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What Do We Do?
Women with Disabilities Victoria is the peak body of women with disabilities in Victoria.
Women with Disabilities Victoria:
- Provides support and resources to women with disabilities in leadership roles
- Works with community services and organisations to ensure they are inclusive of women with disabilities
- Ensures services for people with disabilities consider a gender perspective that is responsive to women with disabilities
- Works in partnership with other disability and women’s organisaitons
- Encourages and undertakes research on issues affecting women with disabilities
- Provides a voice for women with disabilities to influence government policy and legislation
Women with Disabilities Victoria does not provide direct advocacy representation or assistance to individuals. However, please view our Information & Resources page for further information on other organisations and services relevant to our priority areas of focus.
The current priorities of Women with Disabilities Victoria are:
- Prevent and respond to violence against women with disabilities
- Accessible and inclusive health systems
- Make the NDIS relevant to women with disabilities.
While focusing on our three priorities we will use every opportunity to:
- Promote the importance of access to mainstream services
- Create leadership opportunities for women with disabilities.
Why is violence a top priority for Women with Disabilities Victoria?
Violence is a significant health issue for women in Victoria. Research undertaken in 2006 revealed intimate partner violence constitutes a significant risk to the health of women in Victoria. The study showed that intimate partner violence is a larger risk to health than other risk factors traditionally included in burden of disease studies, such as raised blood pressure, tobacco use and increased body weight (Vos, Astbury et al 2006). Research has established that women with disabilities experience violence at a higher rate, for longer periods, and are less likely to report the abuse, than women without disabilities (Healey, 2008).
Women with disabilities experience the same types of violence as other women in the community - that is physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse. Women with disabilities also experience forms of violence particular to their situation. Women with disabilities are often not respected or valued for who they are; in general they are poorer than other women; they experience more isolation and can be more dependent on partners, family members or carers. Because of this, women with disabilities can be targeted with forms of abuse that do not fit traditional definitions of violence. Withholding equipment, food and medication; limiting access to communication devices; and threats of institutionalisation are some forms of disability related abuse that may go unreported (Nosek, Foley et al 2001).
Our current work
Victoria’s Parliamentary Law Reform Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry on access to justice for people with intellectual disabilities. Women with Disabilities Victoria is working with partners to present issues of violence against women with disabilities to this inquiry. Access to justice involves knowing your rights, having avenues to protect those rights and report breaches of them, being believed when reporting, and being supported and safe during investigations. The parliamentary committee will be receiving submissions in September and running public hearings throughout late 2011.
Building the Evidence: A report on the status of policy and practice in responding to violence against women with disabilities in Victoria (2008)
The Building the Evidence project analysed the extent to which Victorian family violence policy and practice recognised and provided for women with disabilities who experience violence; and made recommendations to improve responses to women with disabilities dealing with family violence. The research was undertaken because the full extent of violence against women with disabilities was unknown, because statistics about women with disabilities who experience violence are not collected well.
A Framework for Influencing Change - Responding to Violence against Women with Disabilities, 2007-2009
To address violence against women with disabilities, we produced a framework. The framework is available to download, in various formats, on the Information & Resources Page of this website.
Working with VicHealth to address violence
Women with Disabilities Victoria provided input into to VicHealth's framework to guide primary prevention of intimate partner violence.
For more information or to download any of these resources please go to the Information & Resources page of this website. Alternatively, you can click on the individual resource links (above) to go to the relevant sections.
Why is improving access to health services a top priority?
Women with Disabilities Victoria has an ongoing goal of ensuring that women have equal access to health promotion and care in Victoria.
Improving access to health services is a priority because health service providers can fail to understand the specific needs of women with disabilities. For example, women with physical disabilities have difficulty accessing breast, cervical and bowel cancer screening programs when health centres fail to provide accessible parking, accessible toilets and accessible examination tables.
Our current work
Our current work includes:
- Literature Review: Access to Health Services for Women with Disabilities
- Research with the Centre for women's Health, Gender and Society
- Developing a DVD to educate health professions
- Working in collaboration with the Women's Health Association of Victoria
- Submission to Law Reform Commission on Abortion
Literature Review: Access to Health Services for Women with Disabilities
This report was commissioned by Women with Disabilities Victoria and undertaken by theCentre for women's Health, Gender and Society at The University of Melbourne by Sylvia Petrony, Dr Philomena Horsley and Professor Anne Kavanagh.
Women with Disabilities Victoria repeatedly hear about our members’ experiences of inadequate and non-responsive health services: not feeling respected; not being involved in the decisions that affect their health care and treatment; not being able to get onto the examination table; or the recurrent focus on their disability, rather than their health concerns.
