Fair Agenda Blog

Amongst all the big headline announcements in last week's budget, there were also some important announcements on issues the Fair Agenda community has been campaigning on.

We wanted to make sure you'd seen the changes Fair Agenda members have helped make possible, so here's a quick wrap: 

1. Some progress on funding domestic violence response

On Fair Agenda’s early analysis this budget includes about $50 million of funding to step up and improve efforts to address domestic and family violence.

It’s not the scale of funding needed to address the significant number of women who are being left without adequate access to the services they need to be safe. But this funding will make a big difference to some.

Fair Agenda members like you have helped keep this funding issue on the political agenda over the past two years. So thank you to all those who took part in the campaign - you helped make this possible.

There’s still a lot more that needs to be done -- Victoria has shown the kind of leadership we need on this issue, with its announcement of $1.9 billion of funding to address domestic violence just last week. So we will still need to keep working together to keep the pressure up on the federal and other state governments until no woman is left without the services she needs to be safe.

Thank you to the 42 Fair Agenda members who have already chipped into help spread Rebeca and Liana’s video message. Thanks to you we’re getting their message - calling on the Federal Government to step up in this area - in front of thousands of people in eight key electorates around the country this week.

2. Cuts to working parents’ time to care dropped from budget

Fair Agenda members have been campaigning to stop the cuts to paid parental leave since for the past two years. Last week we had another victory, with the Treasurer announcing that these cuts have been removed from the budget.

This is a really important reprieve for tens of thousands of working women who are expecting a baby in the coming months, for whom these cuts have been looming as a constant threat.

The proposed cuts would have hit workers like nurses, ambos, retail workers and teachers hard. They would have overwhelming hurt women, and essentially punished anyone who has ever negotiated for decent parental leave provisions in their employment agreements (even if they’d done so in place of increased pay).[1]

This change is great news.

But if the Government have shown us anything over the past two years, it’s that they don’t give up these cuts easily. And the Government have notably failed to confirmed they’re abandoning the policy. In fact, when asked directly about this issue last week Minister Christian Porter said that "For the present, it doesn't seem like anyone is willing to [negotiate on these cuts], so that leaves us with not a whole lot of room to manoeuvre.... It evidently won't be an immediate priority."[2]

So – this fight may not be over.

The sustained attacks from the Government show how important Fair Agenda's campaigning over the past two years has been. Right now, Fair Agenda's work to secure an election commitment from the Nick Xenophon Team - and to hold them to account for that promise - are the key ingredient stopping these cuts going ahead.

So thank you to all those Fair Agenda members who have made calls, sent emails, met with their Senators, helped secure election commitments, and funded research to help stop these cuts from hurting 79,000 families so far.

3. Good news on cross-examination reform!

Last week there was also a very positive announcement around our campaign to reform the Family Court rule that means survivors of domestic violence can be forced to endure direct cross-examination by their abusers in court.

The Attorney-General has announced that the Government will soon release amendments to the Family Law Act to address this issue. These amendments will be subject to public consultation, and we may need to do further campaigning to ensure they’re adopted – but this is a really big, and positive step forward.

Thanks to all the Fair Agenda members and survivor advocates who have helped speak out on this issue over the past year. In partnership with our friends at the Women’s Legal Services and Never Alone we have helped build the pressure needed to make this announcement possible.

--

Thank you to all the Fair Agenda members who took action in each of these campaigns -- you helped make this change happen.

When we come together, Fair Agenda members have the ability to shape national policy. And there's so much more we need to do for women's physical, economic and social security in our country. This change wouldn't have been possible without your support. So if you'd like to see more change on issues like these, we hope you'll consider chipping in here.

Thanks for all you do as a Fair Agenda member,

Renee and Tash for Fair Agenda

PS – You can see a more detailed breakdown of what’s in this budget for domestic violence here, and read a longer analysis of ways the budget will impact on women here.

PPS - You can watch and share Liana and Rebeca's message about the importance of funding family violence services here.

 

-References-

  1. Analysis of the impact of the Government’s MYEFO Cuts to Paid Parental Leave, Women and Work Group: University of Sydney, October 2016.

