Women’s Health West engages in advocacy designed to change the structural factors that cause and maintain the conditions under which women and their children face discrimination. The titles below link to our submissions to government in response to white papers, inquiries, legislation and the like.
Submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System
Women’s Health West delivers programs to women who experience multiple and compounding forms of disadvantage and discrimination, including women who experience chronic mental health conditions. This submission has been developed through direct consultation with women with chronic mental health conditions who participate in our programs. Some of the issues that arose during these consultations included ensuring Victoria’s mental health system is well-resourced, economically and physically accessible for everyone in the community, and co-designed with communities.
Our recommendations listed in this submission are based on these women’s lived experience of the mental health system, as well as our own expertise in gendered approaches to health reform.
Some of our recommendations include taking a social determinants and gendered approach to mental health reform, co-designing and co-producing planned reforms with a diverse range of people who experience mental illness, and those who care for people with mental illness, and investing in community-level, local, tailored initiatives that promote community connectedness as a protective factor against mental illness, and that respond to risk factors associated with social isolation.
State Budget Analysis 2019-2020
This analysis unpacks the Victorian state budget, and its implications for women in the west and across the state more broadly. This budget maintains significant funding for key social security, health and wellbeing strategies and initiatives and continues to invest in family violence response services. However, there are several areas of concern in the budget, including a lack of increased funding for primary prevention of men’s violence against women and substantial expenditure on prisons.
This document outlines the budget’s highpoints and key areas of concern and discusses their implications for Women’s Health West and the wider sector including:
- Women’s health
- Family violence intervention & response & the prevention of men’s violence against woman
- Mental health
- The climate crisis
- Family and early childhood support
- People seeking asylum
- Disability services
- Housing and homelessness
Submission to the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan (2019-2023)
This submission identifies some of the strengths and opportunities for improvement in the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan for 2019-2023. Women’s Health West (WHW) recommends the government identifies gender inequity as a key determinant of health and acknowledges that women and girls experience intersecting and compounding disadvantage and health risks. A social determinants and gendered approach across all priority areas will best ensure effective, sustainable and equitable outcomes for all women, their families and communities.
Our submission also recommends the government identify preventing men’s violence against women as a priority area in its own right, separating it from injury prevention. WHW recommends that the government review and increase its Integrated Health Promotion (IHP) Program funding, which currently, is failing to keep pace with wage increases and the extraordinary population growth in Melbourne’s West. To allow WHW to sustainably and successfully continue to deliver primary prevention outcomes in the west, we recommend that IHP funding be increased as a matter of urgency.
Submission to The Treasurer of Victoria for the 2019-2020 State Budget
The submission sets out some key challenges and opportunities that Women’s Health West (WHW) face in meeting the needs of women and children in the western metropolitan region of Melbourne who experience family violence, including in assisting the government to meet their policy commitments to rolling out all recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence (RCFV), and to gender equality and the prevention of family violence.
Our submission recommends that the government commit funds to all specialist family services in order to provide parity in unit price funding with child and family services. Primary prevention, early intervention and timely response to family violence can improve productivity and deliver savings. Investment in WHW ultimately represents a cost saving measure to the government by reducing the downstream costs to portfolios including human services, mental health, disability, housing, justice, healthcare and hospitals.
Response to the draft National Women’s Health Strategy
Women’s Health West congratulates the federal government on developing a comprehensive national women’s health strategy that promotes the health of all women, and particularly those at greatest risk or poor health.
Our submission recommends the government strengthen the strategy by identifying the social determinants of health. A social determinant approach best ensures effective, sustainable and equitable outcomes for all women, their families and communities. It recognises that the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, play and age directly affect their health outcomes. We recommend that the government use a human rights approach, acknowledge gender inequality as a key determinant of health, and ensure that health strategies recognise, support and celebrate diversity. We also specifically recommend the government identify men’s violence against women as a key priority.
Letter to end offshore detention
Women’s Health West wrote to Bill Shorten calling for an end to offshore detention, and the immediate evacuation of refugees and asylum seekers from Nauru.
