News and Events

A message of support to Caroline Wilson


Women’s Health West Chair of the Board, Samantha Merrigan

Women’s Health West’s Chair of the Board, Samantha Merrigan sent a message of support, and also thanks to Melbourne sports commentator Caroline Wilson, following the recent sexist and insulting remarks by Collingwood Football Club President Eddie McGuire, North Melbourne Club President James Brayshaw and Triple M commentator Danny Frawley during their radio show on Triple M.

Samantha is happy for us to share this message with you. Please read her message:



Hi Caroline,

I don’t normally email people I don’t know. But I feel compelled to contact you after hearing of this issue and reading your article in The Age.

I am writing this in my personal capacity and as the chair of a not-for-profit organisation, which provides case management support to victims of domestic violence and their children.

But to the point of my email – thank you.

Slowly, slowly public opinion is changing. The public reaction to issues like this is moving from ‘what’s her problem?’  to ‘how could he?’ Maybe it’s happening too slowly and we’ve still got a long way to go but at least it’s happening. And in no small part that’s due to people like you who are in the public eye standing up and pointing out sexist behaviour, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

I wonder what reaction you are receiving. I suspect it’s not all supportive and may be worse than the incident itself. I just want to make sure that I add my voice to those supporting you.

Kind regards,


Samantha Merrigan
Chair of the Board, Women’s Health West

Access free and cheap condoms around Melbourne’s western region

Share the love, not STIs: Why should we care?

  • Rates of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) such as chlamydia, HIV and syphilis are on the rise in Victoria
  • Almost 80 per cent of these infections are in young people, even higher for young people in the west
  • Rates of condomless sex are higher in the west than in other parts of Victoria
  • One way to prevent STI infection is to use condoms consistently


How can we spread the word?

Spread the word, not STIs!

Women’s Health West, together with the Action for Equity partnership, have installed a series of condom vending machines across the western region of Melbourne. The aim of these machines is to increase access to affordable contraceptives in a discrete, safe and non-judgemental way.

Download the Cheap Condoms in Melbourne’s West flyer

You can find out more information about sexual health and well being via these organisations:cvm_moreinfo_MARIBYRNONG_A5single

Download the Where can I get more information in Maribyrnong? flyer
cvm_moreinfo_MELTON_A5singleDownload the Where can I get more information in Melton? flyer

cvm_moreinfo-SUNSHINE_A5singleDownload the Where can I get more information in Sunshine?  flyer

Download the Why do we need them? flyer

The condom vending machine project is proudly supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.

Let’s talk sexual and reproductive health

A Word from the CEO, Dr Robyn Gregory – whw news edition one, 2016

SafeSexintheWestDid you know that around 80,000 new chlamydia infections are reported in Australia each year and that chlamydia notifications have increased over the past three years in Melbourne’s west? Or that the majority of these cases are young people?

Or that only 53 per cent of sexually active young people in Melbourne’s west report that they practice safe sex by using a condom?

These statistics are a small snapshot of sexual health and reproductive realities in Melbourne’s west and in Australia. They do, however, demonstrate how sexual and reproductive health requires strengthening in the overall public health conversation and national and state policy responses. And they illustrate a need for urgent action in Melbourne’s western region.

Women’s Health West takes a regional approach to redressing the social determinants that cause sexual and reproductive ill health as part of the Action for Equity partnership. This is a four-year sexual health and reproductive health promotion plan for Melbourne’s west involving partners from local government, community and health sectors.

Action for Equity sees us working in schools, prisons, workplaces, sports centres and with health and community services across Melbourne’s west to educate a range of target populations including young women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women living with a disability, sex workers and women from refugee and migrant backgrounds to ultimately prevent sexual and reproductive ill health.

While Action for Equity works successfully at a regional level, it would benefit by being part of a state-wide and nationally-focussed approach. The absence of a federal and state policy framework limits the impact of our work in sexual and reproductive health, with public policy largely concentrating on prevention of infections or unplanned pregnancy – an individual educational or behavioural change approach – rather than broader systemic change to the factors that cause poor sexual or reproductive health, such as violence against women, homophobic attitudes or limited access to resources in rural communities.

