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This report covers the period September 2018 (when we held our last Annual General Meeting) to
September 2019. WEL NSW’s core campaigns focus on the big issues holding women back - we want to end
violence against women and ensure women have full reproductive rights. WEL NSW plays a central
coordination role - in the last 12 months we led WEL’s national work, led the NSW Pro-Choice Alliance on
the decriminaisation of abortion campaign, strengthened our relationships with MPs and decision makers,
made robust submissions to parliamentary inquiries, met with foreign delegations to share WEL’s
experience, and hosted public events. Our social media reached a growing audience, painting a picture of
how women’s issues intersect and benefit from being discussed in broad daylight. We worked hard in the
NSW and federal election campaigns to communicate the issues affecting women’s lives and to hold
politicians accountable in relation to WEL’s policy positions on those issues.
This has been a year in which we, in coalition with other organisations and thought leaders, have made
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.
A major and historic victory was won this year, with the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform
Act 2019, with 15 co-sponsors across political parties. This Act provides for pregnancy terminations to be
regulated as a medical procedure and decriminalises abortion. It allows for termination on request by a
woman up to 22 weeks of pregnancy. Thereafter, a termination would be lawful if two doctors believe it
should be performed in light of the woman’s physical, social and psychological circumstances. The Act
makes it a criminal offence for unauthorised persons to carry out terminations.
WEL has led the campaign to remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act for several years now. WEL
formed the NSW Pro-Choice Alliance, attracting the support of more than 70 key organisations in legal,
medical, women’s health and other organisations. NSW is the last Australian jurisdiction to decriminalise
abortion. The NSW Crimes Act provisions have been used against a woman and against a doctor as recently
as the last 15 years.
The ongoing importance of ensuring women have access to legal abortions is underlined by developments
in the United States of America. During 2019, nine States passed bills to limit access to abortion, as part of a
rising challenge to the constitutional right established in 1973 in Roe v Wade, which provided that abortion
is legal usually up to 24-28 weeks. The Trump-Pence administration has enforced a gag rule in relation to
Title X, the national program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care, making it illegal to
refer patients for abortion and blocking access to care through the program at Planned Parenthood (which
continues to resist and attempt to reverse the very many attacks on abortion rights around the country). It
reminds us that apparent progress can be reversed, with catastrophic consequences for women.
Heightened focus on women’s experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault has continued around
the world this year with broadening involvement in #MeToo. Harvey Weinstein is scheduled to go to trial in
September 2019. There has been a lot of discussion about the possible consequences for men of sexual
harassment claims. Some of the complexities were demonstrated in the Geoffrey Rush case. The #MeToo
movement was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize 2019. The first international #MeToo summit was opened
on September 24th in Iceland by Katrin Jakobsdottir, Iceland's second female prime minister. The three day
summit explored ways to end sexism, harassment and violence against women, on the eve of the #MeToo
movement's second anniversary. The Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual
Harassment in Australian Workplaces is ongoing, and hundreds of submissions received have been
published by the Commission.
Through WEL Australia, we participate in two national women’s alliances: the Equality Rights Alliance (ERA)
and Economic Security for Women. 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 alliances also prepare submissions for endorsement by members, thus sharing the workload
and extending the impact of the submissions. The organisations provide input for Australia’s national
reporting to the United Nations, including on Australia’s progress on implementing the Sustainable
Development Goals. WEL supported the petition of WEL member, Alexandra Samootin, to the United
Nations Convention on Eliminating All Forms of DIscrimination Against Women Petitions Team, regarding
their inordinate delay in dealing with her petition.
WEL cannot achieve our goal of gender equality flying solo. We deeply appreciate the opportunities we
have had in the last 12 months to partner with specialist organisations, individual experts and the brave
women willing to share their stories, because genuine collaboration is the only pathway to enduring social
change. Our annual report names and thanks some of the many people WEL has worked alongside this
Since 18th October 2016, when the Decriminalisation Round Table first convened, WEL has worked
intensively to decriminalise abortion in NSW. On 22nd November 2018 the WEL Executive endorsed the
Round Table’s proposal for a 2019 campaign to remove abortion from the Crimes Act. WEL, Family Planning
NSW and Women’s Health NSW then agreed to fund and support a professional campaigner and to work in
partnership to run the campaign. In March 2019 the NSW Pro-Choice Alliance was launched as the vehicle
for the campaign.
Six elements developed over 3 years have underpinned the WEL and Pro-Choice Alliance campaign.
1. Expert collaboration, trust and a disciplined approach
The WEL Round Table was representative of medical and legal peak bodies, together with expert individuals
able to guide and plan the reform process.
Wendy McCarthy AO, a distinguished Australian, WEL co-founder, social entrepreneur, business woman
and seasoned women’s reproductive health activist agreed to chair the Roundtable. Wendy felt an urgent
need to complete the still unfinished business initiated by Women’s Electoral Lobby and other groups such
as Women’s Abortion Action Campaign almost 50 years previously. Through the Round Table process she
established an environment of trust and generous, robust exchange, where members agreed to abide by
Chatham House Rules with an expectation that a successful campaign would take some years to develop.
