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Violence & Disability Quarterly

ISSUE 19 : MARCH 2015The Violence Against Women with Disabilities Newsletter is a quarterly publication highlighting 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:
WDV present at the Asia Pacific Conference on Gendered Violence

At the first ever Asia Pacific Conference on Gendered Violence and Violations WDV presented Voices Against Violence findings alongside fellow researchers from the University of New South Wales who presented findings from Women with Disabilities Australia's Stop the Violence project. It was powerful to see the two projects presented together, as the findings were so compatible - they highlight the urgent need for the National Disability Insurance Scheme to get set to respond to women with disabilities experiencing violence.

PHOTO: Aminath Didi, Karen Soldatic, Leanne Dowse (UNSW), Lucy Healey (The University of Melbourne / WDV member), Keran Howe (WDV)
WDV provides professional development for Magistrates

The Judicial College of Victoria is delivering a family violence professional development program for Victorian Magistrates. Women with Disabilities Victoria joined Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, to deliver a session on the family violence experienced by women with disabilities. Magistrate Pauline Spence chaired the session which presented findings and case studies from Voices Against Violence research. There was opportunity to highlight the family like relationships between people with disabilities and disability workers covered in the Family Violence Protection Act. There was also discussion of balancing a women's need for disability support and / or guardianship with her need to be safe from violence.

"So what you are saying is that we should prioritse the woman's safety. Say if the respondent has a disability and can't understand the conditions of an order, we just make one condition, that he is excluded. Then it is up to support services to ensure that he has alternative accommodation." A Magistrate's reflection on discussion during the session.

Jen Hargrave (WDV) joins Pubic Advocate, Colleen Pearce, and Magistrate Pauline Spence at the Judicial College of Victoria's Family Violence Professional Development Program.
Women's Health Goulburn North East focuses on women with disabilities on International Women's Day

Keran Howe, WDV Executive Director, celebrated International Women's Day with Women's Health Goulburn North East in Wangaratta. The breakfast celebration was really well attended with nearly 70 women coming from all across the North East to progress the empowerment of all women, with a focus on women with disabilities.

The event was covered by the Wangaratta Chronicle - providing a fantastic profile for women's rights in the region.

“We’re marginalised and that marginalisation means we’re not taken as seriously, we have to get through a certain fog about who we are before we can really be seen and heard” Keran Howe said in her presentation. Understanding that power inequalities are a contributing factor to violence against women, WDV are working to create a world where women with disabilities are taken seriously. Some of the ways we are doing this are through the Enabling Women Leadership Program, the Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program, and our high level representation on violence against women with disabilities.

PHOTO: International Women's Day celebrations at Women's Health Goulburn North East

Department of Justice forum on Intermediaries in the criminal justice system

In February the Department of Justice held a forum on disability issues. Visiting British academics, Jocye Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson presented reports from their book, Intermediaries in the criminal justice system. They also shared a web resource on supporting people with disabilities and children in the justice system, The Advocate's Gateway.

Victoria's Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, delivered a rousing address on the opportunities for Victoria to develop a cohesive vision for equity and access in the justice system, along the lines of the South Australian Disability Justice Plan. Such a plan could define priorities from prevention to early intervention, and through to the courtrooms. 

Toolkit launched for creating disability-inclusive family violence services in NSW

To mark International Women's Day, Domestic Violence NSW (DVNSW) and People with Disability Australia (PWDA) launched a toolkit designed to enhance the domestic and family violence sector's response to violence against women with disability. Australian women with disability are 37.3% more at risk of domestic and family violence. In NSW, over 43% of women experiencing personal violence have disability or a long-term illness, meaning that they experience violence at twice the rate of other women.

Many of the services designed to support women leaving violence are not physically accessible to women with disability; information about them is not available in alternative formats, and attitudes or policies may not be disability inclusive. As a consequence, many women with disability don’t get the assistance that they need to support services,

PWDA and DVNSW have developed a package of three informative and practical documents covering:
  • disability awareness
  • an accessibility audit
  • and guidelines for managing change within services.
These are available for download from the DVNSW and PWDA websites.

Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence New South Wales, said, "We know that women with disability experience barriers to accessing domestic violence support services, whilst specialist disability services may not understand the dynamics of power and control in abusive relationships. Therefore, women with disability may remain in situations of violence because they believe that services will not be able to support them. This project is designed to be a first step in addressing that gap and to encourage services to be intersectional in their philosophy, and accessible in their practice."

Therese Sands, Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia, says, "We hope that this collaborative venture will model the inclusion of women with disability for all violence prevention response programs being developed both at a state and a federal level."

The project will be piloted in domestic and family violence services in NSW, with the evaluation informing future recommendations for best practice and increased accessibility. DVNSW and PWDA will provide support to these organisations throughout this process. 

Consultations on an Easy English guide to report crime to police

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has contacted us to let us know they are making an Easy English booklet about reporting crime to police.

The Commission would like to hear from individuals and organisations about what could be included in an Easy English guide about reporting crime to police. They will hold interviews and focus groups until mid-March.

There are a number of ways people can participate:

  • attend the Commission for a focus group on Wednesday 11 March from 10 - 11am
  • phone the project manager, Julian Alban on (03) 9032 3435 to arrange a phone interview to discuss the resource
  • email Julian to provide your comments at
  • contact Julian to arrange an interview at the Commission or organise an additional focus group.
The Commission would like to hear about some of the following:
  • What do you think should be included in an Easy English guide?
  • What do you think are the major difficulties people with complex communication disabilities and cognitive disabilities experience when they report crimes to police? How could an Easy English guide best address this?
  • What do you think is the best way to implement the resource? (For example: training, a hardcopy resource available to police officers at local stations, an online resource on the Commission and Victoria Police's website; or hardcopy resources available at organisations working with people with disabilities?)
  • What other useful resource/s are you are aware of that can inform the Easy English resource?
  • What other key information should be included in the resource?
This is one of a range of projects the Commission is running following the release of its report Beyond Doubt: the experiences of people with disabilities reporting crime (available in Easy English).

