns. This year our messaging has reached thousands of people who have taken an action on our website or actively engaged with our content on social media. They join hundreds of supporters who have renewed their membership, become a member and/or made a donation. With new members and steady renewals from existing members, our membership is showing year-on-year growth.
WEL is a lively, active voice on social media. We reached half a million impressions with our content on Twitter, and continued to provide relevant and focused content to our 3700 followers on Facebook. One of our Facebook posts about the language used when reporting the death of a woman at the hands of a violent partner reached 42,700 people. We are now also using Instagram to reach younger women, adapting our messages to suit this channel.
WEL NSW acknowledges with gratitude the support of the Council of the City of Sydney and the Older Women’s Network through their provision of rent free accommodation.
Overall income in 2016/2017 was $53,278 exceeding the previous financial year by $20,580 or 63%. Membership revenue of $13,344 was approximately 55% greater than the previous year. Donation revenue of $21,315 exceeded the previous year by 12 % but does not include $14,841 donated in 2016/2017 for the Reproductive Rights Campaign which has been deferred.
The major fundraising events for the year were the WEL NSW Comedy night and WEL’s Pussy hat campaign. WEL wishes to thank all those who assisted.
WEL NSW’s preferred donor fund with the National Foundation for Australian Women allows donors to donate and receive tax concessions.
WEL NSW expenditure exceeded income by $12,590 during 2016/2017 a major improvement on the previous year by 87%. The Executive Committee remains committed to a strong online presence for WEL NSW. The major expenditure was for a contractor to fund raise and maintain the online position of WEL NSW.
WEL NSW finished 2016/2017 with a cash position of $21,225 and investments of $150,659.
On behalf of the Executive Committee I would like to thank Jann Skinner for undertaking the role of Honorary Auditor for WEL NSW. I would also like to thank her for her support and advice.
10 November 2017
WEL NSW EXECUTIVE
The Executive Committee welcomed Cat Gander and Christine Donayre (from July). They join Philippa Hall (Convenor), Helen L’Orange, Jozefa Sobski, Mary O’Sullivan, Lorraine Slade, Jane Bullen, Sinead O’Connell (Secretary), Maeva Freeman, Kaitlyn Birkett, Sandy Killick, Toni Milne (Treasurer), and Josefa Green. Liz Stephens left the Executive during the year. Jann Skinner carries out the role of Honorary Auditor, and Cate Turner is our Public Officer. Sinead O’Connell was elected WEL representative on the Equality Rights Alliance. Helen L’Orange is National Convenor of WEL Australia.
WEL continues to strive to be an inclusive, effective, and relevant feminist lobby group. We are striving to ensure that WEL has a diverse appeal so that it can rightly represent women from a range of backgrounds. We rely on the support of our members. Financial, in-kind and practical support is vital to our flourishing into the future.
The Executive acknowledges and appreciates the support and contributions of members and supporters. They ensure the organisation can continue as a feminist, non-profit, self-funded, non-party political lobby group dedicated to creating a society where women’s participation and potential are unrestricted, acknowledged and respected and where we can all share equally in society’s responsibilities and rewards.
Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW Inc.
8-10 Victoria Street, Newtown, NSW 2042 ABN: 50 242 525 012