Women Experiencing Disadvantage Panel

In the lead up to the 2013 Federal Election, ACLW is running a Panel to explore the concerns of women who are in disadvantaged Australian communities. This Panel comprises Women Leaders in the community who are at the coal face working with women experiencing disadvantage.  Panellists also offer their reflections and insights into relevant policy and make recommendations for policy makers to consider.

ACLW Panel on the Concerns of Women Experiencing Disadvantage in Australian Communities

The ACLW Panel of 15 Community Leaders explores a range of issues that concern women who are experiencing disadvantage in Australian communities commences. The Panel comprises women who advocate for, work with, research and represent women who are disadvantaged.
Panellists focussed on:

  • Key issues that concern women in disadvantaged communities from your perspective
  • Impacts on women in relation to these issues
  • Analysis of the positives and negatives in how the issue is being addressed nationally
  • Recommendations for areas that need addressing in the upcoming election 

An article from each of the Panellist was published here commencing on 22 March 2013 and concluding before the federal election on 7 September 2013.

List of Panellists

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An listing of Panellists and their contributions

Panellists:

Violet Roumeliotis

Violet Roumeliotis has a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Sociology and History from UNSW and has a Masters in Management from UTS. She is also an accredited mediator. Violet has an extensive background in advocating for and developing services for vulnerable and at risk communities and individuals with more than thirty years’ involvement, in both a professional and voluntary capacity, in human resource and project management. In particular, she has developed specialized knowledge and skills in working with people of a non-English speaking backgrounds and culturally diverse communities, refugees and humanitarian entrants, families in crisis, women and children at risk. Her special areas of expertise is in the non-government sector includes building the capacity of small and emerging communities, leadership skills development, women at risk, prisoners, youth mentoring, and cultural diversity training. She is a past President of the NSW Immigrant Women’s Speak out and Sydney Rape Crisis Centre, a past Director of the South East Sydney Area Health Board, Chair of South West Sydney Legal Centre and immediate past President of Settlement Services International and sits on the  Connect Australia Foundation Board.  Violet’s also a Board member of the Sydney Alliance and a member of its Leaders Council. Violet has extensive experience in representing community interests on government committees and boards such as the NSW Police Commissioners Advisory Council on Diversity Policing and a past trustee of the NSW Financial Trust Fund. Violet is currently CEO of Settlement Services International.

  • Pushed to the margins: building pathways towards greater social inclusion for refugee women in Australia

Libby Davies

Libby Davies is currently the CEO of the White Ribbon Foundation.  Prior to this position, and in recent years, Libby has worked as a business development consultant to Frontier Services, a national provider of aged and community services across rural and remote Australia , senior policy adviser with the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, and as a consultant in the areas of social policy, strategic planning and mentoring to the community sector. Ms Davies has also held a number of chief executive positions, such as CEO for Family Services Australia, National Director of UnitingCare Australia and Executive Director of the Head Injury Council of Australia (now Brain Injury Australia). She is currently Chair of the board of UnitingCare NSW.ACT, Board member of the House with No Steps, immediate past Board member of The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and held a number of board and representative positions (including at executive and ministerial level) in health, ageing, and family and community services including ACOSS. Before moving into national social policy and advocacy work in community and welfare services, Libby worked in projects of national significance with the Australian Government relating to education and national curriculum development, and was a secondary teacher of social sciences.

  • Men’s Violence Against Women (VAW)

Ludo McFerran

Ludo McFerran has been an activist in the Australian domestic violence sector since 1978. She has worked in every aspect of the sector including state and national peak bodies. She pioneered policy on support systems to enable women and children to stay safely in their homes and is currently managing a national program promoting the introduction of domestic violence  protections  in industrial and discrimination instruments. She is currently the National Project Manager in the Centre for Gender Related Violence Studies at the University of New South Wales. Ludo is also a farmer and was in a previous life a chart topping saxophone player in a rock band.

  • Discrimination Proctections in law for people experiencing domestic violence

Sandra Cook

Sandra is the National Director of Policy for BPW Australia, and Chair of economicSecurity4Women, one of the government funded National Women’s Alliance. The organisations she represents provide advice and lobby across government to ensure that the economic equality of women is at centre stage. Sandra works with members who are employers, employees and self employed business women, providing a unique perspective to consider the participation of women in the workforce in all its aspects – from the initial training skills required to the barriers they face in joining, and remaining in the workforce. Economic empowerment is critical to the wellbeing of women, and her organisations’ focus has most recently been on two areas:  that impact of insecure work and the impact of care – both paid and unpaid on women’s ability to work.

  • Sharing the caring – we need to spread the load

Debbie Kilroy

Debbie Kilroy OAM, MLB, GDFMenH, GDLPrac and BSocWk, former prisoner is the CEO of Sisters Inside which is an independent community organisation which advocates for the human rights of criminalised women.  Debbie is a strong, active advocate for the implementation and monitoring of human rights within women’s prisons and against discriminatory practices. Debbie has participated in several international meetings including the expert meeting in developing the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules) and the Commission of Status of Women Sessions annually.  She is the first person convicted of serious criminal offences admitted to practice law and Debbie’s expertise is in criminal defence law.

  • Imprisonment – a default response to women’s poverty and disadvantage

Eve Bodsworth

Dr Eve Bodsworth is a Research and Policy Manager in the Research and Policy Centre at the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Her research focuses on social policy issues regarding income support, welfare to work policies and alternative approaches to employment services for disadvantaged groups. In particular, Eve’s work highlights the intersections of disadvantage and the interplay between everyday lives, social policy and the labour market – with a focus on the circumstances of low income women. Her work has been cited in Australian and overseas media, OECD and government publications and she has published in several peer reviewed journals. She was a member of a Commonwealth legislative review panel examining the effects of the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (2008 Budget and Other Measures) Act 2008. Eve recently completed a doctorate that examined how single mothers make choices about work, family and income support in the context of Australian welfare reform. She holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Melbourne and, prior to commencing her career in social policy, she worked as a lawyer including in the areas of family law and family violence.  Eve is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

  • Australian women are worth the investment

Kelly Hinton

Kelly is the Executive Director at Project Respect since 2010. Under her leadership, Project Respect has been awarded the Our Community Kookaburra Awards (Community Group), Anti Slavery Australia Freedom Award 2011 (Organisation Contribution), and highly commended in the 2012 Australian Government National Homelessness Services Achievement Awards (Excellence in Supporting Pathways to Employment or Education). Kelly represents Project Respect at the Federal Attorney General’s National Anti-Trafficking Roundtable, the Stop the Traffik (Australia) Coalition, the 2012 Equality Rights Alliance Housing Working Group and co facilitates the Project Respect training program “Working with Women in the Sex Industry.”

Kelly has been actively involved in challenging violence against women since 2004 and has worked in family violence refuges. She has appeared in a 4 Corners report on sex slavery, been published in the Age and Women’s Views on the News, has written numerous submissions to government inquiries on the sex industry and trafficking,  and has spoken at a number of conferences, including the International Symposium to Prevent Sex Trafficking.  Kelly frequently meets with delegates from NGO’s and governments in Australia and internationally to discuss how to address trafficking and sexual exploitation of women, from both a policy and practical level.  Most importantly, Kelly speaks to women who have been in the sex industry virtually every day, and is passionate about ensuring that vulnerable women’s voices and stories are heard. Kelly has a Bachelor of Social Work (Hons) from the University of RMIT.

  • Silence, Violence and the doors that remain closed

Terese Edwards

Terese Edwards is CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers & Children Inc since 2009. She is also the Deputy President of ACOSS since February 2010. She is a Steering committee member of the Equality and Rights Alliance (National Women‘s Alliance) since 2012 and the newly elected chair of the South Australian Women Services Network. She is a Member of the Economic Security for women since October 2012 and a Child Support National Stakeholder Engagement Group Member since 2009.Terese has a Masters in Public Administration, a Graduate Diploma in Management and a Graduate Certificate in Public Policy.  

  • Single Mothers, their Children and Poverty: It should not be a foregone conclusion

Rita Tratt

Rita Tratt is Secretary of the Older Women’s Network and Coordinator of its Theatre Group, which seeks to educate health professionals, carers, community groups and local councils, on issues affecting older women.  Rita has been involved in Human Rights and Equal Opportunity areas since the 70s and has worked at The Anti-Discrimination Board, the Office of the Director of Equal Opportunity and was an Equal Opportunity Coordinator in the NSW Attorney General’s Department.  Rita has also been a TAFE Literacy and Numeracy teacher and is very aware of the needs of older women, who are trying to re-enter the work force.

  • Older Women – A lifetime of disadvantage
2013 ACLW Panel Recommendations

In the lead up to the election, whilst attention focuses on marginal seats, those who are disadvantaged in the Australian community should not be marginalised.

The Report, How Australia is faring: Multiple Disadvantage 2012 which measured multiple disadvantage for people aged 18 to 64 years indicated that around 5% of the working age population, or 640,000 people, have multiple disadvantages. Between 2006 and 2010 there was a worsening in those disadvantaged by employment and education, and in the number of people experiencing poor health and little change in the income, safety and support indicators.  Disadvantage was found to be difficult to get out of as around 40% of the people aged 18 to 64 years who experienced multiple disadvantage in 2006, experienced multiple disadvantage two years later.

Women are more likely than men to experience multiple disadvantage, and persistent disadvantage, according to the Report, which also stated that the gap between men and women is wider, the longer the disadvantage persists.

In the lead up to the election, ACLW has brought together women community leaders who work on the frontlines with women who experience disadvantage in Australian communities to contribute to an analysis of Key issues that concern and impact on women in disadvantaged communities and make recommendations to address these issues in the upcoming election.

A 14-women Panel of leading women with a record of achievement, experience and knowledge of particular social justice issues experienced by women in Australian communities, commenced their analysis in March 2013. The Panel closes on 11 September 2013. 

Below is a summary of the Panellist’s recommendations, so far.

To address domestic and family violence

  • set national benchmarks for good practice
  • ensure that the infrastructure is there at the regional and state level to support national initiatives
  • support discrimination protections in law for people experiencing domestic violence
  • support the two Bills: Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination and Fair Work Amendment Bills

Ludo McFerran, National Project Manager, Centre for Gender Related Violence Studies at the University of New South Wales

To improve the status of women

  • consider the gender implications of insecure employment in relation to workplace gender equality objectives, paying particular attention to caring as it impacts on women as primary paid and unpaid care workers.
  • offer a significant increase in the JET childcare and training assistance.
  • apply a gender lens to relevant public policies including education and income support.
  • ensure that national Vocational Education and Training (VET) policies focus on gender equity while recognising the complexity and challenges associated with gender when it intersects with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background, with disabilities, with culturally and or linguistically diverse backgrounds, with low socio economic backgrounds and with geographical disadvantage.
  • task the Productivity Commission with examining both the supply of quality, affordable child care, as well the effect of the taxation and welfare transfer systems interacting with the cost of child care.
  • support efforts to reduce the gender pay gap and its attendant causes across all employment sectors

Sandra Cook, National Director of Policy, BPW Australia

To address the multi-generational criminalisation of women and children brought about through social inequities  

  • Reinstate the Centrelink Parenting Payment for parents with children under 18 years old and increase Newstart Allowance payments.   
  • Decriminalise Centrelink fraud.  The vast majority of Centrelink fraud is driven by need, rather than greed. Criminalising and imprisoning women who commit offences in this area is counterproductive.  A federal criminal record only serves to make women’s situation completely hopeless, with little hope of ever escaping the poverty trap.  And, almost always, their children are further traumatised and disadvantaged, placing them at disproportionate risk of criminalisation. 
  • Fund community organisations to work with criminalised women – particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.  
  • Resource the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to investigate Australia’s compliance with the Bangkok Rules (the United Nations Rules on the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders).   The AHRC should be resourced to play a leading role in ensuring that all Australian states and territories meet their human rights obligations under the Bangkok Rules.

