News and Events

Royal Commission into Family Violence report due 29 March

RCFV_1The Royal Commission into Family Violence is due to deliver its report and recommendations on 29 March 2016.

In the lead up to this date we will be sending out #RCFV and #PVAW reminders to our friends and supporters via social media on what we want to see from the Royal Commission in the areas of:

  • Family violence response
  • Family violence prevention
  • Investment in women’s health services to coordinate prevention of violence against women

The Women’s Health Association of Victoria, the peak body for Victorian women’s health services, has also put together key messages for the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Have a read: RCFV WHAV Key messages March 2016

Get more information

See what Women’s Health West and our partners have already recommended to the Royal Commission into Family Violence:

We were a signatory to the following:

And go here if you want more information on the Royal Commission into Family Violence (Victoria).

Update on Criminalising ‘Revenge Porn’

Thoughtful_girl_WEBby Emma Weaver, Health Promotion Worker – Policy & Development 

Remember our previous blog about the push to criminalise ‘revenge porn’? Well, this matter ended up being referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee for inquiry. We filed a written submission and the committee is due to report back on 25 February 2016 (Ed: the committee has since reported back and you can read their findings online).

In this recent submission we restated our support for criminalising the behaviour of sharing sexually explicit images without a person or persons’ consent via all forms of telecommunications including SMS, email, websites and social media. This is important in creating a gender equitable, safe, inclusive and fair Australia for women and girls.

Our concerns

But we also stated our concerns with the term ‘revenge porn’. Our concern is that public discourse has predominantly focussed on the problem arising because of ‘naïve users’. The term ‘revenge porn’ supports this dialogue by suggesting the victim/survivor is to blame for taking a ‘pornographic’ image in the first place. It also implies that the victim/survivor actively engaged in the making of the image, which is often not the case. For example, we know that this form of violence can be done to ‘shame and humiliate the subject, or punish them for discontinuing the relationship’ by a current or ex-partner (Henry & Powell, 2015).

Our recommendations

We recommended to federal government that the offence be named ‘sexual violence perpetrated on information and communication technologies’ and the subsequent acronym of ‘ICT sexual violence’. This positions the offence within a framework of gender-based violence, placing responsibility with the perpetrator of this form of cyber exploitation rather than with the victim/survivor in the image.

Our support

Women’s Health West supports this legislative change as an opportunity for the government to provide a clear moral compass of the values of our society and the severity and unacceptability of this form of harassment and violence against women (Salter, 2015). Developing a specific federal criminal law against ICT sexual violence will create greater visibility for this offence and support victims/survivors to have their individual rights and dignity protected.

Essentially this legislative change will be a positive step towards protecting women and girl’s basic human rights to be free from mental, emotional and physical violence and the right to privacy and bodily integrity.

For more detail and to follow the status of the inquiry as it unfolds click here.


Henry, N and Powell, A, 2015, ‘Beyond the ‘sext’: Technology-facilitated sexual violence and harassment against adult women’, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Vol. 48(10) 104-118.

Salter, M & Crofts, T, 2015, forthcoming, Responding to revenge porn: Challenging online legal impunity. In Comella, L & Tarrant, S (Eds.) New views on pornography: Sexuality, politics and the law. Praeger Publisher: Westport.

Celebrate International Women’s Day #MelbsWest style

IWD MelbsWestInternational Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s call to action is accelerating gender parity. And you can get involved too.

Our partners, supporters and friends throughout Melbourne’s west are holding a range of International Women’s Day events. So we thought we’d make it easy for you and create a list of what’s happening around Melbourne’s west for International Women’s Day.

If you want to list your event send to info(at)whwest.org.au

So have a look below, choose your event, be part of the action to accelerate gender parity, and join in on the celebrations…

Events in #MelbsWest

Picture It: Five Women, Five Images – Game Changers Conversation

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Time: 6pm to 8pm
Location: VU at MetroWest, 138 Nicholson Street, Footscray
Organisation: hosted by Victoria University
Cost: Free

Join us to hear five women capture what gender equality means to them. Speakers include Tasneem Chopra, Pat Drake, Jayne Lewis, Monique Toohey and Paolla Balla.