The letter highlighted the impact of the offshore detention policy on our community, and shared the stories of some of our staff, who arrived in Australia as refugees. Read the letter from our CEO Dr Robyn Gregory, on behalf of the organisation.
Letter to the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation
Women’s Health West wrote to the commissioners objecting to an application for 22 additional poker machines at Altona RSL.
Electronic gaming machines cause and exacerbate significant socioeconomic and health problems for communities and especially for women.
They contribute to a loss of productivity, poor mental health and wellbeing, tobacco and alcohol misuse, relationship dysfunction, indebtedness and criminal activity. Gambling can exacerbate economic abuse and family violence (VicHealth, 2016) and limit women’s financial independence, reducing their capacity to leave violent men and to fully participate in all aspects
of society. Read the letter here.
Victorian Gender Equality Bill Exposure Draft Discussion Paper
Women’s Health West congratulates the Victorian government on the development of Australia’s first Gender Equality Bill and its commitment to gender equality. We welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback and sixteen recommendations on this important legislation.
Our submission highlighted that the success of this legislation depends on the strength and quality of gender equality action plans developed by the public sector as well as strong and robust reporting and accountability mechanisms. We also encouraged the Victorian government to fund an effective social marketing campaign to garner public support for this legislation and gender equality more broadly.
Response to Brimbank City Council’s Community Vision 2040
Women’s Health West welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback on Brimbank City Council’s Community Vision 2040. We recommended that men’s violence against women be identified as an area for action within the safety strategic direction.
We also advocated for all population groups disproportionately affected by poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes to be included in the health behaviours strategic direction. Furthermore, we recommended a commitment to a health and gender equity approach in Brimbank’s health and wellbeing priorities.
Response to Moonee Valley City Council’s MV2040 strategy
Women’s Health West commended Moonee Valley City Council on developing this long-term plan to achieve their vision to improve health, vibrancy and resilience within their municipality. Our recommendations included embedding gender responsive budgeting principles into financial and non-financial resource allocation, and including gender equity actions in the strategy and its associated action plans.
Response to Maribyrnong City Council’s annual budget and strategic resource plan
Women’s Health West welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback on Maribyrnong City Council’s proposed annual budget 2018-2019 and Strategic Resource Plan 2018-2022. We commended Maribyrnong Council on having developed a budget plan that continues to invest in a vision for a vibrant, diverse and progressive city with a sustainable future. We recommended that council include gender responsive budgeting as a key principle to guide financial and non-financial resource allocation.
Letter of support for Melton City Council’s application to the Building Better Region Fund
Women’s Health West wrote a letter of support for Melton City Council’s application to the 2017-19 Building Better Region Fund, for the redevelopment of Melton Central Community Centre. We supported this project as it will provide a range of new community services to the broader municipality of Melton and in particular the rapidly growing culturally and linguistically diverse population in Melbourne’s west.
May and June 2017
Letter to the Minister for Health, the Hon Jill Hennessy
Women’s Health West, on behalf of the Action for Equity partnership, wrote to the Minister for Health to congratulate the Andrews government on the release of Victoria’s first Sexual and Reproductive Health plan, and request a meeting regarding how the partnership can support the implementation of the plan in Melbourne’s west.
Local government council plans, community plans and municipal public health and wellbeing plans
WHW forwarded written submissions to seven local governments whose focus was on municipal health and wellbeing priorities being either integrated or embedded into council plans. This was Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melton, Moonee Valley, and Wyndham councils.
We recommended a stronger focus on the social determinants of health inequities, gender equity, sexual and reproductive health, and prevention of violence against women. We also recommended that local governments clearly highlighted the municipal public health and wellbeing indicators, to ensure these strategies and priorities have visibility, accountability and resource allocation within the council plan.
Free from violence: Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women
WHW, as a member of the Women’s Health Association of Victoria, provided written feedback on the Victorian state government’s draft policy framework.
