Amended in 2004
Also visit www.wel.org.au for the Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia website to see national policies and information about other WEL groups around the country.
1. WEL’s Vision
WEL Australia is an independent, non-party political organisation dedicated to creating a society where women’s participation and their ability to fulfil their potential are unrestricted, acknowledged and respected and where women and men share equally in society’s responsibilities and rewards.
The policies of Women’s Electoral Lobby are based on the premise that a just society must recognise that women’s rights, responsibilities, contributions and needs are of equal value with men’s, though not necessarily identical. Social, economic, technological and scientific development and achievement must be pursued in ways that give the goals of justice for all the highest priority. WEL Australia’s policies as a feminist, non-party political lobby are directed to three basic objectives:
Redressing resistant and persistent inequities in the current position of women vis a vis men in society.
Ensuring that women can make an equal contribution to Australia’s future development.
Choosing strategies on an ethical and responsible basis, recognising that policies and actions which advantage some women at the expense of other women with fewer resources are not in the general feminist interest.
Current political emphases throughout the world on economic problems obscure social inequities. This not only aggravates and hinders the redress of inequities, but also prevents women making their full contribution to the solution of problems.
WEL’s policies are based on the following principles:
All women, in their diversity, are included.
Social structures must recognise and incorporate women’s claims to the rights, resources and responsibilities of full citizenship.
Economic goals must serve social objectives developed by both men and women.
The diverse interests of women can only be adequately and appropriately represented in political and other forms of governance by structures in which diverse groups of women participate equally with men at all levels. Current economic and social situations peculiar to women must be recognised and injustices redressed, particularly by overcoming the bias which accords central value to male-identified skills and tasks and marginalises women’s skills, concerns and contributions.
Governments have a major role in protecting the marginalised and disadvantaged, by distributing resources so that they can participate fully in society and its decision-making processes.
Essential services such as health, education, and child care should be provided by public and/or not-for-profit agencies. For-profit agencies in the provision of services, the Government must ensure good quality.
Policies based on the assumption that members of family units necessarily share income should be rejected. The individual is the most appropriate unit for taxation, social security and other financial operations.
The unpaid work of women must not be relied on to substitute or compensate for inadequate government services. The contributions that women make should be valued regardless of the employment status of the contributor. Unpaid work, most of which is performed by women, supports the whole of society. The concealment and devaluation of this work, together with its inequitable distribution, must be remedied.
The assumption that the public domain is mainly the concern of men and the consequent relegation of women’s concerns and responsibilities to the private domain must be appropriately and fully addressed. Social arrangements should facilitate the participation of both men and women in public and private life, for example encouraging responsible fathering by men.
Equal citizenship and better understanding of both women’s and men’s concerns require that all fields of social activity should be equally respected and valued.
Governments should not use laws or policies to intervene in the choices women make concerning their health, reproductive processes, marital status, sexual identity and activities unless they harm another living person. Government responsibility in relation to these matters extends only to education, regulation of the quality of services and products, and protection against coercion, to ensure that choices are informed and freely made.
Women should not be coerced into choosing between care, unpaid and paid activities by government decisions or moral persuasion. Income support payments and tax concessions should not be linked to “employment” status. The current payment arrangements for low-income families militate against the free choice of activities because of high levels of effective tax rates.
Decisions on workforce participation made by carers (mothers and others) should be supported by the provision of affordable, accessible quality care services, supported by adequate government funding.
Decisions on child bearing are individual choices which women make about their own circumstances. Government polices should not pressure women to make these choices in less than optimal circumstances.
In working to achieve its objectives, WEL will build international, national and intra-state links with other organizations who share the same principles and policies.
WEL will provide a space for women to be involved in the political process, as well as access to mentoring and learning opportunities.
A.) LEADERSHIP, GOVERNANCE and the LAW
1. Equal Political Representation
Women are underrepresented in all our public institutions. WEL policy seeks to increase the representation of women in all – both elected and appointed – public offices as a priority until such time as women are present in Australian public life in numbers proportionate to their representation in the community.
WEL calls on the Australian governments to honour their obligations under the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 7 and Article 4 by taking immediate action to dramatically increase the numbers of women in all houses of our parliaments and local government.
WEL supports equal representation for women in all elected and appointed offices.
WEL calls on Federal, State/Territory and Local governments to institute family friendly practices, such as the provision of child care, which will enable women with family responsibilities to hold public office.
