WOMEN’S ELECTORAL LOBBY NSW
ANNUAL REPORT 2017-2018
This report covers the period December 2017 (when we held our last Annual General Meeting) to September 2018.
WEL NSW has continued our key campaigns, on ending violence against women, and on reproductive rights. We have continued to lead WEL’s national work. We prepared submissions and correspondence, participated in delegations, and contributed to public events. We provided information on a wide range of issues, and advocated strongly for equality for women in leadership, policy formulation and decision-making.
This has been a year in which we have made some progress toward achieving our objectives. And we are still a long way from achieving a world in which women and men lead, participate and are rewarded equally, sharing the paid and unpaid work fairly.
Heightened focus on women’s experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault has continued around the world this year, with broadening involvement in #MeToo, and the commencement of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces.
WEL NSW decided to support the newly launched organisation NOW Australia, using our platforms to support and promote the organisation. Now Australia has been formed to support people who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or intimidated. Many people reported those experiences for the first time in response to the #MeToo movement. Speaking out is an important first step in seeking justice, remedies and better strategies for preventing sexual harassment and promoting respectful treatment of people at work.
Through WEL Australia, we have continued to participate in two national women’s alliances: the Equality Rights Alliance, and Economic Security for Women. We contributed to national planning and reporting processes in May 2018. The alliances bring together a wide range of women’s organisations, to share information about their plans, campaigns and activities including identifying opportunities to work together. The organisations provide input for Australia’s national reporting to the United Nations, including on Australia’s progress on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2018, Amanda Keeling attended the 62nd session of CSW and the parallel NGO Forum in New York, through IAW. Amanda presented a report to the WEL NSW Executive. Further detail about Amanda’s participation in these international meetings is provided on WEL’s website.
Ending violence against women and girls (EVAWG)
WEL continued its state and national campaign for secure and increased funding for women’s refuges/shelters focussing on the new national Housing and Homelessness Agreement to be signed by States and territories with the Commonwealth by July 1st , 2018. We focussed our attention on the Bill introduced in the Federal Parliament which required states to publish up-to-date homelessness strategies including addressing priority homelessness cohorts among these people affected by family and domestic violence.
WEL wrote to Treasurer Morrison in November, 2017 asking him for the inclusion of supplementary components in the Agreements to ensure that women’s domestic and family violence specialist services are fully supported to meet the level of demand and to operate at a high standard. WEL asked the Treasurer for a nationally agreed definition of these services, outcome measures based on the definition, treating these services as a priority program, enhancing the services to meet the needs of diverse groups, increasing the level of funding to specialist women’s DV and F services, improving equity of access to services and directly funding providers with demonstrated expertise and experience. A copy of the letter was sent to all state and territory Treasurers and Ministers for Housing, Women and Domestic Violence.
The action group prepared a campaign strategy in October, 2017 which had two major goals:
- securing multi-party commitment to meet demand for women’s refuge services and,
- to continue with a national, well-resourced campaign and working in national alliances. A position paper was drafted for circulation to all peak DV groups in each state and nationally to AWAVA, WESNET and ERA. This was not circulated following further information from the Commonwealth. The EVAW group decided to focus on NSW agreeing that state peaks across Australia needed to undertake their own lobbying around NHHA and Homelessness Strategies required by the new NHHA.
Keep the lights on in women’s refuges
In the later part of the financial year, WEL commenced a campaign about the underfunding of specialist women’s domestic violence refuges in NSW: Keep the lights on in women’s refuges. Many women and children escaping domestic violence do not receive safe accommodation and specialist support from skilled staff, and NSW specialist domestic violence refuges are often full, leaving women and children few alternatives to returning to, or remaining living in, violence.
We used hard copy and online postcards directed to the NSW government and in particular the Treasurer the Hon Dominic Perrottet, MP, to highlight the importance of specialist women’s domestic violence refuges and the current problem of underfunding for these vital services in NSW. We asked the NSW Treasurer to match the Victorian government’s funding commitment for women’s refuges. In just a few weeks we received over 3,000 signatures from members of the public.
WEL organised an event on 2 May 2018 at NSW Parliament House to present the signatures to the Treasurer. The Hon Penny Sharpe MLC hosted this event and the Sing Out Strong (SOS) Women’s Choir, formed for women who have experienced domestic violence or trauma, performed several songs. Two choir members who had experienced domestic violence spoke about their experiences and the need for specialist services, and Cat Gander, convenor of WEL’s Ending Violence Against Women and Girls action group also spoke.
