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 PDF of complete environmental scan for November 2016
Download PDF of November 2016 – snapshot

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International context
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President-elect Donald Trump (2016)

Republican nominee Donald Trump has claimed the 45th presidency of the United States of America in one of the most closely-fought election contests in history defeating Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The millionaire businessman will be sworn in on 20 January 2017 after a turbulent year-long presidential campaign.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, yet failed to gain enough Electoral College votes to win the race for the White House, losing in the key battleground states of Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The “highest and hardest” of glass ceilings was not shattered, though Hillary Clinton urged girls ‘to take every opportunity to achieve their own dreams’ during her concession speech on 9 November.

The next four years will see a conservative agenda in Washington, with Republicans also gaining control of the Senate. Of particular concern is President-elect Donald Trump’s commitment to overturn Roe V Wade, a 1973 law that guarantees women the right to an abortion in all 50 states. The widespread concern with Donald Trump’s presidential victory were further encapsulated by Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Preventing Violence against Women academic Dr Michael Salter at Western Sydney University when he tweeted, ‘What happens to sexual violence prevention when a man with known history of sexual assault and harassment is made leader of the free world?’ and ‘How do we challenge the cultural normalisation of violence against women as that culture raises a serial offender to highest office?’

Women’s Health West (WHW) is disheartened that a known perpetrator of violence against women has been elected to the highest office. This is a reminder of the work that is required to redress the known drivers of violence against women, and in particular a culture that condones and justifies violence against women.


Proposed changes to Paid Parental Leave before House of Representatives (2016)

The Coalition has once again put forward the regressive legislation to undermine women’s access to paid parental leave in the Paid Parental Leave Bill 2016 before the House of Representatives. The proposed legislation is set to prevent women from being able to claim government minimum wage paid parental support in partnership with employer funded schemes. This bill is unlikely to be passed due to Labor and the Greens firmly opposing the proposed changes, and Senator Nick Xenophon and his members declining to support what he describes as a “retrospective” and “manifestly unfair” bill.

WHW wrote to local Federal MPs asking for their support to vote against this regressive legislation, stating the proposed changes are a direct attack on women’s economic participation, financial independence, and ability to balance work and family responsibilities. Track the progress of this bill.

Marriage equality plebiscite defeated in Senate (2016)

The Federal Government’s bid to hold a plebiscite on whether to legalise same-sex marriage has been defeated in the Senate. The proposal was voted down on 7 November in the Upper House 33 votes to 29.

The Federal Opposition says the plebiscite would have resulted in harmful debate against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community and instead want a Parliamentary vote. Labor and the Greens were joined by the Nick Xenophon Team and Derryn Hinch to defeat the Bill, while the Coalition secured the support of the One Nation Party, the Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm and Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie.

Asylum seeker legislation proposed by Coalition (2016)

The Coalition has introduced legislation to ban asylum seekers who arrive by boat from ever being allowed into Australia. If passed the ban will apply to any adult who has been sent to detention centres on Nauru or Manus Island since 19 July 2013.

Making the law retrospective means it could determine the future of nearly 1,300 people who are currently on Manus Island and Nauru. Seventy-two per cent of those who have been through the camps have been assessed as being genuine refugees, according to the latest Operation Sovereign Borders press release.

Existing knowledge, practice and responses to violence against women in Indigenous communities report (2016)

ANROWS have developed a review of published literature presenting the current state of knowledge, practice and responses to violence against women in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This review found that the cumulative nature of socio-economic disadvantage (such as personal, family and economic related stressors) and the lasting effects of colonisation are thought to be linked to violence against women in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Any attempts to reduce violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities therefore requires a multi-faceted and holistic approach including efforts to improve the wider social, economic and health of these communities. Read the report.

Australia’s latest gender equality scorecard (2016)

In November, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) released Australia’s latest gender equality scorecard showing that men earn nearly $27,000 more a year than women, with the salary difference rising to $93,884 at the top level of management; five out of six CEOs are men, with women holding just 16.3 per cent of CEO and 37.4 per cent of all manager roles. Some positives – the scorecard showed some improvement in key gender equality indicators with lower pay gaps, more women in management roles and increased action from employers to redress gender equality through promoting women into management roles. The report can be found here.

She’s Price(d)less: The economics of the gender pay gap (2016)

KPMG has updated its 2009 analysis for the Diversity Council Australia and Workplace Gender Equality Agency, using the more recent HILDA data (2014) to produce their latest report entitled She’s Price(d)less: The economics of the gender pay gap.

This report presents the economics underlying the gender pay gap in Australia. Gender discrimination is the single largest factor contributing to the gender pay gap, growing from 35 per cent to 38 per cent between 2007 and 2014.

Read the Full Report, Contributing Factors Infographic and the Executive Companion. For a summary of the report findings and some of the key infographics, see this Guardian article.

COAG National Summit on Reducing Violence against Women (2016)

The COAG National Summit on Reducing Violence against Women was held in Brisbane on 28 October 2016. This event saw the launch of the Third Action Plan 2016-19 of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022. The third action plan includes a national priority to ‘support

local communities to take effective action to reduce violence against women and their children’. This includes a commitment to ‘co-design tools and resources with local governments to engage with business, sporting organisations and community groups to promote action against violence and engage all levels of business to lead and collaborate on initiatives to drive a reduction in violence’.