2. Gender Mainstreaming
WEL believes good public policy must be based on a clear understanding of its impact on women and men. Hence, WEL endorses the United Nations’ principle of gender mainstreaming.
3. Boards & Committees
Sound decision making requires an equal representation of women and men on all decision making bodies, to ensure policy and planning utilises the best expertise available and is in the best interests of all Australians.
WEL calls on the governments to ensure that all publicly funded boards and committees are constituted so that the number of women and men are equal, by undertaking a pro-active recruitment program, regular monitoring of appointments and transparent reporting of all such bodies within their jurisdiction.
WEL calls on all major public and private corporations and organizations to acknowledge that their pool of top decision making expertise is limited and to review appointment processes to their boards and committees so that more women are appointed to vacancies as they arise.
WEL supports transparent processes for appointment to public office, including advertising of available positions.
4. Business Women
Governments and the business community must acknowledge the huge contribution of women as both leaders and workers in this vital sector of the Australian economy, and must ensure that the opinions, ideas and vision of Australian’s businesswomen are incorporated into all decision making processes.
5. National Women’s Centre
WEL supports the establishment of a National Women’s Centre in the ACT, to house national women’s organisations and to hold and display records both acknowledging and demonstrating the contribution made by women to the nation and of their achievements in all their diversity.
6. Competition Policy
WEL supports the principle that all application of the National Competition Policy should be balanced by consideration of public interest, particularly in determination of which services and commodities are appropriately subject to competition and privatisation. Essential services such as water, electricity, public transport, health care and education should be exempt from competition policy.
WEL calls on governments to put all necessary measures in place to ensure that women’s right to privacy is secure, that personal information is only collected for authorised purposes and that no data matching is carried out across agencies or sectors which violates the privacy, security or safety of women.
IWEL calls for measures to be put in place to ensure that all women are given the opportunity to participate in the debate about Australia’s constitution and to be informed about its implications and potential for women in particular. Should there be amendments to the Constitution, WEL calls for inclusion of a principle which guarantees equal rights for both women and men.
WEL acknowledges that advertising is a powerful communication medium designed to influence people’s attitudes and behaviour and therefore must portray women in ways that are realistic and reflect their diverse roles, cultures and aspirations. Offensive, stereotypical or misleading portrayals of women or of violence in advertising cannot be excused. WEL opposes the use of demeaning or derogatory representations of women and men in advertising.
The mass media is the main source of information for the majority of Australian people as well as reflecting and reinforcing attitudes and behaviour, and continues to be dominated by male decision makers and male attitudes.
WEL calls on governments to put mechanisms in place which ensure a diversity of ownership and control of media outlets, enhance the ratio of women to men in senior, decision making and creative positions in the media until they reflect the gender balance in society, and encourage media to facilitate women’s equal access as commentators.
Discrimination against women is a violation of human rights. Australia’s cultural and social history has led to systemic discrimination as well as to individual acts of discrimination.
As per Article 2 of CEDAW, WEL calls on governments to institute legislative and other measures which prohibit and seek to eradicate discrimination against women.
WEL supports the Sex Discrimination Act and is opposed to any changes which would weaken its effectiveness. WEL further calls for the removal of all exemptions for religious and other bodies from the Sex Discrimination Act.
WEL calls for a new framework such as a national plan of action within which women’s fundamental right to equal opportunity and equal citizenship is acknowledged and promoted. Such a framework would encompass effective equality legislation, the independence and proper resourcing of bodies charged with implementing such legislation, exemption from court fees for discrimination complaints, provision of legal aid for test cases and the systematic review of legislation and policies for discriminatory implications.
B.) WORK AND INCOME
1. Economic Policy
WEL affirms that, as the quality of life cannot be interpreted in terms of economics policies should be developed with the aim of achieving social goals, through economic and other means. .
WEL believes that citizenship involves the right to dignity, which should be ensured by adequate minimum income support, along with economic and social opportunities. WEL believes that citizenship also involves the obligation to contribute fairly so that others may be offered the same right.
An adequately funded public sector is needed to ensure that equity goals and obligations are achieved, using market regulation where necessary. WEL supports the provision of universally available public sector services at low or no costs where this provision achieves social goals of equity or other conditions which contribute to quality of life, and where market mechanisms are inappropriate or inadequate for the fulfillment of these aims.
Measures of economic well being and quality of life need to be developed and implemented. These must reflect more than traded goods and should include natural resources, unpaid work and measures of relationships as factors to be assessed in measuring national wealth and quality of life.
