Monday, 29 June 2020

May Forum 2020: Gender Equity in Workplaces

The National Council of Women of Victoria’s May Forum was cancelled due to COVID-19. The focus “Gender Equity in Workplaces”, instead became the topic for our May ZOOM Council Meeting. 

One of the proposed forum panel members, Professor Beth Gaze spoke at this meeting. Beth teaches Equality and Discrimination Law and Administrative Law at Melbourne Uni Law School. Her research interests are in anti-discrimination and equality law, feminist legal thought, administrative law and socio-legal research. She has conducted research into the enforcement process under Australian anti-discrimination law, experiences of applicants in the social security appeal tribunals, and the operation of adverse action provisions of the Fair Work Act. Beth spoke about the new Victorian Government Gender Equality Act 2020. 

The Act seeks to promote and improve gender equality across the Victorian public sector, local councils and universities. It involves innovative powers and processes that have not previously been used in Australian law. It will commence on 31st March 2021. The government is working on developing the framework for its implementation, driven by the Minister for Women, the Hon Gabrielle Williams, with input from the public including a Citizen’s Jury. It aims to take necessary and proportionate action towards achieving gender equality in policies and programs and delivering public services. Organisations need to undertake workplace gender audits, to assess gender equality and inequality in the workplace. These must be based on gender-disaggregated data and, if available, data about Aboriginality, age, disability, race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion and sexual orientation. They need to develop and implement Gender Equality Action Plans in 2021, updated every four years, with Progress shown every two years against gender equality indicators. The Minister is also required to develop a State Gender Equality Action Plan every four years that will set a framework for taking coordinated action in Victoria to build behavioural, attitudinal, structural and normative change to improve gender equality, including a framework for progress on workplace gender equality, programs and services. The Office for Women is developing guidance documents to support organisations in doing the audit, action plan, assessment and progress reporting. The Act also provides for creating gender targets or quotas requiring these to be taken into account in gender audits with ‘reasonable and material progress’ to be made towards targets and quotas, a first in Australian equality law. 

Dr Deborah Towns OAM then spoke on other Gender Equity issues. The private sector is covered nationally by the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. Commonwealth Government in 1984 introduced the Sex Discrimination Act. Other legislation at State and Federal level have passed, with Human Rights Commissioner and officer appointments. 

Progress towards equal pay has a longer history. In 1903 equal pay for equal work was on the agenda at NCWV’s Congress. The industrial relations system endorsed this in 1969. However, there is still a gender wage gap today, with overall gender pay gap of 13.9% in Australia for full-time workers. When broken down into sectors it gets interesting, e.g., in finance and insurance where 1000s of women work the pay gap is 22%, also in professional, scientific and technical work; and 22.3% in health care and social services. In education and public administration (70% are women) the pay gap is 12%. Many women work in caring, cleaning, catering and retail, often not full-time, poorly paid, with little opportunity to adequately support themselves, or their families if they are sole parents, and save for their retirement through superannuation and in other ways. 

The Male Champions of Change was established in 2010 to lead action on gender equality in workplaces, now with over 200 leaders of business, government, universities and military representing many different workplaces across Australia. They publish annual reports on progress and guidelines on how workplaces can change gender pay gap. Despite this there has been little to no change. 

Sunday, 28 June 2020

2019: Mental Health Submission to the Victoria Royal Commission

Prepared September 2019, with input from Council Members of NCWV, by Elisabeth Newman, NCWV President.

On behalf of the National Council of Women of Victoria (NCWV), I applaud Federal Government for calling for a much needed inquiry into Aged Care. I also thank the National Council of Women of Australia for encouraging Constituent Councils, such as NCWV to make submissions in their own name direct to the Royal Commission. NCWV is an NGO representing some 30 like-minded NGOs and a similar number of Individual members whose purposes are to:

  1. provide a non-party political, non-sectarian, not-for-profit, umbrella organisation with humanitarian and educational objectives, empowering women and girls and raising awareness of gender equality;
  2. act as a voice on issues and concerns of women and girls at a State level;
  3. develop policies and responses on behalf of women and girls on a State-wide basis;
  4. maintain and strengthen the Association’s relationship with all members;
  5. link with women in Australia and the International Council of Women (ICW-CIF) through the National Council of Women of Australia and contribute to the implementation of their plans of action and policies.

