Policy and law reform

Women’s Health West engages in activities designed to change the structural factors that cause and maintain the conditions under which women and their children face discrimination. This environmental scan shows the context in which our work occurs by outlining key policy documents, legislative reforms and the external policy environment that relate to women’s health, safety and wellbeing.

Download the complete policy snapshot here (PDF). Or use these links to jump to particular items:

International context:

National context:

State context:

Local council context:


Papua New Guinea government’s first national strategy to prevent and respond to Gender Based Violence (Mar 2017)

Government of Papua New Guinea launched the country’s first national strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in March. The National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence, 2016-2025 provides a roadmap to guide an inclusive government-led approach to implement all legislation, policies and programs. The strategy is available for download here.

2017 Report on equality between women and men in the EU (Mar 2017)

During March, the European Commission published its 2017 Report on Equality between Women and Men in the EU. The report is structured according to the priorities of the European Commission’s 2016-2019 strategic engagement for gender equality. This strategy was published in December 2015, and is a follow-up and prolongation of the Commission’s Strategy for Equality between Women and Men 2010-2015. It sets the framework for the Commission’s future work towards improving gender equality and focuses on the following five priority areas:

  1. Increasing female labour market participation and equal economic independence
  2. Reducing the gender pay, earnings and pension gaps and thus fighting poverty among women
  3. Promoting equality between women and men in decision-making
  4. Combating gender-based violence and protecting and supporting victims
  5. Promoting gender equality and women’s rights across the world.

The full report can be accessed here.

UK companies to publish their gender pay gap (Apr 2017)

Laws forcing employers to reveal the gender pay gap in their workforce come into force in the UK during April 2017. The rules require companies who employ more than 250 people to provide data about their gender pay gap, the proportion of male and female employees in different pay bands, the gender bonus gap, and a breakdown of how many women and men get a bonus. The legislation will affect around 9,000 companies who collectively employ more than 15 million people.

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The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 (Oct 2016)

The third action plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 (the National Plan) was launched in October 2016 by the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull.

The third action plan sets out an ambitious agenda that, with the support of key stakeholders and the community, will substantially reduce domestic, family and sexual violence in Australia. It is the halfway point of the National Plan, a 12-year strategy to drive generational change. The third action plan builds on the work undertaken in the first and second action plans to help keep women and children safe and help improve outcomes for the future generations.

It outlines 36 practical actions within the following six national priority areas, to be undertaken over the next three years:

  • National Priority Area 1: Prevention and early intervention
  • National Priority Area 2: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children
  • National Priority Area 3: Greater support and choice
  • National Priority Area 4: Sexual violence
  • National Priority Area 5: Responding to children living with violence
  • National Priority Area 6: Keeping perpetrators accountable across all systems

Further information on the third action plan can be found here.

Australia’s new Ambassador for Women and Girls (Nov 2016)

In November the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, appointed Dr Sharman Stone as Australia’s new Ambassador for Women and Girls. Dr Stone has been a longstanding and active advocate for gender equality in Australia and internationally.

As a long serving member, and more recently Chair, of the Australian Parliamentarians for Population Development Group (APPDG), Dr Stone was elected the Vice Chair of the Asia-Pacific Population Development Group with special responsibilities for promoting the rights of women and girls in the region. In this role, and in her time as Chair of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade (Aid subcommittee), Dr Stone championed the cause of eliminating child marriages, female genital mutilation/cutting, human trafficking, poverty and disease in our region. She delivered Australia’s Statement on the Status of Women to the United Nations General Assembly in 2014, where she also worked on the development of the new sustainable development goals.

Cut to penalty rates (Feb 2017)

In February, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) announced cuts of 25 to 50 per cent to penalty rates for workers in the hospitality, fast food, restaurant, retail and pharmacy industries.