This review was commissioned to identify what current research and literature can tell us about ways to improve access to health services for women with disabilities. The absence of evidence on the health experiences of women with disabilities in Australia is stark. In itself, this lack of research is an indicator of the depth of discrimination and the invisibility of women with disabilities within health research, policy and priorities. Key barriers and areas for action are identified and summarised below. Women with disabilities make up 20% of women. Whether we are from Cobram, or a community residential unit in Coburg; whether we are an Aboriginal woman, or were born in Afghanistan; whether we are lesbian, or heterosexual, we are women first. Our health and wellbeing is critically important to us, and to the health of the whole community.
Why is parenting a top priority of Women with Disabilities Victoria?
Supporting women with disabilities in their parenting roles and reproductive rights is one of Women with Disabilities Victoria’s secondary priority areas. Much research has been done into the needs of parents of children with disabilities but there is far less information regarding the needs of parents with disabilities. This reflects prevailing community attitudes towards women with disabilities who can be perceived as asexual, dependent and even as “unfit” mothers.
Whether the issues relate to sterilisation, abortion, pregnancy or parenting, it is evident that women with disabilities are treated differently to women without disabilities, and have been subjected to discrimination, invasive medical procedures and denial of basic human rights and bodily integrity on the basis of their disability.
Current Areas of work
Current areas of work on parenting include:
- Supporting representatives advocating as parents
- Advocating to government on parenting issues
- NDIS submission
- Parenting advocacy
In 2012-2013 Women with Disabilities Victoria plans to develop a framework to support advocacy that addresses the parenting and reproductive rights of women with disabilities.
Women with Disabilities Victoria advocates for increasing the rate of employment of women with disabilities through submissions, presentations and participation in employment promotions.
Employment for women with disabilities is a secondary priority area for Women with Disabilities Victoria. The social and economic advantages of being employed are well recorded – such as security, self-determination, financial resources and a sense of purpose. Yet women with disabilities encounter innumerable barriers to obtaining paid employment. These barriers include discriminatory attitudes, accessibility, lack of support, poor education and training and inaccessible transport.
Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA) data highlights the disparity between the employment of women and men with disabilities - 60% of men with disabilities are being assisted into employment compared to 40% of women with disabilities. The unemployment rate for men with disabilities has dropped significantly since 1998, but has changed little for women with disabilities.
These issues were raised by Women with Disabilities Victoria and Women With Disabilities Australia in a joint Submission in Response to the Productivity Commission’s Disability Care and Support Draft Report (May 2011).
Women with Disabilities Victoria model an accessible workplace
As an organisation, we model an accessible workplace for women with disabilities.
We do this by:
- prioritising employment of women with disabilities
- engaging in accessible work practices
- ensuring an accessible environment
- learning about accessibility and disability practice from each other.
Representation on Boards and on Committees
Women with Disabilities Victoria members represent the interests of women with disabilities in Victoria by sitting on Boards and committees. Our members are representatives on numerous Boards and committees including:
- Victorian Disability Advocacy Network (VDAN)
- Womens Health Association of Victoria (WHAV)
- Statewide Family Violence Advisory Committee
- Statewide Family Advisory Committee to Prevent Sexual Assault
- Royal Women’s Hospital Disability Reference Group
- Domestic Violence Victoria Board
- Centre for Women’s Health, Gender and Society Advisory Committee
- Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault Advisory Committee
- Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Disability Reference Group
Writing submissions is an important way of having input on government policy and legislation. This provides an opportunity to advise government on ways to include the needs of women with disabilities in its legislation, policies, programs and initiatives. You can read examples of Women with Disabilities Victoria submissions on our Information & Resources page.
Attending and presenting at conferences is a great way to raise awareness and contribute knowledge on our priority areas, share information and meet people working in similar fields.
Women with Disabilities Victoria conducts high level meetings with government ministers and senior bureaucrats to promote and advance on issues of particular concern to women with disabilities.
Enabling Women is a community leadership program that empowers 8-12 women with disabilities to have a voice about issues that relate to them and other women with disabilities. The program is one day a week for five weeks with a graduation celebration in the sixth week.
ENABLING WOMEN in MELBOURNE'S WESTERN REGION - October/November 2016
Women with Disabilities Victoria is partnering with Maribyrnong City Council to deliver the Enabling Women Leadership Program in Footscray in October/November this year.
NOTE: Closing date for applications for the Melbourne Western Region program has been extended to Thursday 6th October.
ENABLING WOMEN in MELBOURNE'S INNER-EAST - October/November 2016
Women with Disabilities Victoria is partnering with local councils to deliver the Enabling Women Leadership Program in Doncaster in October/November this year.
NOTE: Closing date for applications for the Melbourne Inner East program has been extended to Friday 16th September 2016.
Other ways to be involved:
Enabling Women Co-Facilitator/s - current position available in Melbourne's Western Region.
Co-Facilitators assist to deliver the leadership program. This is a paid position and we look for local women who identify as having a disability.