Debbie Kilroy, CEO Sisters Inside, Brisbane 

For women and men experiencing disadvantage in Australian communities 

  • women and men must be enabled to move between periods of caring and work, and more easily combine care and work
  • policy changes to enable women to better balance their paid work and caring responsibilities
  • flexible working conditions
  • policies that value women’s unpaid work
  • addressing current tax, welfare and childcare arrangements so that they are not regressive thus creating disincentives to workforce participation and reducing opportunities later in life
  • recognising women’s strengths 
  •  recognising that women accessing services can face direct and indirect discrimination and that the underestimation of women’s abilities may lead to a narrowing of options, loss of confidence and despair
  • ensuring participation and voice are fundamental to inclusive empowering services

 Eve Bodsworth, Research & Policy Manager, Brotherhood of St Lawrence 

For women experiencing sexual violence and trafficking in the Sex Industry 

  • criminalise the intentional use and abuse of a trafficked woman in the sex industry
  • conduct research into the demand for trafficked women in the sex industry
  • conduct research into the institutional violence of the sex industry, and how other countries have addressed this form of VAW
  • adequately resource specialized programs such as Project Respect that support women who experience all forms of violence perpetrated in the sex industry (including trafficking)
  • develop a system of accredited NGOs assessing trafficked persons and referring for visa’s and support, not police
  • include trafficking and violence in the sex industry as part of the coverage of the national hotline 1800 RESPECT
  • provide visas and support for women who are trafficked, in recognition of the human rights abuse that has been allowed to occur in our country, regardless of their willingness to engage with the criminal justice process

Kelly Hinton, Executive Director, Project Respect 

For Refugee women, in particular those who come under the Women at Risk visa category 

  • targeted support in areas such as housing, employment and education
  • developing a more consistent national approach to the settlement needs of refugee women
  • intensive assessment for all women entering the settlement support system to more accurately gauge the vulnerabilities and risks of their life circumstances
  • a more targeted case management approach to the needs and strengths of these vulnerable women, linking them earlier to the pathways and services they need
  • understanding that women experiencing multiple disadvantage encounter multiple barriers when accessing support as they often struggle to meet existing referral criteria for the services that they need
  • need more flexibility in the key mainstream services that support vulnerable refugee women to ensure a more consistent and client-centred approach
  • supported in their choices to relocate if their initial settlement location is not suitable or further compounds their social exclusion

Violet Roumeliotis, CEO of Settlement Services International

For Single Parents

  • Increase Newstart.  The National Council of Single Mothers & their Children has called for an increase of  $60 per week (the same level as the Parenting Payment). Newstart is woefully inadequate at $279 per week and is stuck at 77% below the poverty line.
  • Increase the $ that parents can earn and retain to the equivalent of the PPS. The Government`s announced increase (subject to legislation) will be welcomed, but it is inadequate. $50 per week has it languishing well behind the Parenting Payment.
  • Implement fair indexation for Newstart by using the same formula as used for pensions so any gain made wont be eroded over time.              
  • Support a National Focus and strategy to eliminate Child Poverty in Australia. Let’s put this back on the National Agenda. 

Terese Edwards, CEO, National Council for Single Mothers and their Children 

For Older Women 

  • Recognition that many older women have no benefits, or very limited benefits, from superannuation because of caring responsibilities that have occurred throughout their lifetimes
  • Increased flexibility in the workplace assists carers to remain in and re-enter employment 
  • Secure work to allow for the re-entry of older women into the workforce after caring responsibilities have ceased 
  • Work of a casual nature needs to accrue the same advantages as permanent work 
  • Need secure affordable housing 
  • Increase in refuges and emergency accommodation for older women experiencing violence, specifically in the form of clustered accommodation, specifically for older women, where older women can feel safe and secure, whilst avoiding social isolation 
  • Access to community transport, health centres and hospitals

Rita Tratt, Secretary, Older Women’s Network NSW

For Aboriginal People:

  • need jobs for our young people, in particular
  • need a life trajectory for our kids that includes opportunities and self-respect
  • walk forward with our heads held high as Aboriginal people – without having to sacrifice anything of ourselves or our cultural pride
  • need a spirit of cooperation, openness, encouragement and respect
  • our people must be given the space to do our healing first
  • given opportunities to move forward and to take control of our own destiny

Janelle Brown, Aboriginal Community Engagement

For overseas-born women without permanent residency in Australia:

  • The Australian government should amend Migration Relations 1994 (Cth) to grant holders of the prospective marriage visa and secondary applicants of permanent visas protections through the domestic/family violence provision.
  • Alongside the domestic/family violence provision, the government should provide holders of the prospective marriage visa and secondary applicants of permanent visas access to healthcare, accommodation and crisis services such as legal assistance, translators / interpreters, counselling and shelter at refuges.  These services should be made available to visa holders who experience or report cases of violence to relevant authorities.  The government should also consider granting work rights to all individuals during this interim period.
  • Relative service providers should undertake cross cultural training so that they are equipped to effectively manage cases involving culturally and linguistically diverse individuals.
  • Short term remedy – Create an additional temporary visa for temporary visa holders who have experienced domestic/family violence.  This visa aims to ease the burden placed on temporary migrants by giving them additional time to either make arrangements to leave Australia, apply for another visa (this may include a Protection Visa) and grant them access to basic crisis services and work rights as stipulated above (recommendation (ii)). 
  • The government should foster an integrated, whole of government approach to protect overseas born women without permanent residency.  Recognition of the increased barriers experienced by these individuals in accessing available services and exercising their rights should be reflected in future policy frameworks.  Implement guidelines to assist decision makers in applying the Refugee Convention to cases concerning gender and domestic violence.
  • Expel the general risk exception from the Complementary Protection Regulations and clarify grounds for protection.  In accordance with international human rights principles, this should include any situation in which the applicant faces a real risk of proscribed forms of harm, irrespective of whether that risk is personal.

Melba Marginson, Executive Director, Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition

For women experiencing sexual harassment in workplaces:

  • need for a stronger legislative mechanism in preventing and responding to sexual harassment in workplaces.
  • allow random (or given sufficient cause, planned) audits of workplaces to demonstrate that they comply with minimum standards of education about sexual harassment and discrimination and have processes in place for handling concerns while demonstrating that when complaints have arisen they have acted in a fair and appropriate way
  • conduct independent investigations into individual claims of sex discrimination if respondents refuse to participate in good faith or where there is suspicion of systemic sexual harassment
  • supporting complainants financially with legal representation if considered warranted for complaints that are not conciliated satisfactorily
  • a single act, such as the proposed Human Rights and Anti Discrimination Bill, would serve to improve and simplify access for complainants.
  • an opportunity to modernise aspects of Commonwealth human rights laws seems to have been concerningly delayed but hopefully it has not been missed.

Kerriann Dear, Director of the Queensland Working Women’s Service Inc. (QWWS)

For Migrant workers and Partner-Marriage Migrants:

There are many conditions on 457 visa that have to be reviewed:

  • IELTS (English test) expiration must be removed for those 457 visa holders who have been working for one year
  • change the tuition fee for dependents from international student’s fee to local student’s fee
  •  put the 457 visa in permanent residency framework. It should be a permanent residency and not temporary residency. This will lift all bonded-like work situation that are woven in the 457 visa regulations.

For Partner visa holders:

  • The two-year waiting period of this visa must be cancelled. The successful partner visa applicants must be granted permanent residency.

Jane Corpuz-Brock, Executive Officer, Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association

For women impacted by childhood trauma:

  • the Terms of Reference of the Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse mean that abuses, other than those which are sexual in nature, as well as abuses perpetrated in the home and family are not being examined. The Royal Commission and the conversations … need to be supported by action in the pursuit of justice as well as by services which are informed about complex trauma and its impacts, services which are accessible and affordable to the large numbers of victims/survivors of all ages needing them
  • for all parties, in government as well as opposition to take a bi-partisan approach to issues of trauma, violence and abuse
  • support survivors as they come forward and speak to the Royal Commission and other inquiries, and ensure that as a society we take whatever steps we can to protect the most vulnerable amongst us and provide child and adult victims with the ‘trauma-informed’ support they need to reclaim their lives and overcome the repercussions of the often gendered assaults of power.

Dr Cathy Kezelman, President Adults Surviving Child Abuse

For women in disadvantaged communities:

  • invest resources and energy into up-skilling the nation around financial management issues
  • ensure that families do not take on too much debt is crucial in regard to educating the population (particularly to those populations vulnerable to debt) around financial management issues and that the public is better educated around the debilitating impact of these issues for individuals and families
  • educate young people whilst they are still at school around financial management issues, as this is such an essential life skill in today’s environment. Subjects which could be covered include the importance of savings, the management of debt, and the importance of avoiding unmanageable debt.

Carol Berry, CEO, Illawarra Women’s Health Centre

(Photo source: Women have higher rates of persistent low economic resources reported in How Australia is faring: Multiple Disadvantage 2012)

Pushed to the Margins

Pushed to the margins: building pathways towards greater social inclusion for refugee women in Australia

By Violet Roumeliotis, CEO of Settlement Services International

The forced migration of people fleeing persecution is one of the major challenges in the world today. Australia has contributed to addressing this challenge by accepting more than 700,000 refugees for resettlement (Hugo, Njuki & Vas Dev, 2012) over the past 60 years. There is compelling longitudinal evidence of the contribution that humanitarian settlers make to Australia in terms of benefits to our population, participation in the labour force and productivity. (Hugo, Njuki & Vas Dev, 2012)

Australia is also only one of three countries worldwide that grants protection to vulnerable refugee women under the Women at Risk visa category. Women granted protection in this category have, amongst other things, demonstrated that they are in danger of victimisation, harassment and serious abuse. Many of them have experienced torture and trauma, war and conflict, and gender-related violence. These experiences may have occurred in their country of origin, country of first asylum or transit countries and have often occurred in contexts where women’s human rights are ignored or severely threatened.

Since 1989, Australia has become home to almost 12, 000 women from these highly vulnerable situations. (DIAC , 2012) But this is likely to be an under-estimation of the true extent of vulnerable refugee women across Australia. Recent research conducted by The Centre for Refugee Research, UNSW (Pittaway & Pittaway, 2011) and SSI (the largest provider of settlement services in NSW) indicates that many women who are granted protection in Australia under other humanitarian visa categories often report life experiences that meet many of the criteria used to determine the Women at Risk category.

The prime purpose of Australia’s refugee intake has always been, and must always be, humanitarian in nature. Clearly, people forced to migrate are less able, initially at least, to adjust socially and economically to a new life in Australia. Refugee women face many of the challenges faced by other women experiencing multiple disadvantage: living in rental accommodation, heading single parent families. (Australian Social Inclusion Board,2010) In addition, these women can experience significant stressors in adjusting to radically altered roles such as being the head of a household which is experiencing multiple disadvantage. Like other people experiencing multiple disadvantage, they need targeted support in areas such as housing, employment and education to make a transition towards greater social inclusion. In the case of refugee women, particularly single women whose life circumstances place them at higher risk, there are questions as to whether the supports currently available are sufficiently targeted to meet their needs.

Some of the answers to these questions include developing a more consistent national approach to the settlement needs of refugee women. In the short term, this could take the form of more intensive assessment for all women entering the settlement support system to more accurately gauge the vulnerabilities and risks of their life circumstances which might impact on their settlement journey in Australia. The assessment could also identify the strengths and opportunities of these women. This could underpin a more targeted case management approach to the needs and strengths of these vulnerable women, linking them earlier to the pathways and services they need.

As with other women experiencing multiple disadvantage, these women encounter multiple barriers when accessing support as they often struggle to meet existing referral criteria for the services that they need. In the longer term, we need more flexibility in the key mainstream services that support vulnerable refugee women to ensure a more consistent and client-centred approach.

Refugee women, in particular those who come under the Women at Risk visa category, can experience stigma and discrimination from within their ethnic communities. It is appropriate that they are offered settlement options away from major cities, where they might be at greater risk of being exposed to this form of discrimination.However, they also need to be supported in their choices to relocate if their initial settlement location is not suitable or further compounds their social exclusion.

Immigrants and refugees are an intricate and essential chapter in the evolving story of Australia. Vulnerable refugee women and their families are part of this evolving story and can help to remind us of the resilience of these women in the face of extreme adversity. In the words of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers in 2012 we need to be hard-headed and not hard-hearted in our discussions to improve the pathways toward greater social inclusion for refugee women in Australia.