With these purposes in mind, NCWV is alarmed at the abuse that many elderly citizens receive whether it be in residential care or living at home, therefore is pleased to be able to make comment on the care of the elderly. Three points that form the basis of good care negating abuse and discrimination of the elderly are:
  1. To be treated with respect and dignity should be at the forefront of all interactions with the elderly. Recognition of their abilities and contribution to society is essential and continued contribution to be encouraged.
  2. Recognition for the care of the elderly as being a highly specialised profession. Staff need to be valued and treated with dignity, otherwise how can one expect them to show compassion to the elderly under their care. The care of the elderly is a highly skilled profession and needs to be recognised by all as such, including the operators of aged care facilities and at-home aged care packages.
  3. Requirement that education and good training for all involved in all fields of the care of the elderly. Staff should receive good, appropriate training and remuneration, as for other specialties in health and nursing care.

2019: Mental Health Submission to the Victoria Royal Commission

Prepared September 2019, with input from Council Members, by Elisabeth Newman, NCWV President.

On behalf of the National Council of Women of Victoria (NCWV), I applaud the Andrews’ Government calling for a Royal Commission to report on the state of Mental Health within the State of Victoria. I thank the Commission for giving NCWV the opportunity to make a submission at this late date. NCWV is an NGO representing some 30 like-minded NGOs and a similar number of Individual members whose purposes are to:

  1. provide a non-party political, non-sectarian, not-for-profit, umbrella organisation with broadly humanitarian and educational objectives, empowering women and girls and raising awareness of gender equality;
  2. act as a voice on issues and concerns of women and girls at a State level;
  3. develop policies and responses on behalf of women and girls on a State-wide basis;
  4. maintain and strengthen the Association’s relationship with all members;
  5. link with women in Australia and the International Council of Women (ICW-CIF) through the National Council of Women of Australia and contribute to the implementation of their plans of action and policies.
With these purposes in mind, NCWV acknowledges good mental health is essential for good general wellbeing of the community. It is concerned about the general well-being of people, particularly women and girls; It was not until 2011 that the importance of good mental health was fully recognised globally and firmly placed on the agenda of the United Nations and its agencies. An ICW-CIF Representative to the UN was one of those advocating for such recognition. It is pleasing to see the importance of mental health being recognised, but sadly the general care of those suffering from mental illness requires review and the need for the stigma to be removed. This came through in an MSO film clip/documentary, “A dangerous son”, made in the US by producer Liz Garbus for Firecracker, shown by QANTAS in September 2019. With a grandson on the Autism spectrum I, the author of this submission could relate to much of the documentary.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

59th Australia Day Pioneer Women’s Ceremony, 20th January 2020, Women’s Peace Garden

This event was a great success with 50 members and quite a few guests. Girl Guides Victoria provided the Colour Party and all sang the National Anthem. The focus this year was on Pioneer Women in the Environment and Conservation. We were privileged to have Pam Robinson OAM as speaker, a founding member of Landcare.

Click to download the program

Pam said we can consider ‘Pioneer’ in the historical sense - relating to a person in a bygone time. It is important to recognise and respect past Pioneers, strides made by them that have brought us to where we are now, but also important for younger people to see that they can become a Pioneer in “their time’’ to be able to leave their legacy of endeavour. Pam acknowledged Indigenous people who have managed the land for millennia, quoting award winners, the Woka Walla Land Management Crew, who have been operating for seven years across northern Victoria where they have done cultural identification and protection, cultural burning, pest plant and animal control. The crew members have an unbroken link to the land through their families and have responsibility for Caring for Country which connects them to their ancestors.

Two Past Pioneers - women often referred to as the ‘Mothers of Landcare’ came from different backgrounds, but understood in the 1980s that if a new community program was to be established working with natural resources, enhancing environment, delivering sustainable farming practices, it needed to be a bipartisan approach. Joan Kirner AC and Heather Mitchell OBE AM - one a Labor Government Minister (later Premier), the other President of the conservative Victorian Farmers Federation, understood a bipartisan collaborative approach would achieve more – Landcare was born. The first Landcare Group was announced in 1986. Land Protection and other activities that people were undertaking continued in the Landcare theme. There are nearly 600 Landcare groups and 500 Friends of Groups in Victoria. The Australian Government introduced a National Landcare Program with a bipartisan approach. Also, there is Australian Landcare International, a non-profit organisation.

Landcare has no age barrier and Pam encouraged all to become involved with a local group. “We can go from sitting on the sidelines saying ‘THEY ORTA’ be doing this and that – we can decide that - We will take up the leadership position for the future of our environment and conservation by saying in a renewed bipartisan and collective voice ‘We Orta’ WE WILL and WE ARE’.”

Click here for the speech.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Ms Amy Carpenter, Education Coordinator, Victorian Electoral Commission, My Vote My Voice 2019

In my role as an electoral educator, I sometimes hear about how pointless voting is, how politics is dull and irrelevant at best, about how voting doesn’t make a difference anyway. I hear about the “wasted votes” of young people and how “my vote was cancelled out by my parents’ vote”. And that’s just from my hairdresser, uber drivers, and bumble dates who inevitably ask about what I do. While all those statements rankle me because they are all wrong in so many ways, the statement I hate hearing the most is that “young people are so apathetic now, your job must be so hard”. Because out of all the wrong statements I hear, that is the most wrong and despite my crippling fear of confrontation, I just cannot let that lie.

Young people are some of the most passionate, engaged and capable people I know. Young people today are more and better educated than ever before. They know their rights and they know they can't take them for granted. They know that they need to both walk and talk the talk. I meet young people every day who are working towards a better future for their world.

A few weeks ago, I met a group of students who were passionately campaigning for a canteen overhaul - not just for cheaper food as many might expect, but for healthier food, for food without plastic wrappers, and for food which is culturally relevant for their diverse school community. In March, I met 3 students who created posters encouraging proper use of preferred pronouns to hang around their school and local community. And consider the thousands of students who have campaigned and marched on the steps of this very building, knowing that their right to peacefully and passionately do so is protected and respected by those who sit within. I hardly call that apathetic.

There does, however, seem to be a disconnect between this passion and voting. While protest, personal activism, volunteering and fundraising seem to be on the rise – voting in an informed way for people who believe in similar values to what you do is becoming more rare - and not just in young people.

I understand that in many ways that politics seems like it doesn't listen to young people. And somethings which politicians talk about seem meaningless - like what even are franking credits? I understand that sometimes, politicians seem too busy fighting within their own party to get much done. Sometimes, the way media presents the interactions that take place within these chambers fails to inspire trust in the system. The media needs to do better, and so do the parties.

But the facts are that voting and using this system is vital to voicing your grievances and having your say. Voting, the long and hard fought for privilege that it is, is one of the most effective ways of communicating with the people making the big and little decisions which impact you from the minute you wake up to the minute you take the hint from Netflix and finally go to sleep.

It’s easy to think that voting, politics, is irrelevant, but who here goes school? Who wants to go to university or TAFE? Who catches public transport? Who has or is hoping to get a driver’s license? Who rides a bike? Who goes to the Doctor? Who uses the internet? Who has ever played in a playground? Who works? Who watches the ABC? Who breathes our air and drinks our water? All of these things, plus most other things in our lives, are in some way, governed by the people who get voted in by those who do vote.