WEL notes that aggregate data can be misleading. Therefore, policy and program development should always be based on disaggregate data.
WEL affirms the legitimacy of taxation as the foundation of a redistributive system oriented to social equity, and recognises the need to collect adequate public revenue.
WEL believes that tax systems must be progressive, based on ability to pay and should recognise the individual and her income as the unit, not any family unit. Income support systems should be based on individual entitlements rather than on the family unit, as individuals within households do not necessarily share income fairly. No one should be forced into dependency on another by denial of income support.
WEL belives that principles of progressive taxation are undermined by fiscal instruments, such as flat-rate consumption taxes, which disproportionately affect low income earners, many of whom are women. WEL supports all efforts to remove such disproportionate and inequitable impacts.
3. Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action
WEL affirms Article 11 of CEDAW, which upholds the right of women to work, to equal employment opportunities and working conditions as men, and to equal pay for work of equal value.
WEL is in favour of pro-active measures to increase women’s access to employment (on merit) as well as anti-discrimination legislation (such as that providing for equal employment opportunity). WEL believes that any form of affirmative action/equal employment opportunity legislation requires strong audit and accountability provisions. WEL considers that the effective implementation of legislation requiring employers to review and eliminate all policies and practices that discriminate, directly or indirectly, against women must be a high government priority. WEL notes that the victims of discrimination bear a high personal and financial cost in their efforts to obtain redress, and supports the development of systems which reduce this burden. The limited scope of coverage under the legislation, along with the need to strengthen monitoring measures, requires additional government action.
WEL advocates equal employment opportunity legislation cover all organisations with twenty or more employees.
WEL supports the statement that ‘it is a human right, not a privilege for a woman to work while pregnant.’ WEL advocates the implementation of wide-ranging programs and legislative changes to facilitate the safe and discrimination-free accommodation of women in the world of paid work.
4. Child Raising and other Caring Responsibilities
WEL believes that until society in general, and employers in particular, recognise most men are fathers, and provide flexible working arrangements for men to fulfill these responsibilities, women will continue to bear an excessive responsibility in private life thus limiting their participation in public life.
Women also form the majority of people with caring responsibilities for relatives and friends.
WEL believes that workers must be able to engage in employment without discrimination because of their caring responsibilities, and efforts must be made to minimize the conflict between the two roles.
WEL urges governments to support the provision of accessible, quality childcare and respite care on an equitable basis, the costs of which should be shared by parents, governments, employers and other stakeholders.
WEL supports the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 156: Equal Opportunities and Equal Treatment for Men and Women Workers: Workers with Family Responsibilities, which advocates work practices which accept that both men and women have family responsibilities and urges the Government to ensure its implementation in full.
WEL supports a system of paid parental leave which is at least equal to that in the ILO Maternity Protection Convention. Such a system would ensure payment to women who are unemployed, and/or engaged on a casual and contract basis and those who do not meet traditional service requirements. WEL urges the federal government to affirm its commitment to paid parental leave, as would be required by a full, unreserved ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Whilst recognising the needs of women not in paid employment, paid parental leave should not be subsumed under welfare payments, and, though government funded, should be paid through the employer.
WEL considers that child-care, respite care and other family care facilities involves highly skilled work and should be remunerated accordingly.
5. Work, Wages and Industrial Relations
WEL affirms the right of every person to have equal opportunity to paid work, regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, marital status, family responsibilities or sexual preference. Work of equal value must be equally paid. All skills, products and services, paid and unpaid, must be valued.
WEL considers that an industrial relations system which promotes individual contracts and decentralised bargaining disadvantages most women workers. WEL supports strengthening and maintenance of the award system.
WEL is unconvinced that individual work contracts deliver equitable outcomes to women and supports the removal of secrecy clauses from the relevant legislation so that research can be undertaken on the impact and outcomes of individual work contracts for women.
WEL opposes forced casualisation of work and supports women’s choice to work as a casual, permanent part-time or a full-time employee. WEL supports access to the conversion of regular and/or long-term casual employment to full or permanent part-time status, if individual women so choose. Additionally, WEL supports an increase in casual loadings where existing rates do not properly compensate casual workers for the uncertainty and ‘foregone’ entitlements attached to their employment status. Additionally, recognising women’s patterns of employment, WEL supports legislative change which provides for portable long service leave, that is, an entitlement to long service leave which is linked to years of employment overall and not to years of employment with individual employers .