Acknowledgements

This paper was developed with input from Yamamah Agha, Nasiba Akram and Bintu Kamara who have a depth of experience in working with refugee women and Tadgh McMahon who works in research and policy at SSI.

References:

Hugo, G Njuki, P & Vas Dev, S (2012). Social Inclusion and multiculturalism: the impact of internnational migration. In A Greater Australia: Population, policies and governance. CEDA: Melbourne [ Available at ceda.com.au/media/204245/populationreport2012final.pdf ]

DIAC (2012). Australia’s offshore Humanitarian Program : 2011-12. DIAC: Canberra [ Available at http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/immigration-update/australia_offshore_humanitarian_prog_2011-12.pdf]

Pittaway, E & Pittaway, E. (2011). Refugee Women at Risk in Australia: An evaluation of service provision for refugee women settled under the Humanitarian Settlement Services Scheme. SSI/The Centre for Refugee Research, UNSW: Sydney.

Australian Social Inclusion Board. (2010). Social Inclusion in Australia: How Australia is faring. Australian Government: Canberra. [ Available at http://www.socialinclusion.gov.au/resources/how-australia-is-faring]

Men’s Violence against Women

By Libby Davies, CEO, White Ribbon Australia

One of the most insidious issues in our society that disadvantages women is men’s violence against women (VAW).

Statistics reveal that one in three Australian women report having experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of fifteen and at least one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006 ; Virueda and Payne, 2010).

The impact of this insidious violence is widespread and long-standing, generating profound personal, social and economic costs. Intimate partner violence remains the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health in Australian women aged 15-44, and is one of the greatest predictors of high prevalence mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety (United Nations, 2006; VicHealth, 2008).

The World Health Organisation has identified VAW  as a major public health problem. This violence can also be symptomatic of broader cultural perpetuation of abuse and impact on those that are most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Likewise, it can institutionalise disadvantage. For example, domestic and family violence are the principal cause of homelessness among women (VicHealth, 2004; AIHW, 2008).

These aforementioned risk factors correlate with poor developmental, educational and vocational outcomes for individuals affected by violence, and communities more broadly.  For example, ‘women who have lived with a violent partner are more likely to experience financial difficulty’ (VicHealth, 2012; Women’s Health Australia, 2005).  According to VicHealth (2004) ‘the sheer impact of physical and sexual violence on women and children experiencing it is profound and spans many quality of life measures.’  VAW witnessed by children is a form of child abuse.

Homelessness in young women can also be related to the experience of sexual assault and it, in turn, increases their vulnerability to further sexual assault – on the street, in hostels, refuges and squats. (VicHealth, 2012; Naeme and Heenan, 2003).

VAW costs the Australian economy $14.7 billion dollars per year (KPMG, 2013). This figure should place VAW at the forefront of our political and business landscape but progress thus far indicates that we still have a long way to go.  We as a community need to continue to progress analysis that demonstrates that it would take only a limited reduction in violence to offset the cost of prevention initiatives.

There is now international consensus that VAW can be stopped by tackling its causes (VicHealth, 2008).  One of the key strategies recognised globally and in Australia is that it will take the involvement of men, alongside the work of women, to bring about normative change.  Feminist activity associated with the development of women’s rights clearly focused attention on the issue of VAW.  What is more recent is the engagement of men. 

Men must be engaged because they are the perpetrators of the majority of this violence.   Men’s violence against women is complex, complicated, and as indicated above, wide-ranging involving a multitude of factors embedded in culture, economy, law; and most intractably our cultural constructions of masculinity. We belong to a culture that, throughout its history, has often treated women as being of less worth than men.  In the past, physical and sexual violence was condoned by religion and the law, and enshrined in literature.  Our lives continue to be shaped by this history. Accordingly men must both be addressed and involved in prevention in order to make the comprehensive social changes necessary to end this violence. 

Changing men’s attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate violence is core to normative change.

White Ribbon Australia is a unique, national, male-led primary prevention organisation that works to stop VAW.  White Ribbon’s initiatives recognise and rely on the importance of men and women working together to bring an end to men’s VAW. Through a national awareness raising campaign and primary prevention initiatives, White Ribbon works to prevent this insidious violence by changing the attitudes and behaviours that allow it to occur. 

White Ribbon delivers a range of prevention programs within schools, workplaces, universities, sporting codes and the wider community to promote cultural and behavioural change in a targeted and relevant way.  The Ambassador Program engages 2,000 men and boys across Australia to lead the Campaign and use their influence to affect change through their social and professional circles and beyond.  The organisation now supports over 450 Community events annually.  White Ribbon is also rolling-out new initiatives to drive increased awareness and expand specific program reach to a broader range of the Australian community.  A critical element of the marketing and communication approach of White Ribbon Australia is the engagement of good men to speak out , speak up and become active by-standers.  This activity is driven by researching how best to engage men and what is working best, hence the 2012 campaign: Good men have got your back which builds on the fact that  the majority of men have got your  back – good men enabled to act if need be in the real life scenario so that VAW  is connected to what is seen, or known,  or heard .

This work is driven by the support of the community. As a not-for-profit organisation, White Ribbon relies on the support and generosity of individuals, corporates and government to continue the work to prevent VAW.  Less than 25% of White Ribbon Australia’s funding comes from government.

It begs the question – how committed are we as a nation to address the causes of this violence through a primary prevention campaign that matches that spent on other major health problems such as smoking yet which incurs such enormous costs to our nation?  Over the last few years there have been pockets of action that illustrate governments’ enhanced activity in this space, including The Line Campaign, the overarching National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Children (The National Plan) and some of the individual state and territory responses to the National Plan. But the amount of money committed as a percentage of health and well-being expenditure is ridiculously small.  What we need is expenditure that enables this campaign to develop all-encompassing prevention action to effectively combat the insidious tentacles of men’s VAW.  The benefits of a well-funded, truly enabling prevention focus will be far reaching across the whole of the Australian community.

Discrimination protections in law for people experiencing domestic violence

By Ludo McFerran, National Project Manager, Centre for Gender Related Violence Studies at the University of New South Wales

Domestic and family violence which affects one third of Australians  at some time in their life, has been high on the federal government’s agenda since the 1970s and has generally received bipartisan political support- the core difference being that Conservatives understand this as a problem of personal behaviour, while Labour has an analysis of structural disadvantage creating vulnerability to violence. The Labour Government is to be congratulated for grappling with some of the ‘big’ issues, including harmonising domestic violence laws, introducing domestic violence into the Fair Work Act and producing a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.

It remains true however, that domestic violence is a symptom of how fairly women and children are treated in societies- so progress to reduce the impact of domestic violence on the safety, health and well being of those exposed depends on a progressive political environment.  This means an environment where women’s wages, career prospects and job security are rising, where discriminatory practices are on the decline, where the sharing of caring responsibilities is on the increase. The Labour Government did well on equal pay, on parental leave and disability insurance but has made some horrible mistakes – the cut off of Supporting Parent payments; voting against discrimination protections for victims of domestic violence; hiding its head in the sand on same sex marriage.

The National Plan is well intentioned but finally it is hardly innovative or bold. After consensus was reached by the National Council members and Federal bureaucrats had ironed out what remained, there was little left that was conceptually or practically cutting edge.  To be fair, when it comes to domestic violence Commonwealth Governments can directly affect only certain areas – Family Law, Centrelink Payments- but they can use cost-share funding to leverage better performances out of the States and Territories where most of the work is done.  A benefit of Australian Federalism is the innovative practice that can be developed in individual states and territories, and there is much that has been innovative in response to domestic violence, but the  current  Labour Government  missed the opportunity, as have  many previous Governments, to set national benchmarks for good practice. Take, for example, Safe at Home Programs, conceptually developed and implemented at a state level since 2004  to support the victims of domestic violence  to stay safely in their homes with the support of security upgrades and court orders, and now funded with Commonwealth funding in all States, but still without  national  benchmarks or standards. So, what do we know works? A great deal actually, but this evidence frequently remains localised knowledge, with the resulting idiosyncratic and uneven service support across states.

The Labour Government’s adherence to the named concept of ‘Violence against Women’ has also been baffling.  This is a collective term that encompasses all acts of violence, including domestic and family violence and sexual violence. Historically, the responses to sexual violence and assault and domestic violence parted ways in the 1980s – into the health system or homeless programs resulting in different service sectors and practice ideologies. Over time this has become more blurred but there remains little crossover between the two issues in terms of joint services, research or policy development. Critically, representative bodies at a state level have remained under-developed, with, for example, only two broad based state domestic violence peak bodies until recently. So the Government’s announcement of a National Centre of Excellence to Reduce Violence against Women and their children appears to many as top down policy that does not reflect what is occurring at the ground level.  Like the national helpline for violence against women, it may have been more productive to consider first how to ensure that the infrastructure is there at the regional and state level to support national initiatives. 

Nevertheless, the Government (or the unions who drove the collective bargaining process) has gained recognition by the United Nations for delivering the best paid domestic violence leave in the world to workers experiencing domestic violence, and while the Labour Government could have done better, the Opposition has maintained an ideological position that is truly disturbing.

For if domestic violence is affecting a worker’s capacity to get to work, their work performance and their safety, the Shadow Attorney General claims not to understand why should  ‘he (the employer) wear the cost of that as opposed to government through social service provision?’ Similarly, the Senator believes that in cases where a tenant’s property has been damaged by an ex-partner, the owner is not doing anything wrong by evicting the tenant (Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Melbourne 23 January 2013). The Shadow Attorney General Senator surely is not suggesting that the many workers being harassed and abused at work and in their homes by ex-partners should be made homeless or ‘sacked’ and put on to unemployment benefits?

So of the many questions all parties should be asked at the next election why not ask- if elected, would you support discrimination protections in law for people experiencing domestic violence?  If they say yes, ask them why they didn’t support the two Bills where this was proposed (Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination and Fair Work Amendment Bills).

Postscript

I am retiring this month after thirty five years working in the domestic violence sector, or ‘insecurely’ working, dependent on the vagaries of government funding. I had a once in a lifetime experience, thanks to the then Minister of Education and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, when she funded our work on domestic violence clauses. It took a morning for the decision to be made and her office nearly tripled the funding applied for. What a woman of vision, who got the job done.

Sharing the caring – we need to spread the load

By Sandra Cook Director of Policy BPW Australia 

Both organisations that I belong to (BPW Australia and economicSecurity4Women) are unique in that they represent women who are employers, employees, self-employed and non-employed. Clearly these women have a wide range of views on how best to improve the status of women and secure their equal place in all facets of society; however they all share the ambition to ensure that women have lifelong economic wellbeing. BPW, and eS4W member organisations, attend to the issues that affect women’s ability to achieve this: issues such as pay equity, access to relevant and affordable education and training, access to financial planning and superannuation, access to quality childcare that is both available and affordable, carer needs, and retirement income equity. Such issues affect women across the full spectrum but are magnified when they are compounded by multiple disadvantage.

We see an important role for the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and its continued focus on gender reporting requirements; we expect that they will provide clarity for employers and will contribute to the workplace changes needed for more women – and men – to be able to combine paid work and unpaid care responsibilities. We believe that apart from outright discrimination against women in the workplace, it is the unpaid care responsibilities that have the greatest impact on the number of hours women are able to work. It presents barriers for entry and participation in the workforce and is one of the greatest challenges to be faced over the coming decades.

The recent report funded by eS4W ‘Counting on Care work in Australia’ (2012) showed that women annually contribute 60% of the 21.4 billion hours of unpaid care work ( Counting on Care Work in Australia.pdf ). Many women have to take insecure and casual work in order to juggle earning an income with unpaid care responsibilities. These care responsibilities include care for babies and children, of course; they include in particular care for children before and after school and during school holidays. They also include care for parents, spouses other family members and close friends. We are ask that government consider the gender implications of insecure employment in relation to workplace gender equality objectives, paying particular attention to caring as it impacts on women as primary paid and unpaid care workers. Similarly a gender lens must be considered when looking at relevant public policies including education and income support.

Collaboration on these issues brings thoughtful and thorough responses. eS4W recently facilitated BPW (Business and Professional Women) South Australia to join with Working Women Centre SA to examine these issues more directly. Current labour laws were discussed such as National Employment Standards that do not cover causal workers, of whom 55% are women. Nor do many of the modern awards in female industries adequately protect workers on part-time contracts, who are overwhelmingly women.

The breadth of casualised work across many sectors is alarming and was cited in our submission BPW Senate Inquiry in to the Role of Technical and Further Education, a sector that relies increasingly on casualised staff as does the Higher Education sector. TAFE represents the cheapest, easiest educational opportunity for many women, including recently arrived women immigrants to this country and there needs to be continued support for this process to ensure integration of women and their families into Australian society. Their first understanding of our country, culture and language is through TAFE English classes and then through Cert III skills training for such jobs as aged care, child care and hospitality. These women are mostly employed in such low skilled jobs but it provides them with friends outside their husband’s home and opportunity for some. BPW Australia continues to lobby against systems that see such women often funnelled in low paying, low skilled employment but sees the services of the TAFE system as an essential first rung to employment and financial independence.

Childcare remains one of the intransient barriers to workforce participation. We know that quality and availability are key factors, but affordability is the biggest issue. Members including BPW Australia and NFAW have asked that the Productivity Commission be tasked to examine both the supply of quality, affordable child care, as well the effect of the taxation and welfare transfer systems interacting with the cost of child care Productivity Commission request This would have the effect of improving productivity, as well as taking account of appropriate service structure for child development. We know that for many women the decision about whether to work part -time, or to work at all is dependent on how much net return they receive after factoring in possible loss of Family Tax Benefit Part B, plus the net cost of child care and other expenses of returning to work. We also know that Australian women have the highest rate of part-time work of all OECD countries. Balancing work and family, and the lack of good quality Out of School Hours Care play a part in decisions about work.

Long periods out of the workforce have severe implications for long term financial security and we understand the aim of the Government to ensure single parents are supported to find and start work once their children are at primary school. We are however concerned about the potential barriers to this transition especially into decent work (fair pay, secure hours) and the impact on their economic wellbeing if and when some families have to survive on the NewStart Allowance. Without skills and access to formal and informal childcare it will be extremely difficult for many women (and men) to get family friendly work arrangements that better balance work and care responsibilities and that pay enough to cover the costs of raising a family in a single income household. And those costs will have to include out of school hours care and care to cover illness and other interruptions to school attendance. Many single parents will have to find work in an increasingly casualised workplace and will have little choice on what to accept. This may well add even more insecurity to already precarious circumstances.

To be fair to parents and their children, this move should also be accompanied with gender inclusive policy action to target women’s skills development, particularly in the emergent ‘green economy’, mining and construction industries that traditionally have better pay and conditions. It should also offer a significant increase in the JET childcare and training assistance. eS4W and WAVE is calling for national Vocational Education and Training (VET) policies that focus on gender equity and that respond to the complexity and challenges associated with gender and when gender intersects with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background, with disabilities, with culturally and or linguistically diverse backgrounds, with low socio economic backgrounds and with geographical disadvantage. We also recommend establishing and resourcing pre-vocational programs for women returning to work after raising children, caring or moving from income support.

With the Small and Medium Business sector being Australia’s largest non-government employer, we look forward to working with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to develop the tools identified in our research Attitudes to gender equity in small firms that will help smaller employers have gender equitable workplaces; tools that focus on recruitment and selection processes, job analysis and job descriptions, developing performance management systems and reward systems and pay equity. This will ensure the sector attracts and retains quality staff in a competitive labour environment.

Imprisonment – A default response to women’s poverty and disadvantage

By Debbie Kilroy, CEO, Sisters Inside, Brisbane

Women continue to be imprisoned at an alarming rate.  Over the past 10 years, the number of women prisoners in Australia has increased by 48% (compared with a 29% increase amongst men) [1].  Increases occurred in all states and territories except the ACT: of particular concern was a massive 300% rise in the number of women prisoners in the Northern Territory and an 84% rise in Western Australia [2].  Continuing a long term trend, in 2012 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were imprisoned at 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous women and almost twice the rate of non-Indigenous men [3].

This crisis is now!  The imprisonment of women, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, is growing at a distressing rate.  Between the 2011 and 2012 Prisoner Census’ alone, there was a 20% increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women prisoners in Australia – compared increases of 3% for non-Indigenous women, 3% for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, and 1% for non-Indigenous men. [4]

EVERY Australian should be concerned about these trends … if only on the basis of economic self interest!  In 2011-12, the total cost of imprisonment across Australia was $3.3 billion.  By contrast, community corrections (which worked with approximately twice as many people) cost $4.8 million.  In 2011-12 we paid $139.02 per head of population on criminalisation. [5]

Imprisonment is the culmination of multiple (often multi-generational) disadvantages for more and more Australian women.  Almost 100% of women prisoners come from economically and/or socially disadvantaged groups.  The majority of women prisoners are themselves victims of crime, with over 80% being survivors of physical and/or sexual abuse.  Most were in state care as a child, with many having experienced childhood sexual assault and/or youth imprisonment.  The majority have a history of mental health issues and/or substance abuse and/or homelessness.  Most were unemployed prior to incarceration.  Few completed their secondary education.  Many women prisoners have all, or most, of these characteristics – they are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women who have survived family violence, were in state care (often stolen) as a child, had limited education and continue to face poverty, mental health and substance abuse issues.

Prisons are, in and of themselves, criminogenic.  Many women who have survived (adult and/or child) sexual assault are re-traumatised as a result of common prison practices – including strip searching, supervision by male officers, detention in isolation and other violations of their human rights.  As a result, many women leave prison with exacerbated mental health and/or substance abuse issues.  At a more practical level, most women leave prison with outstanding debts, thus increasing their vulnerability to extreme poverty and recidivism. 

Further, the majority of women prisoners are mothers of dependent children, and were heads of single parent families (80% – 85% according to most studies) prior to incarceration.  In addition to the anxiety of separation and whole of life dislocation that inevitably attends the incarceration of a parent, too many children of women prisoners are inadequately cared for in state or family care, with some being neglected or abused.  It is hardly surprising that the children of women prisoners are at increased risk of criminalisation, with one study finding that the children of prisoners are 5 times more likely to end up in prison than other children [6]. 

In reality, prisons have become default (mental) health institutions, housing services and drying out facilities: prisons function in lieu of adequate health and community services for the most disadvantaged members of our society.  Increasingly judges and magistrates are imprisoning women on remand, simply to ensure their access to critical services, particularly accommodation and mental health services.  The profound and multi-generational damage brought about by this injustice will take generations to repair.

This trend reflects ill-informed social attitudes rather than rational social and economic thinking.  Despite a lack of any increase in serious crime over the past 30 years (and decreases in some types of violent crime) an irrational fear of crime pervades the wider community.  The current law and order approach to public policy has, ironically, served to criminalise increasing numbers of women for increasingly minor offences.  This has contributed to recidivism – that is, it has INCREASED the risk of crime.  Imprisonment of women is a false economy.

There is a better way.  Providing adequate, culturally appropriate services for women at risk of criminalisation can contribute significant budget savings and prevent the long term social and economic costs of imprisonment.  This is particularly apparent amongst the vast majority of women prisoners who are imprisoned for minor, non-violent offences – where their lives, and the lives of their children, are irrevocably worsened as a result of even a single, short, period of imprisonment. 

Ultimately, we will only address the multi-generational criminalisation of women and children brought about through social inequities if we revisit our whole approach to criminal justice.  It is essential that, as a nation, we divert funding from punitive approaches and top down services which seek to control women’s lives.  We must invest in services which work alongside women and their families, treating them as equals, and genuinely address their economic and social needs.

In the interim, during this election campaign we should, at the very least, advocate the following immediate strategies:

1.     Reinstate the Centrelink Parenting Payment for parents with children under 18 years old and increase Newstart Allowance payments.  Repeated studies have demonstrated the difficulty of living on Centrelink benefits.  This fuels poverty-driven crime and the financial and emotional stress that too often makes prison (with its familiarity and secure food and accommodation) a relatively appealing alternative to continuing to struggle on the outside.  The recent change to the cut-off age (now 7 years old) for the Parenting Payment fails to recognise the higher costs of caring for older children.  Most criminalised women want to work, but are limited by barriers such as poor education, lack of previous work experience and employer discrimination due to their criminal record.  It is essential that criminalised women and women at risk of criminalisation are not pushed further into extreme poverty.  A continuation of this ill-informed eligibility change to the Parenting Payment and the low rate of Newstart Allowance, increase the risk that more families will be forced into the downward spiral of criminalisation.

2.     Decriminalise Centrelink fraud.  The vast majority of Centrelink fraud is driven by need, rather than greed. The Centrelink fraud committed by most women involves small amounts of money, relative, for example, to the minimum wage. The requirement to repay monies is, in and of itself, a massive penalty for families already living below the poverty line.  Criminalising and imprisoning women who commit offences in this area is counterproductive.  A federal criminal record only serves to make women’s situation completely hopeless, with little hope of ever escaping the poverty trap.  And, almost always, their children are further traumatised and disadvantaged, placing them at disproportionate risk of criminalisation.

3.     Fund community organisations to work with criminalised women – particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.  Since 2009, the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department has significantly reduced funding for crime prevention and early intervention projects designed to address the needs of criminalised women and their families.  Only a small number of services are funded under the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services for Indigenous Australians program, which largely works with Aboriginal women[ 7].   Whilst continuing to fund ongoing services of some value to women (e.g. Community Legal Services and human rights education), the main trend has been toward projects to address violent extremism, graffiti, street crime, school security, taxi security and neighbourhood programs.  Largely targeted at young men and concerned with the protection of property, these do not offer the long term social and economic benefits of prevention, early intervention, diversionary and rehabilitatory services for criminalised women.  Proceeds of Crime funds would more effectively reduce crime, if they were reoriented to address the needs of criminalised women.

4.     Resource the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to investigate Australia’s compliance with the Bangkok Rules (the United Nations Rules on the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders).  Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2011, the Bangkok Rules recognises that women have a different criminogenic profile to men.  The Rules are designed to ensure the equitable and appropriate treatment of criminalised women.  The AHRC should be resourced to play a leading role in ensuring that all Australian states and territories meet their human rights obligations under the Bangkok Rules[ 8]

The tough on crime approach which has characterised Australia’s approach over recent decades has been a demonstrable failure.  Far from reducing crime, it has created a climate in which crime can flourish – both now and into the future.  This Federal election campaign provides the opportunity to begin to turn around the trend toward increasing misery for women and their families, and a growing financial commitment to unnecessarily locking people up in prisons for many years to come.

[1] Compares data from 2002 and 2012.  ABS (2013) 4517.0: Prisoners in Australia 2012 – Reissue at www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/24B61FAA213E5470CA257B3C000DCF8A/$File/45170_2012reissue.pdf, p 9 

[2] Compares with a 72% increase amongst men in the NT and a 36% increase amongst men in WA. ABS 2013 op cit, p 28

[3] 2012 age standardised imprisonment rates (per 100,000 population) were: ATSI women – 405.4; non-ATSI women – 16.5; ATSI men – 4,093; non-ATSI men – 234.3.  ABS 2013 op cit, p 58

[4] ABS 2013 op cit, pp 50-51

[5] Review of Government Service Provision (2013), Report on Government Services 2013: Corrective Services, Australian Government Productivity Commission at www.pc.gov.au/gsp/rogs/2013, Tables 8A.1, 8A.3, 8A.6, 8A.7 & 8A.13.  The average daily number of people in community corrections was 54,996 (Table 8A.3); the average daily number of people in prison was 29,213 (Table 8A.1).

[6] Shine for Kids (Children of Prisoners Support Group) cited in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Commissioner 2009:19. 

[7] This excellent program would need to be expanded considerably to adequately address the legal and family issues which contribute to the criminalisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.  And, further services are required to address women’s social and economic needs.