International Women’s Day Trivia Night

Friday, 4 March 2016

Time: 6.30pm
Location: Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, 120 Nelson Place, Williamstown
Organisation: Hobsons Bay Council
Cost: $15 per ticket or $125 for a table of 10. Finger food provided.

Comedian Nelly Thomas will be the Quiz Master and all questions will highlight amazing females throughout history. Men and women are welcome to attend and free onsite childcare is available upon request. Tickets are now available online at http://www.hobsonsbaytickets.com.au/ or call 9932 4074.

An Evening with Sisters Day Out

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Time: 6.30pm – 11.30pm
Location: CQ Lounge, 113 Queen Street, Melbourne
Organisation: FVPLS Victoria
Cost: $150 – $1,450

FVPLS Victoria invites you to join us at this great event to celebrate Aboriginal women and the successful story of the Sisters Day Out® program, which is part of FVPLS Victoria’s early intervention and prevention initiatives. ‘An evening with Sisters Day Out®’ will showcase a range of innovative speakers and great entertainment, including music performance by Casey Donovan and Anita Heiss as the MC for the event. The event will provide an opportunity to reflect on the importance of early intervention and prevention initiatives to breakdown barriers to safety and access to justice for Aboriginal women.

Dead Women Can’t Vote: International Women’s Day fundraiser

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Time: 2.00pm – 5.00pm
Location: Two Birds Brewing, 136 Hall Street, Spotswood
Cost: $20 – $50

Inspired by Sisters Uncut protests at the film premiere of Suffragette in London, we are organising a fundraiser for Women’s Health West for International Women’s Day. Join us for an all ages event on a Sunday afternoon with a couple of performers, a raffle and silent auction. Featuring performances by Fionnulla McKenna and Sam Ferrante. With more to come! All proceeds will go to Women’s Health West.

Women’s Rights at Work Festival

6-11 March 2016

Time: Various
Location: Various around Melbourne
Organisation: Union Women
Cost: Free, but ticketed

The WRAW Festival is designed to showcase the advances that united women have made in realising their human rights at work, as well as how we can continue the fight for equality in all aspects of working life. The Festival incorporates a robust calendar of FREE events focused on organising and campaigning, gender equality in the workplace, domestic violence as a workplace issue and the International Women’s Day march on 8th March.

International Women’s Day Breakfast 2016

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Time: 7.00 – 8.30am
Location: Council Chambers, 9 Kellaway Avenue, Moonee Ponds
Organisation: City of Moonee Valley
Cost: $55

Mayor Cr Andrea Surace and her fellow Councillors invite you to join them for a breakfast to celebrate International Women’s Day! Tickets include a buffet breakfast and Guest Speakers Jacqui Cooper, Australian Olympic Aerial Skier and Jackie Zombolas, Co-Ordinator, Youth Services, Moonee Valley City Council. RSVP by Monday, 29 February. For bookings visit trybooking.com/KGFJ or call 9243 8846.

Women of Maribyrnong – Celebrating local inspirational women

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Time: 3.00 – 6.30pm
Location: 107 Churchill Ave, Braybrook
Organisation: Maribyrnong City Council
Cost: Free

There will be a photographic exhibition featuring local inspirational women, live music from local young women, poetry and spoken word performances, international coffee and tea, polaroid photo board, guest speakers and food. This is a FREE event and everyone is welcome! No RSVP needed.

International Women’s Day Melbourne rally

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Time: 5.30pm
Location: State Library of Victoria, Swanston Street, Melbourne
Organisation: hosted by International Women’s Day Melbourne
Cost: Free

Spread the word–we will rally at the library and march through the streets of Melbourne. The march route and political demands are yet to be finalised, but please check this page regularly as we will post all details here. WOMEN OF THE WORLD UNITE! All genders welcome.

Celeste Liddle’s International Women’s Day Keynote Address

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Time: 6.00pm
Location: Queen Victoria Women’s Centre, 210 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Organisation: Queen Victoria Women’s Centre
Cost: Free, but ticketed

Celeste Liddle shares her experience as an Indigenous woman living in a white, male-dominated culture and how it has shaped her feminist journey. Celeste is an Arrernte Australian woman living in Melbourne and is the current National Indigenous Organiser for the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).