Women in paid employment, who may have to work reduced hours due to their caring responsibilities should still be considered for promotion, training and other work related opportunities.
WEL supports initiatives to reassess and value skills of women in paid and unpaid work.
WEL supports increased public funding and improved funding systems for industries in which low paid women are concentrated, to support better wages and conditions for these women. Such industries include health, education, community services, manufacturing and outwork.
WEL acknowledges that equity in the workforce can only be achieved through the adoption of positive measures and actions by governments, employers, unions and industrial tribunals. WEL supports Affirmative Action, Anti Discrimination and Occupational Health and Safety legislation.
6. Superannuation and Retirement Income
WEL recognises the centrality of the pension system. Women should be entitled to a minimum pension regardless of their spouses’ incomes, in recognition of the fact that women’s incomes and their ability to save are less than men’s as a result of their ongoing family responsibilities.
WEL is concerned that the levels of superannuation accrued by many women will be insufficient to support them in later life. This state of affairs is due in large part to women’s intermittent labour force participation (which is due in turn women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid caring and domestic labour) and to women’s concentration in casual, part-time, temporary, contract and low-paid work.
WEL believes that the coverage of women by superannuation is an inadequate indicator of actual future income security, given the situation described above. WEL notes that the labour market experience of other marginally attached workers, who comprise a growing proportion of Australia’s workforce, also excludes them from using the current system of superannuation to guarantee their income in later life.
WEL believes that public debate on issues of financial autonomy in later life must be encouraged and that, in the absence of any national superannuation program with the power to redistribute, further attention be given to other measures to provide income security. This is especially true for those whose disadvantaged position in the labour market has made existing superannuation system an ineffective method of guaranteeing future financial security.
WEL opposes any reduction in superannuation tax which redirects tax concessions to high income earners.
7. Sex Workers
WEL upholds the right of workers to be free from discrimination on the basis of their occupation and advocates that sex work be governed only by the same laws as other industries, such as Occupational Health and Safety legislation, Zoning laws and advertising guidelines.
C.) COMMUNITY AND FAMILY
1. Responsibility for Costs of Children
WEL calls for recognition of children as our future, and for the community to recognise their value and provide supportive arrangements for mothers and fathers to combine parenting with participation in public life.
2. Children’s Services/Child Care
Children are our future and their care is a community issue. Changes in family structures, employment patterns and expectations require an extended provision of accessible child care to adequately service the needs of all types of families. Child care should be provided on the same basis as schooling of older children, a responsibility of society.
WEL believes that increased funding for child care services is necessary to ensure all families access to quality, affordable care. WEL opposes the privatization of child care services.
WEL calls on the Commonwealth Government to fulfil its responsibility to provide resources for the establishment and maintenance of an adequate number of high quality child care places to ensure that both children and parents have the services and support necessary to allow for personal development, paid work, family responsibilities, community service and respite in times of stress. The care should be of a high standard, which requires the provision of training and proper remuneration for child care workers and a sound educational program for the children.
3. Women’s Services
WEL supports Commonwealth/State/Territory jointly funded crisis services for women, with and without children. These include refuges and services such as rape crisis, abortion counselling, incest and domestic violence. These services must be available to all women in all States and Territories, with special provision made for geographically remote locations. Such services should be provided in a form which, as a priority, takes account of the needs of clients, including privacy and cultural factors. WEL calls for the maintenance and improvement of programs and procedures to eliminate sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women in workplaces, educational institutions and in the provision of goods and services.
4. Family Law
WEL advocates changes to the Family Law Act to ensure women are not penalised for the unpaid time and resources they have contributed to the household. Custody, property, superannuation and maintenance settlements must be considered together to ensure that post-marriage outcomes are equitable. Family Court judges and lawyers must be required to undertake in-service training to alert them to the way in which apparently equitable marital arrangements put men at an advantage after divorce.
WEL opposes the introduction of a Tribunal which would prevent women from obtaining legal advice.
5. Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, and constitutes an abuse of power which embarrasses, humiliates, intimidates and coerces. It may be intentional or unintentional and it may constitute criminal behaviour. It creates a hostile and threatening environment in which victims feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.
WEL supports appropriately funded and resourced Legal Aid for women who have experienced sexual harassment.
WEL calls on governments to provide funding for education and training programs which would address the cultural and organisations factors which allow sexual harassment to continue.
