Thursday, 6 November 2014

Review of Australia’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women

Not only is next year the 20th anniversary of the UN’s 4th World Conference of Women, held in Beijing, China in 1995, but we have been engaged this year in the lead up to periodic review of Australia’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women.

For this reason we have been looking carefully at the Beijing Platform for Action including the section on the needs of young women – the Girl Child. A number of strategic objectives were identified in 1995 including to eradicate violence against the girl-child and to promote the girl-child's awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life.

As part of the review process there has been a series of relevant speakers at NCWV meetings including
  • Erin Wicking, Girl Guides Victoria, on their new initiatives including the PLAN international  ‘Because I Am a Girl’ partnership and focussing on International Day of Girl Child October 11;
  • Christine Carolan, Project Officer, ACRATH, on forced and early marriage;
  • Lisa Wilson, River Nile Learning Centre, on off-campus re-engagement for young African women; and then
  • at the 111th AGM on  September 4, Dr Debbie Ollis, Deakin University,  delivered a thought provoking address on the experience of boys and girls in a school setting as the basis for 'Building Respectful Relationships in Schools – from research into practice'.
Taking this as a starting point, it seems timely to use the October meeting of Council – always devoted to a  UN related topic - to complete this series of talks by looking at  the earliest years of children’s lives. Next year is also the 20th Anniversary the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which Australia is a signatory. See https://www.unicef.org.au/Discover/What-we-do/Convention-on-the-Rights-of-the-Child/childfriendlycrc.aspx

NCWA supported calls for Australia to have a Children’s Commissioner, and applauded Commissioner Megan Mitchell’s first report released in 2013 that highlighted key themes for work with young children, subsequently adopted by the peak body Early Childhood Australia: the right to be heard; freedom from violence, abuse and neglect; the opportunity to thrive; engagement round  civics and citizenship; action and accountability.

The October 2 meeting of Council is an opportunity to look at current issues that have drawn fresh attention to some of the Articles of the Convention for example;
Article 7 - Children have the right to a legally registered name and nationality. Children also have the right to know their parents and, as far as possible, to be cared for by them.
Article 8 - Governments should respect a child’s right to a name, a nationality and family ties.
Article 9 - Children should not be separated from their parents unless it is for their own good. … if a parent is mistreating or neglecting a child. Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this might harm the child.
Article 20- Children who cannot be looked after by their own family must be looked after properly by people who respect their religion, culture and language.
Article 21- When children are adopted the first concern must be what is best for them. The same rules should apply whether children are adopted in the country of their birth or if they are taken to live in another country.
Article 22- Children who come into a country as refugees should have the same rights as children who are born in that country.
Article 29 - Education should develop each child’s personality and talents to the full. It should encourage children to respect their parents, their cultures and other cultures.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Building Respectful Relationships as a Way to End Violence?

Next year is the 20th anniversary of the UN’s 4th World Conference of Women, held in Beijing, China in 1995. The Platform for Action included a section on the need to focus on the needs of young women – the Girl Child. A number of strategic objectives were identified including to eradicate violence against the girl-child and to promote the girl-child's awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life.

 In the light of the review and NCWV’s 2014 focus on ‘Young Women’  it was very gratifying that  NCW Victoria’s 2013 resolution for the 2014 Mid-term Conference in Alice Springs , was carried unanimously, calling on Australian governments to take further action to  better document the incidence of forced and early marriage in Australia and monitor the effect of the legislation;  to encourage increased community awareness of the law through educational, faith-based and civil society organizations;    and to facilitate culturally sensitive training to state and territory departments of justice, existing service providers and support agencies.

Now the latest funding round has recognised several NGOs for their work in this field including ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans). NCWV’s August Council meeting at Ross House, Flinders Lane, included a two member panel on the Girl Child theme: Erin Wicking, Girl Guides Victoria, Community Development Officer, speaking about some new initiatives including the ‘Because I Am a Girl’ partnership, and Christine Carolan, Project Officer, Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, who provided a brief account of one what ACRATH was already doing and how ACRATH  will use its new funding.

While the community continues to struggle with what seems to be an epidemic of violence, there seems to have been little attention given to what might be done at school level. So we welcome the recent announcement from Education Minister the Hon Martin Dixon MP that a program aimed at Year 8 and 9 students is to be rolled out in State, Catholic and other private schools. The program, which has been successfully tried at four secondary schools, follows a 2009 VicHealth report that identified schools as high-risk areas for gender-based violence. Wes Hosking report in the Herald-Sun June 12, quoted Deakin University’s Dr Debbie Ollis, who helped write the program, as saying“… we’ve got to find a new way to try and prevent violence against women. “And it’s not just violence against women or children — it’s violence against men as well.”

