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Violence & Disability Quarterly


The Violence Against Women with Disabilities Newsletter is a quarterly publication highlighting projects, resources and research responding to violence against women with disabilities. For more information or to contribute, please contact Jen Hargrave, Policy Officer – Violence Against Women with Disabilities, at

In this Issue:
Gender in focus in the Victorian report on abuse in disability services

The Age reports, 'The parliamentary inquiry (into abuse in Victorian disability services) calls on the Victorian government to support calls for a federal royal commission into violence against people with disability. Disability advocates recently slammed the federal government for its "astounding" silence on the issue.'

This Parliamentary committee report on disability abuse is a landmark as it has such a strong focus on recognising violence against women. In fact, it has a whole chapter on gender with some strong recommendations about how to prevent and respond to violence against women with disabilities.

Some of the strong recommendations to come from this report relate to:
  • people with disabilities having a right to choose the gender of their support workers
  • people with disabilities having a right to respectful relationships programs
  • disability workers require training in family violence response (this is in support of Family Violence Royal Commission recommendations).
WDV strongly supports the report's recommendations.

The report begins with a quote from WDV:
"We are fortunate to have great expertise at hand. Our state of Victoria has been a leader, nationally and internationally, in responding to violence against women. What has been learnt is transferable. It is transferable because the effects and treatments are similar and because the causes are similar. They lie in the derogatory attitudes towards both women and people with disabilities and inequalities in power."

Committee Chair, Maree Edwards MP, writes in her forward,
"For too long, people with disability in Victoria have endured violence in all its forms. The voices of people with disability, their families and carers have been sidelined or ignored, and widespread abuse and neglect continues. Similar to the issue of violence against women, violence against people with disability is inextricably linked to the denigration of their human rights."

Ms Edwards, who is also member for Bendigo West also said in the Age, "There is a minimisation of abuse, What would not be acceptable in the general public is accepted in disability services." The Age goes on to report, 'One woman who was raped by a male co-resident was told to "keep out of his way" when she disclosed it to a worker.'
WDV made a submission to this inquiry, hosted the committee for a discussion, and we presented at the hearing with 'Melissa' who shared her experience of violence. She said, "I was talking. Why was no one listening to me?"

A heartfelt thanks to the women with disabilities who shared their expediences for this inquiry with the expectation that Victoria will act to prevent violence against women with disabilities.

WDV are hopeful that recommendations from this report will be put into action along side the Family Violence Royal Commission - and at their centre, these recommendations are about listening to women with disabilities.

PHOTO: WDV representatives on the way into a Parliamentary hearing which informed this report.
Program update: Workforce Development on Gender and Disability by Fofi Christou
Program background
The Workforce Development Program on Gender and Disability is a key initiative of Women with Disabilities Victoria to prevent violence against women with disabilities, improve women’s well-being and status and promote gender equitable and responsive service delivery. The Program funded by the Victorian government is designed to promote cultural change across whole organisations, working with clients, staff, managers and executives.
Program funding was extended by the Victorian Government after the successful piloting of the program with two disability organisations during 2013-2015 and the positive outcomes evident in the independent evaluation of the program.

The Program In Full Flight!
Women with Disabilities Victoria have been in full flight since receiving the funding in November 2016 to extend the Workforce Development Program on Gender and Disability.

WDV have since that time:
  • Recruited of Bianca Evans as the Gender Equity Training Coordinator
  • Reviewed and redeveloped our leadership and disability support worker training packages “Human Rights & Quality Services: What does gender have to do with it?”
  • Delivered the refresher training to current co-facilitators on the renewed packages
  • Developed a Train the Trainer Apprenticeship Model
  • Recruited and commenced training 13 new co-facilitators
Co-facilitators and partnerships
WDV have recruited seven women with disabilities to undertake the co-facilitator apprenticeship train the trainer program. WDV enthusiastically welcome on board Larissa MacFarlane; Michelle Wilcox; Robyn Wright; Step Tipping; Vildana Praljak; Tracey McGeehan; and Sharon Sellick who collectively have a diversity of lived and professional experience.