Leaders from the following organisations contributed to the WEL Round Table and have provided direct and
indirect expert support to the Alliance campaign:
● Family Planning NSW
● Women’s Legal Service NSW
● NSW Council of Civil Liberties
● Women’s Health NSW
● Australian Medical Association, NSW Branch
● Women’s Abortion Action Campaign
● NSW Nurses and Midwives Association
● Australian College of Nursing
● Marie Stopes Australia
● The Human Rights Law Centre
● Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG)
● Julie Hamblin, medical lawyer and Nicola Hepenstall, communications expert.
The Round Table also drew on advice from People with Disability Australia, Rape and Domestic Violence
Services Australia, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the Australian Medical Students Association.
In addition a number of distinguished and expert individuals have given specialist advice and guidance.
They include: Elizabeth Evatt AC, Nick Cowdery AO, Dr Janet Vaughan (RANZCOG), Dr Kirsten Black from the
University of Sydney, Dr Philip Golding from Marie Stopes Australia and Dr Deborah Bateson from Family
2. A campaign driven by commitment
Almost all of the substantial, underpinning work undertaken by the WEL Roundtable members and
supporters throughout 2017 and 2018 was voluntary, unpaid and pro-bono. WEL particularly
acknowledges the contribution of the Human Rights Law Centre which has provided acute and
indispensable legal advice and campaign guidance to the Alliance and also to the Round Table.
Chair Wendy McCarthy’s contribution is immense. When the way ahead seemed lost in the sometimes
byzantine twists and turns of NSW politics, Wendy has fostered strategic and long term thinking and helped
identify the next steps towards our goal. She has never faltered or taken her eyes off our goal.
Women’s Health NSW has acted as a bulwark for the Pro-Choice Alliance campaign. The extraordinary
network of women’s health centres across metropolitan, rural and regional NSW has given us a relevance
and a perspective unusual in many city based campaigns.
The contribution to the Alliance from Family Planning NSW’s media, research, medical and communications
specialists has helped us tell the stories we want to tell, creating a solid evidence base, an ongoing narrative
and conversation and made an irrefutable case for reform to MPs and the community.
3. Consensus on the need for removal of abortion from the NSW Crimes Act.
Participants in the first WEL Round Table meetings in 2017 quickly reached consensus that abortion was a
health matter and should be removed from the NSW Crimes Act. Medical experts and service organisations
provided many examples of the negative impact of continued criminalisation in NSW. They agreed that the
current laws contributed to problems with access, generating stigma, confusion and a fear of prosecution
that could discourage doctors and facilities from providing a full range of reproductive health services, and
make it difficult for women to access the healthcare they need. Significantly, they also noted that
criminalisation has a particularly devastating impact on women from disadvantaged or rural and remote
communities who lack the financial means to pay for an abortion or who need to travel long distances to
4. Clear legislative goals and a finishing line
The WEL Round Table had researched and developed a legal framework, based on the 2008 Victorian
legislation. Organisations participating in the Round Table took the framework to their governing bodies
and most adopted it in principle. The framework included provision for abortion to be available on request
up to 24 weeks gestation, with two doctors consulting with each other after 24 weeks, and for
conscientious objection to be permitted on the part of medical and health practitioners, with their
obligation to refer.
We agreed that we wanted to achieve decriminalisation as soon as possible in the first parliamentary
session following the March election. At worst we envisaged achievement of our legislative objective by
October/November 2019. This timeline has also shaped our budgetary planning and fundraising.
5. Non-Party political
The WEL Round Table and the Pro-Choice Alliance want to acknowledge the commitment, tenacity and
strategic foresight of the NSW MPs who have worked so hard to reform abortion law in NSW. Our
campaign is designed to support their efforts and those of all pro-choice MPs. We particularly acknowledge
members of the cross party working group, chaired by Alex Greenwich MP. We pay special tribute to Penny
Sharpe MLC and Trevor Khan MLC for the trail blazing Safe Access Zones legislation and Mehreen Faruqi
MLC (now Senator Faruqi) for being the first NSW MP to put up a Bill to remove abortion from the Crimes
WEL and the Pro-Choice Alliance have worked with community groups, expert organizations
and MPs irrespective of political affiliation. Underlying our work is our trust that the
democratic legislative process can deliver legislation based on the exemplary laws in
Victoria and Queensland and on the latest medical research and practice, rather
than on political, religious or ideological considerations. We had faith that most
NSW MPs would support this approach and legislate in the interests of the health of
NSW women and to reflect majority opinion in our state and in Australia as a whole.
