Media release: Tuesday 14 May, 2013
The Federal Budget’s focus on workforce participation and study for those on welfare support was a missed opportunity to solve the job flexibility and childcare access problems faced by women, according to the Women’s Electoral Lobby.
Emma Davidson said WEL was comfortable with the Government cutting the Baby Bonus; but it should ensure these savings are directed to assist lower income families, particularly to ensure better access and affordability of Early Childhood Education and Care.
“Progress has been made in the Early Childhood Education and Care sector with funding allocated to help families meet childcare fees and for a trial of some 24-hour early childhood facilities and contributions.
“But the affordability, accessibility and distribution of services are of great concern. Even when receiving all the rebates available, services remain unaffordable for some families.
“The lack of action by the Government in this budget to address these concerns is worrying.
“Simple things like combining the Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate into a single benefit would streamline assistance to families, and there would be no need for an $8m awareness campaign.
“In the long term we can’t allow current inadequacies in child care services to continue. A Productivity Commission inquiry should be conducted into funding arrangements to address these problems once and for all.”
Ms Davidson said WEL welcomed the Government’s increase to the amount Newstart recipients can earn before their payment is reduced but the changes do not go far enough.
“Newstart payments currently leave people living below the poverty line and must be raised and the increase to the amount recipients can earn should be increased to $170 inline with the Sole Parents Payment.
“Moving sole parents onto Newstart has left them financially worse off and has unfairly punished women trying to fit paid work around their children’s needs.
“This is a policy that cuts income to pressure single parents into paid work and fails to recognise the difficulties sole parents, particularly women, face finding work that will be balanced with their caring needs.
“These changes suggest sole parents are not capable of judging when they can combine paid work and care and ignore statistics that show 75% of sole parents move back into paid work as their children become more independent. It’s a bad policy for women and a disastrous policy for children.”
Wednesday 15th May 2013 3:00-5:30
Una Gault, psychologist, was born in Young in 1925. She studied psychology at the University of Sydney and after graduation went to work for the Department of Repatriation at Concord Hospital. Una later gained an MA (Arts) and PhD in psychology and worked as a lecturer and later senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University in Sydney. She was an avid feminist and was actively involved with numerous women’s groups including the Women’s Electoral Lobby, Jessie Street National Women’s Library, Women and Psychology, Women at Macquarie and Women in Education. She and four other female psychologists published Emotion and Gender: Constructing Meaning from Memory in 1992 based on their research using their own childhood memories. Her other passions were literature, classical music, movies, and cats. She maintained an enormous library, housed in Sydney and Coledale. She remained fully engaged in women’s issues until her death in 2012.
A celebration of Una Gault’s life is being held at the Jessie Street National Women’s Library in conjunction with Women and Psychology Interest Group of the APS and the NSW Women’s Electoral Lobby.
WHERE: Jessie Street National Women’s Library, Ultimo Community Centre, 523-525 Harris Street, Ultimo NSW
Level Access is through Bulwara Road entrance and across the courtyard or Harris Street upstairs. Please press buzzer. No parking in streets after 3.30 pm.
CONTACT: Please RSVP by 10th May Dori Wisniewski
Phone 9534 4434 Mobile: 0411 353 434 Email: email@example.com
COST: Gold Coin Donation for the Library
The Library is a 20 minute walk from Town Hall station through Darling Harbour or a ten minute walk down Harris Street from any bus travelling along Broadway. Bus 501 (Ian Thorpe Pool stop from Town Hall or Railway Square) Bus 443 (Harrris and Allan Strs Stop) from the Quay or Wynyard. Light rail from Central or Lillyfield to Exhibition stop.
By Sophie Wilson, WEL Tasmania and National Executive Committee Member
Hundreds of people gathered on the lawns of Parliament in Hobart on Sunday to show their support for the State Government’s proposed Reproductive Health (Access to Termination) Bill 2013. The rally for reproductive health was organised by university students, Georgia Allen and Jamila Fontana, in response to recent pro-life rallies in the city. Speakers at the event included Glynis Flower from the Hobart Women’s Health Centre, Susan Fahey from Women’s Legal Service Tasmania, Federal Minister for the Status of Women Julie Collins and the Tasmanian Minister for Human Services Cassy O’Connor MP.
The crowd heard strong support for the changes, which will remove abortion from Tasmania’s criminal code and make it a purely medical matter for which women can no longer be prosecuted. The laws will also empower women to have the final say in terminations, where current law requires the consent of two doctors on the grounds of perceived physical or mental risk.
Organisers were thrilled at the high turnout at the event, which was organised at short notice, as a show of support for the Minister for Health Michelle O’Byrne MP who tabled the legislation in Parliament. Several speakers also noted the high turnout of men at the rally, who made up close to fifty percent of the crowd. All attendees were urged to lobby their Member of Parliament to let them know that Tasmanians support the rights of women to reproductive health.
WEL welcomes the proposed legislation as an important development in the progression of Tasmanian women’s rights. It is vital that women have autonomy over their bodies and their reproductive choices. WEL has put forward a submission to the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services in response to the draft bill. The full submission can be found here.
Moves to decriminalise abortion got a step closer over night when Tasmania’s Lower House passed the bill after a marathon debate. MP’s were granted a conscience vote on the bill. The Greens and Labor voted together to support the legislation, but the speaker Michael Polley crossed the floor to join the Liberals who voted against it. The bill will now be considered by the Upper House before becoming law.
More information on the draft Reproductive Health (Access to Termination) Bill 2013 can be found on the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services website at http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/pophealth/womens_health
Melanie Fernandez, Chair of the Women’s Electoral presented at the Secure Jobs in a Green Future: Australian Left Renewal Conference. Here are her thoughts on Feminist Activism in the 21st century.