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

On 24 November, the Andrews Government released Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s Plan for Change, which details how the government will deliver the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence over the next 10 years. 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 They will also work more closely with new bodies to create:
  • A co-ordination agency to oversee operation of the hubs
  • A prevention agency with dedicated funding to provide best practice advice
  • A Centre for Workforce Excellence to focus on workforce development

The Victorian Centre for Data Insights to collect and analyses data Support and Safety Hubs (2016)

The Department of Premier and Cabinet are responsible for implementing cross-sector reforms associated with the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence, including the establishment of 17 Safety and Support Hubs across Victoria.

This will initially entail developing an overarching framework to guide the development of these hubs with consultations currently being held across the state. WHW attended an initial workshop entitled ‘Starting to design Victoria’s Support and Safety Hubs’ in October that explored five components of these hubs and specifically; access, intake, planning, risk assessment and management and service response. Regional consultations taking a co-design approach will commence in the 2017.

WHW welcomes the government’s vision for the Support and Safety Hubs and specifically a central intake point for comprehensive risk assessment. We welcome its vision for an integrated approach that will enhance information sharing about risk assessment and safety management that is critical to the safety and protection of women and children, while holding perpetrators to account for their violent behaviour.

Victoria’s first Gender Equality Strategy (2016)

Victoria’s first Gender Equality Strategy is set to be released on 5 December during the 16 Days of Activism campaign this year that runs between International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women and Human Rights Day.

WHW provided the State Government with a comprehensive submission detailing twenty-three recommendations and participated in various sector consultations to support and strengthen the effective design and implementation of the strategy. The submission is available here.

More support for hospitals to tackle family violence

In August, Minister for Health Jill Hennessy announced that funding for the Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence initiative would increase from $250,000 to more than $1.2 million this financial year. The initiative will provide training to help 14 Victorian health services to better support patients who have experienced family violence. This new funding delivers on recommendation 95 from the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

Community consultations to improve access to reproductive health services

The Victorian government has committed $6.6 million over four years to ensure that Victorian women have improved access to a range of reproductive health services, including services related to contraception and termination of pregnancy. WHW staff attended a community consultation with Minister for Health Jill Hennessy in Point Cook and in Melbourne in October, to assist in the development of the Action Plan to improve reproductive health for Victorians.

Victorian public health and wellbeing outcomes framework (2016)

The Department of Health and Human Services have released the Victorian public health and wellbeing outcomes framework that provides an approach to monitoring and reporting progress on the collective efforts to achieve better health and wellbeing across Victoria. The framework reflects the public health and wellbeing priorities and platforms for change identified in the Victorian public health and wellbeing plan 2015-2019 and the intent of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008. This framework can be found here.

VicHealth Indicators Survey Report

In November, VicHealth released their Indicator Survey Report, which is a Victorian community wellbeing survey on the social determinants of health. Local governance area (LGA) profiles have been produced to provide a snapshot of wellbeing indicators for LGA in Victoria. The survey is based on questions related to individual and community health and wellbeing, and informs decisions about public health priorities. The survey compliments other Victorian population health surveys, such as the Victorian Government’s Victorian Population Health Survey (VPHS). When combined, these two data sets enable local government planners to gain a comprehensive picture of health and wellbeing in Victoria. More information.

Action Agenda for Health Promotion

VicHealth have developed their latest Action Agenda for Health Promotion, which sets out their priorities for 2016-2019 and builds on the inaugural Action Agenda released in 2013. Importantly, this new agenda includes ‘gender’ as one of VicHealth’s three key themes for action alongside ‘youth’ and ‘community’. WHW is pleased to see gender as a theme and VicHealth’s commitment to align their work with the Royal Commission into Family Violence and the Gender Equality Strategy, while also building on the decade of prevention of violence against women work. The 2016 Action Agenda can be found here.

Review of the Family Violence Common Risk Assessment Framework (CRAF)

Monash University has published a review of the Family Violence Common Risk Assessment Framework (CRAF) after conducting consultations earlier in 2016. The review found there is strong support for the CRAF but some challenges in applying it across the range of sectors. Read the full review here.


Victorian local government elections (2016)

Victorian local council elections were held on 22 October 2016. WHW was pleased to see that as a result of these elections all local councils in Melbourne’s western region have at least three female Councillors elected. We were particularly pleased to see that in Brimbank, Maribyrnong, Melton and Moonee Valley over 50 per cent of Councillors are women. Results for the 2016 local council elections see the following 32 female Councillors elected in the west:

BORG, Victoria;
PHAM, Duyen Anh;
BAILEY, Lucinda;
TRUONG, Kim Thien;
TACHOS, Virginia;
GIUDICE, Margaret;

Hobson’s Bay
WILSON, Sandra;
ALTAIR, Angela;
GATES, Colleen

HUYNH, Gina;
CARTER, Sarah;
CUMMING, Catherine;
LAM, Cuc;

OKE, Cathy;
WANDIN, Brooke;
WATTS, Jackie Melton
RAMSEY, Sophie;
DE SANTIS, Melissa;
CARLI, Lara;
MENDES, Michelle

Moonee Valley
SHARPE, Narelle;
SURFACE, Andrea;
BYRNE, Samantha

MARCUS, Heather Mary;

Not Just Work: WEstjustice Employment Law Project Final Report (2016)

WEstjustice have recently released a report entitled Not just work: Ending exploitation of refugee and migrant workers that documents the working experiences of newly arrived and refugee workers in Melbourne’s western suburbs. This report draws on surveys and extensive consultation with newly arrived and migrant workers, community leaders and staff and provides evidence-based recommendations for legal and policy reform within the context of Melbourne’s west. For the full report contact: www.westjustice.org.au

These report findings align with the research project WHW undertook in partnership with Victoria University to better understand how refugee and migrant women experience economic participation in Australia. .