The F Word: Celebrating International Women’s Day

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Time: 7.00pm
Location: Howler, Brunswick
Organisation: Melbourne Playback Theatre
Cost: $15

An evening of storytelling, performance and panel discussion with prominent feminists Clem Ford, Melba Marginson and Jane Gilmore. There’s discount for women’s organisations and community groups, see flyer for details: Playback theatre_IWD

Strength2Strength: The quest for equality

Friday, 11 March 2016

Time: 5.30pm to 8.30pm
Location: Victoria University @ MetroWest, 138 Nicholson Street, Footscray
Organisation: VU Women’s Collective
Cost: Free

Victoria University Student Union and VU Women’s Collective invite you to come along and discuss International Women’s Day 2016 and our Quest for Equality. This FREE event also includes canapes, drinks, child minding and a door prize. With a range of diverse speakers to be announced soon. All genders welcome.

I am a Girl film screening – presented by Lead On Again

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Time: 1.30pm to 4.30pm
Location: Visy Cares Hub auditorium, Sunshine
Organisation: Women’s Health West Lead On Again participants
Cost: Free

Lead On Again is a program for young women from diverse communities in Melbourne’s west to develop their leadership skills. As a finale to their Lead On Again learning experience they invite you to join them at a screening of I am a Girl.

Women and Art: Footscray Walk

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Time: 2.30pm to 3.30pm
Location: VU Metro West, 138 Nicholson Street, Footscray
Organisation: Wynter Projects
Cost: Free

As part of International Women’s Day week, a celebratory one-hour walk of women and art will take place in Footscray. Includes talks by some of the artists. It is free to join but RSVP essential at wynterprojects.com with subject heading 12MAR16.

Walk with Her

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Time: 9am (8.30am warm up)
Location: CS Square, Caroline Springs
Organisation: Melton Women Making it Happen supported by Djerriwarrh Community Health and Melton City Council
Cost: Free

Let’s walk together to create a safer, more respectful and equal community. One in three women have experienced violence that has been committed by someone that they know. Show your support for a safer city and Walk with Her on Safer City Day. Choose from a 2km or 4km walk. Register online at cssquare.com.au or on the day from 8am.

You can also check out all the events on our online calendar.

Pap screen changes take health equity backwards

By Alyce Vella, Health Promotion Worker


Proposed changes to pap screen bulk-billing will have a significant impact on women who work, play and reside in the west, and will likely further exacerbate health inequity among women who experience disadvantage. Changes could result in patients paying up to $30 for a pap smear.

Only 58 per cent of women aged 20-69 participated in the National Cervical Screening Program in 2012-2013. Rates of screening among women residing in the western region of Melbourne are lower than the national average; as low as 44 per cent in some local government areas. It is likely that this number will reduce even further if added financial pressure is placed on women, let alone the increased effort required to identify a bulk-billing clinic if clinics increase their patient contribution.

Who will be impacted?

Marginalised community groups who are already presenting at low rates for pap screens are likely to be impacted, including Aboriginal women, migrant and refugee women, young women, women with a disability, lesbian and bisexual women, and victims/survivors of sexual violence. Incidence and mortality outcomes among Aboriginal women are particularly dire; Aboriginal women are 2.3 times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to develop cervical cancer (incidence rate), and almost 3.5 times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to die from cervical cancer, highlighting an already significant gap in health care among this community group.

Why the change?

One of the arguments for the proposed changes is that increased accessibility to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine (which protects against the high risk HPV strains that play a large role in the development of cervical cancer) is likely to see a reduced incidence of cervical cancer in the future, reducing the demand for pap screens. However, it is important to note that routine pap screens with a nurse or GP often act as a mediator for discussions about other routine health checks, such as breast screening for older women and STI testing for sexually active women, particularly for young women who are at highest risk of STIs such as chlamydia. With rates of chlamydia in some parts of Melbourne’s west almost three times greater than the state average, these opportunistic discussions are vital to the sexual and reproductive health of women in the west.

Some concerns

Arguably the most important concern with the proposed changes to pap screen bulk-billing are the potential impacts on women seeking out health care in a timely, preventative manner. According to the Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry, ‘almost 90 per cent of all Victorian women who develop cervical cancer have either never had a test, or did not have a test routinely in the ten years prior to their diagnosis’, highlighting that the additional barriers to screening, such as the ones proposed, are likely to result in even more alarming statistics.