Let’s take the micro example of a school. The State Government, people who sit in these hallowed chambers, influence all of the following things:

· The curriculum

· The health services available at schools

· The funding your school gets for buildings and facilities

And most importantly, the amount teachers get paid.

Voting in Australia, in Victoria, gives us real power over the services that we use. In Victoria and in Australia, voting is designed to enable the most voices to be heard. Here, in a preferential vote, even if my first choice of candidate doesn't get in, my vote still matters- it still contributes to the overall result.

Voting means that I can send a clear message to politicians and it means I can use that ballot paper as leverage in conversations I have with MPs. Ultimately, voting means that I'm honouring those who fought for the right to vote long, and for some, not so long ago. If you are anyone but a landowning white man of nobility, someone had to fight for your voting rights. White women in the room, we only got the right to vote in 1902 federally and if you’re an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian, you only got the right to vote in 1962. That’s the year my mum was born. Less than 60 years ago. Hardly ancient history.

A couple of years ago I worked and travelled through South East Asia and while I was there, I met young locals who would sometimes talk with me about the politics of their nation and upcoming elections. What struck me the most was not necessarily the specific things we talked about, but the hope they placed in their vote - a hope for change, even though in many cases the system and elections themselves were corrupt.

It made me appreciate how lucky we are in Australia that our electoral system is the most transparent, impartial, and fair system possible. We can, absolutely, place our hope for change in the ballot. We can trust the electoral systems in Australia. Of course, numbering those boxes is not the end of your role as an active citizen. The protests, activism, the letter writing, the art, the sit-ins, the strikes, the music, poetry, the boycotts, the choices that you make every day for example to bring a keep cup with you, even the choice to go vegan - these things don’t replace voting - they’re where the vote leads, what it points to and reflects, where your vote continues to have power. Your actions, your choices, your voice - these things are given weight in the casting of a ballot paper.

When my Bumble dates, my Uber drivers and my hairdresser start talking about how hard my job must be, I want to make sure they understand that it really isn’t. I want to be able to tell them that young people are not apathetic. It’s what I want to help politicians understand too. But to do that, young people need to start speaking a language that politicians understand—the language of the ballot paper. I cannot wait to hear how the young people gathered in this Chamber propose we encourage such behaviour.

Frankly, it doesn't matter how much I insist that young people are passionate, we need to prove it and one way we can do that, in partnership with all of the other amazing stuff young people do, one quick, easy and proven way to make people listen, is to vote and vote in an intentional, history honouring, informed and powerful way.

The Annual ‘My Vote My Voice’ Student Event 2019

The ‘My Vote My Voice’ 2019 event was held in the Legislative Council Chamber, Parliament of Victoria, on 19 August. This year’s theme was: Male and Female Youth as Future Voters, drawing on NCWV’s partnership with Australian Local Government Women’s Association, the Victorian Electoral Commission and the League of Women Voters’ Bessie Rischbieth Trust. Students were invited to make group presentations on this theme to an audience of students, community members, Parliamentarians and a panel of eminent people.

The event commenced in Queen’s Hall for welcome and photographs. We were welcomed by the Hon Gabrielle Williams, Minister for Women, Youth and Prevention of Domestic Violence. The Keynote speaker was Ms Amy Carpenter, Education Coordinator, Victorian Electoral Commission. She stated how annoyed she gets when hearing people say that young people are apathetic and not interested in what is going on beyond their world. There is passionate action occurring all around, but attitudes towards political processes is reducing.

We then had speakers from Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar, Melbourne Girls’ College; Oberon HS; Al Siraat College; Fintona Girls’ School; Nth Geelong Sec College; Kingswood College; Westall Sec College; Genazzano College; Coburg HS and University HS. All speakers had researched peer attitudes and spoke confidently on the topic, with different perspectives taken by each school. There were personal anecdotes, passion and humour in the presentations. One common element was that there needs to be more ‘Civics and Citizenship’ content in the core curriculum. Schools also brought students as observers and some parents attended, as well as some Parliamentarians and many NCWV members and their guests.