  2. Federal budget 2017: Changes to Paid Parental Leave scheme off the table, ABC News, 12 May 2017.
Written by Renee Carr
15 May 2017

Funding for the services women rely on to get safe

Prime Minister Turnbull has recognised domestic violence as a national disgrace. But tonight’s budget suggests it’s still not being treated as a national priority. Women will continue to be left without the services they need to get safe.

It's good news that the Federal Government have extended existing funding for vital homelessness services and reversed planned cuts to legal assistance. But the Turnbull Government still isn’t providing the scale of additional service funding needed to address the fact that thousands of women being left without access to services they need to be safe.

Victoria just announced $1.9 billion of additional funding to address this issue in just one state. That’s the kind of commitment we need on this issue. But Fair Agenda's early analysis suggests that the Federal Budget provides only around $50 million for additional capacity in domestic violence related services.

Fair Agenda notes that a number of family violence services remain unable to meet demand:

  • Family Violence Prevention Legal Services report that up to 30% of women contacting the service have to be turned away because they don’t have the capacity to support them.
  • In South Australia, the Crisis Service estimates the increase in demand for their service over the last year could be as high as 30%. What’s more, the services the they rely on to assist women in crisis are also consistently at capacity – making it extremely rare that a woman in crisis can be placed into a specialist service directly. Women deserve better from our Governments.
  • Community Legal Centres are no longer facing cuts – but still don’t have the funding they need to address the fact that they’ve been having to turn away more than 160,000 people a year including women affected by family violence.

Victoria has shown the scale of commitment needed to address domestic violence. A woman’s ability to escape domestic violence shouldn’t depend on the state she lives in.

Fair Agenda’s early analysis of the domestic violence related budget measures is below.

Funding for additional capacity:

  • $3.4 million over two years to expand the trial of Domestic Violence Units in legal centres, and 
  • $10.7 million over four years to employ additional family violence consultants at Family Law Courts.
  • $12.7 million to establish Parenting Management Hearings - a new forum for resolving family law disputes between self-represented litigants.
  • $5 million of additional investment in Community Legal Centres (There is also $34 million in cuts reversed)
  • $18.2 million to establish Family Advocacy and Support Services by Legal Aid Commissions, which will provide integrated duty lawyer and family violence support services.

Relevant by not additional funding:

  • $375 million to extend homelessness service funding – is a vital extension of funding for critical frontline DV services that will allow them to continue assisting people at the same level. This is a positive announcement, but won’t enable additional capacity.
  • The previously announced $55.7 million of funding for legal assistance services is also a positive announcement – but is almost entirely a reversal of cuts to services. Only about $5 million of this can be considered to going towards additional capacity, and that is spread over three years and the 100+ Community Legal Centres operating in Australia.

Existing funding commitments (i.e. not new money) mentioned in the budget:

  • $7.5 million to support a series of trials to test technology to improve the safety of women and children affected by domestic violence

 

Other announcements

There have been two other positive announcements made by the Attorney-General overnight.

1. Cross examination reform

Last night there was also a very positive announcement around our campaign to reform the Family Court rule that means survivors of domestic violence can be forced to endure direct cross-examination by their abusers in court. 

The Attorney-General has announced that the Government will soon release amendments to the Family Law Act to address this issue. These amendments will be subject to public consultation, and we may need to do further campaigning to ensure they’re adopted – but this is a really big, and positive step forward.

Thanks to all the Fair Agenda members and survivor advocates who have helped speak out on this issue over the past year. In partnership with our friends at the Women’s Legal Services and Never Alone we have helped build the pressure needed to make this announcement possible.

2. Family Law Act reform

The Turnbull Government have also announced a comprehensive review into the family law system. The first since the Act was first introduced in 1976. 

This will pave the way for long term fundamental reform of the system, and is a promising development to help deal with the risks around family violence in the family law system.

Importantly, the issue has been referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission who will conduct the review with a view to making recommendations around reforms.

