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WCHM Quarterly February 2017

Welcome to 2017. It is already February and what a year it has been already with so much going on overseas, nationally and locally in the ACT. In this quarterly we will take a look at these and what they mean for women, and what they mean for WCHM’s work.

Since our last Quarterly we’ve been very busy, so in Women and Work we provide an update on what has been happening and what we are planning.

While it will be a busy year we are looking forward to 2017, and to sharing the reports of findings from work that is currently underway, and inviting you to participate in other work that we’re just beginning.
We hope that you can stay cool in the very warm summer weather we are experiencing, and look forward to working closely with you all during the remainder of 2017.

A New Year for Women?

By Marcia Williams—Chief Executive Officer

In the US we have watched with concern as we saw the new president, in one of his first official acts, sign an executive order to bring back a policy that blocks US funding to foreign organisations that perform or give advice on abortions.  This decision has been widely condemned by women’s groups and Non Government Organisations everywhere, as the legislation affects women’s health and reproductive rights in some of the world’s poorest countries. There are concerns that this will reduce the provision of information and knowledge to women in those countries, and will impact on the delivery of family planning services, HIV programs, and maternal programs.

And in Russia the parliament voted 380-3 to introduce a new law which reduces the punishment for first offenses of violence against family members that do not result in serious injury and do not occur more than once a year.  Since then it has been reported that incidents of domestic violence have more than doubled in Russia’s fourth biggest city but there were no figures available for other big cities.

Then we saw 673 anti-Trump Women’s Marches which took place in a world-wide protest involving an estimated 4.78 million people. This included marches in the Australian cities of Melbourne and Sydney – and of course here in Canberra too.  Institutional discrimination, sexual assault, the wage gap, attacks on women of colour and the LGBTI community, as well as reproductive rights, were raised during 30 minutes of speeches before the march in Garema Place.  And banners had slogans like “Our rights won’t be Trumped” and “Girls just want to have fundamental rights”.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

In speeches to the National Press Club from the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten included health as one of the subjects they spoke about.  The Prime Minister spoke about a new focus on preventive health in 2017, in addition to progressing the Health Care Homes and mental health reforms.  The Opposition Leader talked about listening to Australians about the quality and adequacy of their healthcare, and acting on their suggestions about how to improve it.

In the meantime, the release of the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2017 – which coincided with the 33rd anniversary of Medicare – identified the rising out-of-pocket health costs for Australians. The Report found that for the ACT:

  • GP numbers were low compared to other states and territories, recording 73.2 per 100,000 people. While the figure had increased by four from 2014-2015, it was still the lowest rate among all states and territories, and less than the 97.4 national rate;
  • ACT patients also waited longer to have an urgent appointment with GPs, as only 40.4 per cent saw a doctor within four hours compared to the 63.6 per cent national average;
  • while bulk-billing rates increased to 60.3 per cent in the ACT, 2.2 per cent higher than last year, they were below the nation’s 85.4 per cent average; and
  • Patients in the ACT were less satisfied with their GPs – 90.1 per cent of people believed their doctor always or often listened to them carefully, the second lowest figure among states and territories and below the national average.

The affordability of abortions was highlighted in results published in January by researchers led by La Trobe University’s Judith Lumley Centre. Their study explored the experiences of women who had medical or surgical abortions through a private group of clinics.  2,326 women were surveyed after attending one of 14 Dr Marie Clinics located in NSW, Victoria, the ACT, Queensland and Western Australia, where public abortion lists are limited, restricted to exceptional cases or don’t exist.  The study found that a third of the women suffered financial difficulties in paying the costs, and that women are forgoing food and delaying bills to pay for abortions as costs remain in the hundreds of dollars despite the introduction of an abortion drug. Out of about 1500 women who answered a question about whether they had to forgo necessities to pay for an abortion, 35 per cent said they had. Among those, 71 per cent had delayed paying bills and 35 per cent said they had skipped food and groceries.  The study was published as the federal government reviews rebates payable on surgical abortions. It was hoped the abortion pill RU486, also known as mifepristone, would make the choice more accessible. But up to two years later – when the women were surveyed in the six months to April 2015 – only 35 per cent of those eligible had chosen a medical abortion, with one in 10 saying they had not even known about it.  The study also revealed that related tests and medical care associated with the drug, which is distributed in Australia through the Marie Stopes Foundation, still added up to about the same price as a surgical abortion, an average cost of $450 to $500 out of pocket for early terminations. Medical abortions cost more upfront than the surgical option. This highlights the need for making public options available for women seeking to reduce the financial burden and make it more accessible.
5546043c-3065-402e-b545-75817625ce99In our last two quarterly newsletters we looked at how housing is a gendered issue and which groups of women are affected, and discussed the issues  for the ACT and how homelessness was becoming a reality for some women in the ACT.  In a report released in early February – Specialist  homelessness services 2015–16 – the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that in Canberra:

  • 4,652 clients were assisted, and 56% of those were women;
  • 7 in 10 Canberrans who sought services for domestic violence were women;
  • 8 in 10 people who sought assistance for sexual assault were women;
  • 6 in 10 who sought help due to a mental health issue were women;
  • 6 in 10 people seeking assistance under the age of 18 were female;
  • 7 out of 10 single parents looking for assistance in the ACT were women;
  • 44 % of people aged 55 years or older who sought help from homelessness services last year were women;
  • a greater percentage of ACT clients needed accommodation compared with the national SHS population (76% and 56%, respectively);
  • there was the highest percentage of clients experiencing repeat periods of homelessness, at 7.9 per cent, larger than the 5.6 per cent national average;
  • nearly 2 requests for assistance could not be met each day; and
  • funding for homelessness services dropped from $24.8 million in 2012-2013 to $20.1 million in 2015-2016, in real terms, for the ACT.

