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A Message from WDV CEO Leah van Poppel
Finally, we're nearly at the end of 2020! I'm sure most of you can't wait to ring in a new year with the hope that it will be better than this one. As women with disabilities, many of us have displayed our usual adaptability and resilience in spades this year - we spend our lives adjusting to the world around us, and COVID has just made the adjustments a little bigger. For some of us, 2020 has brought unexpected gifts: better access to services like doctors and museums, better access to friends, family and work. We're all reflecting on what we want to change and what we'd like to keep. If you think there are things WDV needs to fight for on your behalf, you can reach out to us to say what you think.

We've ended the year with a bang, as you'll see below. We held a major event talking to professionals who want to understand the needs of women with disabilities better. We've launched resources on preventing violence against women with disabilities, and making sure we have good access to sexual and reproductive health services. Like everything else this year, it's all online - you can check it out from the links below. I'd like to thank everyone - our members, our partners, and our allies - who has come together with us during 2020 to raise the voices of women with disabilities and support our work. 

After such a big year, we all need a rest. The WDV office will be closed between 24th December and 4th January. Many of our team are taking leave during January, so please bear with us if it take a little longer than usual to reach us in the coming weeks. Whatever you're doing, we hope you stay safe, and you have the chance to be with the people you love. 
Congratulations Andrea Mayne

Under the WDV Constitution the Board is able to co-opt two positions if and when it decides these are needed. Co-opted positions are for one year only. Co-opted Board members do not need to be women with disabilities. In general, committee co-options either assist the committees with skills gaps and/or provide an opportunity for WDV members and friends to become involved so the Board can plan for succession.   

Last year, Andrea Mayne was co-opted to the Board to fill a skills gap in marketing as determined by the board skills audit.  Andrea’s professional expertise in marketing and membership based organisations was invaluable and her alignment with WDVs purpose meant that Andrea was a great contributor to the WDV Board in 2020.   

Andrea has expressed interest in continuing on the WDV Board and provided a formal Expression of Interest for reappointment to the WDV Board for the 2021 cycle. At the WDV Board meeting held earlier this week the Board unanimously voted to reappoint Andrea Mayne for another one year term.    

The WDV Board and Staff congratulate Andrea on her reappointment to the Board and look forward to another year with Andrea offering her professional expertise to the WDV Board. 

View the WDV Board Page

Take the WDV Youth Engagement Survey

WDV wants to increase our engagement with girls/young women with disabilities.

We are conducting a survey to find out how we should share information, opportunities, events, programs and stories. We also want to learn how girls/young women with disabilities like to share these things with others.

We are inviting people to complete the survey if they are a 15 - 25 year old who identifies as a girl/woman (cis or trans), trans man, non-binary, or gender diverse person, who

  • lives with disability,
  • is Deaf / deaf / hard of hearing,
  • lives with chronic illness and/or pain,
  • is neurodiverse, and/or,
  • lives with mental health challenges. 

This survey will take approximately 10 minutes to complete, but may vary from person to person.

People may like to get support from someone they know to help complete the survey.

People are not required to provide names and contact details, but will have the option to do so.

If you would like assistance to complete this survey, or you would like more information, please contact Bridget Jolley (Women’s Empowerment Officer – Youth)

The survey closes Friday 19 February 2021.

Complete the Youth Engagement Survey
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign

To mark this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence and celebrate International Day of People with Disabilities, Women with Disabilities Victoria hosted an online event on the 3rd December called, Respect, Inclusion and Equality: Building Workforce Capacity to Prevent Violence Against Women with Disabilities. The event was held in partnership with Respect Victoria and the Municipal Association of Victoria – 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, Campaign and supported by the Victorian Government. We were delighted to have the Hon Gabrielle Williams MP (Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence & Minister for Women and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.) speak at the event and WDV’s CEO Leah Van Poppel launched our new prevention resources:

The Women’s Health Services Disability and PVAW Inclusion Toolkit (it is in the process of being uploaded onto the website in the meantime please contact Helen Freris at if you would like a copy).