This is an important area to keep an eye on - as we know there are a number of powerful groups who oppose recommendations from the Women's Legal Service and other domestic violence experts. But this announcement by the Attorney-General is a very positive and promising one.

 

Written by Renee Carr
10 May 2017
2017 budget guide

Here’s a quick brief on the top items of Fair Agenda’s “watch list” for tonight’s Federal Budget:

1. Increased funding to ensure women in need can access domestic violence services

Thousands of women are being put in danger by the Federal Government's decisions to keep denying adequate funding to domestic and family violence related services. 

Many family violence services rely on both federal and state funding to operate. And this is an area that all Governments, including the Turnbull Government, should be making a top priority, and stepping up funding of required services.

Here’s a snapshot of the problem:

  • Family Violence Prevention Legal services, which provide a specialist and culturally safe service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, report that they are forced to turn away more than 30% of people who come to them for help because of inadequate funding. This is in a context where approximately 90% of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is already believed to go unreported to services.
  • In South Australia, the Crisis Service estimates the increase in demand for their service over the last year could be as high as 30%. They believe that tight funding leaves them increasingly less able to provide the early intervention work they know is necessary to increase women’s safety. Instead, limited funding forces them to constrict their service focus to the most high risk cases when a woman is already in immediate, imminent risk.
    What’s more, the services the crisis line refers women on to are also consistently already at capacity – making it extremely rare that women in crisis can be placed into a specialist service directly.
  • Community Legal Centres – where family violence and family law related work are some of the biggest areas where people seek assistance, have to turn away more than 160,000 people a year (including but not limited to women affected by domestic violence) because of inadequate funding.
  • Men’s Behaviour Change programs have, on average, upwards of a 6 month waiting list for men to get into a behaviour change program, even when it’s court mandated.

Last week the Victorian Government set the benchmark for the kind of response we should be expecting from Governments – with an announcement of $1.9 *billion* of additional funding for family violence response in the state.

We need to see an equivalent scale of investment by the Federal Government. That’s the message Fair Agenda members and survivor advocates have been sending:

Rebeca and Liana's video

You can join the campaign for full funding here: http://www.fairagenda.org/domesticviolence

Budget analysis tip: Up until last month, the Federal Government were preparing to cut the funding of Community Legal Centres by almost $34 million over three years. They recently announced $39 million of funding for the service -- reversing those cuts, and providing ~$5 million extra for Community Legal Centres over the next three years. 

This was a really positive announcement. The Attorney-General has been touting this commitment as "record levels of funding" and we anticipate this message will feature again tonight. But it's important we don't let the Government move the goal posts on this issue. At its heart, this announcement was essentially just a reversal of funding cuts. Service providers say the ~$5 million of new funding (spread across three years and the country's more than 100 centres) will do little, if anything, to address the 160,000 people a year they're forced to turn away (including women seeking their assistance to escape family violence).

In 2014 the Productivity Commission recommended to the Federal Government that they needed to inject $120 million extra per year to the legal assistance sector to address unmet legal need across Australia. That's the scale of funding we need to be seeing in the legal sector. 

 

2. Cuts to working parents’ time to care for their newborns

It’s expected that the Turnbull Government will use this budget to resurrect many of its so called “zombie measures” from the 2014 budget. It’s expected that this will include cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from our paid parental leave system.

This is a system that is overwhelmingly utilised by women, in a context where the full time gender pay gap is 16% and almost 50% of mothers report they have experienced discrimination in the workplace at some stage during their pregnancy or parental leave. 

The Government have been trying to introduce a system cut that would change the system from the current "combined" system to a system capped at 20 weeks -- well short of the 26-week minimum recommended for health and welfare reasons.

These are cuts punish that will punish women who have secured parental leave from their employers – often at the expense of increased pay. And it will hit workers like nurses, ambulance service workers, retail workers and teachers hard -- across tens of thousands of families a year. 

For the past two years Fair Agenda members have helped stop these cuts. We have to keep up the efforts, and maintain the pressure on the Nick Xenophon Team to keep using their deciding votes to reject these cruel cuts.