And of course there are a number of key reforms currently being undertaken in the ACT including the ACT Government to deliver on the Parliamentary Agreement (PA) and election commitments. WCHM will want to contribute to some of these, including three new nurse-led Walk-in Centres in Gungahlin, Weston Creek and the Inner North; assessing the benefits of extending the centres’ hours of operation; establishing the Office for Mental Health to roll out and oversee mental health services and provider funding; appointing a Preventative Health Coordinator and developing a comprehensive preventative health strategy; improving housing affordability; strengthening specialist homelessness and housing support services to make sure vulnerable groups (eg. older women, indigenous communities and women escaping violence) get the support they need; supporting people seeking housing who have a lived experience of trauma; convening a homelessness summit in 2017 bringing together all key stakeholders to develop innovative proposals to combat homelessness; and strengthening community consultation processes in the ACT.

You can see that, as we highlighted in our Annual Report, the priority health and wellbeing issues that WCHM has been engaged in since we began 25 years ago are still issues – reproductive health and sexuality; the emotional and mental health needs of women; violence against women; housing and homelessness, the health of ageing women; and the health needs of women as carers among others. While there have been many achievements in these areas during that time, more than 25 years later these are still issues which are concerns for ACT women. The Centre will need to continue the work it does, together with others, to ensure that women’s health and wellbeing remains a priority along with the social determinants of health.

Women and Work Update

Welcome to WCHM Women and Work.

This month, WCHM welcomed Emma Davidson to the newly created role of Deputy CEO. Emma brings experience in health and women’s issues from her time in the Equality Rights Alliance, Australian Medical Association, and volunteering for Maternity Coalition and Women’s Electoral Lobby. She also brings management experience from Navy, the community sector, and small business.

And we recently said goodbye to Angela Carnovale who has worked with us since 2009, and has now made a decision to move on and to work in her chosen field of social work. We wish her luck and extend our thanks for her contribution to WCHM especially in the areas of social research and advocacy.

Over the next few months the WCHM Board will be developing a new strategic plan and we will be engaging members and stakeholders shortly so that we can seek your views.  We look forward to your participation!

In our last e-bulletin, we had just launched our Safety Mapping Tool.  Since then we have had many women (and men) use the tool.  ACT Government currently has a consultation about what could be improved about Haig Park.  The responses we received on the Safety Mapping Tool identified the single suburb of Braddon as feeling the most unsafe, with the majority of those being female and with Haig Park being the area that 80% of the women respondents identifies as unsafe.  So don’t forget to take a look at our Safety Mapping Tool and use it to identify areas where you feel safe or unsafe in Canberra, and why.  It can be completed on your PC or on a mobile device, and will help WCHM to collect information to inform gendered perspectives of public spaces and future policy and planning efforts in the ACT.
Access the Safety Mapping Tool here: https://www.wchm.org.au/safetymapping/


We have been busy looking at the results of our Women’s Health Utilisation Survey, and will be conducting forums with women to further inform the results we received – if you are interested in being involved in those forums let us know by emailing us your details at admin@wchm.org.au
We will again be hosting – in conjunction with the University of Canberra – forums exploring the topic of how Canberra women from a wide range of backgrounds use (or don’t use) digital health technologies.  We are interested in hearing about what ACT women think about these kinds of technologies, how they use them, which they find most helpful or useful, and which they don’t. And what they want from these technologies that is not currently offered? If you are interested in being involved in these discussions over the next few weeks let us know by emailing us your details at admin@wchm.org.au .

WCHM’s scoping study about young women living with autoimmune disease(s) in the ACT helped us identify the degree to which information, services and support were relevant to younger women, and found that there was a need to explore this issue further – and with women in the age bracket of 40-55 as well.  So WCHM will be conducting a more detailed social research project to seek the views of ACT women.  If you are interested in being involved in this research let us know by emailing us your details at admin@wchm.org.au . Or share this with others you know who might be interested!

Google recently launched a new health search tool to provide more reliable information. Google search results will now show information, fact checked by a panel of doctors and the Mayo Clinic, for over 900 commonly searched for health conditions.  The new “health cards” feature will include an outline of the condition, symptoms, diagnosis, and prevalence according to age at the top of search results. While the new Google health tool will be an improvement, we remind you it is important that you always consult a health professional rather than using web based information for diagnosis or treatment of health issues.  In fact in 2010 WCHM conducted research with women in the ACT about searching for health and wellbeing information, and women told us that they needed help in identifying what information on the Internet was credible, trustworthy and right for them.  As a result, WCHM developed a tool – WCHM ASSURED – to assist women to navigate health and wellbeing information online. You can find it at https://www.wchm.org.au/resources-for-women/guide-to-searching-for-health-information-online/.