We invited all members of both houses of Parliament to attend the event. In addition, we invited a member from each party to receive postcards to pass to the Treasurer, as well as inviting the Treasurer to attend and receive postcards directly. Unfortunately the Treasurer and members of the Liberal and National parties were unable to attend. However members from the Labor Party, the Greens, The Christian Democrats, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and Independent Alex Greenwich attended and received cards to give to the Treasurer. Each party representative gave a short speech. The event was very successful and provided a focus for support in Parliament and in the community for women escaping violence.
WEL NSW also prepared submission to the NSW Law Reform Commission’s Review of Consent in Relation to Sexual Assault Offences, 29th June, 2018.
Members of the Sing Out Strong Choir with Jenny Aitchson (ALP) Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at WEL’s postcard handover, NSW Parliament House
In NSW WEL is leading advocacy to decriminalise abortion in NSW by removing it from Crimes Act.
WEL has continued to support - and through our Patron, Wendy McCarthy AO- chair the NSW Round Table for Abortion Law Decriminalisation.
The Round Table is an alliance of medical, health and legal experts and practitioners, women’s and community groups who believe that it’s time that abortion stopped being a crime in NSW.
The Roundtable meets regularly, with specialist panels meeting more frequently to plan our strategy and campaign for decriminalisation. WEL prepares and coordinates the production of agendas policy papers and advice for Round Table meetings and drives work arising from decisions. Support for the Round Table has enabled WEL to develop new and strong working relationships with many peak legal, medical and community groups. Consistent with WEL’s constitution the Round Table is non-party political and seeks advice from a wide range of practitioners, experts and consumers.
In February 2018 WEL made a submission to the Queensland Law Reform Commission’s Consultation Paper ‘Review of the Termination of Pregnancy Laws’. The Consultation Paper attracted submissions from a large number of medical, legal, women’s and community organisations and experts. The first part of WEL’s submission looked at the similarities between current legislation in NSW and Queensland. Abortion remains in the Criminal Code in both states. We made a case for change. In the second part of our submission we addressed the specific questions in the Queensland Law Reform Commission Consultation Paper.
The Commission reported and made recommendations to the Queensland Government in July 2018. The Report recommendations include making abortion available up to 22 weeks, and after 22 weeks with permission of two doctors, 150 metres safe access zones at abortion clinics, and permitting doctors to refuse to perform procedures on moral grounds. Legislation giving effect to the recommendations will go to parliament on August 16th, and will be debated in October.
WEL is also supporting women and organisations advocating abortion law reform in South Australia, where abortion remains partly within the Crimes Act. While this Act was amended in 1969 so that Section 82 (A) outlines the circumstances in which a lawful abortion may be obtained, the continuing criminal status of abortion creates significant constraints, especially for the accessibility of the procedure to rural and regional women in South Australia. In Tasmania, WEL has supported the ongoing campaign to restore abortion services following the closure of the only Tasmanian clinic and the refusal of the Tasmanian Government to allow terminations in public hospitals.
On behalf of the Decriminalisation Roundtable, WEL consults informally and meets regularly with federal and state politicians from a range of political groupings. We have prepared detailed briefings to MPs outlining the parlous state of abortion laws in NSW, Queensland and to a lesser, but still serious extent in South Australia and Western Australia. We have developed policy calling for the Commonwealth Government to lead a harmonisation of laws pertaining to abortion across Australia and for a national review of access to reproductive health services.
Safe access zones
WEL congratulates the MPs in the NSW Parliament who, in June 2018, supported legislation that will provide NSW women with safe access to clinics that perform abortions and provide other reproductive health services.
WEL strongly supported Penny Sharpe and Trevor Kahn’s Bill to establish 150m Safe Access zones around health facilities that provide abortion, to ensure the safety of NSW women seeking terminations, and of health and medical practitioners and staff. Exclusion zones protect people accessing and working in these clinics from harassment, abuse and invasions of privacy. It is the right of every woman to secure medical treatments safely and confidentially.
WEL wrote to all members of the NSW Legislative Assembly to urge them to support the Safe Access Zones legislation and is writing again to acknowledge individual MPs who supported the legislation, who spoke in support during the debate and who stated their support for women’s right to make personal medical decisions in relation to their reproductive health.
· Sharon Claydon, Chair of the Australian Labor Party Status of Women Committee, regarding WEL’s submission to the ALP’s consultation on women’s policy, Setting the Agenda.