Join the campaign here: http://www.fairagenda.org/ppl

 

3. Homelessness and housing funding

Fair Agenda will be keeping an eye out for any changes to the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) or the National Partnership Agreement on Homeless (NPAH). 

These are both vital sources of funding for family and domestic violence services and also for public housing. Both of which need increased resourcing.

Right now there’s a 200,000 person waiting list for public housing. And older women are the fastest growing group of Australians being pushed into homelessness.

According to the most recent census, there are close to 100,000 women over 60 are living in public housing. And women and girls make up a majority of those who rely on public housing.

We need increased investment in both family violence services, and public housing.

But there’s a chance that the Government may use this budget to redirect funding from the NAHA funding stream to other housing measures. So keep an eye out for any changes that would direct money away from public housing.

 

4. Cuts to programs for the world’s poorest

There have been leaks this week suggesting the Government plans to tear funding out of programs for the safety and wellbeing of the world’s poorest people.

The majority of the world’s poorest people are women – so any cuts in this area will have a dangerous impact on our vulnerable neighbours.

One key area to keep an eye on is funding for family planning and reproductive health. You may recall US President Donald Trump has imposed a “global gag rule” on the US aid program – preventing any investment in programs that even talk about full reproductive healthcare options. 

The Australian Christian Lobby has been pushing a similar agenda here – calling on the Government to re-introduce an equivalent rule that had been in place to restrict the use of Australia's global aid under John Howard. We need to make sure there aren't moves to reintroduce this horrifying rule in Australia.

 

5. Women's representation

The Turnbull Government took a $13 million STEM focused funding package to the last election - with a pledge to support women to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries. Keep an eye out for any other positive funding announcements in this or other women's representation areas.

 

6. The women’s budget statement

The Women’s Budget Statement was introduced in Australia in 1984. It served to provide a comprehensive overview of where budget allocations were being made to ensure women’s rights were being upheld.

But it was dropped by Tony Abbott in his capacity as Minister for Women in 2014. Without it the Australian public has no access to information on what is being spent to advance gender equality and women’s rights – or how proposed budget members would set women’s equality back.

As the Minister who was responsible for introducing the statement back in 1984 says: "The Budget had been designed by men, for men and before the Statement was introduced, everyone assumed that would work for women as well. It didn't, obviously."

Fair Agenda, ActionAid Australia and the Women’s Electoral Lobby are partnering on a campaign calling on the Turnbull Government to reinstate the Women’s Budget Statement. Can you join the campaign?

 

Fair Agenda will be posting budget analysis live tonight as the Budget is delivered. You can get all the analysis as it's released by following Fair Agenda on facebook or twitter.

Written by Renee Carr
09 May 2017
Family violence groups speak out

A collective of 37 family violence groups have partnered with Fair Agenda in an open letter speaking out against the danger of the federal government’s planned funding cut to Community Legal Centres (CLCs).

The planned $12.1 million cuts to CLCs, due to take effect on July 1, will mean a major reduction in services by CLCs – which provide front line support for women and children trying to escape family violence, putting lives at risk.

It's a plan that's incredibly dangerous. Access to legal support is vital for women trying to escape an abuser. A decision to cut funding for community legal services is a decision to put more women in danger. That’s why family violence groups have come together to urge the Government to reverse the cuts.

Survivor advocate Rebeca Carro said, “Community legal support helped save my life. Without women’s legal service I would be a statistic, not a survivor.”

Survivor advocate Liana Papoutsis said: “I knew I needed help. The first service I reached out to was my Community Legal Centre -- and they provided me with critical support to start thinking about how I could get myself and my child out safely."

Governments' decision to inadequately resource Community Legal Centres means they are already forced to turn away 160,000 people annually, including women affected by violence. 

“Legal assistance is absolutely vital in supporting women experiencing family violence to be safe.” said Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria.

“A cut to the funding of Community Legal Centres will have disastrous impacts for the safety of women and their children.”

In 2014, the Productivity Commission found that $200 million of additional funding per year was needed for Community Legal Centres to meet existing demand.