As usual an evaluation sheet was completed by panel members (and others) as students were speaking. The panel members were Cr Coral Ross OAM, Mayor Boroondara and President of MAV; Cr Sandra Wilson, past Mayor of Hobsons Bay; Cr Trent McCarthy, Darebin Council, with Dr Deborah Towns OAM chairing. In addition to this feedback, we have audio of the event provided by the Hansard staff at the Parliament. It will be a difficult task to determine which groups will receive Awards. It was an inspiring morning.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

NCWV May Forum: Safe Streets for Women & Girls

Held on: 2 May 2019, 10:00-11:30am 
ICW-CIF theme: Social protection for all women and girls: Sustainable development for the world This Forum conforms with SDG 11 “… make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

The focus of the May Forum was on what makes a Safe City/Safe Streets. This includes wide streets, pedestrian malls, good visibility, good lighting and clear signage. Everything that is considered to be good planning. The Forum was very well received with positive feed-back, evaluation forms indicated the subject was interesting and topical. An outcome from the Forum for NCWV to pursue, would be the safety of bicycle trailers for children, raised in a question by Janice Latham. There is opportunity for us to monitor the movement and safety of pedestrians and cyclist in the City, also the city lighting to give feed back to the Town Hall. Members could note issues in their area for feedback to local Council.

Martin and Phuong, VicRoads presenters for Safe System Road Infrastructure Program (SSRIP), part of Regional Roads Victoria (RRV), outlined the improvements to accessibility and safety for pedestrians and cyclists being delivered through the SSRIP – Pedestrian Area program, Safer Cycling program and Safe Travel in Local Streets program.
On average there are 40 pedestrian deaths per year and over 500 serious injuries, almost half of which are female. Pedestrians aged 65 and over represent almost one third of the total, with females being just over 50%. This is far too high – we would like it to be zero, but there is a lot of work to do. To help promote active transport (i.e. walking and cycling), RRV encourages councils to:
  • Map out safe routes for walking and cycling to schools and shops in their communities;
  • Develop plans for improving the safety and amenity for active transport;
  • Improving quality of life;
  • Talk to RRV about how these plans could be implemented.
SSRIP developed a hot spot map to target areas with highest densities of fatal and serious injury (FSI) crashes, then contacted those councils to get as many involved as possible. There is a budget of $31 million over 31 councils for this program, including development and evaluation to be completed by 2020. Councils were offered access to funding for development, so that they could engage consultants to develop projects without budget risk.

These include Bayside roundabout crossings, Wombat crossings, Countdown timers, strategic cycling corridors, Protected intersections which provide a safer passage by enabling cyclists to hook turn, let cyclists do left turns more easily, and make it easier for drivers to see cyclists. There is also a Blind Spot Mirror Trial to help cyclists and drivers see each other better and reduce risk of trucks turning into cyclist.

Transport Accident Commission – TAC has made grants available to councils to help them provide better facilities for walking and cycling. VicRoads has grants for local community groups to promote road safety in local areas.

Hoa Yang, ARUP Design Consultant, outlined the findings from a research collaboration between Monash University’s XYX Lab and ARUP. Over the past year, they have analysed lighting measurements across 80 different sites in the City of Melbourne to find practical measures around how we can use lights to make our city feel safer at night time. This project uses a human-centred design approach to generate a framework to understand what lighting qualities give a perception of safety. The research data collected are the beginning of a knowledge bank that gives designers a better understanding of how light impacts urban experiences in Melbourne.

The rate of development in lighting technology in the past decade allows lighting design to be cost effectively customisable and tailored to the individual experience. The amount of design decisions that can be made due to these advances, position lighting as a key enabler of smart design.