6. Shared values and principles
The WEL Round Table’s statement of values and principles listed below have framed the NSW Pro-Choice
Alliance campaign. They signal the values and principles we wanted articulated through any legislation
drafted to regulate abortion, following removal of Sections 82-84 of the Crimes Act:
● Abortion should be regulated as a healthcare matter
● The law should promote the health, dignity and freedom of women, including the freedom to
choose what happens to their bodies, and equal access to quality and safe health care
● The law should align with international human rights obligations relevant to abortion, including
affordable, safe access to abortion services
● The law should be consistent with contemporary clinical practice and public health standards and
WEL and the Pro-Choice Alliance are confident that the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill produced by
the Cross Party Committee reflects these values.
Moving onto a campaign footing
In the latter half of 2018 Round Table members and supporters began to advocate quietly within peak
professional bodies and with some politicians sympathetic to reform, for the legal and values framework
for abortion law reform. The November 2018 passage of the Queensland legislation which, along with the
Victorian law was consistent with the Round Table’s legal framework and values, bolstered members’ and
supporters’ confidence in the possibility of reform in NSW.
An Open Letter: First public statement to MPs
WEL and Round Table members worked with the campaign organisation Fair Agenda and the Human Rights
Law Centre to coordinate our first public statement to NSW MPs released to MPs and the media on
December 10 2018.
The Open Letter put our first clear public case for decriminalisation. It described the inequality and
suffering women undergo as a consequence of the threat of prosecution and the risk run by health
practitioners and providers. The statement and letter was endorsed by thirty three legal, medical,
community and service organisations. Responses to this open letter indicated some movement in party and
leader positions on abortion law reform.
The NSW Labor Party’s new leader Michael Daley confirmed that he supported referring abortion law
decriminalisation to the NSW Law Reform Commission should the ALP win office in 2019. In a signal of her
likely support for reform, Gladys Berejiklian, the leader of the Liberal Party and Premier declared herself to
be open-minded on the issue. ...’This is one of those rare issues where every woman in NSW is likely to have
their own view – and I want to ensure those views, along with those of the experts, are known and
understood by all decision-makers before any changes are made.’ Both major parties at the national level
supported greater access to reproductive health services, including terminations.
WEL Round Table to WEL Pro-Choice Alliance: January -September 2019
WEL has always brought knowledge, experience and a broad perspective - a long view - to our campaigns.
We contribute a strong reputation built through our history of non-partisan feminist advocacy, feminist
alliances and well established and new social and political networks. The Round Table’s effectiveness as a
vehicle to get abortion law reform on the political table drew on this resource, especially through the
contribution of WEL member and co-founder Wendy McCarthy AO.
Communications experts and organisations allied with the Round Table advised us that we needed to move
quickly into a sustained, wide ranging, highly focussed and professional approach if we were to win this
campaign. The strength of WEL partnerships with Family Planning NSW, Women’s Health NSW and Human
Rights Law Centre encouraged donations and pro-bono support. This meant that the Pro-Choice Alliance
could finance and plan a campaign whose scope and depth would have been quite beyond WEL’s capacity
Recruiting a Campaign Manager
In December 2018 and January 2019 WEL, Family Planning NSW and Women’s Health NSW constituted
ourselves as a campaign management group. We were fortunate to be able to recruit Sinead Canning as
Campaign Manager. Sinead is an experienced campaigner who had helped deliver the final passage of the
Queensland legislation, following the Queensland Law Reform Commission Report.
Sinead’s energy, experience, coordination skills and knowledge transformed our campaign capacity. Family
Planning NSW supported her work with excellent research and specialist media and communication advice.
Women’s Health NSW provided an office and a meeting area for the campaign. Sinead also worked closely
on digital and media strategies with WEL’s membership, engagement and fundraising coordinator, Amanda
Keeling and with specialist members of the WEL Executive.
Negotiating and adapting to a complex and volatile political environment
WEL, Family Planning and Women’s Health NSW supported Sinead to design an approach which took
account of one of the most complex and volatile NSW political environments in memory. In the first
quarter of 2019 the NSW and the Federal election campaigns overlapped and there was significant
distraction in the media and the broader political environment. With our managing partners we made a
decision to run a soft low key campaign leading up to the state election in March and then to launch
digitally and in the media several weeks before the first parliamentary sitting.
The Pro-Choice Alliance devised scenarios to work with either a Coalition or Labor Government and with
various types of minority government. We were confident that we could win decriminalisation of abortion
with almost all of these political combinations.
Our goal on the horizon: a Bill within reach
As the March 2019 election came closer, we also learnt that the independent member for Sydney, Alex
Greenwich MLA was planning a Private Member’s Bill, together with some other MPs. This meant that we
were able to concentrate on the likelihood of a draft Bill as a focus of our campaign, rather than having to
start from scratch or advocate in a vacuum.
In his response to the Federal Labor March 7 2019 launch of a national sexual and reproductive rights
strategy, Greenwich publicly announced his interest in a Bill. The Labor policy announcement
simultaneously provoked a promising response from the NSW Government. A spokesperson indicated
support for a conscience vote ‘should a private member’s bill be introduced to the NSW parliament to
repeal these offences.’
Pro-Choice Alliance Campaign launch
The Alliance Manager Sinead Canning had worked since February 2019 with WEL, Family Planning NSW and
Women’s Health NSW to create a new campaigning brand, with WEL in the lead. The ‘NSW Pro-Choice
Alliance’ would continue our narrative on the damages caused by retaining abortion in the Crimes Act and
transition into an equal and positive emphasis on regulating abortion as a reproductive health care matter
The Alliance launched publicly on 2 May 2019, two weeks before the Parliament was due to sit for the first
time after the election. The launch included announcements and sympathetic stories on multiple digital
platforms, with the WEL website hosting the Pro-Choice Alliance page and leading through to the Alliance
Facebook. Over 70 organisations, including almost all the core Round Table member organisations
endorsed and added their names to a letter to MPs personally signed by the CEOs of Women’s Health NSW,
Family Planning NSW and Wendy McCarthy representing WEL as the Chair of the Alliance. This letter set
out the Alliance objectives and our statement of the values and principles which we believed should inform
legislation regulating abortion as a healthcare matter.
Supporting the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019
An evidence based campaign
From mid-July 2019, two weeks before the introduction of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill, our
campaign manager and partners worked intensively to prepare materials, media plans and lobbying
strategies to support its introduction. The Pro-Choice Alliance Campaign is scrupulously evidence-based,
with fact sheets for MPs, FAQs and expert medical and legal voices. The campaign to support the Bill has
also been complemented by some personal case studies sourced from service organisations and providers.
Fair Agenda software and support enabled messages to be delivered to all MPs mail boxes.
The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill is tabled
Professional media support from Family Planning NSW helped launch the NSW Reproductive Health Care
Reform Bill 2019 story framed in our terms, rather than those of the opposition to the Bill. In the early days
of the Bill, Murdoch press papers as well as rural and regional newspapers also included good quality
The Alliance worked with other feminist activist organisations and Fair Agenda to stage a series of rallies in
front of Parliament House. Women’s Electoral Lobby co-founder and Pro-Choice Alliance Chair Wendy
McCarthy became the campaign’s chief spokesperson. Wendy’s first point of reference in interviews and
speeches was always WEL and the early battles for abortion law reform.
Expert lobbying across the political spectrum
In the frenetic days between the Bill’s release on 30 July and tabling in the Legislative Assembly on the 2
August, the Campaign Manager drew on a group of Round Table and Alliance experts to meet with MPs and
respond to their questions. She coordinated experts from the Human Rights Law Centre, Council of Civil
Liberties, RANZCOG, Family Planning NSW, Women’s Health NSW and Rape and Domestic Violence Services
Australia. Many of the Bill’s fifteen co-sponsor MPs across political parties supported and escalated our
The Pro-Choice Alliance Campaign responds to a political firestorm - furious opposition influenced by USstyle tactics
Opponents of abortion law reform inside and outside the Parliament claimed to have been shocked by the
Bill’s appearance, despite it being mooted before the election. Their stalling tactics within the Liberal party
and in the Parliament created frequent delays and at times appeared to threaten the Bill itself. Liberal Party
supporters of the Bill, including the Premier have remained firm, despite coming under vitriolic attack and
being threatened with destabilising political retribution both overtly and covertly.
Opponents proposed a raft of amendments drawing on populist and extremist legislative ideas incubated in
the US and designed to turn the Bill into a wish list for every ‘pro-life’ activist. Knowing that the Bill would
pass the Legislative Assembly on a conscience vote, they insisted on a Legislative Council Inquiry, then two
days of debate and then a further delay until September 17 to consider amendments. The Bill passed the
Legislative Assembly on 8 August with a comfortable majority of 28 votes.
MPs and supporters celebrate the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill by the NSW Legislative Assembly September 2019
Positive messages from The Alliance
The positive tone and expert basis of the Pro-Choice Alliance campaign appears to have deepened
parliamentary support for the Bill and countered the opposition. Together with representatives of the
Alliance, member organisations provided substantial submissions and a wide range of distinguished expert
witnesses to the Legislative Council Inquiry. Faith community members from the Uniting Church NSW and
the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle have articulated a clear Christian theological case for abortion law
decriminalisation, which counters efforts by other religious leaders to impose their church edicts into the
sphere of secular law.
Family Planning NSW media experts and our Campaign Manager have continued to manage a barrage of
media stories, briefings and case studies. In particular medical and legal members of the Alliance have
provided expert backgrounders on the dangers of many of the proposed amendments, especially those
concerning sex based selection and late term abortion.
Strategic interventions to support the Premier and moderate supporters of the Bill
The Alliance made a significant strategic intervention into the political process through releasing opinion
poll research on the morning of the 7 September Liberal Party State Council meeting. The research
confirmed substantial majority support for decriminalisation and for treating abortion as a health matter,
irrespective of political party preference. It illustrated the accuracy of the Premier’s observation in the
August 24 Daily Telegraph that ‘The quiet voters are with me.’