“It’s great to see the Government talking about domestic violence. But the more we talk about domestic violence – the more women reach out to services for help,” said Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW.

“If you’re not funding the services to keep up with demand – you’re putting women in danger, and making it harder for them to seek the right support.” she added.

Can you join the campaign to stop the cuts? Sign and share the campaign here: http://www.fairagenda.org/clc_cuts

--

Open letter to the Turnbull Government: Please don't put more women in danger

To the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia, and all members of the Turnbull Coalition Government,

As experts who work for people affected by family violence every day, we implore you to urgently reverse the planned Commonwealth funding cuts to Community Legal Centres. 

We know that access to legal assistance changes lives. It helps women and children stay safe, and gives them the power to make informed decisions so they can feel more in control of their lives. And in many cases it’s the reason someone can finally escape an abusive partner. 

A woman affected by family violence – whether that abuse is physical, emotional or financial – faces overwhelming legal obstacles to finding safety for herself, and any children she may have. She will often rely on Community Legal Centres for help with her urgent safety needs, as well as the legal information, advice and representation she needs to be safe in the future. This includes things like: 

  • Help securing a family violence order – to prevent a perpetrator from continuing to abuse or threaten her,
  • Help making sure she isn’t rendered homeless by any legal or financial issues created by her abuser,
  • Assistance to address financial abuse, including debts and fines that may have been accrued in her name to make her feel trapped and unable to escape, and
  • Access to financial counselling and social work services - to ensure she has the support she needs to re-establish her independence. 

Too often we hear from women affected by abuse that dealing with the courts and justice system is overwhelming, intimidating, and re-traumatising. We believe that Community Legal Centres also bring vital and unique expertise to the law reform process needed to improve our legal systems.

As family violence specialists we work with Community Legal Centres because we know their services help keep women and children safe.

But already Community Legal Centres and other services that people affected by family violence rely on don’t have the resources they need to be able to adequately help everyone who reaches out to them for assistance.

We’re very concerned that the planned 30% cut to Commonwealth funding for Community Legal Centres will have devastating consequences. We believe the cuts will put more women in danger.    

Your Government has previously recognised that “adequate investment in frontline services is critical to save lives.” We couldn’t agree more. We implore you to urgently reverse the cuts and appropriately resource all family violence services to ensure everyone reaching out has the support they need to be safe. 

Yours sincerely,

Domestic Violence NSW

Domestic Violence Victoria

Safe Steps – Family Violence Response Centre

Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia

Coalition of Women's Domestic Violence Services of South Australia

InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence

Domestic Violence Crisis Service (ACT)

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Vitoria

Mitcham Family Violence Service

Mallee Sexual Assault Unit and Mallee Domestic Violence Service

Centacare Catholic Family Services

Women’s Information Referral Service (WIRE)

Women’s Health West

Carrie’s Place Domestic Violence and Homelessness Services Inc

Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services NSW Inc.

Women’s Information, Support and Housing in the North Inc (WISHIN)

Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA)

Women’s Health in the South East

Emerge Women and Children’s Support Network

Women’s Health West

Eastern Metropolitan Region Family Violence Partnership

Southern Metropolitan Region Integrated Family Violence Executive Committee

Women’s Health Victoria

McAuley Community Services for Women

Central Highlands and Western Family Violence Division

Women with Disabilities Victoria

Share & Care Community Services Group Inc

Southern Metropolitan Integrated Family Violence Partnership

Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia

Penrith Women’s Health Centre Inc

Men and Family Centre Lismore

YWCA Housing

Berry Street

YWCA Victoria

Quantum Support Services

Georgina Martina Inc

Financial and Consumer Rights Council

Australian Association of Social Workers

Written by Renee Carr
27 March 2017

Thank you to everyone who donated, who called, emailed or met with their MP, and who signed and shared the campaign. You made this possible.

While we didn't get the change that Queenslanders urgently need, thanks to the efforts of Fair Agenda members and our partners, decriminalisation hasn't been swept under the carpet and will now be an election issue.