[8] Two documents have been developed to assist member states to fulfil their human rights obligations under the Bangkok Rules.  A Guidance Document outlines actions which need to be taken and an Index of Compliance provides a comprehensive checklist, designed to enable states to benchmark and measure their implementation progress in areas such as legislation, policy and health care.  Both are available at: www.penalreform.org/publications/bangkok-rules-guidance-document-and-index-compliance

Australian women are worth the investment

By Eve Bodsworth, Research and Policy Manager, Brotherhood of St Lawrence

While Australia has experienced a decade of economic growth, the divide between included and excluded is growing. While it is recognised that gender equality and the inclusion of women facing disadvantage can promote economic  growth – for the converse to be true, for economic growth to promote gender equality – policy leadership and social investment is required. As the President of the World Bank recently commented:

One motivation for women’s empowerment is basic fairness and decency. Young girls should have the exact same opportunities that boys do to lead full and productive lives. But second, the empowerment of women is smart economics … studies show that investments in women yield large social and economic returns.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence seeks to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to participate meaningfully in different forms of paid and unpaid work, education and family life, and to share in Australia’s ongoing economic growth. Such an approach recognises women’s contributions made outside the market and enables their broader economic participation. ‘Inclusive growth’ also requires recognition that particular groups of women, such as those from refugee and migrant backgrounds, Indigenous women, single women (particularly older women and those with children), carers and those with a disability face additional challenges in achieving economic security.

Understanding disadvantage

Gender and care profoundly shape the experiences of disadvantage in Australia. Yet, while being female increases your likelihood of experiencing poverty and disadvantage over the life-course – many women experience multiple and intersecting forms of disadvantage. Further, the experience of poverty is not only about income. The Brotherhood’s social exclusion monitor, based on a multidimensional approach to poverty, tells us that:

  • The incidence of marginal and deep exclusion is higher for women than men;
  • Almost 50 per cent of people over 65 experience exclusion;
  • Immigrants, especially those from non-English speaking countries, are more likely to experience social exclusion than native-born Australians;
  • Forty per cent of Indigenous Australians experience social exclusion;
  • More than 50 per cent of Australians with a long-term health condition or disability experience social exclusion, and about 14 per cent are deeply excluded;
  • About 40 per cent of single people and lone parents experience social exclusion.

So, what is needed to overcome disadvantage for women in Australia?

Valuing and sharing care

For truly inclusive growth, women and men must be enabled to move between periods of caring and work, and more easily combine care and work. Encouraging women’s workforce participation will have a positive effect on Australia’s GDP –yet inclusive growth requires policy changes to enable women to better balance their paid work and caring responsibilities. In the absence of flexible working conditions, and policies that value women’s unpaid work, taking time to care can entrench disadvantage. Many women manage caring responsibilities by working part-time (often on a casual basis) or leaving the workforce, with economic consequences in both the short and longer term.  Social exclusion among sole parent families is well documented and many older women face poverty, finding themselves with little or no superannuation due to limited or interrupted workforce participation. Further, current tax, welfare and childcare arrangements are highly regressive: women with lower earning capacities – those most likely to face disadvantage – are more strongly discouraged from work.  They take home a smaller proportion of the money they earn, and a much smaller dollar amount, thus creating disincentives to workforce participation and reducing opportunities later in life.

Recognising women’s strengths

Participation and voice are fundamental to inclusive empowering services. Often women who use social and community services are stereotyped as being ‘passive’ – particularly refugee and migrant women. Women accessing services can face direct and indirect discrimination and lack of recognition and valuing of their skills, knowledge and experiences. The underestimation of women’s abilities may lead to a narrowing of options, loss of confidence and despair.

The Brotherhood’s Stepping Stones program provides an example of a ‘strengths-based, gender aware’ service aiming to promote the social and economic inclusion of refugee and migrant women. The micro-enterprise program starts by recognising the strengths of the participating women:

  • their adaptability and entrepreneurialism – many women involved had created innovative and successful small business, often under difficult circumstances;
  • their resourcefulness – looking after family here and overseas on a low income;
  • their informal and formal education and skills;
  • their links to local communities; and
  • their motivation and determination.

The program seeks to then create ‘enabling conditions’ for the women to complete a small business course and develop their own business. This includes integration of ESL and IT support into the business course delivery; offering flexible, part-time training to accommodate the women’s other work and care responsibilities; enhancing the women’s social and business networks through partnering with Australian business women mentors and providing support to access tailored micro-finance. So far the program has enabled 43.5% of participants to start a small business; provided participants with skills for business development and planning, knowledge of Australian regulatory systems and confidence to their pursue goals.

This case study highlights what can be achieved by women experiencing disadvantage when provided with the right support. In contrast, many of the Stepping Stones women would have been excluded from mainstream small business training for income support due to lack of language support and accommodation of their caring, learning or earning commitments. Many also had negative experiences of mainstream employment services and training providers that had failed to meet their needs or provide a pathway to secure employment.

Silence, Violence and the doors that remain closed

By Kelly Hinton, Executive Director, Project Respect

Violence against women (VAW) is publicly condemned in our community, largely due to the incredible perseverance and hard work of women and collectives all over Australia, over the last 4 decades (and beyond). We have both Federal and State Action Plans to Reduce or Eliminate or Address Violence Against Women and Their Children. Violence is not just an issue for women who are disadvantaged. It is an issue that causes disadvantage for women, and further compounds existing disadvantage.

But what is violence against women? Are we covering everything? The United Nations definition in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women provides a definition of gender-based abuse, calling it “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.

Violence against women has become a term interchangeable with family violence, or domestic violence. However there are other forms of VAW continuing to occur behind closed doors in Australia in a shroud of secrecy.

Sexual exploitation, violence against women in the sex industry (including in legalized brothels) and trafficking of women IS gender based violence – perpetrated by men, against women. It is happening in Australia, and must not be ignored.

The diversity and spectrum of the violence survived by (and specific to) women in the sex industry includes trafficking, sexual servitude, physical abuse, sexual abuse and rape, financial abuse (by brothel owners/managers/partners), emotional abuse and the list goes on. Why do we not hear about it?

Organizations such as Project Respect speak about these issues (largely to no avail) from the experiences of our staff (some of whom have been in the sex industry) and meeting hundreds of women in the legal sex industry of Victoria every year.

This violence is perpetuated against women who are already often at a disadvantage; stigmatized due to being in the sex industry, where the notion prevails that if a ‘client’ pays, they can do anything to a woman’s body.

Even in States of Australia where the sex industry has been legalized or decriminalized, the stigma for women in the sex industry remains. As does the violence. Like all other forms of VAW, the onus is on the victim to come forward and report to authorities. In addition to the obvious hurdles that this entails, the violence is often normalized in the sex industry and considered an occupational hazard. Some ‘clients’ pay more to inflict violence or coerce women to endure violent acts as part of a sexual fantasy. Some inflict violence without paying more. Then, in addition to the humiliation and shame of enduring such violence, we throw into the mix often a fear of police, fear of stigmatization and responses such as “you can’t get raped in a brothel” (which sadly, does happen) and isolation (as many women do not tell their families or friends they are in the sex industry). And so the violence is allowed to flourish.

Any government serious about addressing gender violence must address all forms of gender violence as the highest priority – no woman should ever have to endure emotional, physical, psychological, or sexual violence – and payment does not, and should not, make violence acceptable.

This was partially recognised in 2012 by the Victorian Government, who listed trafficking of women as an issue to be addressed in its Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women and Their Children.  In the Federal Government’s National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children, ‘enforced prostitution’ is listed as a form of VAW.

Is this enough?

In the upcoming election, political parties must take a strong stand on all forms of violence against women, and making a true difference to those vulnerable and silenced people who are forced to endure violence as a result of being in the sex industry in our country. My vote goes to the party who will:

– Criminalise the intentional use and abuse of a trafficked woman in the sex industry

– Conduct research into the demand for trafficked women in the sex industry

– Conduct research into the institutional violence of the sex industry, and how other countries have addressed this form of VAW

– Adequately resource specialized programs such as Project Respect that support women who experience all forms of violence perpetrated in the sex industry (including trafficking)

– Develop a system of accredited NGOs assessing trafficked persons and referring for visa’s and support, not police

– Include trafficking and violence in the sex industry as part of the coverage of the national hotline 1800 RESPECT

– Provide visas and support for women who are trafficked, in recognition of the human rights abuse that has been allowed to occur in our country, regardless of their willingness to engage with the criminal justice process

This is an issue for all women in Australia to be aware of, and to take an interest in – and stand in solidarity against those who exploit. The message we are currently sending is violence against SOME women is acceptable. Violence against any woman, in any context, is unacceptable.

Single Mothers, their Children and Poverty: It should not be a foregone conclusion

By Terese Edwards, CEO, National Council of Single Mothers & their Children

From time to time Australia will put a spotlight on poverty and its impact. The issue gained a level of notoriety in the late 1980`s when the then Prime Minister Bob Hawk made child poverty a national concern. The action and response that accompanied the statement, ‘that no child shall live in poverty’, reduced poverty by 30%. Primarily, this was achieved through a new and increased approach to family assistance as well as the introduction of a child support scheme. However, over time the gains have been eroded; matters that had attracted the public interest and attention have not featured poverty and Australia has failed to institute an Anti-Poverty Plan, national measures or set targets.

Largely, poverty and its impacts have remained silent to the mainstream and the solution for single parents was to ‘get a job’. This simplistic and convenient response prevented any real exploration; it denied the gendered reality, the role and impact of unpaid care and it silenced the knowledge gained from the lived experience. Joint research led by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found that equivalised household income after divorce declined for women but not for men. The research found that some women were able to recover their income after six years through repartnering, increased labour force participation, and an increased proportion of income coming from government benefits. However, this is not the case for divorced women with dependent children. Divorced women with dependent children found it difficult to recover their income post-divorce and that sole mothers with dependent children experienced difficulties combining paid work and family responsibilities.[i]

The dominate discourse, ‘get a job or suffered the consequence’ persisted it its entirety until the Federal Government`s Fair work Incentives Bill came into effect on 1 January 2013. A consequence of this Bill has been the forced moving of single parent families from a very modest payment known as The Parenting Payment Single (PPS) to the Newstart Allowance, colloquially referred to as the Dole. Subsequently, denying access to single parent families to a parenting payment once their youngest child was eight, or in their third or fourth year of primary school. The reaction to this outcome has put a spotlight on the circumstance of single mother families who rely upon government benefits. The most recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey found that ‘24 per cent of children in single-parent households are living in poverty, compared with 7.6 per cent of those living with two parents’.

What was known before the Bill came into effect?

The deep and distressing impacts had a high degree of predictability. Experts with a long and reputable history in measuring and advocating against poverty and deprivation continued to find that single-parent families were always over represented and this occurred despite what measures, snap-shot or approach was used. Contemporary research conducted by ACOSS such as the Poverty Report[ii], Anglicare`s State of the Family Report[iii], research by NATSEM[iv] and or the work undertaken by the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC)[v] presented a consistent and bleak picture. In November 2012 The National Council of Single Mothers & their Children instituted an 1800 hot line called Tell it like it is. 103 calls were received in three weeks, women broke down when articulating what this means for their family. They felt stranded, overwhelmed, that they had failed as mothers, and felt betrayed by a system that had been a corner stone for the past four decades. They spoke about their incapacity to quarantine their children from the harsh and lived reality of poverty. NCSMC received recurring reports of utilities cut-offs, housing evictions, abandoned studies and going without food and medication. Services that were once identified as ‘standard’ now fell onto the luxury and unaffordable side of the ledger; such as maintaining a workable family car, accessing preventative health treatment, children playing sport and having access to the internet.

In the lead up to the changes the following was known:

  • The Government predicted a savings of up to $720 million over four years;
  • The changes overwhelmingly hit single mother families who are already faring poorly;
  • Over four years 147,000 families will be affected;
  • Families battling the cost of living on $321 on Parenting Payment Single (PPS) will have a minimum loss of $60 per week. Newstart is $279 per week and sits at 77% below the poverty line;

The majority of single parent families (2/3rds) who supplemented their income with part-time or casual work will endure even greater losses due to very low amount that can be retained before the Newstart payment is reduced. For example a mother on PPS with three children could earn and retain $122 per week. On Newstart it dramatically reduces to $31 per week; the equivalent of two hours of work at the minimum wage. At the 2013 Budget the Government announced an increase to $50 per weekeffective March 2014 (subject to the passage of legislation). This is still an inadequate amount and languishes behind the parenting payment.