· Tanya Plibersek, Shadow Minister for Women and Senator Jenny McAllister regarding women’s policy, including pay equity.
· Dr Mehreen Faruqi - Greens MLC regarding decriminalisation of abortion bill
· Penny Sharpe - ALP MLC regarding exclusion zones around abortion clinics and related issues.
Think WEL before you vote – Election Action Group
With both NSW and federal elections on the horizon, the election action group started meeting in March 2018. Based on our theme of ‘Think WEL before you vote’, the action group members are working on delivering:
- Voter education table talks for women voters in marginal federal electorates and in partnership with NGOs representing specific population groups, including Aboriginal, rural and remote, first time voters and immigrant women. The table talks are designed to increase women’s voting confidence and encourage them to build relationships with the MPs who represent them These gatherings also allow WEL to hear first hand about the issues putting pressure on women and the people they care about. These anecdotes are communicated to MPs and candidates in our face to face lobbying.
- An online pre election survey for WEL members asking which issues we should be campaigning on during the 2018/19 election cycle.
- A ‘Think WEL before you vote’ section on the WEL website with links to online resources designed to inform voters before they walk into the polling booth, e.g. Vote Compass (https://votecompass.abc.net.au/) which surveys the individual and lets them know which party is most aligned with their beliefs and ‘They vote for you’ (https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people) which records how federal MPs voted on issues of significance to voters.
- A scorecard ranking the performance of the major parties and independents on WEL campaign issues.
SUBMISSIONS & REPORTS
WEL made a submission to the Queensland Law Reform Commission Review of Pregnancy Laws Consultation Paper (outlined above). The submission outlined the principles informing WEL’s approach to the modernisation of abortion laws all around Australia, and reviewed law and practice in the various jurisdictions and in relation to international conventions
We also contributed to the National Foundation for Australian Women’s Gender Lens on the Budget Report. The report expressed deep concern about the lack of measures to address housing affordability and accessibility. The National Housing and Homelessness Agreement received no additional funds. The budget was also very disappointing in the level of new money for ending violence against women.
We made a Submission to the NSW Law Reform Commission: Review of Consent in Relation to Sexual Assault Offences, 29th June, 2018.
FUNDRAISING AND EVENTS
Community events are opportunities to speak to people about our campaigns and encourage them to take action to support them, and to raise WEL’s profile.
WEL was invited to speak about our work at several meetings of Zonta clubs and Soroptiomists clubs. The meetings provided opportunities to discuss issues of concern and shared values with other women’s organisations. These are great opportunities to discuss feminist issues and fundraise for our campaigns. Following a presentation, the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Soroptomist Club decided to donate $1000 towards our campaign to end violence against women and girls. If you know of organisations or clubs that would like a guest speaker from WEL, please get in touch.
We held our third comedy night at Paddington RSL in May. It was a successful event, with 165 attendees, more than in previous years. Lou Pollard was our MC for the evening and played a crucial role in putting the event together. Amanda Keeling did an excellent job on organisation. We had an outstanding line-up, including Gretel Killeen, Jean Kitson, Sallie Don and Lady Sings it Better (Libby, Fiona and Jono). We thank each of them for their support, and for delivering so much insight in delightfully edgy and hilarious ways.
WEL participated in International Women’s Day activities, contributed to social media management for the event and had a large representation of members at the march. We attended with our WEL banner, placards and t-shirts.
WEL is also increasing fundraising efforts to support the Reproductive Rights Campaign leading up to and beyond the 2019 NSW election. WEL members have already made significant individual donations and Wendy McCarthy AO hosted a special WEL event at the Chauvel Cinema on the in August, where we screened the documentary about the life of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The event was well attended by 180 members and supporters, raising over $5775 for WEL’s campaign to decriminalise abortion in NSW.
The Keep the Lights On campaign also provided an opportunity to raise funds directly for our work on ending violence against women. Engaging the wider community in the postcard campaign
WEL also raised funds through an end of financial year appeal, encouraging tax-deductible gifts to WEL through our supported organisations status with National Foundation for Australian Women. Our Mother’s day appeal raised funds in the name of loved ones for Mother’s Day.
Image: Mareese Terare, Dr Rae Cooper (centre) and Tracey Spicer at WEL NSW 2017 AGM
WELNSW acknowledges with gratitude the ongoing 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 2017/2018 was $48,362 a drop from the previous financial year by a little over 9% or $4,916. Membership revenue of $11,030 was down by almost 20% or $2554.