WHW wrote to the Department of Justice and Regulation on the proposed scheme to manage victims of family violence in the infringements system. We highlighted concerns with the proposed scheme, and made recommendations to enhance its safety and effectiveness.
WHW commended Hobsons Bay City Council on their vision for redressing the social determinants of health inequities, and for identifying gender equity as a social determinant of health. We made a number of recommendations to further council’s commitment to gender equity.
WHW wrote to the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Fiona Richardson, to congratulate the government on the development of Victoria’s first Gender Equality Strategy. We consider the strategy an important mechanism to achieve gender equity for Victorian women and girls.
WHW wrote to the Victorian Commission for gaming and liquor regulation to recommend that they decline an application for an extension of a gaming licence to install electronic gaming machines at the Meeting Place on Elizabeth Street in Melbourne.
Women’s Health West wrote to members of parliament to vote against the proposed legislative changes for paid parental leave. We argued that the proposed legislation, if passed, would prevent women from being able to claim minimum wage government paid parental support in partnership with employer-funded schemes designed to maintain their working wage.
Victorian Government Department of Premier and Cabinet
Changes to the family violence information sharing legislation will provide sustainable system-wide improvements that support the safety of women and children affected by family violence, hold perpetrators to account, and reduce the incidence of family violence in Victoria. Women’s Health West supports legislation that is clear and concise and enables front-line practitioners to effectively apply it in practice.
Women’s Health West’s recommendations further strengthen the proposed family violence information sharing regime.
Senate Finance and Public Administration Committees
Women’s Health West welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback to the Federal Government for the Inquiry into Domestic Violence and Gender Inequality. We provided fourteen recommendations. Our submission highlighted the various ways in which rigid gender stereotypes contribute to cultural conditions that fuel family violence as per the terms of reference provided by the Federal Government. We also included key measures to redress gender inequity as a key driver of family violence, including promoting women’s participation in leadership and decision making roles, redressing the pay and superannuation gap, increasing paid parental leave entitlements and funding accessible childcare services across Australia.
Women and Royal Commission Branch, Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet
The business case for government action on gender equity is clear. It 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. Achieving gender equity for Victorian women and girls is a long-term goal, which requires a long-term strategy. Women’s Health West would like to congratulate the Victorian government on its commitment to achieving gender equity in Victoria via the development of the state’s first Gender Equality Strategy. We deem this a significant milestone for the advancement of equality, safety and justice for Victorian women and girls. Women’s Health West’s submission provides twenty-three recommendations to support and strengthen the effective implementation of this strategy.
Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee
Women’s Health West deems the Australian Labor Party’s intent to amend the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (Criminal Code) to criminalise ‘revenge porn’ under federal law to be highly important in creating a gender equitable, safe, inclusive and fair Australia for women and girls. We assert that this is a gendered phenomenon and recommend that the federal government respond to ‘revenge porn’ within the broader framework of men’s violence against women.
To the Premier, Minister for Health and Minister for Women
This open letter addressed to the Premier, Minister for Health and Minister for Women is written in support of Victoria’s current abortion laws. Women’s Health West is one of 40 signatory organisations to the letter. “We do not support further restrictions on when an abortion can be provided, nor changes to section 8 or any other part of this or any other Act that would reduce women’s access to appropriate, safe and legal abortions.”
Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet
Women’s Health West welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback to Victoria’s next 10-year mental health strategy and commends the Victorian government for the development of this strategy. To strengthen the strategy’s capacity to optimise the mental health and wellbeing of all Victorians, WHW recommended a stronger commitment to gender equity and the social determinants that drive good mental health, as well as promoting a society where Victorians live free from violence and discrimination through effective primary prevention, early intervention and response efforts.
Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee, Parliament House
Women’s Health West supports the principle of portable long service leave and is pleased that the Committee will examine existing portable long service leave schemes, the financial and economic impacts of portable long service leave arrangements and whether alternative mechanisms could better meet the objectives of such a scheme. Our recommendations proposed a cost neutral model that ensures against a loss of funds to support service delivery, that funds be provided to support additional costs of portability, that a business impact assessment and consultation is undertaken prior to implementation, that the model be administratively simple and that it includes a wide range of sectors.