The Pension Education Supplement (PES) is not available on Newstart. This equates to $62 per fortnight (part-time study) to assist with the cost of education. There were some transferring provision but with strict rules. For example a mother who was studying a Cert 3 could retain the PES when transferred to Newstart, but only until the current course was completed. She could not go onto further studies. The educational stepping stones were removed. After much advocacy the Government announced in the 2013 budget that PES will be extended to Newstart effective January 2014 (subject to the passage of legislation). The PES is welcomed but studying on the lower Newstart allowance, for many, will remain an unaffordable goal.

The Government itself has publically stated concerns with the Senate Committee stating reservations that the cuts would help sole parents into paid work, and also dismissed the argument that placing all sole parents on the lowest payments was “fair”. The Committee recommended that the Senate defer consideration of the bill until the Committee completes its review into Newstart (this recommendation was ignored)[vi].

The Joint Parliamentary Human Rights Committee found that legislation before Parliament to cut the incomes of single parent families could “deprive” single parent families and their children “of minimum essential levels of social security” and has also recommended deferral of this legislation (this recommendation was ignored)[vii].

The United Nations wrote to the Australian Government dated October 2012 asking for a response. The detailed correspondence included 9 questions. At the time of writing this document the Australian Government is still to respond[viii].

Domestic Violence was silent in this discussion and the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Children was absent.

Analysis of the families impacted on 1 Jan 2013.

Welfare Rights completed an analysis upon the 72,000 impacted families and below is a snap shot of their findings:

  • Employment: Three out of every five single parents who have been moved off the higher Parenting Payment onto the lower-paying Newstart Allowance are already working.
  • Additional Barriers to work: One in ten parents is caring for a child or adult with a significant disability, and a similar number of parents are experiencing major barriers to employment and had a ‘vulnerability’ indicator through Centrelink. Reasons for a ‘vulnerability’ indicator include mental health problems, injuries or homelessness.
  • Study: Recipients of the parenting payment single were the largest social security claimants who were undertaking study. The pension education supplement which is designed to assist with study is not available on Newstart and women undertaking study in 2013 may now become lost to further education.
  • Indigenous: Six and a half per cent of parents affected by the policy were Indigenous, and the payments cuts will exacerbate other problems, such as violence and lack of services, that weigh heavily on remote Indigenous communities.
  • Housing: Parents who are losing between $60 and $110 a week are anxious about how they will be able to afford to maintain their existing accommodation. Around 32,000 parents whose incomes will be cut are living in the private rental market, with 49 per cent receiving Rent Assistance. Around 15,000 (23 per cent) single parents are either paying a mortgage or own their own homes. A further 15 per cent are living in public housing.
  • Further impacts: A disturbing 22 per cent of working single parents, 8,834 in total, has lost eligibility for any income support payment, under the stricter Newstart Allowance income test. These parents would also lose access to the highly valued Pensioner Concession Card (PCC), which can be worth about $30 per week. Access to the PCC was factored into the consideration before women entered into mortgage repayments or private rental contracts; it is also a safety net for the families that cycle in and out of contract, seasonal or insecure work.

Reading the Terrain ongoing work:

A small bright spot which has emerge from this gloomy and distressing landscape has been the illuminating of poverty within single mother families and poverty more broadly, its far reaching and life altering impacts. It has been noted by some of us, who have been telling this story for some time, that the media and the community are more informed, empathetic, and engaged about this matter. This change was noted and captured by Adel Horin; Public sympathy grows for single parents’ plight[ix].

The chorus of concern continues to grow and new research and diverse advocacy continues to keep the issue alive. Most recently, it was the Salvation Army`s report; Its not asking too much[x], the media report was empathetic which was noted by Paul Bongiorno as he hosted a recent Treasure`s Post- Budget Lunch (23 May 2013). Other examples of public action have included national protests, email blitzs and as well as individual action such as the Billboard in Melbourne (see below).

Conclusion:

The Federal Election should not ignore the growing calls to address this matter and that poverty should not be a forgone conclusion for a single parent family.

The AsksComment
To increase Newstart.NCSMC has called for an increase of $60 per week (the same level as the Parenting Payment)Many others including an alliance formed by ACOSS, ACTU and the BCA have called for a $50 per week.This call is one that unites many, has good traction and it is easy to understand.Newstart is woefully inadequate at $279 per week and is stuck at 77% below the poverty line.
Increase the $ that parents can earn and retain to the equivalent of the PPS.The Government`s announced increase (subject to legislation) will be welcomed but it is inadequate. $50 per week has it languishing well behind the Parenting Payment. See point 5.
Implement fair indexation for Newstart by using the same formula as used for pensions so any gain made wont be eroded over time.The large faith based community services are campaigning on this as is ACOSS. The Catholic Services has called for an independent body to set pensions / allowances. A progressive and reasonable call.
Support a National Focus and strategy to eliminate Child Poverty in Australia.Lets put this back on the National Agenda.

[i] http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/media/media120724.html

[ii] http://www.acoss.org.au/uploads/ACOSS%20Poverty%20Report%202012_Final.pdf

[iii] http://www.anglicare.asn.au/site/sotf12_notenoughtoeat.php

[iv] http://www.natsem.canberra.edu.au/publications/?publication=ampnatsem-income-and-wealth-report-31-prices-these-days-the-cost-of-living-in-australia

[v] http://acoss.org.au/images/uploads/Missing_Out_2012_ACOSS.pdf

[vi] http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=eet_ctte/completed_inquiries/2010-13/social_security_2012/report/index.htm

[vii] http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=humanrights_ctte/reports/2013/5_2013/index.htm

[viii] https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/22nd/public_-_UA_Australie_19.10.12_(2.2012).pdf

[ix] http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4579190.html

[x] http://www.salvationarmy.org.au/Global/ESIS2013/The%20Salvation%20Army%20ESIS%20Report%202013.pdf

Older Women – A lifetime of disadvantage

Rita Tratt, Secretary, Older Women’s Network NSW

I have been working and advocating for equality in the workplace and the wider society since 1979, when I was first employed at the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.  I have a long-held belief that to achieve equity, education is vital, particularly when it is empowered by legislation, and have conducted training programs in equal opportunity and mainstream courses for  over thirty years. 

What first attracted me to OWN was the Theatre Group, which came together 26 years ago, when the group first performed outside Parliament House in Canberra, to draw attention to the invisibility of older women [1]. It has a strong political history of entertaining and educating health workers, community groups, local governments and many other agencies about issues affecting older women.  Key issues of promotion are health, housing, transport, stereotypes and anti-violence.  A DVD, entitled “Don’t Knock Your Granny”, which was devised and performed by the Theatre Group, about elder abuse was released by NSW Health [2]. Financial abuse by partners, children and even grand-children is increasing, as pressure is put on older people to disperse their money and assets to the next generation.

Older Women’s disadvantage is often the result of life-long policies that have mitigated against them for their entire lives.  In their youth they were discriminated against on the grounds of equal pay and entitlements.  It was in 1973, after years of lobbying and putting forward equal pay for equal work cases [3] that in 1973 an equal pay amendment was made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide for a minimum wage to all adults.

Later on inflexible work practices, and the right to permanency, in the public service and industry, made it very difficult for many women to continue to be employed in fulfilling and interesting work, at a salary that allowed them to save for the future.  Many older women had no benefits, or very limited benefits, from superannuation because of caring responsibilities that have occurred throughout their lifetimes. Research has shown that access to flexibility in the workplace assists carers to remain in and re-enter employment but often the barriers are insurmountable in terms of unrealistic work hours, reasonable workloads and lack of job-sharing and part-time options.  In Belgium a system of care breaks is provided, and other countries like Spain, are granting 12 months periods of paid leave. [4] 

The introduction of free education under the Whitlam government in the 1970s saw many women accessing higher education to make up for past disadvantage, where girls’ education was often seen as less important than their male peers.  Gaining entry to the work force in their thirties, forties and fifties, in jobs they’d only dreamed about, a limited number were able to carve out successful and satisfying working lives.  Insecure work continues to be an issue, as is the re-entry of older women into the workforce after caring responsibilities have ceased.  Work of a casual nature does not accrue the same advantages and many older women going back into the workforce are basically getting “pin money”, in the same way many of them did in their pre-retirement years.

The disadvantages that many older women, now face, are those of institutionalised disadvantaged. A life-time of caring for parents, in-laws, children and siblings has rendered them poor at the end of their lives, particularly those women who did not marry, who were divorced or widowed, and all women who were not able to secure affordable accommodation.   Many women in their fifties and sixties now are looking at being unable to secure affordable housing and the prospect of homelessness is a very real one as the statistics show that older women are becoming less able to secure affordable housing.  Dr Ludo McFerran (2010) comments that “even if the market responds to excess demand by increasing supply over time, it is unlikely to provide sufficient housing for people whose incomes are towards the bottom of the household income…” [5] Many older women are increasingly relying on relatives and friends to offer them temporary accommodation, in spare rooms, caravans out the back or hostel-type accommodation.  The State Government recognises growing homelessness as a problem that needs to be tackled but permanent housing options are very limited.

As referred to previously, violence against women does not stop in older age.   A major cause of additional abuse centres around money:  children may not see the parent having a need for it, and often seek to secure “loans”, guarantorship or pressure their mum into selling the property to move in with them.  Refuges and emergency accommodation for older women is very limited, and many women do not want to move from their homes, where they have the networks and the support of a life-time.  Accommodation in refuges is often for younger women and children, where it is difficult for older women to feel comfortable.  More accommodation for older women needs to be in the form of clustered accommodation, specifically for older women, where they can feel safe and secure, whilst avoiding social isolation.

Health remains a priority for older women and just recently it was gratifying to see the breast screening notification age extended to 74 years, in recognition of the fact that cancer is most often diagnosed in one’s 70s and beyond.  Access to community transport, health centres and hospitals is vital, as is the participation of older women in wellness and social activities.

The Older Women’s Network is unique in that its target group is solely older women, as it seeks to promote the rights, dignity and wellness of all older women.  In tandem with UN Convention 27 it seeks to protect the human rights of all older women, whilst constantly advocating for better life outcomes in the areas of health, housing, employment and all other areas that provide barriers to attaining good economic and social outcomes for older women.

So, advocacy and education continue to highlight the important issues of health, housing, work, superannuation, poverty, social isolation and the many barriers that women face in receiving their full entitlements to a life lived with dignity and respect.  The Older Women’s Network is very active in liaising with government and other leaders in the field to make sure that these issues are centre stage and remain on government and welfare agendas.

[1] Centre Stage by Dorothy Cora 2009
[2] NSW Health South Eastern Sydney Local Area Health District 2012
[3] Taking Time – A Women’s Historical Data Kit.
[4] Australian Human Rights Commission Report, 2013.
[5] It Could be You:  Female, single, older and homeless by Ludo McFerran

Disadvantage facing Aboriginal Women

By Janelle Brown, Aboriginal Community Engagement

Being a community based Aboriginal woman (and worker) can be a difficult experience. I see a lot of pain and hardship around me and more often than not, there is nothing I can do to change it. But I will not give up.

I love my community and I want to see change. But change isn’t happening. I still see the effects of the troubled relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia. People think reconciliation has worked, and is working, but it’s not. We need a much more fundamental healing to take place.

We all know the stats. My people still do not live as long as they should. My people often experience social and economic disadvantage. We are more impacted upon by chronic disease and mental health problems. More of our people are locked up. More of our kids are locked up too. Alcohol, drug abuse and violence and their impacts still occur too frequently in our communities.

So what is going wrong? Why are Aboriginal people still so disadvantaged?

Despite what people say, this country is still racist. I still encounter the demeaning and degrading impacts of racism in my everyday life, despite the fact this nation belongs to my people. It cannot be underestimated how racism and attitudes that undermine my culture and my people strip away at our dignity and our ability to lead happy and fulfilled lives.

I am deeply proud of my culture and what my people have survived. It cannot be denied we are survivors. Despite the fact our culture and people have been fractured in many thousands of ways, the Dreaming lives on, and every Aboriginal person who has connected back knows in their heart our culture is alive and well. But we need more spaces, and support and resources in which to practice our culture, and to connect our people and our kids back in.