The Pro-Choice Alliance led a final push on the weekend leading to the resumption of debate in the
Legislative Council on the 17th of September. We held a large demonstration on Saturday 14 September
and released statements of support from influential public figures. The Alliance, led by Sinead Canning,
staged an innovative street theatre “suitcase march” on Monday 16th September before Parliament
returned, representing women who have had to travel from country NSW to Victoria to access
Final passage of the Bill
The NSW Legislative Assembly has the reputation of being one of the most conservative parliamentary
chambers in Australia. The Alliance has supported the MPs moving the Bill through five sitting days, over
thirty hours in committee and ten hours of other debate, one hundred and two attempted amendments
and twenty six divisions. This was the third longest debate in NSW Upper House history.
Our opponents resorted to every parliamentary tactic to delay passage. Yet the numbers remained steady,
with twenty six MPs supporting the third reading vote in the Legislative Council and fourteen opposed. We
anticipate that on the 26 September, when the Bill returned to the Legislative Assembly it was passed on
the voices without a division.
Twenty five amendments were made to the Bill in the Legislative Council, in addition to the seven made in
the Legislative Assembly. WEL is disappointed with some of the amendments. However we do not believe
they seriously compromise our achievement of the objective of our campaign to decriminalise abortion in
NSW, nor constrain the enhancements to women’s access to abortion which the (now) Abortion Law
Reform Act will foster over time.
WEL acknowledges the extraordinary contribution of our co-founder Wendy McCarthy AO to this campaign.
She has remained generous, steadfast and unstintingly committed to WEL and is doing everything in her
power to see ‘the arc of justice’ completed for NSW women.
We also thank our trusted partners in the NSW Pro-Choice Alliance: Adjunct Professor Ann Brassil, CEO of
Family Planning NSW and Denele Crozier, CEO of Women’s Health NSW for their sustained support and
commitment over the long haul in this challenging fight to extend the reproductive rights of NSW women.
Ending violence against women and girls
The Ending Violence against Women (EVAW) action group this year focused on state policies, programs and
funding. The national Women’s and Children’s Safety program continues to be a priority, but the objectives
have been reviewed. The group reviewed its campaign strategy in July, 2019. We accepted that our Keep
the Lights on in Women’s Refuges campaign had run its course.
Representations to Government: We wrote to the Treasurer, Dominic Perrotet and then met with his
Deputy Chief of Staff raising the inadequacy of the NSW Housing and Homelessness Strategy with respect
to specific domestic violence initiatives. This Strategy was a requirement under the bilateral National
Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA) with the state. We stressed that specialist services need to
be differentiated from general homelessness services and outlined the differences. In the NSW
environment where the Going Home Staying Home reforms had stripped much of the specialised
knowledge and services from the emergency housing sector, more targeted funding and transparency is
required about key elements of the Specialist Homelessness program to ensure it addresses the needs of
women and children fleeing domestic violence. As a result of the meeting, we corresponded with the
Treasurer, focussing on funding of women’s refuges and domestic violence support services. There was no
response to this letter to the Treasurer before the March, 2019 State Election and no response after the
Safe State Campaign: We met with representatives of the NSW Women’s Alliance in November 2018 and
indicated our support for the Safe State campaign. Significant issues were discussed, including the
reliability of the cost estimates contained in their document; the proposed communications and lobbying
approach including social media and the need to expand the diversity of groups advocating for funding for
Submissions: We prepared a submission on behalf of WELA to the Australian Human Rights Commission
inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (on WEL’s websitew) while also supporting the Unions
NSW submission. Jozefa Sobski (WELA National Coordinator) and Rachel Francois (WEL NSW Executive
member) appeared before the NSW Law Reform Commission inquiry into consent in current sexual assault
laws dealing with definitions of consent and the onus of proof, as a result of WEL NSW’s submission to the
inquiry. The report of that inquiry has not yet been finalised.
State election: EVAW made support for the Safe State campaign a plank of WEL NSW’s election policy
scorecard – acting to end sexual assault, domestic and family violence.
State budget: The State Budget 2019-2020 paid little or no attention to domestic violence initiatives and
the budget papers did not allow for a disaggregation of program funding to ascertain whether there had
been any increase to domestic violence services as part of the Specialist Homelessness program. WEL
issued a media release lamenting the fact that the Safe State initiatives and recommendations were
accorded no attention or reference in the budget. There were no additional or new funds allocated to
address the critical shortfall in crisis accommodation or expert specialist services and support required by
women fleeing domestic violence.
Review of EVAW priorities and activities: In conjunction with letters of congratulations to the new Minister
for Women, Bronnie Taylor and Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence,
Mark Speakman, the EVAW action group members reviewed our policy and campaign priorities including a
closer examination of the efficacy of the Safe State initiatives. We agreed that we need to carve out what
the key priorities will be for the remainder of 2019 and into the future. WEL members can contact the
group via the WEL website as it takes many hands to make an impact on this complex issue.