The development of a national and state-wide policy would allow us to work within a co-designed framework integrating an overarching evidence-based approach for research, program and service development, implementation and evaluation. If we want to achieve true health equity, we must promote more strategic policy action on redressing the social determinants of sexual and reproductive health. That is one of Women’s Health West’s goals.

This comment is from the latest edition of whw news, make sure you have a read and find out more about our work in sexual and reproductive health in Melbourne’s west. #SafeSexintheWest

Open letter to the PM supporting migrant women escaping violence


The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) and 134 other organisations have written to the Prime Minister, urging the Government to ensure that migrant women on temporary visas are supported when escaping violent relationships, as a minimum, through access to crisis payments.

This call echoes the recommendation by the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence that women escaping violence must be entitled to crisis payments regardless of their visa status.

FECCA Chairperson Joe Caputo said, “Safety from domestic and family violence is a fundamental human right and must not be contingent on an individual’s visa status.”

Women’s Health West is proud to join FECCA and be one of the 134 organisations to sign this open letter.

Read the Open letter to the Prime Minister and the Domestic Violence NSW and FECCA Open letter_media release


Creating a gender equitable Victoria

Working to redress the social and structural inequalities that limit the lives of women and girls is at the core of Women’s Health West’s work, vision and business.
So we, of course, welcomed the opportunity to “share our ideas” with Premier Daniel Andrews’ Victorian Gender Equality Strategy consultation. The consultation was described as a conversation that will inform a state-wide approach that looks at the opportunities that gender equality provides and the challenges facing women and girls in Victoria.

Some facts about gender inequality

Gender inequality affects women in all areas of their lives:
• The Victorian workforce participation rate for women is 58.8 per cent, compared to 71.4 per cent for men
• A national survey found that 1 in 3 women over 15 has experienced physical violence and 1 in 5 has experienced sexual violence
• Women in full-time work earn around $15,000 less than men each year
• Women retire with just over half (53.4 per cent) the superannuation savings of men

Our recommendations

In our submission we stated that the business case for government action on gender equity is clear. World Health Organisation research states that gender equity enhances health and wellbeing, quality of life, improves work productivity and economic growth, increases the capacity for learning and education and contributes to poverty reduction, social inclusion and civic participation.

We acknowledge that this is realised by the Victorian Government with them noting that “Gender equality…has tangible benefits for Victoria’s social and economic prosperity, as more women are supported to reach their potential.”

In our submission we have outlined 23 recommendations that aim to influence and improve the social, economic and political factors that determine the health, safety and wellbeing of women and girls in our region. And we promote an approach that tackles inequity and the structures, norms, practices and attitudes which drive it.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the things we recommended:

A coordinated partnership approach

IG partnershipGender equality will only be achieved with strong coordinated whole-of government action. We see that this will only happen if the following is put in place:

  • A ten-year gender equality strategy, with yearly action plans
  • The gender strategy sits in the Department of Premier and Cabinet to ensure promises are kept and inter-ministerial representation occurs
  • All three levels of government in Victoria are involved

We also strongly recommend the government draw on, and fund the specialist expertise of women’s health services to continue to lead, coordinate and facilitate regional gender equity action plans. The women’s health program is the only Victorian sector with gender equity as its core business, therefore there are strong and existing partnerships designed to achieve gender equity.

