Sunday, 1 July 2018

May Forum 2018 Report

This Forum, held on May 3, 2018 was chaired by May Hu JP OAM, Coordinator of NCWV Standing Committees, with the Moderator being Elida Brereton, Executive NCWV and Board Member of Hester Hornbrook Academy, who also introduced each guest speaker.
Anne McLeish OAM, Dr Allison Cox, Liana Buchanan
Anne McLeish, CEO Grandparents Victoria. ‘Family Rights are being forgotten and need protection.’ Anne stated the importance of grandparents having their voices heard. Grandparents Vic is a member of NCWV.
Grandparents Vic didn’t commence until they worked out what they wanted to say about families. They have become more militant about family rights after spending years listening to family stories. They familiarised themselves with the United Nations Rights of the Child and taught families about their right to be treated with respect and that the rights are for ALL children and families on our shores.
In 2013 Kinship Carers Vic hosted a meeting in London, UK. It was attended by 15 representatives from seven organisations and countries. The Rights of the Child was breached in all of those countries, particularly in relation to poverty. E.g. Grandparents using super funds to raise grandchildren. Poverty is far worse in other countries. E.g. Foundation in New York to address poverty in African Kinship Caring.
In Victoria there is insufficient representation for children. E.g. children less than 10 years of age lost the right to representation in court. When Grandparents Victoria protested they were advised that DHS would do this. Research by a lawyer found that this isn’t happening. Furthermore, parents are being separated from children ‘too bluntly’. There is insufficient support to keep families together. This is a breach of family rights.
There are Federal and State campaigns to stop the use of cashless welfare as Anne believes it’s flawed.
60% of out of home care is kinship caring. DHS closes cases too early. Liana Buchanan added that adoption should not be rushed into from out of home care. Adoption needs much more information for parents and the rights of the child must be central.
Dr Allison Cox, child psychotherapist and occupational therapist. Berry St Director of Take 2 Program for traumatised children.  Berry St began in 1877, initiated by women who decided that young, pregnant women needed support. The majority left Berry St with their babies. Nonetheless, Berry St did also promote adoption, especially in the 1960s-70s.
Take 2 was established in 2004 to provide therapeutic services for abused children. Its aim is to achieve physical and emotional safety for children via work on attachment. This is because trauma is most often caused by primary carers. In 2015/16 there were 13,000 children in out of home care across Australia. 36% of them were indigenous. Intergenerational trauma is very difficult to stop.
48.8% of children referred to Berry St are impacted by family violence. It increases in likelihood with the age of the child. Nevertheless, decision makers have great difficulty believing that babies are violated and affected by it. Trauma occurs when a person is overwhelmed by experience(s) so that internal and external resources are insufficient to cope.  Children are impacted by lack of buffers, e.g., having to change schools. The younger the onset of trauma, the longer it lasts. Normal responses to threat are fight, flight and freeze. These are not available to repeatedly traumatised children. Berry St works with children to buffer adversity. It provides resources such as being a part of a community, an extended family and playing sport.
Liana Buchanan, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People: ‘Human Rights in the home: Children’s rights to safety, care and protection.’ Australia ratified the UN Rights of the Child 28 years ago. Liana’s role is as an oversight to children’s services. This includes enquiries about individual children and systemic issues. This is automatic when a child involved with DHS dies. But what happens for children in need of protection? In 5 years there has been a 60% increase in the number of reports, but insufficient resources. This results in a crisis system, and being reactive rather than proactive, where referrals to voluntary services may not be acted on. It’s imperative that early intervention occurs.
There is a massive underestimation of danger to children in family violence. Mothers are often held accountable for keeping children safe when they can’t keep themselves safe. Some kids who are removed get the care they need. Many don’t. Children tell the Commission that they don’t know who to go to if they don’t like their care. They know how hard they can be to live with. In many cases they share concerns for the welfare of their carers and that carers don’t get the support they need. Lots worry that care finishes at 18 years of age. Conditions in residential care are ‘dismaying’, e.g., 400 reports of sexual exploitation of kids out of 420 places, lack of access to clothes, electricity turned off in rooms as punishment. 20% of kids in care are aboriginal when they are only 1% of the general population.

All three speakers were very open in stating the facts. Anne McLeish recommended a statewide symposium, with all relevant organisations and politicians included, to come up with positive recommendations. This was supported by Liana.  NCWV plan for this symposium to be linked to other NCWV Respect projects, particularly troubled youth.