There will be an opportunity to hear Dr Ollis speak on Building Respectful Relationships  at the NCW Victoria AGM on September 4. Click here to download the flyer for the AGM

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Violence against women and their children

The Commonwealth, state and territory governments worked with the community from 2009 to develop a National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 (the National Plan). Over 12 years the National Plan aims to achieve a significant and sustained reduction in violence against women and their children.

We welcome the announcement on Friday June 27 by the Australian Government of the Second Action Plan to stop domestic violence and violence against women and their children. This is the second phase in a 12-year strategy to curb violence against women and children in Australia and will span the next four years, bringing to $200 m the total committed between 2009 and 2017.

Assistant Minister for Women m Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash said migrant women are often not aware of their rights in Australia, particularly in relation to forced or under age marriage and female genital mutilation. “This is where the Second Action Plan steps in, ”Senator Cash said. “Forced and under age marriages are not tolerated in Australia, the same applies to the abhorrent practice of Female Genital Mutilation”. he plan also means that will mean foreign-born spouses who come to Australia on marriage visas will receive additional support. Their husbands or fianc├ęs will have to provide authorities with additional information, and new material will be developed to inform these women about essential services and emergency contacts in Australia.

“We must be aware that sadly, some women coming to our country are not afforded the same rights at home and we must as a Government ensure they are equipped with the knowledge they need to prevent being subjected to violence and abuse,” Senator Cash said.

Northern Territory Minister Bess Price, who also attended the launch, said she was pleased the Second Action Plan has specific initiatives to deal with violence against Indigenous women. “ I have been a victim as well, and I know how it is, and I want to make sure the future is better for women and their families and that help is provided so women can feel safe.” 

Monday, 14 July 2014

National Council of Women of Victoria congratulates the Taxi Services Commission (TSC) and CEO Marnie Williams on its first year of operation

We have been following the government’s reforms to the taxi and hire car industry, with great interest, including the introduction of the Knowledge Test, new taxi zones, changes to the availability of taxi licences from July 1, 2014, and the on-line price notification system.

It is great to see that the information about these initiatives is now available to the wider community, through the TSC  website, and by signing  up to receive Taxi eNews. The TSC’s commitment to better communication is helpful not just for those working in the industry but also those who are the users of taxis in Victoria.

We note that the Knowledge Test is to be delivered by Genix as contractor, and the Knowledge Test includes a module on driver behaviour.  We hope that future versions of the sample questions in the driver behaviour section will make reference to the need for Respectful Behaviour towards women! And it is concern that as yet drivers in regional and country taxi zones and the country hire car zone are not required to pass the Knowledge test.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

NCWA Mid-Term Conference


The NCWA Mid -Term Conference, held at the Chifley Resort, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, from 27th May,  to the Dawn Service on Anzac Hill on Friday 30th a.m., was a great success. 

This photo (courtesy Rowena Chen)  shows the Victorian delegation with Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women; Associate Professor Dea Delaney-Thiele (CEO) and Karin Williams (VIC) from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance, NCWA President  Julie Morris and Monica Glenn OAM, veteran of the first NCW NT established in 1964.



Some of the outstanding speakers were Dr Patricia Miller AO, Deputy Administrator of the Northern Territory who welcomed delegates  to Alice Springs; Local member, The Honourable Bess Nungarrayi  Price, NT Minister for Women’s Policy, Community Services, Statehood, Parks and Wildlife; Former NT Senator Trish Crossin; Jan Turner from Reconciliation Australia who spoke about the process and options  for the forth coming referendum  on recognition of Aboriginal and Toees Strait Islanders in the Constitution; Three Board members from NATSIWA the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Alliance and Senator the Honorable Michaelia Cash, Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Women who read a message to the conference from the Prime Minister.

Two Honorary Life Vice Presidents were elected in recognition of their outstanding contributions to NCWA: Joan M. Elliston AM (NCW NSW) and Judith A.Parker AM (NCW WA).

Resolutions: Five resolutions were adopted including the one presented by NCW Victoria on Forced, servile/early, underage marriage which was carried unanimously.

Monday, 7 July 2014

My Vote, My Voice

On Thursday 20th March 2014, National Council of Women of Victoria hosted an excellent International Women’s Day event in the Legislative Chamber of the Parliament of Victoria. 

After refreshments and photos of participants and attendees in Queen's Hall, we went into the ornate Legislative Chamber and were welcomed by the President of National Council of Victoria, Mrs Sheila Byard, who introduced the panel and the speakers.