In the left we spend a lot of time talking about the challenges faced by the feminist movement, mourning the decline of a movement that we still consider so necessary. But 2012 was not a “trend” year for feminism. 2012 saw the resurgence of feminist anaylysis into the mainstream media. 2012 saw a serious kickback from various sections of our community to the ever-day sexism and misogyny that is directed against women across the world.
The Gillard misogyny speech was an amazing moment for the feminist movement. Not because of what she said, but because of how it was received. Institutional Australia – commentators, journalists, politicians – wrote it off as a set piece swipe at the opposition leader. The amazing part was how well the speech was received by those outside the establishment in Australia and across the world – the youtube clip went viral. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube comments all celebrated the PM and many expressed wishes that they too could take such a stand against the constant sexist jibes they experience.
The famous Destroy the Joint movement was also borne out of a disgust at name calling. Destroy the Joint uncovered the depth and breadth of the anger in our community at the day-to-day sexism spewing from our newspapers, radio stations and televisions. Almost 17,000 people took part in their initial petition, and they recently lodged a petition of 38,000 to call out victim-blaming on radio.
On the other side of the world we have seen a huge outcry in India over the rape and murder of a 23 year old woman. Hundreds of thousands of Indian men and women came together and rejected the pervasive culture of blaming survivors of rape and a culture of acceptance of violence against women and girls.
We’ve also seen smaller wins this year – F Collective and the Women’s Electoral Lobby ran a campaign to stop the NSW State government defunding 26 community services that were slated to be cut, including women’s resource centres, child sexual assault services and health support groups. This campaign saw secured funding of the Gay & Lesbian Counselling Service, Margaret Jurd Learning Centre and Liverpool Women’s Resource Centre and an extension of funding for the other services for 3-6 months.
Through this various activity we have seen the displacing of the equality myth, as feminism has been more talked about in public discourse than it has been in years. Young women are starting to realise that they are not equal to men; to identify systemic discrimination in Australia and around the world and say enough is enough. We are starting to see renewed momentum in the movement. Ways of engaging in feminist activism are broadening, including feminist blogs, like F Collective, Dawn Chorus (Melbourne) and Feministing (US). Exploiting relationship networks allows us to mass mobilise and effectively organise, and also for participation in a nation-wide or global movement in a way we have not been able to before. The diverse ways in which to engage in feminist activism is ensuring wider accessibility to the movement and more individually defined engagement.
Though we have seen real change in the movement and growth and regeneration in recent years; we still have some tough fights ahead. We are seeing a rise of conservatism that we are fighting to ensure we are not going backwards. In NSW we have seen a State election in which there was a significant backsliding of the number of women elected to parliament. We have our first female PM and she has had to withstand personal and sexist abuse in a way that generations of male PM have not. We are seeing implementation of policies that target some of the most vulnerable members of our community and perpetuate gender inequality.
So where does this leave us?
We see people frustrated with the lack of a social conscious of either of the major parties. In the lead up to the election we need to focus on pushing this agenda. We need to work towards systemic cultural change, a shift in our values. We need to value the various ways people contribute to our society, in particular valuing caring roles and other roles that are persistently undervalued because they have traditionally been done by women.
So what does this mean practically?
For WEL this means a focus on putting good social policies on the agenda, particularly focusing on Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), and Welfare Reform for the Federal Election.
Recently we have seen great wins in the ECEC sector, with the government putting in a $300 million wage subsidy, and funding the trial of some 24hr early childhood facilities. But these reforms are just tinkering around the edges. We should not forget what the movement was originally fighting for: free, quality early childhood education and care.
The system as it currently stands is a mess, one which in-adequately addresses the needs of working class women across Australia. Even when receiving all the relevant rebates, ECEC remains unaffordable for some women, or leaves women devoting all their income to paying for childcare fees. WEL is advocating for a holistic review of the sector, and a shift away from public subsidisation of for-profit early childhood education and care.
In recent Welfare Reforms we have seen a consistent attack on vulnerable members of our community. This is seen in the further roll out of Income Management, a punitive scheme that quarantines a portion of a welfare recipients payment denying them their financial autonomy. This conditional welfare is based on negative assumptions about the capacities of those claiming government payment and fails to recognise the diverse social and economic contributions made in ways other than paid work. It also ignores discrimination and structural barriers to some engaging in paid work.
We have also seen an attack on Sole Parents in the further cuts to sole parents payments introduced recently. These changes to our welfare system do not recognise the social value of many activities, other than paid employment, such as caring responsibilities. We need to recognise and value this contribution appropriately and allow individuals, and in particular women/ sole parents and other vulnerable members, dignity and autonomy over their lives and finances.
WELA has put forward a submission to the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services in response to the Draft Reproductive Health (Access to Termination) Bill 2013 to reform Tasmanian abortion law.
You can read the full submission here.
WEL welcomes the Draft Reproductive Health (Access to Termination) Bill 2013 as an important development in the progression of Tasmanian women’s rights. We commend the Minister for Health, The Honourable Michelle Anne O’Bryne, and the Tasmanian Government on their initiative to reform Tasmania’s abortion laws.
It is vital that women have autonomy over their bodies and their reproductive choices. WEL strongly supports the draft Bill’s provisions for women to have control over their reproductive choices regarding early termination and no longer be under threat of criminal prosecution for obtaining an abortion. However, we are deeply concerned with the provision that remove control from women’s hands and requires termination after 24 weeks to be a decision of two doctors.