See our other resources on Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Women with Disabilities.

Our Workforce Development team presented lightening talks on ‘Respect Is.. Language that includes and empowers’, ‘PVAWD Organisational Capacity Building’ and ‘Making Sexual and Reproductive Health more respectable for Women with Disabilities.’ This was followed by a panel of women with lived experiences of disability from a wide range of backgrounds. The panel discussion focused on ways we can promote respect and prevent violence against women with disabilities in our work. The panel was hosted by WDV’s Jan Earthstar, Prevention Resource Development Officer. On the panel were:

  • Mija Gwyn, Manager at Youth Disability Advocacy Service
  • Nicole Lee, a leading disability and family violence campaigner
  • Jen Hargrave, Senior Policy Advisor at WDV.
  • Shakira Hussein, research fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute as well as a regular commentator on issues of gender, disability, Islam, and multiculturalism
  • and Ashleigh Malone, WDV Experts by Experience member, and advocate around NDIS access.
The event was a great opportunity to present WDV’s work in prevention of violence and elevate the voices of women with disabilities.

Feedback from the event has been very positive:

“I really got a lot from Thursday’s event, particularly hearing points of view and perspectives I hadn’t considered. I shared some of this with our team and have downloaded the resources. Well done!” “Yes, respect and prevention of violence is relevant to everybody's work.” (event participant).

WDV would like to thank ISPT, CSI & the Foy’s Arcade team Erin Donnellon, Manager of Digital Delivery, Jennifer Schiana, Foy’s Arcade Conference Coordinator and Lucas Hunter, Graphic & User Experience Designer for supporting the event logistics, we could not have done it without you.
Image taken during the panel discussion. At the top from left to right is Mark the Auslan Interpreter and Mija Gwyn. The middle row from left to right is Jan Earthstar, Nicole Lee, and Shakira Hussein. On the bottom row from left to right is Jen Hargrave and Ashleigh Malone.
Watch the event on WDV's YouTube Channel
Rural and Regional Hub Get Together

On December 10 WDV's four regional hubs came together for a facilitated conversation led by Liz Wright – Local Leadership Hub Coordinator. Approximately 28 women attended.

Nadia Mattiazo (Manager, Community Inclusion and Women’s Empowerment) and Leah Van Poppel, (Chief Executive Officer of WDV) gave overviews of WDV's programs and the role of the Community Inclusion and Women's Empowerment team.

Each Hub Liaison Officer then introduced themselves, their members and key projects.

The meeting moved into a facilitated collective discussion about the key issues facing women in rural and regional areas. These included:

  • Transport including trains, buses, timetabling and accessibility.
  • Access to health services and behaviour and treatment by health professionals. Prohibitive costs to see health professionals and the lack of informed research into specific disability or chronic illness.
  • Health and Well Being – influence in the hospital system
  • Safety both in terms of safety in the home and in public.
  • Social Security Rights
  • Independent Living – appropriate housing and accommodation

The Hubs are proving to be very beneficial for local women with disabilities. Feedback included:

“I’ve enjoyed being with the hub, meeting new people, making new friends."

“My experience with the hub is getting together and learning from each other – we bounce off each other about different things we have to deal with as women with disabilities, there are things you can’t talk about with men. In COVID-19 we have been meeting via Zoom every month.”

“I joined WDV last year. For me it was because I had to start engaging disability services which was a huge change in my life. I had to get used to providers talking to me in different ways making me feel less than human. I got to meet a range of women with disabilities and it was great to be able to share experiences with them.” 

“It has been a real growth process for myself on getting me to view my disability in a different light which I am eternally grateful for. I recently joined the Experts by Experience group. The information sharing there is good. I would love to see our groups grow. I believe connection is so important."

The Hubs  are eager to work together to create state-wide change and address issues of discrimination and exclusion.

Thank you to all who participated and supported the meeting including WDV staff Bridget Jolley, Jen Hargrave and Dee Henry.

