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Violence & Disability Quarterly

ISSUE 23 : DECEMBER 2015This 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.

In this Issue:
A journey from family violence to freedom: an Auslan poem on YouTube


In this beautiful Auslan poem, "Free woman," Kate Frost 2015 describes a journey away from family violence. The short film is available on YouTube (pictured below).

The video has Auslan and Captions but no spoken dialogue, so has low accessibility for blind and vision impaired viewers.
For Family Violence services contact Police
Safe Steps Family Violence Response - t. 1800 015 188 / e. - 24 hours 7 days per week.

Building inclusion: an evidence based model of inclusive leadership
Increasing leadership opportunities for women with disabilities is a strategy to reduce violence against women with disabilities. Organisations are starting to recognise that if they wish to experience the benefits of diversity, they need to cultivate not just a diverse workplace but also an inclusive one. There is also growing recognition that leaders have a critical role to play in achieving this. See more via the Diversity Council of Australia.

Refreshed and re-invigorated: Gender and Disability workforce development training by Bianca Evans

WDV recently delivered a two day refresher training session for current co-facilitators of the Workforce Development Program on Gender and Disability.
The Workforce Development Program on Gender and Disability is a WDV initiative to prevent violence against women with disabilities, improve women’s well-being and status, and promote gender equitable and responsive service delivery. The Program 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 refresher training provided the opportunity for co-facilitators with lived experience of disability and co-facilitators from partner organisations (Barwon CASA, South East CASA and Women’s Health East) to work together with the revised training package “Human Rights & Quality Services: What does gender have to do with it?” targeted at disability service organisations.
During the refresher training we were privileged to have three guest speakers, Jana Majkey, Maree Crabbe and Lena Sivasailam-Pichler.
Jana Majkey, represented the disability sector and held a discussion with the group on her experience within the disability field, a day in the life of disability workers and the challenges they are facing as a sector.
Maree Crabbe presented on pornography and its relationship to gender roles and stereotypes, disability and violence against women in the 21st century. Lena Sivasailam-Pichler from Project Respect presented on sex work and trafficking in relation to women’s rights, choice, freedom and violence against women.
A gender analysis was used to frame a discussion about how to better equip co-facilitators to respond to issues often raised by disability support workers and managers in training about access and rights of people with disability to pornography and sex workers.
Co-facilitators involved in the refresher training unanimously reported that they found the training interesting, meaningful and informative. WDV is looking forward to a great year of workplace training with new partner organisations to support culture change within disability organisations and women with disabilities achieving gender and disability equality.  
PHOTOS: the Co-Facilitators working together with the revised training material to prepare presentations to the group.  

From Left to Right: Sue Rosenhain, Amanda Lawrie-Jones and Bianca Evans (WDV Gender Equity Training Coordinator)

From Left to right: Sam Winch and Jess Boccia

WDV on Air with the National Community Radio Program, Women on the Line by Fofi Christou

WDV's Keran Howe and Fofi Christou joined WDV Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program co-facilitators, Eva Sifis and Dagmar Jenkins at 3CR's Collingwood studio late one Wednesday evening to record an interview on prevention of violence against women with disabilities. Aoife Cooke was the interviewer and host of the Women on the Line program.
Women on the Line is community radio’s national women's current affairs program which airs every Monday from 8:30am to 9:00am. It provides a gender analysis of contemporary issues, as well as in-depth analysis by a range of women around Australia and internationally and is distributed nationally on the Community Radio Network (CRN).
Keran spoke about the history of WDV and the collective action of women with disabilities who formed the initial network 20 years ago that led to a fully-fledged organisation funded ten years ago. Keran highlighted the issues that women with disabilities continue to face such as gender inequality, violence and abuse, lack of access to health services (e.g. reproductive and sexual health) and that not much has changed as is evident with recent inquiries into disability care and the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Fofi discussed what was on offer through the Workforce Development Program on Gender and Disability to disability organisations to strengthen their efforts in cultivating gender responsive and sensitive workplaces and services and in doing so contribute to strategies to prevent violence against women with disabilities. Fofi was asked about the challenges of the program and she highlighted the ability of disability organisations to prioritise gender and engage with the program within the rapidly changing landscape of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and lack of certainty of the current schemes investment in workforce development as key challenges.