We want pay equity

IG_payPay inequity is unlawful and places women’s economic security, independence, health and wellbeing at great risk. There are a range of concerted actions that counteract conscious and unconscious gender bias in Australian workplaces, so we’ve provided a range of recommendations that can change this and respond to the gender pay gap:

  • Ensure staff with recruitment and promotion responsibilities undertake gender bias training
  • Support all workplaces to undertake pay gender audits and develop action plans to respond to audit findings using existing Workplace Gender Equality Agency tools and resources
  • Encourage the Victorian Government to advocate for the inclusion of compulsory superannuation contributions in the current government-funded federal paid parental leave scheme. The current system places women on unpaid maternity or parental leave at significant risk of economic insecurity and poverty in retirement

The role of men

IG_men&womenMuch of the work required to achieve gender equality requires men and boy’s engagement, support and action. It is essential that men are involved in the development and implementation of Victoria’s first gender equality strategy. It also essential that women’s leadership is championed and resourced so women’s voices are always heard and valued.  Here are some of our ideas on strategies to engage men in promoting gender equality and transform masculine roles and norms that harm women:

  • Initiatives that support the redistribution of unpaid caring work equitably between women and men, such as increasing men’s involvement in unpaid care work and domestic labour
  • Invest in educational initiatives in schools and the workplace that raise awareness of the detrimental impact of male privilege and entitlement
  • Work to eliminate harmful gender stereotyping of both men and women in the media
  • Train men in bystander action so they can challenge sexist and misogynistic behaviour enacted by other men
  • Upskill men to be the activists or the advocates around key areas of gender inequality

Promoting women’s health and wellbeing

IG_sexual violenceWe are steadfast on what needs to be done here. The Victorian government needs to prioritise women’s health and wellbeing to achieve a gender equitable Victoria. This focus needs to be placed on three priority areas; sexual and reproductive health, mental health and wellbeing and the prevention of violence against women. Women’s Health West shares these priorities with other members of the Women’s Health Association of Victoria, as evidence suggests that traction in these three areas will lead to strong and sustained improvements in gender equity. We’ve suggested the following to truly promote women’s health and wellbeing:

  • The Victorian government needs to develop a state-wide sexual and reproductive health strategy to improve sexual and reproductive health, and strengthen reproductive rights for women and girls
  • The Victorian government needs to commit long-term funding for the implementation of evidence-based primary prevention initiatives through the integrated health promotion plan. This includes funding women’s health services to continue to coordinate and facilitate regional action plans that further gender equity
  • The Victorian government needs to continue to fund primary prevention of men’s violence against women, as a gendered phenomenon and human rights abuse of unparalleled proportions

Business: a powerful setting for social change

IG_leadershipWe believe that business will be a central point for promoting gender equality through role modelling equitable and respectful gender relations and primary prevention activities. Men continue to outnumber women in the private and government sector, and it was found that the percentage of women CEOs or heads of business dropped from 17.3 per cent in 2013/14 to 15.4 per cent in 2015. We have highlighted many things the Victorian government can do to support businesses to increase women’s leadership and achieve gender equality, here’s some of them:

  • Introduce gender quotas in a range of areas including governing bodies and board positions across the business, media and community sector, as well as for Victorian honour rolls and other existing channels of professional acknowledgement and awards
  • Develop a suite of strategies for private organisations to increase women’s leadership
  • Increase the availability and accessibility of childcare services to all members of the Victorian community by providing publicly funded childcare, as is the precedence with primary and secondary school education
  • Support and promote more flexible working conditions around parental leave, family violence leave and to prevent pregnancy and parenting discrimination

Achieving gender equality in vulnerable and diverse communities

Some women and girls are particularly vulnerable to disadvantage and disproportionately affected by gender inequality. Women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with a disability, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) women, and women of low socio-economic status are all at greater risk of poor health as a result of gender inequality.

In order to achieve gender equality for all women, we also recommended that the Victorian government fund primary prevention programs that take a whole-of-population approach alongside tailoring programs to the specific needs of particular community groups, as we do here at Women’s Health West.

And finally, we advocate that the Gender Equality Strategy does not operate in a silo. It needs to be aligned with the Victorian Health and Wellbeing Plan and also with the Statewide Family Violence Action Plan, a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence report.

This is only a snapshot of our ideas, suggestions and recommendations, if you want to find out more, please read our Gender Equality Strategy submission.