A cut to penalty rates will exacerbate the gender pay gap, with a new analysis showing women earn 33 per cent less than men when their rates of part-time work are taken into account. The full fact sheet on the differential gender impacts of the FWC’s penalty rates decision can be found here (.pdf).

Return to assimilation policy narratives: Australian government toughens citizenship test (Apr 2017)

The Federal government of Australia has adopted a new stance on eligibility for Australian citizenship. Following a statement released by the Australian government on 20 April 2017, a sweeping redraft of Australian citizenship laws is underway. For Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, new arrivals in the country must embrace Australian values, and prove their commitment to integration in order to be awarded citizenship. There is a particular focus on English-language proficiency, in which applicants are required to pass a ‘higher-standard’ language test to qualify for citizenship.

The ‘Australian Values Statement’ in application forms for visas and citizenship will also be strengthened and will include reference to allegiance to the country. The Pledge of Commitment in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 will be strengthened as well. All citizenship-related legislation will be introduced to Parliament by the end of this year. But all changes will immediately be applied to applications received on or after the Government’s announcement on 20 April 2017. The statement can be accessed here (.pdf)

Uluru Statement of the Heart issued (May 2017)

The Referendum Council issued the Uluru Statement of the Heart in May. The statement rejects mere symbolic constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and calls for a treaty, and a permanent place for the First Nations Peoples to be constitutionally enshrined in Parliament.

The Referendum Council announced constitutional recognition is no longer a major goal and announced they intended to form a treaty commission to seek Makarrata, a Yolngu word for treaty, and a truth and justice commission. The statement, developed over three days of consultation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, can be accessed here (.pdf)

Review into the family law system (May 2017)

In May, the Turnbull government announced the first comprehensive review into the family law system since the commencement of the Family Law Act 1975, paving the way for long-term fundamental reform to better meet the needs of Australian families. In addition, the government announced an $80 million funding boost to frontline family law and family violence services.

The government will direct the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct the comprehensive review. This review will report by the end of 2018, with interim reports to be delivered on key themes, providing a long overdue roadmap to contemporise the system. Further information on transformations to family law system can be found here.

Amendment to Family Law Act (July 2017)

Draft legislative amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 were released to ensure victims of family violence are protected from being cross-examined by their alleged perpetrators.

The proposed legislative changes are part of the government’s ongoing commitment to implementing protections against family violence for Australian families, and forms part of the government’s package of measures to further support the family law system. The draft amendments see a legislative ban on self-represented parties conducting direct cross-examination where one party is convicted or charged of an offence involving violence against another party. The court will also have discretion to disallow direct cross-examination in other matters where there are allegations of family violence. Further information can be found here.

Islamophobia at Liberal National party state conference (July 2017)

The Liberal National Party State Conference, held in July in Queensland, overwhelmingly voted against a limited Muslim immigration ban, but has voted to call for headscarves to be banned for young children. The main resolution had called for the federal government to ban immigration from countries with sharia law, with those in favour saying it was ‘culturally incompatible’ with Australian values.

Ultimately the resolution was defeated by what the LNP president, Gary Spence, described as an ‘overwhelming’ majority of attendees. An emergency resolution calling for a general ban on clothing that obscures the face was also defeated, however a second emergency resolution calling for a ban on headscarves for children under the age of 10 was passed.

Victorian Government’s proposed assisted dying law (July 2017)

In July, the Andrews government released recommendations that will shape a proposed assisted dying law, which will be put to a conscience vote in state parliament later this year.

The proposed assisted dying law for Victoria contains safeguards so comprehensive that the legislation will be the most conservative of its kind anywhere in the world. Details are contained in 66 recommendations in the Andrews government’s Ministerial Advisory Panel report on voluntary assisted dying.

The independent expert panel, chaired by former president of the Australian Medical Association, Professor Brian Owler, produced the report after an extensive parliamentary inquiry last year recommended the historic change. That recommendation echoed the findings of a Senate inquiry titled Inquiry into End of Life Choices. Polls have long shown that as many as four in five Australians support assisted dying.