Women's Health Services (WHS) and Prevention of Violence Against Women (PVAW) Inclusion Toolkit

On International Day of People with Disability, WDV launched a new resource: the WHS Disability and PVAW Inclusion Toolkit.

The toolkit, which supports women’s health services to  consider the rights and perspectives of women with disabilities,  takes an intersectional and human rights approach to address the drivers of violence against  women with disabilities.

The toolkit was piloted by two partner women's health services: Women’s Health East (WHE) and Women’s Health Loddon Mallee (WHLM). Their feedback helped to redevelop the pilot PVAW Needs Analysis Tool and WHS Disability Audit Tool. The tools are comprised of 16 self-contained booklets to guide women's health services in increasing their flexibility and responsiveness to women with disabilities.

Women’s Health West (WHE) and Women’s Health Grampians (WHG) will use the toolkit in partnership with WDV next year. 

The toolkit will soon be available on the WDV website to enable Women's Health Services and other organisations to incorporate the toolkit into their practice as a self-assessment tool.

Experts By Experience

The Experts by Experience is a violence prevention initiative of the Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program. The team, comprised of 14 women with a diverse range of disabilities, backgrounds and experiences aims to increase disability and gender equity, representation and leadership in the family violence and disability sector by providing expert consultation on a range of policy, programs, resources and initiatives.

The team recently had the first of three consultations with WIRE and Good Shephard on an Intersectional Guide and Financial Capability Education Co-design project. This guide will help program designers and service providers understand the intersectional needs of women, when delivering education and training to build money skills.

Common themes that came out of the consultation were:

  • Women with disabilities can experience barriers employment therefore may experience periods without work therefore further education about superannuation is needed.
  • Financial information and advice need to be provided in ways we can all understand as individuals, no jargon.
  • Make banking an accessible experience for women with disabilities

If you or your organisation would like information about the consultations we can provide or broader programs from the Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program, please contact Bianca Evans on

Victorian State Government Disability Plan Consultation

Consultation and work on developing a new four-year state disability plan was paused in March 2020 to respond to the immediate needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a media release on December 3, the Victorian State Government said:

"Consultation on the new plan will be formally recommencing today, on International Day of People with Disability, in line with the United Nations’ theme “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-1 World”.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on people with disability. This is why a key focus of the next state disability plan will be COVID-19 recovery, as well as emergency response and preparedness more generally.  

We [Victorian State Government]  are keen to hear from people about what they’ve seen and experienced this year, and how the next state disability plan could be used to improve the lives of people with disability following the pandemic.  

We [Victorian State Government] have continued to receive written submissions and responses to key questions on our website since consultation initially opened 12 months ago. These valuable contributions will not be lost as we transition into the next phase of consultation and design of the new plan.  

We [Victorian State Government] will soon provide further information in relation to new ways to contribute thoughts and ideas. This will most likely be through virtual platforms rather than face-to-face meetings. We [Victorian State Government] will also have some consultations that are led by trusted community organisations rather than government, so that people can feel comfortable having their say."

Contribute to the State Disability Plan

Congratulations Larissa McFarlane

WDV are so excited that a member of our Experts by Experience Group has been awarded  the Lesley Hall 2020 Scholarship by Arts Access Victoria.  The program supports the winner to deliver a new arts project that challenges disability assumptions. So well deserved Larissa! 

Read more

Qualia Theatre Group are looking for a new member

Do you have an itch to do theatre? Are you a person with diverse lived experience of psych wards and confident telling your story?

Qualia Theatre is casting for a new member in 2021!

Qualia is award winning theatre, highlighting human and social rights issues in our psych wards and mental health system.

Call out: Performing artist with lived experience of the public psychiatric system (psych wards). You don't need theatre skills but you must have some skills in public speaking and/or lived experience advocacy. Sense of humour will be highly regarded.

Qualia supports under-represented voices so diverse bodies and social access strongly encouraged to enquire.

Qualia is based in Melbourne, Australia.

EOI's to:
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