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Welcome to our eNews

This fortnightly email is to keep you updated on Women with Disabilities Victoria's work and news in our priority areas. Contributions to this eNews are welcome, email

In this Issue:
Last week we celebrated international Women's Day around the world. 'Be Bold for Change', that’s the rallying cry for the 2017 International Women’s Day. Its 106 years since the first rally was attended by a million women and men in Europe calling for equal pay for women. 
IWD reminds us of the continuing pay gap and the fact that for women with disabilities this is an even bigger concern. It’s a wonderful day to honour the efforts of women to achieve social justice and to reflect on improving the social and economic participation of women with disabilities because we are still one of the most marginalised groups in the world.

Let’s not forget as we celebrate that gender equality is nothing without looking at the most disadvantaged women and rallying for their social and economic equality. We have so much yet to do and we must work across our diverse agendas for all women.

We are currently witnessing a debate about whether feminism has become too individualistic. Or whether by working for the rights of all women it stops us from making individual choices. At WDV we believe feminism is about both the collective and about the individual. They don't have to be mutually exclusive. 
At WDV what we achieve is done collaboratively. So much of our work is done with other organisations from across many sectors. In our programs we aim to build communities of women with disabilities who have pride in our identity and to influence our broader communities together. At the same time, our board, members and staff are all absolutely individuals, diverse in our experiences of disability and diverse in our experiences of womanhood.
We put our efforts towards a world where all women are respected and can fully experience life. We will do this bringing our individual perspectives and we must do this together.

PHOTO: A gathering of some of WDV's members and staff, a collective of individuals

IWD 2017
Deb Haygarth recognised for her contributions to Geelong

The City of Greater Geelong's Women in Community Life Award 2017 - disability category - went to Deb Haygarth (pictured below wearing International Women's Day colours). Our congratulations to Deb.

Deb is a graduate of the Enabling Women Leadership Program. On completion of the program she stepped up to create the Barwon Hub  - which is part of the WDV Leadership Network for Women with Disabilities.

If you live around Geelong you might like to consider connecting with the Hub via Facebook and getting involved in some of their great local activities.

Stella Young among outstanding Victorian women celebrated in Honour Roll

An array of impressive women were recognised at the 2017 Victorian Women's Honour Roll ceremony on the 6th of March. It is well worth seeing the list of inductees to get a sense of the phenomenal leadership work being done by Victorian women.

Marty Young, sister of the late great Stella Young, was there as Stella was inducted to the Honour Roll for her life of advocacy and her exceptional work in journalism and comedy.

PHOTO: Stella Young in 2013

"Stalla didn't just change our state, she changed the nation," Minister Fiona Richardson said at the ceremony. WDV was pleased to be there to see Stella and all the other marvelous women recognised.

PHOTO: Marty Young (CENTRE) as Stella Young is inducted to the Women's Honour Roll (with Minister Fiona Richardson (LEFT) and Sally Cockburn (RIGHT).

World Blind Union press release for International Women’s Day

“All of us working to defend the rights of blind and partially sighted people must also work to ensure that blind and partially sighted women have the skills needed and are offered the opportunities to take on senior roles within our own blindness organizations,” said Dr. Penny Hartin, CEO of The World Blind Union (WBU)."
In a press release the WBU says, "Blind and partially sighted women and girls are more likely to be marginalized and disadvantaged than blind and partially sighted men and boys and they are more likely to be discriminated against than sighted women and girls. On average, they have less access to education, affordable healthcare services, employment opportunities, and experience isolation at higher rates than blind or partially sighted men. This is true even within the blindness community. For example, most organizations of and for the blind are led by men, and there are far fewer female Executives and Board Presidents."" To learn more about how you can help end discrimination against women and girls who are partially sighted, please visit the WBU website.

(WBU is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations run by blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment.


NDIS rolling out in the Loddon area

From 1 May 2017, the NDIS will become available in the Loddon area (Greater Bendigo, Campaspe, Central Goldfields, Loddon, Macedon Ranges and Mount Alexander)  You don’t need to wait until then. You can start planning and getting information now.


New trends emerge as Victorian Women’s Health Atlas is expanded

A significant increase in notifications of Family Violence and Sexually Transmitted Infection over the past year has been captured by the Victorian Women’s Health Atlas.