National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian Universities (August 2017)

At the request of Australia’s 39 universities, the Australian Human Rights Commission has conducted a national, independent survey of university students to gain greater insight into the nature, prevalence and reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, launched Change the Course: National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual harassment at Australian Universities in August.

The Change the Course report is based on the results of a national survey of university students. The survey examined the prevalence, nature and reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities, and was completed by more than 30,000 students across Australia.
Key findings include:

  • Overall, one in five students was sexually harassed at university last year.
  • 1.6 per cent of students were sexually assaulted in a university setting in 2015 or 2016.
  • In 2016, women were almost twice as likely as men to have been sexually harassed in a university setting.
  • The survey found that 32 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men had been sexually harassed in a university setting in 2016.
  • Women were more than three times as likely as men to have been sexually assaulted in a university setting in 2015 or 2016.
  • Students who identified as bisexual, gay, lesbian and homosexual reported higher rates of these behaviours than those who identified as heterosexual.

The complete findings from this survey can be accessed here.

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Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s Plan for Change (November 2016)

The Andrews government delivered landmark reforms to protect women and children with the release of a 10-year plan to end family violence in November.

Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s Plan for Change sets out how the Victorian government will deliver the 227 recommendations made by Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence, and how it will build a new system that protects victim/survivors and holds perpetrators to account.

Key actions within this plan include:

  • Establish a network of support and safety hubs across Victoria
  • Recruit new specialist family violence workers to support women and their children access services
  • Invest a further $218 million in social housing and private rental assistance
  • Strengthen intervention orders, tighten up the bail process, and allow for the better sharing of information
  • Provide specialist training to Victoria Police officers, and upgrade courts to provide greater security for victim/survivors
  • Initiate a primary prevention strategy, alongside a state-wide behavioural change campaign

Visit the Victorian Government website to find out more.

Safe and Strong: Victoria’s first gender equity strategy (December 2016)

Safe and Strong: A Victorian Gender Equality Strategy was launched in December by Fiona Richardson, Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Minister for Women, on behalf of the Andrews government. It is the first ever strategy of its kind and is driven by the recognition that gender inequality is one of the key drivers of family violence.

The strategy is designed to progressively build the attitudinal and behavioural change required to reduce violence against women and deliver gender equality. The strategy closely aligns with many of the recommendations that came out of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. More than 200 written submissions were received, including a submission by Women’s Health West, which detailed 23 recommendations to support and strengthen the effective design and implementation of the strategy. Read Women’s Health West’s submission here (.pdf)

State Disability Plan 2017-2020 (December 2016)

Absolutely Everyone: State disability plan 2017–2020 was released in December 2016 by the Victorian Government. It is the Victorian Government’s third state disability plan. The state disability plan 2017-2020 tackles the negative attitudes and barriers that more than one million Victorians with a disability deal with on a daily basis.

It sets out priorities and actions for achieving inclusion under four key pillars that include: inclusive communities; health, housing and wellbeing; fairness and safety; and contributing lives. The full plan can be accessed here.

Development of Family Violence Outcomes Framework (February 2017)

A number of workshops with sector representatives were held to develop indicators for the Family Violence Outcomes Framework throughout February 2017. These indicators build on the outcomes framework, which was released as part of Ending Family Violence – Victoria’s Plan for Change in November 2016. The framework details a range of key outcomes that demonstrate Victoria’s collective priorities in preventing and responding to family violence.

The Prevention of Family Violence Outcomes Framework is an important accountability tool to ensure the long-term goals are met. This outcomes framework will measure: the vision; the domains; the outcomes; and the indicators. The outcomes framework has been embedded in the Family Violence Rolling Action Plan 2017-2020. The indicators of this framework are consistent with, and complement, those developed in Safe and Strong: A Victorian Gender Equity Strategy and Free from Violence: Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of Violence Against Women.

Victoria’s First Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy (March 2017)

Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy, released the Andrews government’s landmark Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Key Priorities 2017-2020 plan in March. The plan, which is supported by $6.6 million in funding, sets out key actions to reduce barriers and service gaps that affect women’s access to reproductive and sexual health services.

The full report is available to download here (pdf).

VicHealth Position Statement: Gender equity and health and wellbeing (May 2017)

VicHealth released the Gender Equality and Health Position Statement in May. The statement outlines VicHealth’s commitment to redressing inequalities between women and men, so that all Victorians can realise their full potential for health and wellbeing regardless of gender.

The position statement is designed to develop innovative and evidence-based health promotion in three ways: invest in and support the adoption of emerging best practice global approaches to ensure Victoria leads the way in gender equality; harness the collective influence of our sports partners and other non-health stakeholders to build cross-sector action and leadership to advance gender equality and create social change; and model the organisational approaches and practices that VicHealth ask of others.

Detailed information on VicHealth’s commitment to addressing inequalities between men and women can be found here.

New high level structure for Department of Health and Human Services (May 2017)

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Kym Peake, announced a new high-level structure for the department. The new structure will come into place on 3 July, and will consist of six divisions and three portfolio agencies. A copy of the new structure and portfolios can be viewed here.

New CEO at the Office of Prevention and Women’s Equity (July 2017)

In July, Marion Frere was appointed interim CEO for the Office of Prevention and Women’s Equality. The office will form part of the Community Participation and Health and Wellbeing Group, in the Health and Wellbeing Division of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The CEO will report to Anne Congleton, the Deputy Secretary in charge of Community Participation and Health and Wellbeing. Marion has come from the South Division of DHHS, where she held roles as Director – Client Outcomes and Service Improvement, and as the Area Director of Bayside Peninsula.

Family Violence Rolling Action Plan 2017-2020 (May 2017)

The Family Violence Rolling Action Plan 2017-2020 contains details of the new Family Safety Victoria agency (more info on this below), and how the state government will deliver $1.91 billion of investment in eliminating family violence.

The rolling action plan will provide updates on the actions and initiatives for achieving the vision of a Victoria free from family violence. The rolling action plan is the next step towards implementing all 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which will contribute to achieving that vision.

The first plan was released in May 2017. The full version of the first action plan can be found here. (pdf)

Victoria’s strategy to stop violence before it starts (May 2017)

In May, the Andrews government released its primary prevention strategy as part of the Family Violence Rolling Action Plan 2017-2020. Free from Violence: Victoria’s Strategy to Prevent Family Violence and All Forms of Violence Against Women sets out a plan for all Victorians to experience equality and respect in their homes, workplaces and communities.

The strategy will be supported by the establishment of Family Safety Victoria, a dedicated prevention agency (see below for more info) to develop, support and coordinate prevention initiatives across the state. Further information can be found here.

Victorian HIV strategy 2017-2020 (June 2017)

In June, the Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy, launched the Victorian HIV Strategy 2017-2020 – a roadmap to the virtual elimination of new HIV infections by 2020.

The plan sets out the state government’s strategy to improve prevention, testing and treatment of HIV; and work with affected communities to reduce HIV stigma and discrimination. Its key targets are to have 95 per cent of people with HIV diagnosed, accessing the best treatment, and achieving undetectable viral load by 2030. It also seeks to eliminate HIV related discrimination and stigma completely.

The plan is backed by $1.2 million in funding to find a breakthrough cure for HIV. This strategy can be downloaded here.

Establishment of Family Safety Victoria (July 2017)

From 1 July 2017, Family Safety Victoria will be responsible for driving and delivering the state government’s $1.9 billion action plan to end family violence. As Victoria’s first ever agency dedicated solely to family violence reform, Family Safety Victoria will lead the implementation of new initiatives, including establishing a ‘central information point’ which will allow police, courts and government services to track perpetrators and keep victims safe; a Centre for Workforce Excellence; and 17 support and safety hubs across the state, which will provide women and children with the coordinated support they need to recover after experiencing family violence.