We are looking for a woman who identifies as having a disability, with some experience supporting other people with a disability, to assist with the delivery of the Enabling Women program - a leadership program for women with disabilities in Melbourne's Western Region (Maribyrnong, Hobson's Bay, Wyndham, Brimbank and Moonee Valley local government areas).
Women from the Western Region are encouraged to apply.
The Job Advertisement can be downloaded here:
The Position Description can be downloaded here:
Enquiries can be made to Cath McNamara, Partnerships and Leadership Development Officer by phoning 9286 7810 or Sharon Granek on 9286 7802.
Note: Applications close on Monday 12th September 2016.
Applications addressing the selection criteria should be addressed to:
Cath McNamara, Partnership and Leadership Development Officer, Women with Disabilities Victoria, GPO Box 1160, Melbourne, Vic 3001, or email email@example.com.
For more information about Enabling Women contact:
Jane at WDV: firstname.lastname@example.org / Ph: 9286 7800
Cath at WDV: email@example.com / Ph: 9286 7800
A two-day Leadership Program for young women with disabilities - September 2016
"Women Leading By Example" was a unique program for women with disabilities interested in developing their leadership skills, held in Melbourne in September 2016. High profile female leaders, mentors, and workshop facilitators from corporate, government, and non-profit sectors presented and interacted with participants.
View the Women Leading By Example video to see what happened on the day!
WDV will be offering the Our Right to Respect! Peer Education program to women with a lived experience of disability. The program offers opportunities to explore respectful relationships, experiences of being a woman, and women's and disability rights.
The program will run over four weeks in two locations:
Our Right to Respect! - Murrumbeena - 28th February - 21st March (in conjunction with Glen Eira Council)
Our Right to Respect! - Ringwood - 9th - 30th March
For more information please see the above fliers, or contact Bianca Evans on 9286 7809 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Evaluation Findings: the gender and Disability Workforce Development Program
The Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program is designed to change culture across whole organisations, working with clients, staff, managers and executives to increase awareness of how to deliver gender equitable and sensitive services. This is as a strategy for improving women's well-being and status and reducing gender-based violence.
WDV piloted the program throughout 2014/15 alongside an evaluation process that was completed in August 2015. Following the encouraging program evaluation findings, extension of funding was announced by the Hon. Fiona Richardson, Minister for Women and Minister for Prevention of Family Violence.
"Advocacy and education through this program are fundamental in promoting and upholding the rights of Victorian women with a disability and reducing the risk of gender-based violence."
WDV will be offering disability support organisations the opportunity to participate in the next stage of this exciting cultural change program.
Read more about the Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program (PDF) (Word).
Interested in the evaluation findings? You can read them here: Evaluation Summary: Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program (PDF) (Word).
Women with Disabilities Victoria conducts research that builds our knowledge and informs our advocacy. We also engage with and primarily partner with research institutions and also support research undertaken by other organisations that relate to our priority areas.
Collaborating with key organisations researching violence against women
Women with Disabilities Victoria contribute to the frameworks of other organisations addressing violence against women, such as providing input to VicHealth's review of the literature to guide primary prevention of intimate partner violence: Respect, responsibility and equality: preventing violence against women, 2007 (PDF 42KB).
A full copy of the literature review is available for download and a summary of findings from the literature review is further listed on the Information & Resources page.
Other research - violence against women with disabilities:
An important element of the work of Women with Disabilities Victoria is providing information to our members and other interested parties to promote the interests and human rights of women with disabilities. We do this in the following ways:
Women with Disabilities Victoria maintains an Online Resource Collection (Clearinghouse) of information resources to support systemic advocacy in its key priority areas.
e-News & Newsletters
Women with Disabilities Victoria produce and distribute a number of news publications.
a fortnightly email communication to members, supporters and other community organisations, covering related news and opportunities to advance Women with Disabilities Victoria’s goals. You can subscribe to our eNews online here.
Violence & Disability Quarterly
This quarterly publication (Newsletter) highlights the links between family violence and disability. The newsletter is a place to share resources, policy updates and practice challenges. You can subscribe to our subscribe to our 'Violence & Disability Quarterly' Newsletter here.
Update website with key relevant and current information, resources, WDV publications & news and opportunities.
Women with Disabilities Victoria hosts information forums on specific issues for members and the broader community.
Women with Disabilities Victoria actively engage with our constituents and the community through a range of social media. We regularly share our latest news and multimedia in this way and would love to connect with you! Just click on the image links at the very top (right side) of any web page to find us! You can also connect with us via the links below.
Women with Disabilities Victoria would like to acknowledge the generous assistance of our funders, pro bono supporters and volunteers.
Funds & Grants
Department Human Services
Job Access (Employment Assistance Fund)
Portland House Foundation
Pro Bono Contributors & Volunteers
Pro Bono design of new logo and branding
ANZ Bank Volunteer Program
Pro Bono design of offices
Katrina Lawrence Pty Ltd
Museum of Medicine
Advice to History Project
Barbara Van Ernst