Eva Sifis' work can be found on her forthcoming website in the next few weeks - See more at:

Eva Sifis' work can be found on her forthcoming website in the next few weeks - See more at:

Eva Sifis' work can be found on her forthcoming website in the next few weeks - See more at: Dagmar (Counsellor Advocate at South East CASA)

Eva Sifis' work can be found on her forthcoming website in the next few weeks - See more at:

Eva and Dagmar spoke about their co-facilitation experience in delivering training to disability support workers and the difference they observed in workers reflections and attitudes and was reinforced in the independent evaluation. Both Eva and Dagmar also commented on how transformative the Workforce Development Program on Gender and Disability train the trainer program and delivery of training to disability support organisations was for them personally and professionally.

Eva and Dagmar are co-facilitators who bring a wealth of experiences with them. Eva is a Project Worker at Arts Access Victoria and owner of By Accident Consultancy (Eva's work can be found on her forthcoming website, Dagmar is a Counsellor Advocate at South Eastern CASA and has been integral part of the Making Rights Reality service that supports people with disabilities who have experienced sexual assault).
The show which was aired on Monday 25th will be repeated at 7am - 7.30am on Sunday 1st May on 3CR, which is 855AM. The show is also available as a podcast.

Share 'Women on the Line' on Facebook and Twitter (@WomenOnTheLine).

PHOTO: Montage of the 3CR studio interview by Aoife Cooke (seen in the bottom left photo) with Dagmar Jenkins and Eva Sifis (top right) and Keran Howe and Fofi Christou (bottom right).
Local government are part of changing the story

A prevention forum was held in December 2015 to highlight the role of local government in prevention of violence against women. The forum was run by Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), Our Watch and the City of Melbourne. WDV's Brenda Gabe Leadership Award Winner 2016, Colleen Furlanetto (pictured below), was an opening speaker, acting in her role as co-chair of MAV's Prevention of Violence Against Women network.

Keran Howe joined a panel discussion with Adele Murdolo (Multi Cultural Centre for Women's Health), Emma Parkinson (Our Watch) and Kellie Nagle (MAV) - pictured left to right below. They reflected on how the new national prevention framework incorporates intersectionality. Keran noted that we need sectors to be working together to create change.

Sunrise Women’s Groups currently taking new members

Sunrise Women’s Groups bring together women living with a disability and/or mental illness who want to meet other women, feel more connected and learn about staying healthy. Groups do lots of different free activities that are chosen by the women in the group.

Sunrise groups get together fortnightly in Laverton, Sunshine, Wyndham Vale and Melton. There is also a new group open in Melton for women who are carers of someone with a disability and/or mental illness. All groups are open to women aged 18 to 65. Contact Lauren, phone 9689 9588.
NEW law centre to support women charged with criminal offences

The Law and Advocacy Centre for Women is a not for profit law centre for women charged with criminal offences. LACW combines excellence in legal advice and representation for women, with a commitment to holistic and preventative case management and engagement with therapeutic services.
LACW offers you experienced and respected advocates as defense representatives. If you want a service that invests in you as a whole person, LACW’s case management services can help you to connect with the support you need.

Marginalised women are over represented in the criminal justice system, and there has been too little support available - so it is great to see this service in Melbourne.

Disability accessible ongoing women's only housing list

Workers may sign up for the YWCA's list of housing vacancies. These vacacnies are around Victoria, they are women's only and many have disability access. To sign up contact Richard Bailey, Housing Team Leader, YWCA Victoria.