The Atlas was developed by Women’s Health Victoria and Family Planning Victoria. A new expansion of the Atlas now allows users to interact with 96 sex-disaggregated indicators across six priority health areas; Sexual & Reproductive Health, Violence against Women, Mental Health, Gender Equality and now Cancer and Avoidable Mortality. It is a rich resource.

The Atlas shows that there are similar numbers of Victorian men and women with disabilities. However, many more women provide unpaid assistance to people with disabilities than men do. To see the stats, visit the Gender Equality page and look for Unpaid assistance to a person with a disability' and 'Need for assistance with core activity.' We know that women with disabilities are among those providing unpaid assistance to others with a disability - it would be interesting to know the numbers.

Disappointment: no Royal Commission into violence against people with disabilities

WDV joined other Disability advocacy organisations (including Disabled Persons Organisations Australia) endorsing an Australian Senate recommendation to hold a royal commission into violence and abuse against people with disability. The Australian Government said there is no need for a Royal Commission because the NDIS would address many concerns.

“People with disability in Australia need a government that is prepared to really listen to those who have suffered from violence and abuse, and commit to take every step necessary to understand the extent and impacts of this national shame,” DPO Australia director Therese Sands said.

Rachel Siewert said, “My thoughts are with the witnesses and families who were hoping for a better response from the government”.


Victorian Human Rights Commission announces new Disability Reference Group members

It is great to see strong representation of women with disabilities on the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Disability Reference Group. Read about the group and its members.

Supreme Court decision shows how adjustments can be made in court to increase access for people with disabilities

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission reports on a recent case, "Maria had the legal capacity to be in the County Court hearings, but her ability to participate was limited because her disability affected her ability to understand and communicate with the judge. Maria could not make decisions about what to say and what evidence to give without some direction and assistance from the judge.

Last week, the Supreme Court decided that Maria...'s case must be heard again by a different judge because the judge did not give them the right to a fair hearing, and did not give Maria the right to equal protection against discrimination. It said the judge should have recognised that Maria was a person with a disability and considered whether any adjustment was needed.

Victoria's Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities requires courts and tribunals to adapt procedures so they do not discriminate against people with a disability.

In conducting the hearing the same way as a hearing for an adult without a disability, Maria was disadvantaged. This was a big reason why Maria was confused at the hearing, struggled to understand what the issues were, and did not have a fair opportunity to present her case.

The Supreme Court's decision refers to the Disability Access Bench Book developed by the Judicial College of Victoria and the Commission... The Supreme Court said that the Bench Book is an important contribution to helping ensure effective access to justice for people with disabilities."

The Supreme Court decision shows how the Disability Access Bench Book can improve access to justice  Read more about the case.


Endeavour Foundation Endowment Challenge Fund

The Endeavour Foundation Endowment Challenge Fund aims to benefit Australians with a disability, especially people with an intellectual or developmental disability. The Fund seeks to encourage quality and innovation in the disability services sector.

There are two award categories:
  1. RESEARCH AWARD: One award of up to $50,000 (for research conducted by appropriately qualified researchers)
  2. NON-PROFIT ORGANISATION AWARD: Total grant pool of $35,000 (for projects developed and delivered by non-profit organisations located in Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria only)
Applications close 5pm 21 April 2017.

Nominations open: UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education

Funded by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the Prize rewards innovative and outstanding projects by individuals, institutions and organizations that are advancing girls’ and women’s education. Laureates receive $50,000 (in American dollars).

Consultation by NDIA to develop a LGBTI disability strategy

This consultation provides an opportunity to influence the future of the NDIS works around LGBTI issues. Visit for details of the Melbourne consultation on March 31st or complete the online survey before March 31.


'Prisoners are excluded from the NDIS – here’s why it matters' reports The Conversation

The NDIS specifically excludes prisoners which is in breach of human rights. Jessie Young and Stuart Kinner write, "People with disability are more at risk of incarceration and, without adequate support, of re-offending. Interrupting care also puts those with a disability at risk of further incarceration.Further, denying services to prisoners with a disability doubly disadvantages Indigenous prisoners and potentially widens the gap of Indigenous disadvantage." Read more in The Conversation.