Hon Dr Sharman Stone article for MV MV 2017

Hon Dr Sharman Stone, Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls.  
Article included in the 2017 My Vote My Voice Program
Any discussion about achieving gender equality in political representation, or women’s economic empowerment, or the elimination of gender based violence, is a most important conversation to have. As the Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls, I work to try to facilitate these outcomes, in particular in the Indo Asia Pacific region, but also at home.
Achieving gender equality is essential from a human rights perspective. Being born a girl should not mean she has diminished life chances. But research also shows that there is an increase in an economy’s productivity when women are educated and participate more equitably in the workforce. Shareholder value also increases when there is greater gender equality and diversity on a corporate board or in senior management. The U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security has also stressed the critical contributions of women and women’s organisations in conflict prevention, resolution and peace building.
In order to see Australian women and men equally sharing the policy making, resource allocation, responsibilities and bounties of our nation, we need to know why women experience a 15% pay gap for same work as men, are likely to have less than half of men’s superannuation at retirement, are hugely underrepresented as senior managers, CEOs and Board members in the private sector, are less than 15% of our Defence Forces, under 30% in our parliaments, are not evenly distributed in our highest earner or most commended lists and are under-represented in our media.
We are often told that not enough women: “put their hands up”, or know how to negotiate for higher pay or promotions, they talk too much or too little. Some women take time off to have babies, so they are less work-place committed and reliable, they are preoccupied juggling family and work, women don’t network well and are not connected into the most influential networks, women who crash through glass ceilings pull up the ladder behind them and measures such as quotas or reserved places for women or minorities will “dumb down” or destroy our “meritocracies” Catherine Fox in her recent book decries the notion that it is women who are to blame, as she systematically debunks the stereotypes and myths. (Stop Fixing Women: Why Building fairer workplaces is everybody’s business. Newsouth, 2017) She refers to all the research now completed: “… the great boon of having so much data available is that it makes it harder to argue that gender imbalance is simply the result of inherent deficiencies, or individual choices about jobs and caring”, (Stop Fixing Women p.116}. 

We need to abandon the deficit theories about why most women fail to be as successful as most men and instead strive to grow a more just society and a more productive, capable workforce. To do this we need men, as well as women to embrace and champion the cause. That requires many candid conversations.                                                                                                       24.08.2017

Key Address Michelle Richards MVMV 2017


Pam Robinson OAM, Past President and Life Member ALGWA and Michelle Richards, Fire Recovery Coordinator (Moorabool & City of Ballarat), Keynote Speaker at the 2017 My Vote My Voice event, Parliament of Victoria
I would like to thank the National Council of Women for inviting me to take part in this prestigious event and I’d also like to thank Councillor Edwards from Moorabool Shire Council for supporting me here today. I feel tremendously honoured and excited to have the opportunity to speak with our next generation of leaders today and I hope that my story will inspire each of you to strive towards being the best person that you can be, both professionally and personally.
I grew up in the small town of Creswick, which is just outside Ballarat and recently I was visiting at my parents’ house when my Mum dug out this piece of paper from my grade 6 graduation which detailed what each of we students wanted to be when we grew up. To my horror, mine said when Michelle grows up… she wants to be a biscuit. Obviously, my career prospects were looking pretty bleak at that stage.
Thankfully, at the age of 17 I was lucky enough to pick up a business traineeship with the State Government Department of Regional Development, Victoria and afterwards progressed into the role of Grampians Region Project Officer. From there I moved into a community development role with the Northern Grampians Shire Council. It was there that I discovered my true passion for working with communities to build their capacity to function on their own at high levels.
I can remember the exact moment that my true career path became clear to me. It was in St Arnaud, where a small group of community and council staff had gathered for a ministerial announcement. The announcement was for funding that I had recently acquired which was for security lighting at the Queen Mary Gardens to deter vandals from defacing the Gardens that the committee worked so hard to maintain. The committee of the Gardens was beside themselves with joy at the news. So much so that when the Minister made the announcement the President of the committee let out a whimper… and fainted.
Now that is probably the smallest grant I have acquired throughout my career, but that moment will stay with me forever as it demonstrates that sometimes what we might perceive as having the smallest of significance is in fact of the upmost importance to the community.
After my position at NGS, I moved between State Government departments. At DEECD I managed pre-accredited program delivery and even did a stint at the Supreme Court as a Jury Manager. I commenced my role with Moorabool Shire Council in 2013 and have had some fantastic opportunities to develop myself professionally. In 2014 I managed the community leadership program, in 2015 I commenced my Masters Degree in Business and for the past two years I have been managing the community recovery for the Scotsburn Fires for both Moorabool and the City of Ballarat.
It is important to note that I have also faced many challenges in my career. I have been discriminated against, told that I was not good enough for a position and I’ve even had my personal brand threatened for questioning an internal process. I was once told by someone that an MBA was too advanced a study path for me. I’m now delighted to say that this year I won the 2017 ALGWA Bursary, which is awarded to an aspiring female leader in local government studying at university. I’m also proud to say that I’m on track to complete my MBA in two months and I’ve also achieved a Grade Point Average of 7 (high distinction).
Whenever someone tells me I’m not good enough, or that I can’t do something… it just fires my determination to prove them wrong. No one can determine your own self-worth but YOU.  I will always challenge the status quo, I will never standby and allow myself or others to be treated poorly and I will strive to inspire others in their own personal journey to success.
Throughout every job I’ve ever had I’ve been fortunate to have been mentored by some very strong women. These women have acted as key supporters, taking the time to encourage and inspire me and to develop my leadership skills, paving the way for me to follow in their footsteps. It is as a direct credit to those women that I can celebrate my successes to date. And I say to date because there are still plenty more to come.

Thank you for listening to my story and I look forward to hearing your take on the Victorian Local Governments Women’s Charter’s three principles.