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Women’s Health West welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback and recommendations to the Laying the Groundwork – Consultation Paper for the Residential Tenancies Act 2007. Our eight recommendations included a call for sex-disaggregated data pertaining to tenancy and embedding gender-responsive principles in the new Act, the development of a long-term affordable housing strategy, a dedicated supply of low cost housing to means tested households, protections for tenants so they are not discriminated against due to factors unrelated to tenancy, improved measures to sustain tenancies and prevent homelessness for women who can safely stay in their housing, and establishing a rapid rehousing program to assist women and children escaping family violence.
Family and Community Development Committee
WHW welcomed the opportunity to provide evidence and recommendations for the Inquiry into Abuse in Disability Services and commend the Victorian Government for initiating this inquiry. Our nine recommendations included a call for the collection of sex disaggregated data regarding incidence of abuse within disability services, a state-wide gender audit of disability services, examination of the evidence base for preventing violence against women for preventing abuse within the disability service system, funding for disability service providers to implement workplace primary prevention strategies, funding for primary prevention programs and compulsory training for services responding to disclosures or suspicion of abuse.
Tax White Paper Task Force
WHW are clear that the current taxation arrangements for workers in the NFP sector offer a more competitive wage than would otherwise be possible through funding alone. If tax benefits such as salary packaging were removed, NFPs would require an increase in funding to continue to offer the equivalent in wages.
Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence
Submission from Women’s Health West
Family violence response and family violence prevention, as separate but interlinked systems of effort, promise to deliver a society in which all Victorian women and their children can live free from violence. To achieve this we require sustained effort, focus, investment and strategic intent, from government and community. The recommendations put forward in this submission have been developed with this in mind. We see them as steps that will have the greatest impact in the short and medium term, to achieve the longer-term goal of a society in which violence against women is no longer tolerated or conceivable.
Submission from the Preventing Violence Together partnership
Women’s Health West leads this regional partnership that works together to prevent violence against women in the west. These eight recommendations were formulated in a collaborative process that reflects the views of all eighteen members.
Getting serious about change: the building blocks for effective primary prevention of men’s violence against women in Victoria
Joint statement from the following organisations and peak membership bodies:
- CASA Forum Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault
- Domestic Violence Victoria
- Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
- No To Violence
- Our Watch
- Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
- Women with Disabilities Victoria
- Women’s Health Association of Victoria (Women’s Health West is a member organisation)
- Women’s Health Victoria
Women’s Health West is a member of the Women’s Health Association of Victoria and contributed to this submission that focuses on the prevention of family violence.
- Women’s Health Victoria
- Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
- Women’s Health In the North
- Women’s Health in the Southeast
- Women’s Health East
- Women’s Health West
- Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West
- Women’s Health Grampians
- Women’s Health Loddon Mallee
- Women’s Health Goulburn North East
- Gippsland Women’s Health
Women’s Health West is a member of the Western Integrated Family Violence Partnership (Women and Children) and contributed to this submission that focusses on the regional and statewide structures that will support integration and thus an improvement of the family violence response system.
- Women’s Health West
- cohealth Community Health Centre
- McAuley Community Services for Women
- MacKillop Family Services
- Elizabeth Morgan House
Women’s Health West is a signatory to this joint submission from 129 organisations calling for urgent investment in affordable housing and services in Victoria to address the current links between family violence, housing and homelessness across the state.
Parliament of Australia
WHW provided 19 recommendations to this parliamentary inquiry into domestic violence outlining practical measures to promote gender equity, dedicated funding for primary prevention of violence against women across key sectors including respectful relationships education, continued funding of programs designed to prevent women and children from becoming homeless as a result of domestic violence and review current levels of funding to ensure services are able to meet increasing demand.