ACT Government Consultations

Renewing Haig Park

The ACT Government is developing a masterplan for Haig Park and now is your opportunity to influence the design. The Government wants to hear from Canberrans on what they value about the park, what could be improved and their vision for Haig Park.  To be involved go to https://www.yoursay.act.gov.au/haigpark

Activate Civic

The ACT Government is asking Canberrans to help shape the future of the growing city centre – which includes Braddon to the Lake, ANU to Cooyong Street.  To be involved go to https://www.yoursay.act.gov.au/activatecivic

Worth Checking Out

Why Gender Research Matters Now More Than Ever

The Clayman Institute explains why exploring societal problems with a gendered lens is particularly important given the current political climate and environment of ‘alternative facts’. The post also emphasises the importance of an intersectional approach to ensure an understanding of the complex interactions of gender and ethnicity. read more

Reconciliation Australia, February 2017

The Australian Reconciliation Barometer is a national research study conducted every two years to measure and compare attitudes and perceptions towards reconciliation in both the general Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Full report  and overview.

What Donald Trump’s Win Has Done To Australian Women And Ambition

Article by the Huffington Post about how Trumps win affect Australian Women


The She Leads Program is YWCA Canberra’s leadership pathway for women who are looking to explore and develop their leadership potential

Donald Trump reinstates abortion gag rule as women’s rights advocates express dismay

Article explaining Trumps abortion gag rule and its affect.

Events and Dates of Significance

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Each year in Australia, February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and it is held to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, how many women are affected by the disease each year, the impact it has on these women, the risk factors for ovarian cancer and its diagnosis and treatment.  It can be difficult to diagnose ovarian cancer because the symptoms are ones that many women will have from time to time, and they are often symptoms of less serious and more common health problems.  All women need to KNOW the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, and ASK for help if they have symptoms.  Every woman needs to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Find out more at https://ovariancancer.net.au/signs-and-symptoms/

Know your numbers for better health

Women tend to start the year with a resolution based on improving our health: eat healthier, exercise more, stress less. Often these resolutions are very broad and we quickly feel overwhelmed and slip back into our old patterns. Instead, Jean Hailes is promoting one healthy change that’s not hard to do; It’s a simple step, but an important one that points you in the right direction. All it involves is picking up the phone and making an appointment with your GP to get your regular health checks.

Healthy Weight Week

This is an initiative of the Dietitians Association of Australia, raising awareness about the importance of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Events are held in February each year to help promote this message – the week is about good nutrition, not about promoting quick weight-loss or dieting, rather cooking at home, eating the right portions and maintaining a healthy weight throughout life. http://healthyweightweek.com.au/eat-better/

International Women’s Day

Don’t forget that this year Wednesday, March 8 2017 marks 106 years since the first International Women’s Day. The theme for the IWD 2017 campaign is #BeBoldForChange.

Safe Motherhood for All Inc. Birth Dignity Survey.

Safe Motherhood for All are seeking to find out if Australian Women have the birth they want and to gain a fuller picture of Australian women’s experiences of dignity during her birth.

The principle of human dignity is the ultimate value on which respectful healthcare depends. Dignity encompasses the twin ideals of respect and autonomy.  It resonates loudly in the maternity context, where women are often vulnerable, both physically and emotionally.

The survey is open until 28 Feb 2017.  It is open to all women who have birthed in Australia in the past two years.  You can access the  Survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Dignity_Survey

Consumer/Community Health Forum: Health service issues in the ACT

Consumers are invited to have their say and provide feedback about health service issues in the ACT.  Health Care Consumers’ Association (HCCA) is hosting Capital Health Network’s (CHN) Consumer/Community Health Forum. Join them for lunch (provided) and participate in the forum to provide valuable input about the issues that matter to you. This event will provide consumers with information about CHN’s Needs Assessment process and give consumers an opportunity to inform the development of priorities relating to four key focus areas:

  • Disability and the NDIS (the interface between the NDIS and primary care)
  • Carers
  • Vulnerable children and youth
  • Families with complex health and social care issues.

It will also explore other important health service related issues or unmet need in health or social care in the ACT.
Tues. 28 Feb.  Lunch at noon (provided), followed by the forum 1-3pm at Health Care Consumers’ Association (HCCA), 100 Maitland Street, Hackett.  Please RSVP by 20 Feb. to Melissa Hobbs: m.hobbs@chnact.org.au or 02 6287 8059.

Dementia Research Forum

Alzheimer’s Australia ACT and the Heart Foundation is pleased to invite you to the inaugural Dementia Research Forum Great Expectations: Inspiring Hope Through Research event. This full day event will bring together respected and well established leaders to share knowledge and expertise.  It will showcase the current and leading research in Australia, understand how to translate research into practice, and to develop meaningful and collaborative networks within the field. Monday. 27 February at QT Hotel, Canberra.  Register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk