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Violence & Disability Quarterly

ISSUE 21: AUGUST 2015This quarterly highlights projects, resources and research responding to violence against women with disabilities. Past editions are available at For more information or to contribute, please contact Jen Hargrave, Policy Officer – Violence Against Women with Disabilities, at

In this Issue:
Funding announced for gender and disability prevention program
WDV members, partners and friends gathered last week for a memorable Members' Lunch. We were joined by Fiona Richardson, the Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence. To the applause of those present, Minister Richardson announced funding of $400,000 for continuation of our Workforce Development Program on Gender and Disability.

Minister Richardson noted the critical importance for Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence to address violence against women with disabilities. She also highlighted that government strategies for gender equity must include women with disabilities (such as when increasing representation of women on boards up to 50% this must also include women with disabilities).
About the prevention program
The Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program works with disability services to build their understanding of women's rights and how to provide gender sensitive services. The program has run as a pilot in partnership with Gateways and Yooralla. This funding enables us to build on valuable learnings and expand  this unique violence prevention program.

A really exciting aspect is that women with disabilities are co-facilitators of the training. Through the program pilot we also enjoyed working with service partners from sectors such as Women's Health, Legal Centres and Centres Against Sexual Assault. WDV look forward to the next phase of the program, continuing these partnerships and building new ones.

IMAGE: Minister Fiona Richardson announces continuation of WDV's Gender at Disability Workforce Development Program
MP Kelly Vincent speaks at VicHealth violence prevention conference

Kelly Vincent is in the South Australian Parliament for the Dignity for Disability Party. When she was elected in 2010 she made history in 3 ways. Firstly, as the first South Australian politician to permanently use a wheelchair. Secondly, as the youngest woman ever elected to an Australian parliament. Thirdly, as the first Australian to be elected on the platform of disability rights.

It was wonderful to see Kelly visit Melbourne for VicHealth's conference, 'Policy, People and Prevention: Ending violence against women in Victoria.' Kelly gave a phenomenal address, sharing research, case studies and personal experience to really show how we need strategies to tackle both sexism and ableism. Kelly has left a short summary of her speech on Instagram, and we hope that the transcript will be available via VicHealth in the future.

VicHealth launched two new resources at the conference:
PHOTO: Kelly Vincent and Keran Howe

'Melissa' shares her story with Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence

In her powerful statement to the Family Violence Royal Commission, 'Melissa Brown' shared her experience of family violence as a woman with a disability. The Age reports Melissa explained all the thought that went into considering breaking her relationship with her abusive partner who also provided her with some physical support. She had to ask herself, "How am I going to have a shower without anybody to help me? How am I going to get the kids to school if I'm having a pain day?"

Melissa received some services that weren't helpful regarding her disabilities and the family violence she was experiencing. She highlighted the helpful support she received from a Centre Against Sexual Assault, a Victoria Police's Sexual Offenses Team (SOCIT), and from the Victims' Assistance Program.

Melissa told the Commission, since the relationship ended her mental health has significantly improved, Chief Commissioner Marcia Neave thanked Ms Brown for her strength and tenacity in appearing before the commission.
Disability in focus at Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence

On the 11th of August WDV staff, Keran and Jen, were witnesses at the Royal Commission into Family Violence hearing day on 'Diversity.' The Commission heard from us about additional ways and the additional places that women with disabilities experience family violence, in our homes and in services. We shared some of the recommendations from our written submission.

Our written witness statement highlighted how violence can be prevented through accessible housing, employment and leadership opportunities for women with disabilities. The Commissioners were interested to how the National Disability Insurance Scheme will impact on housing, and gave us with a question on notice about how the NDIS will prevent and respond to family violence.

Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, also appeared with us on a panel. Ms Pearce gave examples of the violence people experience in Community Residential Units and other disability services. She illustrated how the relationships in these homes are family like.

The impact of the NDIS was further discussed on the day with Rocco Fonzi, Director of Eastern Division Client Outcomes at the Department of Health & Human Services. Mr Fonzi oversees the Disability Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative which is funded by the Victorian Government. With the transition to the NDIS the funding is expected to move to the Commonwealth. Mr Fonzi said it was not certain if the NDIS would continue the program. WDV believe if the program were to be retained in Victoria, the critical focus and local cross-sectoral partnerships of this program would be maintained.

The day closed with an appearance from Superintendent Charles Allen speaking in his role as head of Victoria Police's Priority Communities Division. This interview explored the limitations in data collection, recruitment and sharing of expertise in relation to working with priority communities.

This was day 17 of hearings with the theme, 'Diversity of experiences, community attitudes and structural impediments.' Other speakers on the day addressed family violence in the lives of GLBTIQ culturally diverse and older Victorians.

The hearing transcript and witness our statement are available on the Royal Commission's website. In February 2016 the Commission will deliver it's report and recommendations.

The State of Victoria's submission to Royal Commission into Family Violence
The Victorian Government's submission to the Family Violence Royal Commission overviews findings from and government responses to key recent reports on violence against people with disabilities. These reports include Beyond Doubt: the experiences of people with disabilities reporting crime and Voices Against Violence.

Barwon G21 Prevention Forum: putting disability in the region's plans

The Barwon region of Victoria is developing a strategic plan on preventing and addressing violence against women, involving stakeholders from across the community. In July 2015 the region held a G21 Partner Forum attended by over 150 people to hear about the work happening locally.

WDV's Gender Equity Training CoOrdinator Fofi Christou presented the partnership work with Gateways Disability Services, Barwon CASA and Women's Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West that underpins the WDV Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program. The presentation highlighted  the  importance of  developing strategies to approach gender equity and disability equity together in order to address the  discrimination and high rates of violence women with disabilities experience.

PHOTO: Fofi Christou at the G21 conference
Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Abuse in Disability Services interim report
Victoria's Parliamentary Committee on Family and Community Development Committee has delivered it's Interim Report to inform Victoria’s role in the development of a national disability services quality and safeguarding framework.

Broadly, the Committee recommends that the Victorian Government ensures that the existing elements of the system in Victoria are not diminished in the transition to the NDIS.

WDV made a written submission to this inquiry because this is such an important opportunity to have well designed safeguards. Such safeguards would be centred around the rights of people with disabilities to safety, information and choices. They would account for gender differences, and they would be informed by specialists in preventing and responding to violence against women.

The second stage of the inquiry will consider good practice in prevention and workforce capacity building. The final reporting date for this inquiry is 1 March 2016.
Victorian Ombudsman's Investigation into disability abuse reporting

The Victorian Ombudsman's Office has released an the first of two reports on their investigation into disability abuse reporting. This phase 1 report investigates how allegations of abuse in the disability sector are reported and investigated. In considering the effectiveness of statutory oversight the report takes an in-depth look at the Office of the Disability Services Commissioner and the Office of the Public Advocate.
The phase 2 report will be delivered later in 2015. It will look in greater depth at the process for reporting and investigating abuse, drawing on the experience of individuals.
All the national inquiries! Update

In addition to the Victorian inquiries above, WDV has made submissions to the first 2 of the following 3 inquires into violence. The Australian Cross Disability Alliance members have been bringing the voices of people with disabilities to the table and working hard on these national inquiries to build the national understanding of gendered violence against people with disabilities. A list of the national inquires follows:

Research participants sought for Deakin study on domestic violence

Researchers from Deakin University in Geelong are conducting a study investigating survivors’ experiences of domestic violence. Participation involves a one-hour qualitative interview with two female interviewers at a Deakin campus located at either the Melbourne CBD or Geelong Waterfront campus. Interviewees are awarded a $50 Coles-Myer gift voucher for their time. If you are a woman over the age of 18 years who has experienced intimate partner violence, and who has accessed a support service (e.g., shelter, crisis help) in relation to your experience, then we would like to hear your story. For more information about the study please contact either Dr. Shannon Hyder (Ph: 03 52273474 or or Elise Cox (
Support women to tell their own stories about safety in mental health services through film

The film, 'IMPATIENT,' follows artist and activist Sue Armstrong’s efforts to make the Victorian mental health system safer for women. A philanthropic project is happening to get 'IMPATIENT' seen around Australia. You can donate to this important film through Documentary Australia.

IMAGE: Sue Armstrong, advocate and artist
AMICA Women’s Lunch Club at WIRE

‘Amica’ means female friend in Latin! WIRE’s AMICA Club welcomes women to join a growing lunch and activity group in West Melbourne. AMICA Club offers women:
  • Safe and friendly women-only environment
  • Free lunch & different activities including workshops and excursions
  • Free tea/coffee and biscuits
  • Magazines, music & chance to meet new people
  • Time to just relax or a place to chat

Venue: WIRE 372 Spencer Street, West Melbourne.

To book or find out more, call Anna (03) 9348 9416 (Option 2) Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm or email

Human Rights fact sheets released by the Human Rights Law Centre

The Human Rights Law Centre released a series of 18 thematic Fact Sheets to ensure that UN member states are provided with credible and accurate information about key human rights issues in Australia. Themes include Women and Disability. These are a useful resource for anyone taking a human rights approach to Gender and / or Disability.

The Fa ct Sheets will be used to brief embassies and missions in Australia and Geneva. They build on the Joint NGO Submission lodged in March 2015 and provide further background on key issues as well as suggested recommendations.

One recommendation is: "Australia should ensure that all gender equality policies and programs are grounded in the concept of substantive equality and provide effective remedies to address intersectional discrimination."

WDV Fact sheet on the NDIS

WDV has a suite of fact sheets on our priority areas, including violence. The newest of these is 'The NDIS for women with disabilities.'
Accessible Consultation Guide

'Inclusive consultation and communication with people with a disability' is a resource developed by the Victorian Government which covers how to choose a venue, set it up, and have accessible face to face and written communication. While this resource is over 10 years old, it still contains more useful hints than you can poke a stick at.

CHP Victorian Homelessness Conference: Melbourne Spt 17th – 18th 

The Council to Homeless Persons conference will draw attention to the NDIS and housing. Keran Howe will also present in a panel on what we need out of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. It is a fantastic conference program well worth checking out.

DVRCV announces 29 family violence risk assessment training sessions!

DVRCV will be delivering free family violence common risk assessment framework (CRAF) training throughout Victoria. CRAF Risk Assessment training is suitable for professionals who come in contact with women and children experiencing family violence, but for whom family violence is not the core focus of their work. CRAF Specialist training is suitable for professionals who work in family violence services.Click here to view 2015 dates and locations and to register.

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