You can sign onto the campaign at: http://www.fairagenda.org/decriminalise_abortion

Sign up to volunteer here: http://www.fairagenda.org/decriminalise_election_volunteer

Or chip in to: https://fairagenda.nationbuilder.com/decriminalise_abortion_donate_election

Written by Renee Carr
08 March 2017
Abortion access vital

Having the legal right to access an abortion is important for many reasons - including its important to women trying to escape abusive partners.

The Women's Legal Service in Queensland have explained that:

Having access to all reproductive healthcare options can be vital for a woman who is trying to escape an abusive partner.

All too often we see perpetrators of abuse limiting their partner's access to contraceptive and reproductive healthcare - and also using unwanted pregnancy as a way to try and trap their partner.

For a number of women who have turned to Women's Legal Service for help to escape their abusive partner, Queensland's current, outdated laws are making it even more difficult to access the services they desperately need, including pregnancy termination options.

For a woman who is facing emotional, financial and physical abuse - unwanted pregnancy can be devastating, and access to all reproductive healthcare options is critical for those who want to choose abortion to help them get safe from escalating violence and control.

Women who want to access abortion will often move mountains to make that happen because they know it is the best decision for them and their family at that time. Our current system makes this even harder for women, especially women experiencing domestic violence who are amongst our most vulnerable.

The last thing we want is to continue the current climate where women are forced to continue a pregnancy against their will because the access barriers to abortion are too great to overcome. For women experiencing domestic violence, they are then tied to an abusive partner forever as co-parents. 

This week White Ribbon have also released a statement declaring their support for full reproductive rights, stating:

"All women should have complete control over their reproductive and sexual health."

They have stated they take this position because:


  • We are opposed to all forms of control, violence and abuse. Restricting or denying a woman the autonomy to make decisions about her body is an attempt to maintain power and control over a woman. This is also known as reproductive coercion.
  • Sexual and reproductive rights are basic human rights. Denying a woman access to contraception and abortion is a denial of basic rights to health care. It impacts on a woman achieving economic and sexual self-determination and having full access to education and employment. It is a woman’s right to choose if and when she gets pregnant. It is a woman’s right to seek an abortion.
  • Women want access to abortion and control over their reproductive rights.
  • Criminalisation of abortion and restricted access to abortion and birth control (through high cost and limited availability) endanger women’s physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

Other experts agree. Professors Caroline de Costa and Heather Douglas wrote this week

"For women experiencing domestic violence, good access to abortion might be the difference between staying in a violent relationship and getting out."

 

This week Queensland MPs will be asked to vote on whether or not abortion should be decriminalised. This change won't be made without huge public support. Can you help show the undecided MPs you want them to vote for decriminalisation?

Click here to send your MP an email urging them to vote "yes" and stop criminalising women's reproductive healthcare decisions.

Or click here to sign and then share the petition with your friends.

Written by Renee Carr
25 February 2017
Decriminalise abortion

60% of voters are less likely to vote for an MP who votes to continue criminalising women’s healthcare decisions. That’s the new polling that Fair Agenda has just been able to release.

Last week I reached out and asked you to chip in to help show undecided MPs that the majority of Queenslanders want them to stop criminalising women’s healthcare decisions. And Fair Agenda members stepped up.

Thanks to the generous support of members like you, Fair Agenda was able to commission strategic polling of Queensland voters’ view of abortion. And the results could be game changing.

Yesterday, there were reports that the LNP might prevent its MPs from casting a free vote on the abortion decriminalisation package.[1] Today, because of Fair Agenda members – there is a story in the Courier Mail about the fact that 60% of Queenslanders are less likely to vote for any MP who opposed decriminalisation... And that 48% of the LNP's own supporters would also be less likely to vote for them if they vote against decriminalisation.

Fair Agenda has just sent this polling to every MP to ensure that as they consider next week’s vote they know that 82% of the Queenslanders they govern for agree it should be legal for a woman, in consultation with a medical professional, to decide to terminate a pregnancy. 

Below is a quick snapshot of the polling results. You can click here to view the full results.

On issues like these, having members willing to chip in to fund strategic tactics can be make or break.