Roses commemorating women victims of domestic violence - Candlelight vigil attended by WEL members, 25 November 2018, Martin Place Sydney
Think WEL before you vote – Election Action Group
With NSW and federal elections in 2019,
WEL’s Election Action Group started regular
meetings from March 2018 to develop
strategies and partnerships. Our campaign
slogan Voting is my superpower is based on
the fact that women decide elections -
statistically we are the majority of the
population and outnumber male voters in
Women were definitely a target audience in
both the NSW and federal elections in 2019,
particularly in the NSW election where the
Liberal Party targeted ‘working mothers’ (35 -
54 yr old women with children) via an unconventional social media campaign. According to post election
media analysis “Working mothers, many unpaid, in 20 marginal seats would have a big influence on how
their adult children and husbands voted. They were the key to power (in NSW election)” (AFR 1/4/19).
Essential Media polling ahead of the federal election found women to be less engaged in the election and
less likely to have firm views about it. In one survey 52% of women were paying little or no attention to
news, advertising and election updates compared with 41% of men (SMH May 11/12, 2019).
Therefore WEL’s election campaigns have two target audiences:
● Women voters via our Think WEL before you vote workshops and election scorecards. WEL wants
to make sure that women’s votes count and women are well informed voters.
● Our second audience is the candidates standing for election - we communicate the concerns of
WEL members and supporters to candidates and rank parties’ policy announcements.
Our election campaign work started with Mimosa Paul designing a qualitative online pre-election survey in
late 2018 which attracted 600+ respondents and guided our priority issues and culminated in May 2019
with a media launch of our federal scorecard by Verity Firth, UTS Centre for Social Justice, Executive
Director Social Justice. Our free voter education sessions for women were delivered in partnership with
Liverpool Women’s Resource Centre, the Older Women’s Network, Indian and Arabic community networks
and women’s groups on the Central Coast, Penrith and the Blue Mountains. We heard that women voters
feel vulnerable because of gender based violence, high housing costs, working full time hours on casual
contracts, high electricity, child care and petrol costs. Participants very much appreciated having a safe
space to discuss our parliamentary system and having their questions answered so they could think about
their vote in advance. It was very clear in every session that the women present deeply valued the
opportunity to cast their vote. Thanks to Sinead O’Connell, Wendy Backhous, Menaka Cooke and Heather
Bailey for facilitating the sessions.
The Election Action Group is exploring ways to scale up our
voter education sessions to reach more voters. Sandy
Killick is supervising groups of students at Macquarie
University and the University of Technology Sydney to
explore how to take our voter education sessions online.
Heather Bailey with participants in the Lakemba Muslim Women’s Association
FUNDRAISING AND EVENTS
More and more, WEL is looking for ways to bring members together as our own community or with other
groups of women. In recent years WEL’s Annual General Meeting has become an event for members to
receive an overview of our work, hear from experts on vital issues affecting women, and mingle. In 2018 we
were very fortunate to be welcomed to Gadigal land by Aunty Joan Tranter, followed by an insightful panel
on migrant and refugee women’s health: Mary Karras (Ethnic Community Council CEO), Professor Jane
Ussher (Western Sydney University) and writer/film director Dr Paula Abood. Such exchanges deepen
WEL’s policy work and also shine a light on women’s experiences and needs. We were very pleased to be
able to provide a forum for this knowledge exchange.
WEL celebrated women’s rights across 2019 International Women’s Day events. Stand Up For Women's
Rights was the theme for the Sydney rally. WEL is one of the organisers of the IWD rally and march, which is
an inclusive march for all women, we welcome supporters and allies of all genders. WEL worked alongside
Unions NSW and an alliance of workers’, students’ and women's organisations to make the 2019 events
positive and powerful. 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 on March 9. We
attended with our WEL banner, placards and t-shirts. WEL especially encouraged women to stand up for
women’s reproductive rights, consistent with our leading role in the abortion decriminalisation campaign.
WEL hosted a 'crafternoon' event with Our Bodies, Our Choices before the rally to make sure our
reproductive health messages were clear. WEL executive committee members delivered IWD speeches in
various communities. We collaborated with other women’s climate action groups in the Women,
Democracy and Climate Justice event on 9 March.
Many women heard about WEL for the first time through our free voter education sessions which were
delivered from February to May in various parts of NSW. WEL members connected with Zonta clubs about
our voter education sessions. The meetings provided opportunities to discuss issues of concern and shared
values with other women’s organisations.
Our film nights were highlights on our collective social calendar, giving current members a chance to gather
and former members an opportunity to reconnect. US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was our
feminist star this year. We had strong turn outs for the RBG documentary film as well as the biographIcal
film On the basis of sex. The documentary event was well attended by 180 members and supporters, raising
over $5775 for WEL’s campaign to decriminalise abortion in NSW. Thanks in particular to our guest speaker
Gina Rushton, Buzzfeed journalist, who has courageously shared women's experiences and stories, covering
reproductive healthcare and law reform. A big thank you to Ruth Bader Ginsberg for being an inspiration
for all of us at WEL, reminding us that on “The emphasis must not be on the right to abortion but on the
right to privacy and reproductive control.” And for the very solid advice of “Fight for the things that you
care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” In September 2019, we hosted a screening
of Ride like a girl, celebrating Michelle Payne’s historic Melbourne Cup win, with opening remarks from
Moya Dodd, a former FIFA Executive Committee Member, about issues for women in sport.