WEL supports expansion of Commonwealth Legal Aid services for family law, custody and discrimination matters.
6. Arts & Culture
WEL recognises that the arts play a major role in shaping Australia’s cultural identity and that all artists deserve recognition and value in our community.
WEL calls on the governments to use Arts funding to ensure that women share in the development of Australian cultural life and that their views and skills are represented equally. This requires training programs, monitoring and research and changing employment practices to allow them to be combined with domestic responsibilities. As the Arts both reflect and create the cultural norms in elite areas and in the community, WEL considers that a level of intervention as part of a national commitment to gender equity is both appropriate and necessary.
WEL deplores the production, performance, display and distribution of any material which presents women and children as objects for violence or sexual exploitation.
WEL supports the maintenance of affordable access to a universal, high standard telecommunications network, particularly for socially or geographically isolated women. The telecommunications network is essential for providing personal contact and emergency help, and to facilitate education and employment for isolated women.
9. Gun Laws
WEL supports uniform gun laws which restrict the possession of firearms to essential uses, e.g. police, farmers and security guards.
WEL endorses the fundamental right of all women to be safe. WEL endorses the statement of the National Committee on Violence Against Women [Position Paper, May 1991]: Everyone, everywhere must become intolerant of violence against women and uphold the belief that no woman deserves violence and that the use of violence is a crime, and further, that no provocation diminishes the responsibility of the perpetrator for his own behaviour. Violence, as the abuse of power to assert and maintain control over women’s lives, must not be in any way condoned under any legislation, administration or jurisdiction.
WEL calls on governments to ensure all law enforcement officials and members of the judiciary are provided with training to enable adequate support and protection of women who are experiencing domestic violence.
11. Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Women
WEL acknowledges the occupation and custodianship of the Australian continent by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and apologise for past injustices.
WEL recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women hold unique and complex identities and cultures, and acknowledges the central role played by Indigenous women in working for social, political and economic change and advocates that governments support Indigenous women in their struggle for justice and self determination.
WEL opposes any action by governments or other agencies which deny Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women any of the rights, benefits or protection from discrimination incorporated in or implied by these policies. Discrimination on the grounds of race or culture is totally unacceptable in Australian society.
WEL calls on governments to provide adequate resources to address the health and welfare problems which are widespread in indigenous communities and affect indigenous women, such as family violence and sexual assualt.
12. Older Women and Ageing
WEL recognises that ageing is a lifelong experience and brings with it both benefits and disadvantages which are grounded in the discrimination and opportunity women have experienced in earlier stages of life. Current discriminatory policies and practices towards older women compound the disadvantages. WEL abhors all discrimination throughout the life-cycle including after retirement.
WEL supports policies and education which counteract the characterisation of older women as universally dependent and a burden. The latter view neglects and stifles older women’s agency and autonomy. WEL calls for the recognition of older women and their continuing contribution to the community, and for governments to ensure that all older women can live in environments that are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing capacities, with adequate access to income, health care, education, transport, work, and leisure.
WEL considers elder abuse completely unacceptable and urges governments to address this issue.
WEL calls on governments to ensure community care and nursing homes services, which are mostly used by women, are adequately funded.
WEL supports all measures to ensure that women with disabilities are accorded equal and identical rights as all other Australians including their inherent right to respect for their human worth and dignity, support needed to enable them to exercise their human rights and to realise their individual capacities for physical, social, emotional and intellectual development.
14. Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Trans-genderWomen
WEL deplores the oppression of lesbian, bi-sexual and trans-gender women. WEL recognises that the oppression of lesbian, bi-sexual and trans-gender women affects all women, and supports the removal of any forms of discrimination against these women and their right to have their relationships recognised.
15. Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Women
WEL opposes any form of discrimination against women from migrant, refugee and culturally diverse backgrounds and supports the funding of programs which will remedy past discrimination which has reduced or limited their access to employment, language programs and other resources.
WEL supports continued funding of specialist services, such as translating services, which recognise the particular needs of women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
WEL supports the continuation of Australia’s unique multicultural policy, which has resulted in a more tolerant, diverse and less discriminatory society than is present in countries which have pursued policies of assimilation.
16. Asylum Seekers
WEL believes that the Commonwealth Government change its refugee policies to ensure that where women are discriminated against as women, they are granted refugee status. Women asylum seekers whose social, political, religious and legal systems condone violence against women should be also be granted refugee status.