If you are interested, please contact:
Julian Alban
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
Phone: (03) 9032 3435
Contribute your knowledge to a survey on technology-facilitated abuse

This survey asks domestic violence workers around Australia about experiences of technology-facilitated abuse they see among clients they work with. It aims to collect evidence about how technology is being used by perpetrators of domestic violence as a tool of abuse, and to help shape policies and practices to keep women safe.

This survey is based on the 2013 SmartSafe research by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) that examined workers’ observations and survivors’ experiences of technology-facilitated abuse within Victoria. 

This current research extends the SmartSafe survey nationally, and is a collaboration between Women’s Legal Services NSW, the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, and WESNET, funded under the ACCAN Grants Scheme.

Who is the survey for?

This survey is for any worker in Australia who has direct contact with women and children who are experiencing or who have experienced domestic violence.

How long will the survey take?

The survey should take 15-20 minutes to fill in. We understand the time constraints of your work and have tried to ensure the survey will not take too much of your time. 

Why should I take this survey?

Women’s Legal Services NSW, the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria and WESNET are organisations dedicated to providing practical support to the domestic violence sector. Your responses to this survey will ensure that the resources we create will be informed directly by your experiences supporting women and children.

Who can I talk to about the survey?

Please e-mail Dr Delanie Woodlock at DVRCV if you have any questions about this survey.

Daisy phone app launched to connect women with services

1800Respect's Daisy phone app was launched on International Women's Day by Rosie Batty (Australian of the Year) and Michealia Cash (Minister Assisting the Minister for Women). Daisy is an app to connect women experiencing family violence with services.
Daisy has text-to-voice functionality and ‘Scaleable’ text on Android and iPhone. On iPhone Daisy has a greyscale for colour blindness. Daisy is already available on Android, but it’s accessibility is somewhat limited by the platform’s functions. 1800Respect is keen to hear feedback from women with disabilities on Daisy’s accessibility through the feedback form.
It is great to see Government taking a stand on men's violence against women, and supporting initiatives like this. Jen from WDV spoke with Minister Cash about the importance of linking this work with the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the work of Minister Fifield's office.
Minister Cash is about to head to New York to join Women with Disabilities Australia representatives at the UN's meeting on the Convention on the Status of Women. This is another good opportunity to see links made between gender based violence and disability based violence, in this instance, on an international level.

PHOTO: Rosie Batty (Australian of the Year) and Michaelia Cash (Minister Assisting the Minister for Women) launch the Daisy phone app.
PHOTO: Senator Cash and Jen Hargrave at the launch.

Victorian Ombudsman consults on scope of an investigation into disability abuse reporting

WDV welcome the Victorian Ombudsman’s investigation into how reports of abuse are handled in disability services. The Ombudsman will look at the functions of report investigators (like the Department of Health and Human Services and the Disability Services Commissioner), and study the system for gaps. The investigation will also cover legislation and management of incidents in services. The services investigated are funded by DHHS, TAC and Worksafe, and they are:
  • accommodation,
  • day programs,
  • respite,
  • advocacy
  • and individual support programs.
The first phase of the Ombudsman’s report, about statutory oversight bodies, will be released in time to be considered by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework inquiry. The full report is expected to inform a broader Victorian inquiry into abuse in disability services. 

Prior to setting the terms of reference, the Ombudsman invited input into the scope of an inquiry. For a copy of WDV's submission to the consultation contact
Health and Community Services Union state secretary condemns violence in disability services

Health and Community Services Union state secretary Lloyd Williams said the current standards within the industry were not adequate, the ABC reports online.

"Employers don't do enough to ensure pre-employment checks, particularly around integrity and professional conduct, are addressed. It's not enough to simply to do a police check. People need knowledge of human rights, they need to have high integrity and they need to be of high professional character."

Mr Williams said, "Just imagine [yourself] being in the position of being unable to speak out or defend yourself at the hands of a predator day after day. This is the situation that these people, mainly women, find themselves in.

It's something that stays with someone their whole lives, it is violence, it is sexual assault, it is the [most traumatic experience] possible. This is our opportunity to make abuse of people with disabilities unacceptable in the same way as we are now doing for children and survivors of domestic violence."

National inquiry into disability services abuse

WDV congratulate Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) for their strong advocacy in the lead up to the Australian Senate voting for an inquiry into the abuse of people in disability services. This will provide an opportunity to shine a national spotlight on gender-based and disability-based violence against women with disabilities. WDV will be making a submission to the inquiry.
National consultation on the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework

The Department of Social Services (DSS) is running a consultation on the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework. This is important, as it will set many of the rights and responsibilities of services and clients under the NDIS. Women with Disabilities Victoria and Women with Disabilities Australia are hosting a focus group for women with disabilities in April, notes will be provided directly to DSS. For more details contact  

Organisations and individuals are welcome to make submissions to the consultation by April 29. There is a long consultation paper, and a 3 page summary paper,
Training calendars on responding to sexual assault and family violence

Two of Victoria's leading training providers have released their programs on responding to sexual assault and family violence. While some sessions are geared at specialists in the field, others are ideal for workers from other sectors including health and disability.

See the CASA House training calendar for details of training on responding to sexual assault.

In March Domestic Violence Resource Centre is offering 'Introduction to family violence' and 'Adolescent violence in the home.'  To find details and register see the Domestic Violence Resource Centre training calendar.

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