Donation revenue of $24,816 included donations from WEL Australia in acknowledgment of work carried out by WELNSW on their behalf. The donation revenue exceeded the previous year by 16%.
Donations were received through the year for WELNSW’s Reproductive Rights Campaign but most were deferred again ($19,116.00) though some expenditure was incurred ($1,225.00).
The major fundraising event for the year was again WEL’s Comedy Night, however expenses for this event have increased, with some expenses being carried over to the new financial year. WELNSW wishes to thank all those who assisted and participated.
WELNSW’s preferred donor fund with the National Foundation for Australian Women allows donors to donate through this and receive tax concessions. This year the fund was accessed more often by donors and WELNSW thanks them for their support of our campaigns.
WELNSW expenditure exceeded income by $13,135 during 2017/2018 a slightly worse position than last year. WELNSW did use funds to celebrate 45 years of Feminist Activism. The Executive Committee remains committed to a strong online presence for WELNSW. The major expenditure was for a contractor to fundraise and maintain the online position of WELNSW.
WELNSW finished 2017/2018 with a cash position of $21,336 and investments of $144,860.
On behalf of the Executive Committee I would like to thank Jann Skinner for undertaking the role of Honorary Auditor for WELNSW. I would also like to thank her for her support and advice.
9 September 2018
WEL MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS
WEL has a community of passionate, engaged and vocal 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.
WEL is a lively, active voice on social media. This year we have attracted interaction on Twitter with key organisations and influencers, including the Women’s Alliances, Jane Caro, Mariam Veiszadeh and Tracy Spicer.
We’ve continued to provide relevant and focused content to our 5700 followers on Facebook, nearly doubling our followers in the past 12 months. Through WEL’s Facebook page, our Feminist Bookclub group and Saving Women’s Refuges Facebook page (4237 page likes), we provide news, commentary and thought provoking content on relevant topics and issues attracting interaction and sharing of our content.
Our Keep the Lights On campaign helped raise WEL’s online profile and attracted many new online supporters with people sharing the petition far and wide.
Amanda Keeling returned to work as a contractor for WEL from September 2017. Amanda drives our membership engagement, social media and works with the WEL executive on fundraising. We have held information sessions for members who are interested in becoming more active, twice monthly starting in June, presented by Amelia Simpson, Sandy Killick and Sinead O’Connell.
A number of students held placements with WEL developing social change knowledge and skills:
- Heidi Finlayson attended WEL for her Year 10 work experience placement. Heidi assisted with WEL’s day-to-day tasks, learning about campaigns and advocacy and completed her placement with a blog article on feminism in schools (available on WEL’s website).
- Fanny Berg (4th year student intern from Sweden) brought a European perspective to our election action group campaign planning.
- Mimosa Paul (3rd year social research student) applied for a two-week placement. “WEL is especially appealing to me because it focuses on women's rights and gender equality, which is an area I am greatly passionate about.” The outcome of Mimosa’s placement was the pre federal election survey for use on WEL’s 2018/19 campaign.
WEL NSW EXECUTIVE
The NSW Executive Committee welcomed Jennifer Muir (June 2018). The Executive is Philippa Hall (Convenor), Helen L’Orange, Jozefa Sobski, Mary O’Sullivan, Lorraine Slade, Jane Bullen, Sinead O’Connell (Secretary), Maeva Freeman, Sandy Killick, Toni Milne (Treasurer), and Josefa Green.
Christine Donayre and Kailyn Birkett left the Executive during the year. Kaitlyn was also in WEL’s Volunteer Coordinator role, welcoming new volunteers and assisting with orientation and volunteer management. We thank Kaitlyn for her contribution. Sinead O’Connell will also be stepping down from the
Helen L’Orange is stepping down from the Executive this year. Helen has made a huge contribution to WEL over many years, and her unswerving commitment to WEL’s history and its future are a source of great strength to the organisation. Recently, Helen spearheaded WEL’s Pussy Hat Project that raised substantial funds for WEL’s campaigns. She has also led WEL’s national work. Helen has generously contributed her great wisdom and energy, and taken on an enormous workload. We greatly appreciate what Helen has done. We acknowledge a deep debt to her, with sincere thanks. Helen has also served as the National Convenor of WEL Australia.
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.
WEL continues to strive to be an inclusive, effective, and relevant feminist lobby group. We are committed to ensuring 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
EMAIL: [email protected] WEBSITE: http://www.wel.org.au