All WEL’s lobbying, campaigning and education work relies on membership fees, donations and bequests.
We do not receive any government funding. Our leadership of the Pro-Choice Alliance for decriminalisation
of abortion was made possible by significant donations from members and supporters. WEL’s fundraising
team is working on a bequest education program, and a prospectus to share our work with major donors
and philanthropic organisations. We welcome any advice or interest from individuals or organisations
willing to support our work. 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.
WEL thanks and acknowledges all our supporters, partners and donors. In particular, we thank the Zonta
Club East for donating $3000 to support WEL’s voter education sessions for women, and the Lakemba
Muslim Women Association, Older Women’s Network, Liverpool Women’s Resource Centre, Indian and
Arabic community networks, and the Mt Druitt WASH House for hosting voter education sessions. We
thank Sally Watts from ChitChat Design for graphic design and Gemma Pitcher for copywriting skills on WEL
fundraising documents, and thank Mary Karras (Ethnic Community Council CEO), Professor Jane Ussher
(Western Sydney University) and writer/film director Dr Paula Abood for speaking at our 2018 AGM. Thanks
to The Chauvel, Paddington and Dendy Opera Quays for hosting our first two exclusive film events, and to
the Verona, Paddington for hosting the third.
SUBMISSIONS AND REPORTS
WEL made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission Inquiry into sexual harassment and
sexual assault in the workplace, and, with over 100 organisations and individuals, endorsed the ACTU-led
Joint Statement on sexual harassment at work.
WEL made a submission to the South Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry into Abortion. WEL also
made a submission on the West Australian Safe Access Zones legislation. WEL made a submission to the
Parliamentary Health Committee, on the Queensland Termination of Pregnancy Act, in 2018. WEL also
made a submission to the NSW Law Reform Commission review of consent provisions in relation to sexual
offences. WEL is contributing, as a member of the Advisory Group, to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Review of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act. WEL made a submission to the Independent Commission
Against Corruption Inquiry into the regulation of lobbying, access and influence in NSW. WEL also made a
presentation to the Gender Pay Symposium, Sydney University Policy Lab, 28 September, 2018.
We contributed to the National Foundation for Australian Women’s Gender Lens on the Budget Report. We
participated in the Budget Lock-up after a public outcry when we were excluded from it. The budget 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.
WEL continued developing and updating its policies, and endorsing policies we support that were put
forward by other organisations, and publishing policies on our website. We worked on policies on schools,
vocational education and training, childcare, work and family, pay equity, housing, paid parental leave,
retirement income and superannuation, ending violence against women, support for women’s refuges,
reproductive rights, women’s health. We continued our support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart,
and joined other organisations (including NFAW, ERA and the Human Rights Law Centre) in calling for the
abolition of ParentsNext, because of its burdensome requirements on participants. We also supported the
ERA/Economic Security for Women submission calling for a substantial increase to Newstart, and other
● Tanya Plibersek, (then) Shadow Minister for Women regarding women’s policy, including pay equity.
● Penny Sharpe , ALP MLC, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, regarding abortion and related issues.
● Bronnie Taylor, NSW Minister for Women, regarding women’s policy
● Senior Delegation from the Special Administrative Region China, Hong Kong, 19 October 2018
● Senior Delegation of Women, Afghanistan, 11 March, 2019
Senior Delegation of Afghanistan Women, March 2019: WEL is regularly invited by DFAT to host delegations
AMPLIFYING PUBLIC COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA PARTICIPATION
Since September 2018, WEL has committed to increasing communication of our evidence-based policy
development, prioritised lobbying issues through increased advocacy activity, and leadership of key issues
impacting Australian women. WEL has implemented a planned program of proactive and responsive
communication using our social media platforms, proactive engagement with Australian media outlets, and
direct communication to members of our growing supporter base and community.
During this period WEL aligned our advocacy of key women’s rights and policy issues to the Federal Budget,
NSW Election and Federal Election, with targeted campaign activity, and proactive distribution of WEL’s
policy statements, and contributions to media commentary across TV, online, radio and print news, social
affairs, women’s rights and current affairs journalists and media programs. This amplified the audience’s
recognition of the impact key political decisions and issues were having on women in Australia and NSW,
and their appreciation of WEL’s non-partisan expertise.
This activity increased key media outlets’ recognition and use of WEL’s expertise in daily media coverage of
issues as they relate to Australian women, increased the community’s recognition of WEL as a leader in
women’s rights and issues, and helped to reinforce WEL’s reputation, so supporting the planning and
implementation of the abortion reform legislation campaign in NSW.
A year on year comparison of WEL’s participation in media from 2017-2018 to 2018-2019 financial year has
seen a 518% increase across media platforms, with a share of voice (quoting WEL’s expertise, knowledge or
spokesperson) increasing exponentially.