The details of Family Safety Victoria is contained in the Family Violence Rolling Action Plan, released in May. For further see above section Family Violence Rolling Action Plan 2017-2020.

Chief Executive Officer appointed for Family Safety Victoria (June 2017)

In late June, the state government appointed Sue Clifford as the Chief Executive Officer of Family Safety Victoria, its new family violence agency. Ms Clifford worked at Executive and Commander levels in the Victorian Police, and has extensive experience in delivering community safety strategies.

With an Executive Master in Public Administration and significant expertise in engaging with diverse communities and driving change, she is well placed to lead these important reforms.

New Prevention Agency (July 2017)

To implement ‘Free From Violence, Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women’, the state government has appointed a new Prevention Agency.

The Prevention Agency will develop, support and coordinate prevention initiatives across the state. The agency commenced on 1 July and sits within Department of Health and Human Services, alongside the Office of Prevention and Women’s Equality. The CEO of the agency is yet to be appointed.

The agency is releasing a draft paper to explore its role and functions in August 1 2017, that will be reviewed by the state-wide prevention taskforce. Women’s Health West will be providing input via our peak body, the Women’s Health Association of Victoria.

Support and Safety Hubs (July 2017)

Support and safety hubs were a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Special Minister of State, Gavin Jennings, released Support and Safety Hubs: A Statewide Concept in July, which sets out how the hubs will work, including their scope, how people will access their services, who will work within the hubs, and how they will connect and coordinate with relevant agencies.

The report is the product of extensive consultation and engagement with victim/survivors, family violence workers, and other agencies. The hubs will provide a visible contact point for victim/survivors and give local communities access to highly-skilled workers with connections to the justice system and social services, including housing. The full report can be access here.

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Brimbank Council adopts Disability Action Plan (February 2017)

In February, Brimbank Council adopted a Disability Action Plan to guide its work to support people with a disability, along with their families and carers, and to improve access and inclusion in Brimbank.

The Disability Action Plan 2017-2020 aims to address matters relating to regulation, facilitation, advocacy, partnership and service delivery as it affects people with disability. The Disability Action Plan can be downloaded here.

Inner North West Strategic Plan for 2017-2021 released (June 2017)

The Inner North West Primary Care Partnership (INW PCP) launched its strategic plan for 2017-2021 in June. The INW PCP Strategic Plan (2017-2021) was endorsed by their governance group in June, and has since been submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services for endorsement.

The plan can be accessed here (pdf).

Council Plans and integrated municipal health and wellbeing plans (July 2017)

All local governments prepared council plans for 2017-2020. Before adopting their plans, the councils issue public notices of their intent to adopt the plans, and invite public submissions.

Women’s Health West submitted written submissions to seven local governments in the west (Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melton, Melbourne, Moonee Valley and Wyndham) where there was a focus on municipal health and wellbeing priorities being either integrated or embedded into wider council plans. Recommendations were made for a stronger focus on the social determinants of health inequities, gender equity, sexual and reproductive health, and prevention of men’s violence against women.

As of 24 July 2017, Melton, Moonee Valley, Hobsons Bay, Melbourne, Wyndham, and Maribyrnong City Councils had adopted their 2017-2021 council plans.

HealthWest Strategic Plan released (July 2017)

HealthWest released their strategic plan in July. The HeathWest Partnership Strategic Plan 2017-2019 outlines priorities to improve the health and wellbeing of communities in Melbourne’s west. Their strategic planning priorities include: partnership and collaboration; building evidence and sharing knowledge; and advocacy and support. Further information about this plan can be found here.

IPC Health Strategic directions for 2017-2019 (2017)

IPC Health released their strategic directions for 2017-2019. More specifically, they have identified three stages of strategic progression across three years.

Further information is available here.

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