We also need to acknowledge the kind of fundamental healing that needs to occur more broadly in the community between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. This isn’t a matter of the PM saying sorry and everyone moves on. There is 200+ years of mistreatment to be addressed here. But we live on, and we are not victims. We want more control over our lives so our dignity can be strong, and we want the space to practice our culture back. We want our culture to be respected.

To speak specifically about the impact on women over many years of mistreatment and discrimination – our women have absorbed the most negative impacts of the systematic destruction of our people and culture. Our women still cop the abuse and the hardship. But our women also stand firm.

Locally in the Illawarra, we are setting up a new Koori women’s group. This group will be a place where women come together to heal, to share stories, and to gain new skills. We want our women to take their rightful place as leaders in our community – and not just in the Aboriginal community – in the community in general. Our women hold the key to our homes and our community’s healing, and getting our people back on track.

We also need jobs. We need jobs for our young people in particular. We need a life trajectory for our kids that includes opportunities and self-respect. We want to walk forward with our heads held high as Aboriginal people – without having to sacrifice anything of ourselves or our cultural pride.

Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people can share what we all do best. We need a spirit of cooperation, openness, encouragement and respect. But our people must be given the space to do our healing first. And we must be given opportunities to move forward and to take control of our own destiny. Otherwise, all the stats that follow our communities so stubbornly will never really improve.

Australia’s Temporary Crisis: Safeguarding the human rights of overseas women without permanent residency

For overseas-born women without permanent residency in Australia:

  • The Australian government should amend Migration Relations 1994 (Cth) to grant holders of the prospective marriage visa and secondary applicants of permanent visas protections through the domestic/family violence provision.
  • Alongside the domestic/family violence provision, the government should provide holders of the prospective marriage visa and secondary applicants of permanent visas access to healthcare, accommodation and crisis services such as legal assistance, translators / interpreters, counselling and shelter at refuges.  These services should be made available to visa holders who experience or report cases of violence to relevant authorities.  The government should also consider granting work rights to all individuals during this interim period.
  • Relative service providers should undertake cross cultural training so that they are equipped to effectively manage cases involving culturally and linguistically diverse individuals.
  • Short term remedy – Create an additional temporary visa for temporary visa holders who have experienced domestic/family violence.  This visa aims to ease the burden placed on temporary migrants by giving them additional time to either make arrangements to leave Australia, apply for another visa (this may include a Protection Visa) and grant them access to basic crisis services and work rights as stipulated above (recommendation (ii)). 
  • The government should foster an integrated, whole of government approach to protect overseas born women without permanent residency.  Recognition of the increased barriers experienced by these individuals in accessing available services and exercising their rights should be reflected in future policy frameworks.  Implement guidelines to assist decision makers in applying the Refugee Convention to cases concerning gender and domestic violence.
  • Expel the general risk exception from the Complementary Protection Regulations and clarify grounds for protection.  In accordance with international human rights principles, this should include any situation in which the applicant faces a real risk of proscribed forms of harm, irrespective of whether that risk is personal.

Melba Marginson, Executive Director, Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition

Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces … Still?

By Kerriann Dear, Director of the Queensland Working Women’s Service Inc. (QWWS) 

For almost 30 years sexual harassment has been unlawful in Australian workplaces, yet while it is considered pervasive, [1] there is little research about the specific types and patterns of behaviour that constitute this phenomena and scarce information about the efficacy of prevention strategies or the best ways to minimise harm to individuals and organisations when it invariably happens.

Sexual harassment disproportionately affects women and is recognised as a form of sex discrimination that perpetuates gender inequality.  It is an impediment to women’s equal participation in the workplace.  It can have serious consequences for those who experience it, including negative career-related, physical and psychological outcomes and the destruction of positive work practices leading to hostile work environments within organisations.

Recently, high profile claims and payouts of women seeking restitution from their employers for sexual harassment have gained significant media attention.

However, the $37 million claim by Kirsty Frazer Kirk against David Jones and other reported settlements at the top end of town such as Christina Rich v. Price Water House Coopers (est. $5 million) − and even the two biggest payouts for sexual harassment claims awarded by the Courts in Australia ($ 466,000 and $492,000) − are difficult to reconcile with the amount of $7000, which was the median settlement revealed in new research [2] for 98 claims for sexual harassment under the Sex Discrimination Act (1984) or the various state anti-discrimination provisions.

In one of the most recent decisions of the Federal Court [3] a female manager was awarded $18,000 for sexual harassment allegations, which were upheld. However, she then failed to secure costs for legal representation, which were in excess of an estimated $250,000.

The Working Women’s Centres (in Queensland, South Australia and Northern Territory) have been assisting women with sexual harassment complaints for almost 20 years (30 in the case of South Australia). The women who seek this kind of assistance from our centres are not highly remunerated, are often precariously employed, often don’t hold very senior positions, may be very young and inexperienced and are not endowed with financial resources to seek legal representation.

While the seriousness of many claims that reach our centres is concerning, our data reveals that the severity of the harassment does not appear to be closely linked with the likelihood of a complaint being lodged. Rather, the willingness of the individual to undergo the time-consuming, demanding and invasive process of challenging the harassment in a formal setting is likely to play a major part.

The preparation of a claim (which will typically be under anti-discrimination legislation) is time consuming, and the wait for a conciliation conference can be lengthy often exceeding 6 months and in some cases more than 12 months. The necessary focus on past events over which she had little control, including the behaviour of the harasser and the lack of support she may have received in her workplace, can be traumatic and hinder healing processes while the build up of stress and anticipation of facing the alleged harasser or a hostile employer can make the process of a formal complaint a very difficult time. It is not uncommon for women to withdraw from this process.

In our submission to the Review of the Sex Discrimination Act (2010), the Working Women’s Centres upheld that the settlement of sexual harassment complaints with small payouts appeared to provide temporary relief for individual complainants while being designed to provide an employer with indemnity against future complaints.

“Such undervalued settlements are commonly referred to as ‘go away money’ in the industrial arena. Many companies can afford to provide a limited form of compensation and make the potential legal case ‘go away’ without having to address the issue or to face up to public scrutiny. During conciliation conferences we often hear businesses referring to ‘making a business or commercial decision’ to offer limited compensation to make the matter ‘go away’.”

The payment of small settlements by employers will often be less than the cost of implementing policies and training in the workplace to address systemic issues there.  Conversely, while the presence of training and policies in workplaces may assist the employer to reduce their exposure to a claim, the concern is that the reality for many women who make complaints is that it is a traumatic experience of invalidation, lack of support and loss of career.

A significant study, Sexual Harassment in Australia[ 4] recently undertaken through an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant by Prof. Paula McDonald (Queensland University of Technology) & Assoc. Prof. Sara Charlesworth (University of South Australia, encouragingly, appears to be a comprehensive attempt to fully consider the impact of sexual harassment issues across the spectrum. This includes prevention and response in the workplace, bystander approaches, the processes of formal complaints and the short and long term impacts of experiencing workplace sexual harassment.

The research has confirmed many of the experiences of the Working Women’s Centres’ clients, who usually choose to formally complain under anti-discrimination laws. Their experiences typically include low settlement amounts, opposition of organisations to supporting employees’ claims, significant negative financial and employment implications and damaging health and well-being impacts in both the short and medium term.

This information now needs to be used to inform and improve the current legislative, policy and organisational proactivity to the issue of sexual harassment as well as to provide better support for individuals.

In attempting to improve the effectiveness of anti-discrimination law and organisational practices to eliminate sexual harassment, it must be acknowledged that despite increased community awareness of the problem since the implementation of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, sexual harassment has been a persistent problem. It is obvious that existing complaints mechanisms and processes fail to serve as a sufficient deterrent. An analysis must also consider who has benefited from the continued violation of women’s human rights, the maintenance of sexism and the relative powerlessness women in the workplace often endure in attempting to be free of these unwanted behaviours.

Clearly there is a need for a stronger legislative mechanism in preventing and responding to sexual harassment in workplaces. Current provisions should be strengthened to allow random (or given sufficient cause, planned) audits of workplaces to demonstrate that they comply with minimum standards of education about sexual harassment and discrimination and have processes in place for handling concerns while demonstrating that when complaints have arisen they have acted in a fair and appropriate way.

More effective legislation would seek to conduct independent investigations into individual claims of sex discrimination if respondents refuse to participate in good faith or where there is suspicion of systemic sexual harassment.  A further improvement would be achieved by supporting complainants with legal representation if considered warranted for complaints that are not conciliated satisfactorily. This would serve to empower victims to take more effective action against sex discrimination without having to bear the often high legal costs especially in situations such as Richardson v Oracle cited above.

It is not uncommon for complaints of sexual harassment to involve multiple issues of discrimination across different grounds (for example racialised sexual harassment). A single act, such as the proposed Human Rights and Anti Discrimination Bill, would serve to improve and simplify access for complainants. An opportunity to modernise aspects of Commonwealth human rights laws seems to have been concerningly delayed but hopefully it has not been missed.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) highlighted the issue of sexual harassment on International Women’s Day this year, calling it an often subtle but disturbing form of aggression against women. “It’s a human rights issue, as well as a health, education and socio-economic problem. Workplace violence is a hidden problem, but with very tangible consequences.” [5]

The persistence of workplace sexual harassment erodes women’s dignity, equality and the decent working conditions we have fought so hard to achieve as well as damages individual well-being. It remains a feminist issue.

A case study

Abby, a 19 year old young woman working as an administrative assistant in a medium sized office, experienced ongoing sexual harassment from two men in their forties who held more senior positions. The behaviours included displaying pornography on computers in front of her, sexual comments and touching and slapping her bottom. The young woman felt completely intimidated by the behaviour, which was usually collusive by the two men.

Abby made a complaint to the HR/Office Manager in writing after another manager told her that she was going to ‘get bashed’ by the men for making a verbal complaint. Management did not support her and did nothing to respond to her grievance.

After several attempts to complain with a view to stopping the behaviour a meeting was held with Abby, which focused mostly on her work performance and failed to validate her concerns. Abby resigned, giving a month’s notice as she still felt that she should do ‘the right thing’. The employer then fired her a few days later via email. Her partner had also worked for the business and had been forced out as a result of harassment by the same two males. He made a number of complaints to the owner before resigning, but nothing was done. Abby and her partner both lost their jobs.

Abby was diagnosed by her GP as suffering anxiety/depression, migraines, insomnia, and her relationship with her partner was affected. After several months she found a new job on significantly lower pay as a receptionist, at a significantly lower skill level in a small company.

A claim made by Abby to the Anti-Discrimination Commission resulted in a settlement of $2000 and a positive statement of service as Abby lacked the resources to take the matter to hearing. The two men who had  sexually harassed her have kept their jobs.

[1] Australian Human Rights Commission: Results of the Sexual Harassment National Telephone Survey (2012). Just over one in five (21%) people in Australia has been sexually harassed since the age of 15, based on the legal definition of sexual harassment, a slight increase since 2008 (20%). A majority (68%) of those people were harassed in the workplace. One-third of women (33%) have been sexually harassed since the age of 15, compared to fewer than one in ten (9%) men (based on the legal definition)

[2] Charlesworth, S., McDonald, P., Worley, A., Graham, T. & Lykhina, A. (2012). Formal Complaints of Workplace Sexual Harassment Lodged with Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissions 1 July 2009 – 31 December 2009. Adelaide: Centre for Work + Life, University of South Australia.

[3] Richardson v Oracle Corporation Australia Pty Limited (No 2) [ 2013] FCA 359 (19 April 2013)

[4] Sexual Harassment in Australia Causes, Outcomes & Prevention Project (2010-2012) Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (2010-2012). Investigators: Prof. Paula McDonald (Queensland University of Technology) & Assoc. Prof. Sara Charlesworth (University of South Australia). 

[5] (Jane Hodges, ILO Director of the Bureau for Gender Equality.)

Permanent Residency for Migrant Workers and Partner-Marriage Migrants

By Jane Corpuz-Brock, Executive Officer, Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association

Migrant women are part of the exodus of populations coming from developing countries and most recently countries whose economy had fallen due to the global financial crisis.  Many governments of developing countries, for example the Philippines had been using since the 1970s Labour-Export as strategy to reduce unemployment. It is unfortunate that recently World Bank is encouraging developing countries to follow the same strategy. The social cost of Labour-Export is very high in terms to the damage to the families left behind, to the brain drain that follows and the exploitation by employers in host countries, like Australia.