New and retro-fitted lighting opportunities are happening all around the world, presenting an opportunity for city design to use light to curate positive experiences.

The current Australian lighting standards for pedestrians are based on pre-LED technology and are in need of a re-think. The standards revolve around the amount of light falling on a surface, and do not consider the perception of brightness and experience of the larger urban context by its users. The tendency in designing for public spaces to choose a worst-case scenario by stakeholders to de-risk, too often resulting in a poor lit outcome. This design approach often leads to over lighting spaces resulting in negative experiences of the space due to glare, also contributing to light pollution and excess energy consumption. Safe perceptions of spaces correlate generally with a higher level of colour rendering, suggesting that distinguishing shapes and colours more accurately makes people perceive spaces as safer. This validates current design principles where people feel more comfortable in warm coloured light. The research has created the largest sample of night time analysis known to the researchers globally.

The findings from the measurements have allowed definition of a baseline for the lighting qualities that contribute to a safe perception of space in Melbourne for young women and girls. Contact:

Nancy Pierorazio, Senior Policy Officer City Safety, Social Investment branch, City of Melbourne: Designing in safety for women, outlined City of Melbourne’s commitment to preventing violence against women, promoting women’s safety and advancing gender equality in the municipality and workplace. City of Melbourne projects include: “Women in the life of the city”, a partnership with Victorian Women’s Trust to develop a list of notable women to address the gender bias in street names. Since the introduction of this list, three new streets/lanes have been named: Warrior Woman Lane (Lisa Bellear), Hoff Boulevard (Dr Ursula Hoff), Bale Circuit (Alice Marian Ellen Bale).

“Girls Walk, Melbourne CBD”, Working with Plan International to pilot their Free to Be campaign in Melbourne: Hosted Girls walk of Melbourne CBD; Free to be digital mapping tool; Design thinking workshop (led by XYX Lab).

“Women’s Right to Walk Freely” Partnership with Victoria Police, Victoria Point Owners Corporation and Plan International to better understand safety issues and needs of women and girls who live, work and visit the Stadium Precinct and Docklands. Project involved: Day and night safety audit of precinct; Girls walk: Plan youth activists and local female residents took decision makers on a walk to share experiences; Safety audit report and recommendations provided to Victoria Point Owners Corporation and Development Victoria.

“Safe Nights Out for Women (SNOW)” Pilot of a gender and safety audit tool in five licensed venues to help identify design elements and management practices that may facilitate sexual harassment in and around licensed venues. “Equality (Art) Works” Commissioned female artists to deliver public art work by and for women:
  • “Princess” by artist Baby Guerilla in Russell Place
  • “Make every place equitable” by artist Klara in Equitable Place
  • “Throw like a girl” by Gert Geyer at North Melbourne Recreation Centre (partnership project with WHV)
“Guide to reporting sexist advertising” Helps people navigate process for formal complaints; provides links to online advocacy tools; encourages community to play an active role in challenging culture of violence against women.
Projects underway:
  • Fact sheet on how to design events that are safe and inclusive for women and girls.
  • Facilitating access to training on sexual harassment and bystander action for licensed venues.
  • Pilot walking tours and walking groups aimed at increasing women's safety and participation in public places.  Contact:
Q&A Session raised the following issues, responses included:
  • Safety around public transport: more officers are being employed to assist safe walking to cars etc. also development of infrastructure to reduce speed and isolate trams.
  • Children transported in carts behind/in front of bikes: VicRoads review allows these on pavements now.
  • Men in lycra using road as speedway: needs more monitoring and education.
  • Lights being checked regularly: there is a set schedule to check all lighting.
  • Need walking etiquette signs in city: CoM looking at using international symbols instead of words.
  • Overseas visitors driving concerns: VicRoads data doesn’t support an issue with this.
  • Protective officers not always obvious at night: Need to put in a complaint.
  • Some road signs are not visible due to vegetation or damage: alert VicRoads.