So thank you to everyone who has donated funds, and to everyone who is donating their time to help influence their MP on this important issue!

- Renee for Fair Agenda

-References-
1. LNP still up in the air about its approach to abortion law reforms, Courier Mail, 20 February 2017.

Written by Renee Carr
21 February 2017
Decriminalise abortion

PRESS RELEASE

Women’s advocates and health professionals have spoken out against a parliamentary committee’s failure to support the urgent need for abortion decriminalisation in Queensland.

“To continue to deny women the legal right to make decisions about their own fertility and health is unfathomable, and unacceptable.” said Renee Carr, Executive Director of Fair Agenda.

“The only person in a position to properly understand the best reproductive health care decision for a woman in her multitude of relevant life circumstances is the woman herself.”

“The current laws are from the dark ages. Queensland women deserve for decriminalisation of their healthcare decisions to be a priority.” Ms Carr added.

Amanda Bradley from Children by Choice added: “These laws are fundamentally broken. They impact on women’s access to abortion services every single day.

“The situation is so absurd that we have women turning to us for financial assistance because current laws make it almost impossible to get the help they need at public hospitals.  

“Almost half of the funds we've had to raise to help women in need cover their costs are for women who have already been subjected to sexual assault or domestic violence - that our parliament wants to subject them to this further trauma through the medical system is horrible."

“The overwhelming weight of evidence provided to the committee by medical professionals and expert bodies was to recommend the passing of this legislation. Those who drive policy on all other healthcare issues are clearly in support of decriminalisation. It should be passed.”

Michael Moore, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia said:  “This is a healthcare issue, and should be dealt with like any other health matter. To have the Government interfering in a woman’s right to make this or any other health care decision for herself is wildly inappropriate.”

“The notion of applying the same approach to this medical procedure as we did a hundred years ago is ludicrous and inappropriate.” he added.

Kath Kerr, Social Worker at Women’s Legal Service Queensland added: "For a number of women who have turned to Women’s Legal Service for help to escape their abusive partner, the current, outdated laws are making it even more difficult to access the services they desperately need, including pregnancy termination options."

In response to recent reports that the LNP may prevent its MPs from casting a conscience vote, Ms Carr added:

“The majority of Queenslanders want abortion decriminalised. If not even a single LNP member is willing or able to vote to end the criminalisation of women’s health care decisions -- it begs the question, how well is the LNP representing Queenslanders on this issue?”

Young mother Karla Wareham-Deane added: “As a Queenslander, a lawyer, a mother, and a woman, I’m horrified that we’re even debating this in 2017.”

 

Want to take action? As Queensland MPs sit down to consider the committee report, can you make sure they receive a flood of local constituent messages urging them to support decriminalisation? Click here to remind your MP women are the experts in their own lives - and that their healthcare decisions shouldn’t be criminalised.

Written by Renee Carr
17 February 2017
postcard

If 2016 has shown us anything, it’s that we can’t take progress for granted.

That’s why it couldn’t be more important for communities like ours to keep building our power – not only to secure desperately needed advances; but also to make sure we can block the increasing attacks on progress we've previously made. And unfortunately our community’s ability to do that is constrained by our resources. 

Can you chip in to make sure our community can step up the fight for fairness and equality in 2017?

This year our 35,000 strong campaigning community has proven time and again that when we come together we can shape the national agenda, and win campaigns that are life-changing for thousands of women.

Together, we’ve secured $100 million of additional federal funding for family violence services; blocked the January 1 cuts to paid parental leave that would have hurt 80,000 new parents, won election commitments from key parties, and started to make training to prevent sexual violence a priority for university residences.

We’ve put these issues in national headlines, secured national TV coverage, had our campaigns covered in more than a dozen news outlets, and influenced the Government and key Senators.

All of this has been possible with just a tiny team to support our community. We've built incredible power. But it’s not nearly enough. At the same time we've been driving this critical impact, funding limitations have left us unable to campaign on other important issues.