WDV has formed partnerships with women’s health services and centres against sexual assault to contribute their staff to undertake the co-facilitator apprenticeship train the trainer program. We thank our partners and welcome on board Annie Douglas (Women’s Health in the North); Lauren Temminghoff (Women’s Health West); Kimberly Batsas-Hill & Tracey Egan (Women’s Health in South East); and Cara Hammond & Wendy Miller (South East CASA).

All new recruits have been inducted and are being scheduled to observe in action the two day disability support worker training. Michelle Wilcox and Annie Douglas (in picture below) and Stef Tipping went along to a recent two day training for Scope disability support workers (facilitated by veteran co-facilitators) to observe and reflect on the content and facilitation and what it means for their co-facilitation. As training continues to be scheduled all new recruits will get an opportunity to observe the training prior to commencing a two day train the trainer workshop and finally co-facilitating their own training with WDV support in preparation for taking first flight.

“Reinforcing for me that having an open mind and giving things a go, can lead to great things - being part of this training.” (A new recruits’ response to being asked what was her most important learning from the induction)

PHOTO: New co-facilitators, Michelle Wilcox and Annie Douglas

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words: Gender and Disability Workshops on the move!
The Program has kicked off this year in early July, with a half day “Human Rights & Quality Services: What does gender have to do with it?” leadership workshop delivered to 27 executive, senior and middle managers of the Wesley Mission Victoria leadership team including CEO, Paul Linossier.

PHOTO: Abigail Sullivan (Women's Legal Services Victoria) and Colleen Furlanetto (Mayor of Strathbogie Shire) co-facilitating the Wesley Mission Victoria leadership workshop. 

With values such as hope, compassion and justice the Wesley Mission Victoria Leadership team launched into an activity called Stepping Up. Co-facilitated by Colleen Furlanetto and Abigail Sullivan, the activity illustrates in the most potent way, the social and economic disadvantages that women with disabilities can face in a world where gender and disability inequality is rife.

As four volunteers take on the role of either a women with or without a disability, a man with or without a disability and line up in the middle of The Chapel room at McKillop Family Services in South Melbourne, Colleen provides instructions on the activity.

“Listen to the statements I make one at a time and depending on the role you have taken on, consider how likely it would be for this situation to happen to you? (as a woman with a disability, man with a disability, women and man without a disability). Also think about – would it have a positive or negative impact on your life? If positive, step forward once or twice and if negative take a step back once or twice depending on the level of impact that it will have on your life”

Colleen starts with the first in a series of statements:
  • “I have been able to access the educational opportunities I want and enter the field of work I am most interested in.” then makes a second statement
  •  “I need assistance with some daily tasks and have been able to pay for this and choose who I want to work for me”, and then
  • “My family and those around me are thrilled to hear that I am about to become a parent” and finally after 9 statements makes the statement:
  • “When I tell the police that I have experienced violence and sexual assault I am believed, taken seriously and supported to be a witness to tell my story in court.”
Co-facilitators Colleen and Abigail and participant onlookers watch as the volunteers in their roles moved back and forth until the gap between each volunteer becomes glaringly apparent.

Colleen asks participants to reflect on what has transpired and the reason for the disparity in positions. “This shows the divide between men and women without disabilities and those with a disability particularly women” one participant said.

Other responses included, “Things need to change” and “I will be more mindful of the experiences of women with a disability”.
This same activity was utilized in a full day workshop for 19 Scope Eastern Management Team members in Glen Waverley within the same week. Again the feeling was mutual “Stepping up was a great visual.”
Language, gender and disability roles and stereotypes as well as media representation were also explored in the workshop with participants commenting on the value of this session and what actions they would take as a result.
Focus on the importance of language and often the small, unintentional ways I/we support gender inequality and reinforcing it in day to day practice.” (Scope manager)
The Scope leadership workshop set the scene for the success of 2 day workshops co-facilitated by Eva Sifis and Dagmar Jenkins for two groups of Scope disability support workers from the East.