Increasing culturally appropriate and responsive cervical screening service delivery and coordination throughout Melbourne’s west is an objective of Action for Equity, the sexual and reproductive health plan for Melbourne’s west. The Action for Equity partnership is led by Women’s Health West.


Rebuilding the bonds with children

mum_hugs_boyBy Nadine, a children’s counsellor at Women’s Health West

I work with children who have seen or heard family violence. Sometimes they may have helped to clean up after, or helped defend their mothers or carers against violence. Their pets may have been harmed, or toys destroyed or left behind if they’ve had to flee.

Some children have been directly physically abused. They can become withdrawn, act like parents themselves, or act out. For children displaying their distress by acting out aggressively, relationships can become increasingly difficult; a mother may find her child’s behaviour reminiscent of the violence she has experienced.  A mother’s parenting is nearly always undermined by family violence, and her relationships with her children affected.

Let me share with you the abridged therapeutic adventures of a six-year-old boy I worked with during our children’s counselling sessions. We’ll call him ‘Emmett’, but it’s not his real name.

At school Emmett was aggressively targeting girls. He was having trouble making and keeping friends due to his delayed social skills. He was still wetting his pants. In the classroom, his capacity to sit still in order to listen, learn and respond, was very limited.

At home Emmett and his sister fought vicious fights, often resulting in injury. They found it difficult to tolerate sharing the attention of their mother. Emmett would often lash out at her, physically and verbally.

When I first met Emmett he was viewed by some people in his world as a ‘very naughty boy’.

BUT Emmett had experienced significant family violence his entire life. Emmett was unsure of trusting others, and had little experience of feeling safe. His trauma was relational, and this is where the repair needed to start. Emmett’s mother had fled the violence so he and his siblings were safe.

In the course of our work together Emmett tested me to see if I was trustworthy. We played and made art, the natural language of children which enables them to make sense of their experiences. I followed his lead.

The protagonists in his work were always alone and in danger, always losing the ‘war’! Emmett was devastated about leaving his toys behind when the family fled, and felt this was somehow further punishment for being a ‘bad boy’.

Choosing Positive Paths, a resource developed by Women’s Health West and Berry Street, outlines some connection focused activities I might use as a guide when working with mothers to rebuild their relationships with their children following family violence.

It focuses on mothers and carers being the most important people in moving this process forward. The simple language used in Choosing Positive Paths makes the information easy to understand, and the daunting task of repairing a relationship a little more tangible: Play with your child. Be curious about your child’s thoughts and feelings. Catch them behaving well! Talk to them in age appropriate language about the tough stuff that has happened.

Emmett’s mother came to understand that her son’s attacks on her were not personal, but rather the kind of behaviour that had been modelled in the home previously. She began to use the motto of ‘ALL feelings are okay, but not all behaviours are okay’. She practiced acknowledging her children’s emotions. Emmett’s mother was eventually able to talk with Emmett about the conflicting feelings that came up for him in relation to his father: ‘I love him, but he was scary sometimes. I miss him, BUT I don’t miss the scariness’.

Emmett had practiced these themes in the safety of the counselling room, and Emmett’s mother and I had practiced together too, using similar language to that contained in Choosing Positive Paths. A resource like this can provide mums with simple suggestions and information prior to engaging with counselling, or in between counselling sessions.

It’s child focused. It’s trauma informed.

Emmett’s protagonists began to gather armies so he was no longer alone; the wars were being won, and some of the heroes were women! Eventually the wars stopped all together (inside the therapy room and outside at school and home). Normal sibling rivalry settled in between Emmett and his sister.

And while it wasn’t all happily ever after in Emmett’s family, enough understanding and hope had been gained to shift things for the better between mother and child.

This is an edited version of a speech Nadine presented at the launch of the Choosing Positive Paths resource at Parliament House in December 2016. The resource was officially launched by the Hon Jenny Mikakos MP, Minister for Families and Children.

Choosing Positive Paths is a resource developed for mothers, carers and other protective parents to support children affected by family violence. You can order or download here.

Find out more information about WHW Children’s Counselling services: http://whwest.org.au/resource/childrens-counselling-service/

Illustration by Isis and Pluto