In my work with Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association, as volunteer to Migrant and Refugee Women for Human Rights (MRWHR) and Migrante Australia (Filipino Community organisation’s national alliance), I came across all aspects of issues that put pressures on the daily lives of migrant and refugee women in Australia.

Most often, especially in times of difficulties, the migration status of women from culturally and linguistically diverse background determines the level of access to services and other forms of assistance they could avail. The following are some of the visa types and the challenges the visa holders have to hurdle.

457 visa holders: People who have entered Australia with this visa are sponsored by employers. Their work visa is temporary and valid up to 4 years.Women on 457 visas and those accompanying partner or spouse to their husband – who are primary holders of 457 visas, are vulnerable to hardships due to lack of access to basic settlement assistance or social services. They pay their tax, if they have school-age children and are residing in New South Wales – they have to pay fees at the same rate as international students.

Partner visa holders: They have to wait for two years before they can lodge their final application for permanent residency. The two-year waiting period puts the partner visa holders in precarious situation. The jobs that most of them get are casual and contractual. There were anecdotal data that showed women who are on partner visa (temporary residency) do not have superannuation and annual leave. In times of family and domestic violence from their partner/sponsor, many women suffer in silence because the partners threaten to withdraw their sponsorship and therefore they will be deported.

Recommendations:

457 visa holders

The Federal Labor Government has improved the 457 visa. For example, the visa holder now has the right to leave the employer-sponsor without having their visa cancelled. This change lifts one of the conditions that placed a 457 visa holder in a “bonded” – like situation.

There are many conditions on 457 visa that have to be reviewed:

– IELTS (English test) expiration must be removed for those 457 visa holders who have been working for one year

– change the tuition fee for dependents from international student’s fee to local student’s fee

– put the 457 visa in permanent residency framework. It should be a permanent residency and not temporary residency. This will lift all bonded-like work situation that are woven in the 457 visa regulations.

Partner visa holders

Before 1991, anyone who married or was in a de-facto and interdependent relationship with permanent resident or Australian citizen is granted permanent residency when their application for residency in Australia is approved. The Australian government at that time made this change due to the abuse of this visa. There are data gathered by the Department of Immigration that indicates that serial sponsors and mail-order-bride businesses are exploiting the visa.

The two-year waiting period of this visa must be reviewed. There are more advanced methods of assessing visa applications and therefore this visa must be reversed and the successful partner visa applicants must be granted permanent residency. The two-year waiting period must be cancelled. 

This article is authored by Jane Corpuz-Brock, Executive Officer, Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association. More information about Jane Corpuz-Brock 

Improving Outcomes for women impacted by childhood trauma

By Dr Cathy Kezelman, President, Adults Surviving Child Abuse

The long-term effects of trauma experienced in childhood are a public health challenge of major proportions. Yet, despite its prevalence and impacts, such trauma often goes unacknowledged, unrecognised and unaddressed. Those affected often fail to receive the help and support they need and experience compounded disadvantage as a result, often right through the life cycle. While boys and men are subjected to a diversity of traumas, sexual abuse, in particular, affects girls and women in greater numbers.

In the 1980’s feminist waves highlighted the often gendered crimes of sexual violence. Sexual abuse was publicly named, personal stories were told and power imbalance and control were identified as key factors in its perpetration. We now hear more reports about child sexual assault and other abuses as well the impacts of growing up with domestic violence. Yet, a persistent collective consciousness of the lived reality of trauma, especially what we call complex trauma escapes us.

When trauma is protracted, repeated and extreme, and perpetrated in childhood by care-givers it comprises complex trauma. Complex trauma is often gendered, interpersonally mediated and so, especially damaging. It occurs with experiences of child abuse in all its forms, chronic neglect, family and community violence and the effects of other adverse childhood events e.g. living with parent with mental illness, who abuses substances, as well as situations of grief, loss and separation.

 Complex trauma affects not only its victims but for those who become mothers, the children they go on to have. It can affect an individual throughout their life cycle or whole families and communities over many generations. Unaddressed childhood trauma can cause difficulties for individuals in learning how to trust others, how to establish healthy relationships and how to care for themselves.

Childhood trauma which is interpersonally mediated affects early attachment dynamics. Individuals who, as children, observe violence in the home, whose have a parent/s who is/are abusive towards the other, or who are themselves abused, will struggle as a result of the changes to their brain development and functioning which arise from this traumatic exposure.

Research suggests that the younger the child, the more harmful the traumatic experiences are in terms of brain development. Those affected may also incorporate abuse into their relationships as adults. Abusive patterns, including gendered attitudes can seem normal to those living them every day. The use/abuse of power and control, experiences of betrayal, secrecy, silence, fear and shame are common elements in families in which abuse/violence occur. In turn all of these factors help perpetuate cycles of violence/abuse.

In our society an estimated 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted in some way prior to the age of 18. While more typically perpetrated by men, women can and do offend.  Sexual violence has long been used as a tool of power and control, instilling and exacerbating fear, helplessness and humiliation in vulnerable populations. Children are inherently vulnerable, and women more susceptible to sexual violence than men. 

As human beings we share a common humanity. Inherent in our humanity is an accompanying vulnerability. War and civil unrest create vulnerable populations, in which, fuelled by the oppression of women within those populations the human rights abuses of violence and sexual violence can and do abound. Within Australia we have our own history of human rights violations. Cultural dislocation and entrenched disadvantage have presided over an epidemic of violence and sexual violence within Indigenous communities, with substantiated rates of child abuse and neglect being 8 times those of non-Indigenous communities. 

Yet child sexual assault in Australia is widespread and not confined to Indigenous communities. We, in Australia, who live in the ‘luck country’, must address the factors which enable child sexual assault to continue unabated. With the announcement of the Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse, we are seeing for the first time a national spotlight shone on the issue. 

However the Terms of Reference mean that abuses, other than those which are sexual in nature, as well as abuses perpetrated in the home and family are not being examined. The Royal Commission and the conversations it has generated are a start. They need to be supported by action in the pursuit of justice as well as by services which are informed about complex trauma and its impacts, services which are accessible and affordable to the large numbers of victims/survivors of all ages needing them. 

While we have evidenced some changes in our societal approach to child abuse and domestic violence in Australia we have a long way to go in combating the collective denial, stigma and taboo which would still rather not speak about the ‘unspeakable’.  

It is contingent upon all parties, in government as well as opposition to take a bi-partisan approach to issues of trauma, violence and abuse. To support survivors as they come forward and speak to the Royal Commission and other inquiries, and ensure that as a society we take whatever steps we can to protect the most vulnerable amongst us and provide child and adult victims with the ‘trauma-informed’ support they need to reclaim their lives and overcome the repercussions of the often gendered assaults of power.

Key issues for women from disadvantaged communities

By Carol Berry, CEO, Illawarra Women’s Health Centre

In my experience, issues facing women from disadvantaged communities are no different, in many ways, from those challenges facing women generally – those issues for women in disadvantaged communities are simply compounded, and the landing base for when life goes pear-shaped much less soft.

Issues such as violence, drug and alcohol abuse, financial stress, childcare stress, the burden of caring responsibilities, work stress, health problems and anxiety are all issues that impact on women in disadvantaged communities.

One of the key issues I see on a regular basis is the debilitating psychological impact of stress and anxiety, particularly as it relates to financial stress, or a lack of control over one’s economic security, or ability to make ends meet on a week to week basis. This stress can have a flow on impact into many other facets of one’s life experience and general sense of wellbeing.

Many women bear the burden of financial stress in their most intimate relationships. Financial stress is a permanent fixture, and it manifests as a constant sense of low, moderate or high levels of stress. This stress and anxiety leads to a significant loss of enjoyment of life, as well as creates the conditions for poor decision making in regard to other facets of one’s life, such as family diet, smoking, alcohol and other drug abuse. Research shows that many women who experience financial stress have also suffered health problems, which manifest as physical and mental health problems, as well as relationship difficulties which can then lead to divorce or domestic violence issues.

In 2010, the Wesley Mission released a report entitled ‘Making Ends Meet’ and this report emphasised that financial stress is not just about money, and emphasised the flow on effect of this problem. The report asserted that more than a third of households are impacted upon by financial stress, more than half the population are anxious about the future and one in six are “very worried” about their financial future.

The Wesley Mission report argues that there is an urgent need to provide more financial counselling services, and more broadly, to instil a culture of saving and common sense around managing money. Unfortunately, financial stress will not be going away any time soon, and we must work hard to encourage young families in particular not to overstretch themselves in regard to mortgages and credit card debt. However, job insecurity is a more pervasive issue. As industries shut down, up skilling opportunities and emerging industries or sectors are becoming harder to access. This is creating a jobs vacuum for many disadvantaged women and their families. Whilst many women in disadvantaged communities are incredibly enterprising, the challenges can seem insurmountable. Add to this, many women are juggling child-rearing or care responsibilities into this mix and flexible work hours and conditions can be very stressful to navigate.

In my view we must be working to create a stronger societal safety net to ensure women do not feel alone. In the past, when communities faced economic uncertainty, they pitched together. Communities were stronger and better connected. Women now are increasingly isolated from one another, making the burden seem greater for individual women. For many women the shame of financial stress is preventing them from seeking help early, which can further exacerbate financial problems. Now, more than ever, our communities and governments must be highlighting the fact that financial stress is a common problem, and encouraging a sense of community, and a sense that everyone will be looked after – no matter what. We have more than enough wealth in this country to ensure that no-one needs to feel they will ever be alone, or left out in the cold. The stronger our communities are through these challenging economic times, the more capable we will be as individuals and communities to see our families through difficult times – which is often the emotional and practical burden that women bear – especially women experiencing disadvantage.

Many families feel pressure to live beyond their means, and this tendency has become normalised. Unfortunately when an unpredicted life event manifests, such as a job loss, this is where individuals and families hit the wall, which can cause massive personal upheaval, family and personal breakdown. As our society becomes more competitive, many women in disadvantaged communities want to ensure they are doing their best by their family, which means working harder, and taking on more stress. The flow on effect of this for women can stretch them to breaking point. This should not be normalised as a common experience for women. Instead, ensuring a great public education, social housing and welfare system can take the edge off the stress on families doing it tough. Whilst everyone must be encouraged to make sensible financial decisions, we also must recognise the fact that often life circumstances are beyond an individual’s control, and a compassionate and caring response is the hallmark of a civilised society – which we surely live in. 

More specifically, there is room for the Federal Government to invest resources and energy into up-skilling the nation around financial management issues. A campaign to ensure that families do not take on too much debt is crucial in regard to educating the population (particularly to those populations vulnerable to debt) around financial management issues. Whilst some resources exist around this subject, there must be a concerted effort to ensure the public is better educated around the debilitating impact of these issues for individuals and families. It would also be very worthwhile educating young people whilst they are still at school around financial management issues, as this is such an essential life skill in today’s environment. Subjects which could be covered include the importance of savings, the management of debt, and the importance of avoiding unmanageable debt.   

As the Wesley Mission report identifies, almost half of those under financial stress have suffered from ill health, both physical and mental, and a third have experienced relationship issues, including divorce and domestic violence. A quarter turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with the strain, and one in ten exacerbate their financial problems with gambling. The level of credit card debt among households under stress is two to three times that of other households. Seven in ten of those under stress rarely or never pay off this debt. Four in ten households don’t have a budget and a third of those with budgets don’t stick to them and overspend. Attitudes to money remain unhealthy: eight in 10 households do not have a savings mentality, and many struggle with the concept of reducing expenses to deal with financial hardship.

These issues come down to a culture that permits too much debt and does not encourage a risk-averse approach to household finances. Whilst there is no doubt room for better regulation of banks and lenders on this front, this is a subject for another piece. In the interim, whilst we still enable families falling into unmanageable debt, vulnerable families bear the greatest strain of this burden, and specifically women within families often suffer the most.

*This article is authored by Carol Berry, CEO, Illawarra Women’s Health Centre. More information about Carol Berry.


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