Joint letter to the Attorney General regarding the Federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner’s role
Together with six other signatories, WHW wrote in support of the continuation of the federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner’s role, which will become vacant in July 2014. We consider the role as an essential mechanism for progressing the rights of Australians with disabilities, and value the nonpartisan, high-level leadership the commissioner provides.
Response to proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975
Following an open letter signed by 155 organisations in Dec 2013, WHW again recommended against repealing Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. Unaltered, the Act provides a strong statement from government that racist behaviour is unacceptable in all areas of Australian society. We argued that repealing Section 18C would dilute efforts to combat racism in Australia.
Australian Government Department of Education
WHW recommended that respectful relationships education be more specifically and consistently included across the Australian curriculum and other relevant learning areas. We also recommended the inclusion of both age appropriate and relevant sexuality education, that respects the diversity of human relationships and includes HIV/AIDS and STI prevention information.
Women’s Health West participated in the community consultations to inform the development of a health and wellbeing plan for the GLBTI community, which is proposed in the Victorian Health Priorities Framework 2012-2022. Our submission argues that action is needed across multiple settings where GLBTI communities experience violence and discrimination. We also highlight lack of specialised sexual and reproductive services that are youth and GLBTI friendly in Melbourne’s west, in comparison with other regions.
WHW’s submission argues for need to redress harmful stereotypes, stigma and violence that undermine the health and wellbeing of people with a disability and contribute to their exclusion from social life. We recommend that intersectional experiences of gender and disability are given greater attention in policy planning and development, particularly in relation to access to sexual and reproductive health services, information and education, and initiatives to prevent and respond to violence against women with a disability.
Australian Human Rights Commission
WHW’s submission argues gender stereotypes have a significant impact on discrimination in the workplace related to pregnancy, parental leave and returning to work after parental leave, resulting in different experiences and consequences for women and men. We recommend stronger education, capacity building initiatives and action to enforce workplace laws relating to pregnancy and parenting discrimination, including strategies for negotiating flexible workplace practice.
National Centre for Excellence to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children
WHW’s submission argues that in working towards a society in which all women and their children are free from violence, it is vital that we undertake significant work in the prevention of violence against women before it occurs – namely, primary prevention. The NCE are ideally placed to provide the national leadership that Australia strongly needs in building the evidence for effective primary prevention practice.
Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration – Legislation Committee
WHW’s submission, based on Women’s Health Victoria’s submission, recommends not to pass the Health Insurance Amendment (Medicare Funding for Certain Types of Abortion) Bill into law. While we do not support sex selective abortion, there is little evidence to suggest it is prevalent in Australia. Restrictions on abortion are not an appropriate way of dealing with gender inequality as they can impact on women’s access to abortion in general.
Victorian Council of Social Service
WHW argued that given the history of chronic underfunding of the community services sector, it is highly unlikely that reform will be achieved without the leverage of additional investment to make the system and capacity changes that are necessary to support reform.
Population Health Equity Branch, DH&HS, Tasmania
Women’s Health West responded to the draft Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill that is designed to bring laws related to termination of pregnancy into line with current clinical practice and community attitudes in Tasmania. We support the proposed legislation.
Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs
WHW’s submission argues that forced sterilisation is a gendered practice and a violation of human rights that has its origins not only in the historical control of women’s bodies and their sexual and reproductive lives, but also in the discrimination and exclusion of people with a disability from society. We advocate for its prohibition by law, as well as a number of non-legislative measures to prevent the demand in society for such procedures.
Law Reform Committee
WHW advocated for law reform and a clearer recognition of the gendered nature of sexting and the propensity of the practice to be harmful, non-consensual and a form of violence against women.
Department of Health
WHW advocated for a gender sensitive approach to be embedded within the PDRSS reform framework, as well as a series of recommendations aimed to better ensure that supports and services for women and girls enhance recovery and wellbeing.
Child Aware Initiative Approach
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Funding application for a specialist family violence consultant model aimed at building the capacity of mainstream and specialist services to better respond to the multiple and complex needs of children affected by family violence.