The law handbook 2016

Fitzroy Legal Service' 'Law Handbook 2016 has updated chapters on managing money, challenging a will or getting help as a victim of crime, The Law Handbook helps people in the areas of law that most affect them in everyday life, and provides information on where to go for help.

Magistrates' Court of Victoria's Family Violence Website

The Magistrates' Court Family Violence website has been developed to enhance access to information about family violence and intervention orders for both applicants and respondents. The website will soon be translated into multiple languages.

Easy English resource on reporting crime

See the new Easy English guide to reporting crime by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Royal Commission report sends disability services a strong message on family violence
Women with Disabilities Victoria celebrated the findings of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The Commission identified practical ways to address family violence against women with disabilities. The report's recommendations include housing strategies, family violence support improvements and disability workforce development. We are very optimistic that the report will in the long term make it safer for women, and particularly women with disabilities, to be in their homes. WDV's piece in Croakey discusses the strong message that the Commission has sent disability services, that family violence is their business.

The Commission has listened to women with disabilities and designed changes that can create a safer future for us. Now it is over to Governments and agencies like the National Disability Insurance Agency to make safety and equality a reality.

CAOG Violence Against Women Panel Report and the 3rd National Plan

The final report of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children was provided to COAG on Friday, 1 April 2016.

The Panel found that despite a lot of good work, rates of violence against women in Australia remain unacceptably high. The Panel's 28 recommendations propose approaches to perpetrator accountability, empowering women, recognising children, trauma informed responses to Aboriginal communities and integrated service responses.

A summary of recommendations with particular relevance to women with disabilities follow.

#2.7: All Commonwealth, state and territory governments should support the development and implementation of national best practice standards for women with disabilities who experience violence. Standards should:
  • ensure accessible and appropriate facilities and services
  • ensure accessible and appropriate information formats
  • reflect the different forms of violence more likely to be experienced by women with disabilities and ensure that this information is included in staff training
  • form the basis for ongoing government funding agreements and contracts with service providers
  • support women’s, disability and mainstream service providers to enable them to adopt these standards.
#6.1 All Commonwealth, state and territory governments should support the development and use of a national common risk assessment framework for violence against women and their children. This framework should, among other things, inform risk assessment tools that are flexible and tailored to different jurisdictions and/or to different high-risk groups.

Other recommendations of note are:

#1.1 All Commonwealth, state and territory governments should demonstrate national leadership to address gender inequality, introducing targets for 50% female representation (representing diversity) on government boards and in senior leadership positions within the public service, progressing pay equity and other actions to further improve women’s workforce participation and economic security.

#2.3 All Commonwealth, state and territory governments should continue to monitor, implement or expand trials of technology to support women who experience violence, including online supports and video-links to courts.

COAG has given its in-principle support for the areas of focus identified by the Panel. COAG has also agreed that its recommendations be considered as part of the development of the Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, to be completed by mid-2016. Women with Disabilities Victoria join other disability advocacy organisations calling for this plan to recognise violence against women in settings beyond the 'family home,' settings such as respite, community residential units and disability day services.

National inquiry into disability abuse - calls for a national Royal Commission continue

In November 2016 an Australian Senate Committee released the report on their inquiry into abuse in disability services. The Committee Chair, Senator Rachel Siewert, said,

"It took a harrowing report on Four Corners last year to raise public attention to this appalling issue and because the Government wouldn’t act the Senate voted to establish an inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability in institutional and residential settings...The committee found that violence, abuse and neglect was so widespread it has called for a Royal Commission and made a number of other recommendations on things that need to change."

Aside from a Royal Commission, the report recommends a national report & investigation system for violence against people with disability. The Australia Cross Disability Alliance and other advocates are making sustained calls for a national Royal Commission into violence in disability services.