Invitation to share your experience of urangynaecological mesh implant

To improve the safety and quality of the use of urogynaecological mesh, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care is looking into current practice, women’s experience with the implant and removal of the implant, and the types of complications that may have been experienced in the past.
They want to hear your views
Advice from women who have experience of mesh surgery is important to this work. We want to know:
  • Your views about mesh surgery
  • What sort of information would help you when considering mesh as a treatment for incontinence or prolapse
  • What services would help if you had complications or needed to have the mesh removed.
The Commission is holding a consumer consultation session in Melbourne. Health Issues Centre and Women’s Health Victoria are supporting the Commission for the Melbourne forum.
The details for the forum are:
Date: Monday 20 March 2017
Time: 5pm – 7pm
Venue: Health Issues Centre.
Address: Level 8, 255 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
If you are unable to attend in person, it is possible to participate by teleconference at no cost to you.
Light refreshments will be provided at the consultation session.
RSVP by March 16th to Souzi Markos at Health Issues Centre, / 9664 9343.
It may be possible to assist with the cost of travel for you to attend the consultation session, so please advise if you would like assistance. A financial contribution will also be available for your time.
Consultation on Centrelink processes


The Senate Community Affairs References Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into Centrelink processes, particularly in relation to their debt recovery system. Submissions close on March 22nd. The inquiry page has a guide on how to make a submission.


Complex communication needs conference - Melbourne in May 

The AGOSCI Conference is for people who use alternative communication, their families, carers, support staff, professionals and other interested people. All details are at the Conference webpage.

Mental health and young people seminar - Geelong, March 15

Guest speaker, Tania Lewis, will present different aspects of mental illness and will draw on her own experience of having Bipolar Disorder since age 23. Along with sharing facts and statistics about mental illness, Tania will talk about management strategies and how to navigate your way to wellbeing whilst living with a mental illness.

Tania Lewis has been working in education and training for 25+ years and has her own business specialising in training, public speaking and consulting in the mental health sector. She had a successful career with Victoria Police and Barwon Health and also works for SANE Australia.

Details: 15th March 2017, 6.00—7.30pm, Geelong Performing Arts Centre. Cost: $5.00
Information: Lauren Hogan—headspace Geelong, 5222 6690 /

'My hair is more than just a fashion choice - what my body, my Choice’ means to me as a woman with a disability' by Karin

Karin writes on her Free Wheelin' blog, "When I was a little girl growing up with cerebral palsy, I had beautiful long hair down to my waist. But when I was about 7 years old, my mom said I had to cut it, because it would be “easier for me and other people to take care of.” I was furious. I loved my long hair, and raged against her for reasons I couldn’t quite understand. In the end, I got her to agree to let me have it shoulder-length. Throughout my childhood, I would put off haircuts as long as possible, and when I went to college, I started growing my hair again. I’ve worn it relatively long ever since.

Over the years, I have thought a lot about my hair. I wondered why my mother’s demand made me so angry, why I still feel hurt about it all these years later. And then I realized — as a person with a disability, my hair is more than just a fashion choice. It symbolizes something much more significant: my right to make choices about my body."

Read the full piece by Karin.

Viv describes being rushed to hospital without her communication device

"Imagine not having clear speech and leaving behind your device, or any helpful instructions.

This happened to me not long ago.

My name is Viv. I am 54 years old. I am a writer, a published poet, and an educator. I also have a severe physical disability... I have unclear speech and because of that, I use an electronic communication device called an Allora to communicate.

Late one night I became extremely sick, to the point where an ambulance needed to be called."

Read Viv's piece, How hospitals and paramedics can improve accessibility, published by Scope.

Some Victorian medical services have been Communication Access Accredited by Scope and Victoria Police are going through the process of being accredited. Improving communication access for people with little or no speech is something for other services to consider.
'Don't expect me to work for freeby Carly Findlay

Carly writes for Ramp Up; "People with disabilities are often asked to sit on committees, contribute to projects and tell our stories. But, as Carly Findlay writes, people are seldom willing to pay us for our time.

I believe there is a sense of united empathy between diverse communities, even if our difference is not the same. I find myself nodding when I hear stories from my Indigenous and gay and lesbian friends too.

Back in March I saw my friend Anita Heiss speak at her book launch. She's an Indigenous author - so smart, so funny and so beautiful. A lot of what she said resonated with me.

Anita addressed the 'working for free' mentality geared towards diverse communities. "Everyone wants an Indigenous person to do something, but they're not valued in the marketplace," she said." Read more from Carly.


'My Feminism' by Maxine Beneba Clarke

"...My feminism will always question.
My feminism must get wise.
My feminism will not claim that nuance is divisive.
All feminism is flawed, but my feminism will try..."
Maxine Beneba Clarke via Victorian Women's Trust.

In the piece, Maxine quotes Flavia Dzodan:
"My feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit."


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