If 2016 has shown us anything, it’s how vital it is that we double our efforts and stay vigilant about fighting for what we believe in. And we need your help to make that possible. Can you chip in now to help raise the $2,000 needed to step up our community's impact in early 2017?

If you donate more than $25, we’ll send you this limited edition Fair Agenda postcard as a thank you for your support!

An investment in Fair Agenda – and a fair and equal future – is exactly the kind of present we all need this holiday season.

We already know that 2017 will bring a vote on the Government’s fourth attempt to cut paid parental leave, a vote on abortion decriminalisation in Queensland, and the chance to secure training to prevent sexual violence for more university students.

But our community won’t be able to keep winning change without your support. Can you help put fair on the agenda in 2017? https://fairagenda.nationbuilder.com/donate_2017

In hope and action,

Renee for Fair Agenda

Written by Renee Carr
16 December 2016

The Labor Party have this morning re-affirmed their commitment to make changes in this area, and require judges to consider what should be done to protect vulnerable witnesses when family violence is alleged. But basic protections like this shouldn’t be contingent on which party is in government. 

That’s why we need to keep campaigning, and build the pressure on the Government to stop allowing survivors to be re-traumatised in court.

With this issue back in the headlines today, we have a critical opportunity to turn up the head on Government decision makers. 

Can you take a few minutes to email Minister for Women Michaelia Cash and Attorney-General Brandis to urge them to change the Coalition’s policy? 

Right now there are no protections in place to stop abusive ex-partners from cross-examining those they have abused in Family Court. For survivors like Eleanor, it means “I was forced to answer the questions of a man who had sexually assaulted and abused me for over a decade…. And that horrific experience was a major obstacle in my recovery from the trauma of my abuse.”

Last year Eleanor called on Fair Agenda members to stand with her, and community legal workers to call on our federal parliamentarians to make this change. More than 5,000 of us have answered that call so far. And in the lead up to the election we came together to flood the major parties with calls for change in this area. The pressure from Fair Agenda members and other community groups helped secure this pledge from the ALP.

We'll still need to see the detail of this proposal, and there are some concerns that judges will still have discretion to allow the practice - but this is a big step in the right direction.

Our campaign is working. That's why it’s critical we keep building the pressure around this issue. 

Click here for tips on what to send Minister Cash and Attorney-General Brandisor email them directly via: senator.cash@aph.gov.au and senator.brandis@aph.gov.au

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The full letter from ALP leader Bill Shorten to Fair Agenda members is available here and below:

Dear Renee and the Fair Agenda team,

I’m aware that Fair Agenda and your supporters, alongside advocates and experts, have been campaigning to stop violent perpetrators cross-examining survivors of domestic violence. Thank you for your work. I want to let you know that we are listening to you.

We have listened to the Productivity Commission, to advocates, and to experts, and Labor is taking action.

Today, on White Ribbon day, Terri Butler and I affirmed a plan that we will enact under a Labor Government. Right now, survivors of domestic violence are too often made to endure cross-examination from their violent ex-partners. That must no longer happen.

As Prime Minister, I will require judges to consider what should be done to protect vulnerable witnesses when family violence is alleged. And I'll equip them with the power and the resources to say enough is enough - no one should have to be re-traumatised by having their violent ex cross-examine them in the witness box. Labor will commit more than $43 million over four years to make sure this practice ceases.

Your advocacy is very important, and your advocacy is still needed. Malcolm Turnbull’s government is presiding over massive cuts to legal services - with a 30% funding cliff coming up in July. And his party continues to ignore your advocacy, the experts in the field, and the Productivity Commission; they are not taking action to reform cross-examination. This should not be a partisan issue. Please continue to push for these important measures, so that we don’t have to wait until the next election to resolve this problem.

On behalf of Terri Butler, Mark Dreyfus, Tanya Plibersek and all of my Labor colleagues, thank you again for getting in touch with us about this important issue. Please keep up your good work.

Yours sincerely

Bill Shorten MP
Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders 

 


*If you have been affected by sexual assault or domestic violence, you can access 24/7 counselling support at 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).*

Written by Renee Carr
23 November 2016
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