WDV's submission to the ILC consultation

The NDIS have been consulting on the Information Linkages and Capacity Building Framework. This framework will guide how indirect disability supports are funded. Overall WDV support the broad framework principles proposed. However, WDV's submission sets out some key concerns. Some key points are:
  • The framework proposes that 'Informal support and care arrangements are upheld and nurtured.' We have some concern that this goal could at times work against people with disability’s right to safety, autonomy and capacity to exercise choice in pursuing their goals. Whilst we acknowledge the important role that informal supports, particularly family, play in the lives of many people with disability, there are times when family members don’t act in the best interests of people with disability. There are times when family don’t act in the best interests of any family member however well meaning. The difference is that people with disability are often so dependent on family that they are completely constrained from defending their right to control their own life, even well into adulthood.
  • Registered disability service providers should not be eligible to apply for funding for ILC funding to empower NDIS participants because there is a strong potential conflict of interest - providers, with all the best intentions in the world, may easily ‘steer’ participants into their own programs and limit participants thinking about the direction they want to take.
  • The final outcome, “interests of people with disability are faithfully represented in policy/infrastructure design” should be changed to read “people with disability are actively involved in policy/infrastructure design”. (This is an easily measured outcome which will also lead to effective, inclusive design).

WDV supports call for a national accessible housing standards

Current housing designs do not cater for many people. Homes cannot be modified without significant expense, and people want greater choice about where they live, and more opportunities for visiting friends and family. One strategy is to provide minimum accessibility in new housing. The Australian Network for Universal Housing Design (ANUHD) with Rights and Inclusion Australia (RIA) want a nationally agreed standard to be called up in the National Construction Code. See the proposal to Standards Australia at

Similar initiatives have been legislated in other countries and features that have commonly been included are:
  1. An accessible path of travel from the street or parking area to and within the entry level of a dwelling.
  2. Doors, corridors and living spaces that allow ease of access for most people on the entry level.
  3. A bathroom, shower and toilet that can be used by most people, with reinforced wall areas for grab-rails at a later date.
While these do not meet everyone’s needs, they do allow most people greater choice of dwellings, to visit others and to manage better the unforeseen that life throws at us. 

For this proposal to be successful, ANUHD and RIA need your written support. If you support this proposal, please complete the Stakeholder Statement (at and return it to Contact ANUHD on 0409 898 498 /

Aboriginal women with disabilities let down by human services and the justice system: The Conversation

The Conversation reports that Aboriginal women only make up between 2 and 3% of Australian females. But within 8 years the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women entering prison has soared from 21% of all women prisoners to 35%. Why? A recent NSW study find that Aboriginal women with disabilities are being let down by human services, and "they are landing in the criminal justice system because of serious policy and service gaps." This article has heart-stopping data on incarceration rates, and points to ways to reduce this discrimination.
We count what matters, and violence against people with disabilities matters: The Conversation

The Conversation piece by Anne Kavanagh and Sally Robinson interrogates data gaps on violence against people with disabilities. They write, "We count what matters, and what matters counts. This is at the heart of accountability. We need information on the types of violence, where it occurs, how often, and who are the perpetrators."

Everyone's research on violence against women should intersect with disability: Croakey

WDV's Keran Howe took part in a Croakey #Periscope discussion with WDV member, Jane Rosenheim and Deakin University’s Dr Patsie Frawley. These three women had a clear message, research on violence against women must incorporate disability and culture. The conversation took place at the recent National Research Conference on Violence against Women and Children hosted by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS). Annie Blatchford reviewed the discussion in Croakey.

IMAGE: Jane, Patsie and Keran at the ANROWS conference
Suspected child abusers have walked free because victims disabled, Victoria Police chief says: ABC News

ABC News report, "The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is looking into how people with disabilities that affect their communication are treated in the criminal justice system."

"South Australian Director of Public Prosecutions Adam Kimber SC said a child's disability can cast a "great cloud" over the process of securing a conviction against child molesters."

"Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana told the inquiry it was "problematic" when no charges were laid, because a suspected offender was then unable to be registered on a checklist preventing him or her from working with children." Read the full story

Inclusive Practice Forum with Victoria's first Gender & Sexuality Commissioner in Geelong
Victoria's first Gender & Sexuality Commissioner, Rowena Allen, is keynote speaker at G21's forum, 'Inclusive Practice: An Equal Experience For All.' During the forum you will also hear from leaders across the G21 region, and gain an insight into practical ways of responding to the needs of all users regardless of age, gender, mental/physical abilities, race, ethnic heritage or sexual orientation. Thursday, 26 May 2016 - 9:00am to 12:30pm, Geelong.

Training calendars for DVRCV and CASA House

The DVRCV calendar of training events is available online showing courses suitable for workers in disability, mental health and other community services. Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria provide training on recognising and responding to family violence.

The CASA House training calendar is also available online. CASA House provide community and professional training for those interested in gaining skills and insight into working with women and men who have experienced sexual assault. 

Advocates say USA's gender-based policing document ignores women with disabilities
"Although there is much to commend in the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Guidance on gender-biased policing for women generally, once again, women with disabilities are missing and ignored!" say Women Enabled International (WEI). Following are extracts of WEI's email statement

"The gender-biased policing document is completely inadequate in terms of protecting the rights and safety of women and girls with disabilities. The document gives no guidance to police on several urgent issues relating to police interactions in situations of domestic violence or gender-based violence and assault involving disabled women, a few of which are listed below.
  • No guidance to police as to how to address a situation where a woman with a disability only speaks sign language, including how to secure a sign language interpreter or other strategies for communicating with her;
  • No instruction to law enforcement officials that it is totally inappropriate to use a family member or someone else on the scene who is not a police officer or other professional to interpret in a situation of domestic violence;
  • No guidance on how to communicate with women who may have an intellectual or cognitive disability;
  • No training on alternative methods of communication with such individuals;
  • No direction on how to combat commonly held stereotypes about women with disabilities, such as that they are not competent as witnesses or that gender-based violence does not happen to them;
  • No guidance that witnesses with disabilities can provide highly credible testimony, nor how to afford such witnesses a true opportunity to communicate the evidence they may have to provide;
  • No instruction on how to deal with situations where a caregiver might be the abuser;
  • No resources on how to identify accessible shelter programs and facilities;
  • No training on the importance of service animals to the woman with a disability; and
  • Many other issues too numerous to name here. 
Women with disabilities make up approximately 19.8% of the U.S. population of women. How can we continue to ignore almost one-fifth of the women in the United States? 
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2010, the age-adjusted rate of violent crime for women with disabilities was nearly twice that of women without disabilities (29 compared to 15 per 1,000). The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) points out that women with disabilities are more likely to experience domestic violence and sexual assault than women without disabilities, and abuse can be both more severe and longer lasting....
The U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has numerous materials and guidance documents on strategies for addressing violence against women with disabilities, which could have been utilized to inform the Guidance on gender-biased policing. Through the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013), the OVW funds a limited number of programs, including programs specifically designed to address violence and abuse of women with disabilities though very few programs receive this funding. Authorized funding for education, training, and services to combat violence against women with disabilities was reduced from $10 million to $9 million in VAWA 2013, and actual appropriations for such programs since 2013 have hovered only between $5.3 Million for 2013 and $6 million for 2016. In fiscal year 2013, there were only nine disability grant recipients in seven states and the total amount allocated through the Disability Grant Program was a devastatingly inadequate 1.02% of the total allocated by OVW.

For additional information visit Women Enabled International's site or contact their President.

New survey results: the most important things to women with disabilities around the world

Women Enabled International have just completed a survey to map the priorities of women with disabilities around the world. They heard from over 280 activists in 69 countries, spanning six continents – all working on behalf of women’s and girls’ disability rights, women’s rights and/or disability rights.

The survey results show that the most important things are:
  •     preventing & ending gender-based violence
  •     sexual & reproductive health
  •     education rights
  •     support & access to quality healthcare & caregiving
  •     strong policy making & advocacy for these issues.

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