WEL has recorded 489 news and feature media articles mentioning WEL, of which 49 featured WEL’s
expertise and supported WEL’s position in a positive context. This coverage was read by a combined
audience of 1.5 million unique people, and more importantly featured in leading national opinion making
media platforms. This coverage was then shared by a proportion of these audiences across personal social
media platforms to amplify recognition of WEL, our opinion, leadership and expertise on women’s policy
and advocacy issues.
WEL’s leadership voice has also increased since February 2019, with recognition of WEL’s advocacy for
inclusion in the Federal Budget lockup, and our Electoral Scorecard attracting the most attention, until the
extensive recognition of WEL’s leadership of the Pro-Choice Alliance in the abortion decriminalisation
campaign in NSW.
WEL is committed to increasing our participation and recognition of our expertise over the coming 12
months across all communication channels, with investment in building our volunteer communication
program for social media, and training of our key subject experts for participation in highly visible media
programs. This is strategic investment in all of our advocacy and lobbying activity, as well as a
demonstration of value to members, supporters and the broader community.
It is worth noting that the ABC’s gender equality initiative launched in 2018 was timely for WEL’s strategic
communication objectives. WEL NSW strongly supports the ABC’s commitments in all areas of this program
and will continue to work closely with the ABC and other dedicated media who are committed to fair and
balanced representation of issues impacting women in Australia.
Social media growth
During the same period, WEL increased our social media share of voice and recognition. This was achieved
due to the investment in part-time staff with this expertise,
as well as actively securing social media endorsement and
support from high profile media outlets, women and
feminists across social media, who have increased their
acknowledgment of WEL’s social media activity as a source
of subject matter expertise and contribution to the public
WEL’s social media footprint and influence in this time
period is recorded in the following graphs. The growth
spikes in the line graph align to significant campaign activity
including the Federal Budget lockout, the WEL Election
Scorecard and the NSW abortion decriminalisation
TWITTER - 6,293,157 audience reach
Overall footprint on Twitter
General activity chart tracking peaks of activity associated with campaigns and advocacy points
Facebook At the height of WEL’s Facebook activity over the past 12 months, the greatest number of people
in a single point in time reached was 801k in February 2019. People 35-44 years old are the most frequent
users of WEL’s Facebook page.
TREASURER’S REPORT 2018/2019
WEL NSW 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 2018/2019 was $101,673 a substantial increase from the previous financial year by over
101% or $53,311. Membership revenue of $16,425 increased by over 52% or $5,635. Donation revenue of
$30,577 included donations from WEL Australia in acknowledgment of work carried out by WELNSW on
their behalf. The donation revenue exceeded the previous year by 23%. Substantial donations were
received through the year for WEL NSW’s Reproductive Rights Campaign and a campaign coordinator was
employed from January 2019 till 30 June 2019, as well as expenses for the campaign. The major fundraising
event for the year was On the Basis of Sex Film Night, and WELNSW wishes to thank all those who assisted
and participated. WEL NSW’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 WEL NSW thanks them for their support of our campaigns.
WEL NSW expenditure exceeded income by $6,938 during 2018/2019, a better position than last year.
There is expected to be ongoing expenditure on the Reproductive Rights Campaign. WEL NSW finished
2018/2019 with a cash position of $4,688 and investments of $137,549.
The Executive Committee remains committed to a strong online presence for WEL. As such an ongoing
major expenditure for WEL NSW is an employee to fund raise and maintain the online position of WEL.
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.
Toni Milne, Treasurer
WEL MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS
Amanda Keeling has driven our membership engagement and social media and worked with the WEL
executive on fundraising. Amanda moved to a new job as Executive Officer of the NSW Council of Civil
Liberties in August 2019. We wish her every future success and record our deep appreciation of the skills
and commitment she has brought to WEL since 2015. In September, Sky Anderson joined us as Fundraising
Coordinator, and Zoe McClure started as Membership, Engagement and Fundraising Coordinator, and we
warmly welcome them.
The WEL NSW Executive is Philippa Hall (Convenor), Jozefa Sobski, Mary O’Sullivan, Lorraine Slade, Jane
Bullen (Deputy Convenor), Rachel Francois (Secretary), Sandy Killick, Toni Milne (Treasurer), Menaka Cooke
(from July) and Josefa Green. Heather Bailey left the Executive during the year. WEL acknowledges and
appreciates her diverse and valued contributions. Toni Milne is concluding her term as Treasurer, and WEL
recognises the great skills, commitment, patience and hard work she has given WEL during a demanding
period of change. Executive member Mary O’Sullivan and former executive member Helen L’Orange were
recognised in Edna awards for their contributions to making a feminist difference over many years.
Julia Ryan, Jozefa Sobski, Philippa Hall, Helen L’Orange, Edna’s 2018 Mary O’Sullivan, Edna’s 2018
Jann Skinner carries out the role of Honorary Auditor, and Jenny Foster is our Public Officer.
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@example.com WEBSITE: http://www.wel.org.au