I-vote!-Presenters,panel members, students, and members united at National Council of Women of Victoria’s International Women’s Day event March20th Queens Hall, Parliament of Victoria.
(Photo-Sophie Nowicki)


Guest speakers were: Ms Safa Al Mahoun, Youth Commissioner Victorian Multicultural Commission, Ms Billy Crombie, Education Team Victorian Electoral Commission and Ms Ramla Giirre, Caseworker, Migrant Support Programs of the Red Cross (and Adviser NCW SA)

The secondary students who spoke were introduced by Historian and past President of the League of Women Voters, Dr Deborah Towns: the students were Miranda Hoffman, Eliza Chantrell and Dawn Lee (Melbourne Girls Grammar School) and Elena Mitchell, Claudia O'Callaghan and Erin White (Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar). These engaging 3 minute presentations were well received. Mr Johnny Yang, (Deakin University) spoke about the situation of overseas students.

The panel responding to the students comprised the Hon Judy Maddigan (Speaker in the Legislative Assembly 2003-2010), Councillor Helen Harris, City of Whitehorse) and Councillor Helen Yang, (Deputy Mayor ,City of Manningham).

This year is the 100th anniversary of women being able to stand for local government office and the 90th Anniversary of the date when women were first able to stand as candidates for the Parliament of Victoria. Female Members form only 33% of the Legislative Assembly even today. It was not until 1979, that Victoria's first female Legislative Councillors were elected one of whom Gracia Baylor AM, former Member for Boronia Province was able to be with us on the day. Among the other guests was Mrs Beryle Foster (the former Councillor Beryle Campbell) who was the first woman elected to Swan Hill Council in 1959.


(Eva Court, NCWA Coordinator, Arts and Letters)


National Council of Women of Victoria acknowledges the support of our partners in its 2014 International Women’s Day event ‘My Vote My Voice’ including the Presiding Officers and staff the Parliament of Victoria, especially the Hon Bruce Atkinson MP, President of the Legislative Council and his staff, the Victorian Electoral Commission, the Bessie Rischbieth Memorial Trust of the League of Women Voters of Victoria, The Hon. Jeanette Powell MP, Minister for Local Government, The Australian Women’s Local Government Association (Victoria), Sophie Nowicka Photographer and the YoungNCWVic team (Gauri K., Olivia S., Pyrrha P-B and Yvette W.)


Saturday, 5 July 2014

youngNCWVIC is on the Way!


Strategic planning advice obtained by NCWV from Deakin University and the pink paper exercise from early 2013 confirmed the urgent need for National Council of Women of Victoria to bridge the generation gap by embracing the new social media and to find ways of involving younger women in its work. 

In order to create a framework to engage younger women, we looked for an opportunity to have some young women to take on a task that could be successfully accomplished within a given time frame. 

The idea is to get the under 30s to facilitate the involvement of the secondary students in the NCWV project ‘My Vote, My Voice’ linked to the Victorian Electoral Commission Passport to Democracy program. We have had a careful look at the arrangements adopted by NCW Great Britain but have decided not to adopt their system of signing young women up directly and charging a fee of 15 Euros. Rather we have been trying to involve younger women through one or another of our affiliate or partner organisations working under the supervision of an experienced NCWV member. 

Thanks to some great work by the younger women with whom we already have contact, we now have a social media set up for youngNCWVIC. This will help their work with us on projects like the Year 9 students event at the Parliament of Victoria on March 20th. 

The Gmail address is youngncwvic@gmail.com and a blog has been created at the youngncwvic Wordpress page linked with with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Hootsuite links. Tumblr is a way of enabling students to post photographs of themselves working on the presentations they will bring to the Parliament on Thursday March 20th and thus helps build momentum for engagement in the project, as well as act as a base set of information about the progress of the project.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Professor Kim Rubenstein delivers the 53rd National Council of Women of Victoria’s Australia Day Address

Trailblazing Women and the Law research project leader, Professor Kim Rubenstein, was the invited speaker for the National Council of Women of Victoria 53rd Australia Day ceremony on January 23rd, 2014. Speaking in the Pioneer Women’s Gardens, in the Melbourne’s Domain, Professor Rubenstein said that NCWV 
… has always been intimately concerned with issues about women and the law. In Ada Norris’s excellent book we hear “In 1905 our first woman lawyer had awakened Council members to legal inequalities affecting women. Subsequently, particular aspects of this subject came before the Council. The demand for legal equality with men has grown ever since as more and more women have realized that many things they had taken for granted and considered inevitable and even right and proper were indeed unjust and discriminatory”.
Professor Rubenstein also gave the audience an update on the Trailblazing Women and the Law project and what has been achieved since the project began in 2013. Her address can be read in full at the site for the joint ANU/University of Melbourne research project with a short introduction by Dr Nikki Henningham on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014.

                                L-R Back Row: Mrs Elizabeth Chernov - NCWV Patron-in Chief,
                                Cr Cathy Oke - City of Melbourne
                                L-R Front Row: Professor Kim Rubenstein, NCWV President Sheila Byard, 
                                Photo by ‘Nuie’ Official Party