WHW recommends ways the strategy can be strengthened to ensure that people’s – particularly women and girl’s – rights to liberty and freedom from racial discrimination, violence and prejudice are protected and upheld.
WHW provided a full written submission, as well as a joint submission as part of the Women’s Health Association of Victoria, with over forty recommendations to government.
Public comment on the draft Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012
WHW believe this amendment will strengthen Australia’s criminal justice response to human trafficking, forced marriage, forced labour and other slavery-like practices
WHW endorsed the Women’s Health Victoria submission that set out eleven strong, evidence-based recommendations for the men’s health and wellbeing strategy
This submission outlines WHW recommendations on how the state government can better ensure that the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2011-2015 achieves sustainable, equitable health outcomes for all Victorians.
WHW provided Brimbank City Council with gendered feedback on their community safety strategy suggesting the strategy place a greater emphasis on family violence, including prevention strategies.
Women’s Health Association of Victoria, North West Metropolitan Region Integrated Family Violence Forum, and the Integrated Family Violence Services System endorse Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria’s submission and call on the Victorian Government not to go ahead with its proposed ‘Failure to protect’ legislation. We strongly oppose the proposed laws that will increase women’s vulnerability to family violence without protecting children from violence and abuse
Women’s Health Association of Victoria: Proposal for the inclusion of prevention of violence against women as a state-wide health promotion priority
Victoria is a leader in the primary prevention of violence against women. This proposal presents the case for incorporating violence against women as a new state-wide health promotion priority. This presents a major opportunity for the state government to further enhance this position and lead decisive action to reduce and prevent the significant social, economic and health costs of violence against women
WHW advocated for a greater focus on preventing ill health and ensuring Victorian health services are responsive to the health, safety and wellbeing of women in metropolitan Melbourne
WIFVP responded to state inquiry into child protection to inform the government on ways to reduce child abuse with regard to the effectiveness of existing systems and enhancements to protect children
WHW and Western Region Health Centre coordinated a submission with 33 recommendations to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulation Committee inquiry of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 on behalf of 8 other community and women’s health services. WHW urged the government not to strip rights during this process and outlined ways they could strengthen the protection of Victorian women’s social, economic and cultural rights.
The Victorian Regional Homelessness Networkers submitted a response to the Counting the Homeless 2006 methodological review
WHW highlighted the absence of methods to prevent violence against women in the current strategy
WHW contributed to the WHAV proposal to the Minister for Health and Minister for Women’s Affairs regarding the need for a state-wide sexual and reproductive health strategy
WHW recommended the Federal Attorney-General’s Criminal Justice Department introduce legislative and non-legislative reforms to end forced marriage and ensure that women and girls’ human rights to freedom and integrity are protected and upheld
WHW advocated for gender responsive budgeting in the development of Maribyrnong City Council’s 2011-2012 budget
WIFVP contributed to the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2010 with reference to women and children who experience family violence
WHW responded to the discussion paper on governance and functions submitted to Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing as part of the National Health Reform
WHW advocated that the Australian Association of National Advertisers review of their code of ethics direct the fashion, media and advertising industries to play an active role in bringing about long-term cultural change and protect the interests and rights of consumers, particularly women and girls
Medicare Locals – Feedback on potential boundaries
WHW provided feedback on potential boundaries for Medicare Locals and Local Hospital Networks submitted to Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing as part of the National Health Reform
Letter to Deputy Premier and discussions with DHS Director
Advocated for a funding structure review to bring funding for refuges into line with other family violence services
The 10 point plan calls for a whole of government strategy and action plan for improving women’s health
Submission to the Commonwealth Government regarding the development of a new National Women’s Health Policy
WHW supported four out of the five principles proposed to underpin the policy, recommending a diversity approach over a lifecourse approach and supporting the five priority areas set out by the Australian Women’s Health Network
WHW, working with other women’s health organisations across Victoria, asked Council candidates to commit to the Safe, Well and Connected: Victorian Local Government Action Plan for Women’s Health 2008-2012