Participants overwhelmingly rated the workshops as good to very good with a common response being, “Enlightening, it really opened my eyes. I will never look at things in the same way.” (Scope disability support worker).

Participants in both the leadership and disability support worker workshops came up with some actions to put in place in their workplace including:
  • “Make sure that adequate choices are offered and don’t go with gender stereotypes. Open all program options to all female and male clients”
  • “Facilitate a gender responsive workplace brainstorm with other staff”
  • “Promote equality awareness amongst all residents”
  • As a result of this workshop I will seek opportunities to learn more.”
Some final words from a couple participants at the end of the Wesley Mission Victoria Leadership Workshop:

“We all have a responsibility to positively impact”

"I will spread the word to people working in other organisations about the value of the workshop"

Workshops will continue to roll out in the next few months to Wesley Mission Victoria, coordinators and direct support staff and with other disability support providers.
WDV's advocacy and programs recognised at the Victorian Disability Awards

Women with Disabilities Victoria was announced as the winner of the Award for Excellence in Advocacy and Human Rights at the Victorian Disability Awards. The awards are sponsored by the Vic government and National Disability Services. Congratulations to the other nominees.

A huge thanks to our nominators, Domestic Violence Victoria, Warrnambool City Council and Gateways who are partners in our three areas of work – advocacy, women’s empowerment and workforce development.

IMAGE: WDV representatives receiving a Disability Award from Minister Martin Foley - LEFT to RIGHT: Jen Hargrave, Martin Foley MP, Fofi Christou and Sharon Granek.

Victorian Government announces funds to prevent Elder Abuse

The Victorian Government has announced $200,000 in startup funding to help more local service providers and community groups prevent elder abuse.

The program will roll out in five communities in Melbourne, and regional and rural Victoria with the support of Seniors Rights Victoria.

The program will also begin establishing links between different local groups so the whole community can help reduce elder abuse by learning how to refer victims so they can get the help they need.

This funding  helps the Government implement recommendation 139 of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. It comes on top of $1 million provided in the Victorian Budget 2016/17 to help prevent elder abuse.

For more information, see this media release.

Upcoming training on human rights and responding to violence 

Introduction on the Human Rights Charter
Monday 22 August, Carlton
$330 inc. GST
Register with VEOHRC - Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
*VEOHRC also offer training on responding to bullying and harassment in the workplace - see their website for details.

Responding to Sexual Assault 
Tuesday 16 August, Melbourne
Register with CASA House

Over the rest of the year Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria is offering training including 'Introduction to Domestic Violence' and 'SmartSafe: family violence and mobile technology.' See the DVRCV website for details.
WWDA News: Members Participate in Roundtable on Violence Against Women with Disability

Several WWDA members recently participated in a national roundtable on the development of the Australian Government’s action plan to reduce violence against women and their children. The roundtable was focused on the issues affecting women and girls with disability.

Held in Melbourne on 15 April 2016 as part of targeted consultations to inform the development of the Third Action Plan 2016-2019 under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, the roundtable was well attended by a broad range of women with disability and other stakeholders.

The roundtable involved four hours of discussion, facilitated by Ms Helen Swift, between 12 participants, representing key stakeholders from disability and mainstream services and organisations, academia, health sector and advocacy organisations, supported by officials from the Department of Social Services (DSS). The Third Action Plan will specifically consider the needs of women with disability, as part of its aim to support women who experience diverse and complex forms of violence.

The discussions centered around four themes including:
  • Results to date under the first two Action Plans of the National Plan
  • Principles and approaches that could inform the Third Action Plan
  • Priority actions of participants for consideration in the Third Action Plan
  • Possible strategies for implementing the Third Action Plan.
Further information on the National Plan.

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