WEL opposes the system of mandatory detention for asylum seekers, and advocates keeping asylum seekers in the community while their claims are assessed. WEL considers the detention system to be inhumane and degrading, with particular implications for women, as they may be subject to sexual or other harassment detention centres.
All asylum seekers should be offered, as a matter of course, legal counsel and access to a fair and impartial judicial review of their case if required.
Furthermore, WEL believes that all asylum seekers and refugees should have full welfare and medical benefits, and the same access to services such as education, employment assistance and English language classes as all Australians, regardless of how they arrived in Australia.
17. Reproduction, Unpaid Work
The role of women as mothers must be recognised and supported both by acknowledgment of the valuable position they hold in society and by appropriate birthing, breastfeeding and nurturing policies and practices.
18. Rural & Regional Women
WEL supports the right of rural and regional women to the same level of access and standard of services as women living in urban areas. Distance and limited local population must not be cause for discrimination.
WEL recognises that social and economic issues such as drought and unemployment have a particular impact on rural and regional women. The Government must consult with these women when attending to such issues.
19. Young Women
WEL affirms the right of young women to equal participation in decision making and activities which frame the future they will inherit.
1. Access to Education
WEL affirms Article 10 of CEDAW, which states women should have the same access to education in all forms as men, and that such access should not be barred on the basis on stereotyped conceptions of the roles of men and women. WEL calls on governments to redress inequities and discrimination in education against women and girls.
WEL affirms the responsibility of government to provide free education from preschool through tertiary and post secondary levels, funded from general revenue. In fulfilling this responsibility, governments must recognise that individuals’ access to free education depends on the provision of adequate income support and infrastructure.
WEL opposes funding arrangements that benefit private schools at the expense of the public school system.
WEL believes all schools which receive government funding, whether public or private, should abide by relevant legislation such as anti-discrimination legislation.
WEL recognises the value of the Adult and Community Education sector in providing women with knowledge, skills and competencies to return to learning and to employment.
WEL opposes commercialisation of education and deplores the reimposition of fees on Tertiary education, TAFE, first degrees and post-secondary students, on grounds that fees have a differential impact on women and girls.
WEL supports the universal membership of student organisations at the tertiary level, in recognition of the vital role that student organisations play in creating campus environments that support women students.
WEL supports programs which stress equality between men and women and that all students should be given opportunities to study gender equality issues and develop a wide range of communication skills, through assertiveness training and anger management programs for example. WEL supports mandatory gender equity programs for all students.
WEL believes that political institutions and process of the three levels of government should be taught in primary and secondary schools as compulsory curriculum so students know their voting rights before they leave school.
WEL supports education which values knowledge for its own sake, not just for learning vocational skills.
WEL supports lifelong learning and recognises the needs of women to be able to access education and retraining.
WEL believes that all students should be encouraged and supported to excel where they demonstrate aptitude.
WEL acknowledges and is concerned that women’s and girls’ traditional choice of education leads to career paths that are lower paid. WEL is concerned that “traditional” careers of women (eg. teaching, childcare) are undervalued in Australian society. Advisers should be required to alert girls to financial and social implications of career choices.
WEL recognises the need to encourage girls and boys into non-traditional areas.
Women are entitled to equal access, education and training for new technology. WEL calls on the Commonwealth Government to expand its efforts to promote women’s participation in science and technology; to ensure that the introduction of new technology does not further the advantage of men over women and to ensure that such programs address the retraining of women already in the workforce.
WEL recognises the need for government and other services to continue to be provided in diverse forms.
WEL believes that principles of accessibility and privacy should be observed on the Internet.
E.) REPRODUCTIVE ISSUES
WEL affirms Article 16(e) of CEDAW, that women of all ages have the right to decide if and when they will have children, and should have access to the information and means which will allow them to exercise this right.
WEL affirms that women of all ages (regardless of marital status, religious affiliation, cultural background and sexual preferences) must have access to:
a) all forms of safe and legal health services and medical procedures which relate to their sexual health and reproductive lives.
b) well-researched, unbiased, accurate and easily understood information which enables them to make informed decisions about health services and medical procedures.
c) safe, legal and affordable abortion services.
WEL believes that abortion should be regulated under health laws.
WEL believes that references to non-surgical abortion be removed from criminal codes of all jurisdications.
WEL believes that surgical abortion, performed by qualified health professionals be removed from the criminal codes of all juristications.
2. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
WEL believes that ART including IVF should be available to all women, including lesbian and single women. WEL supports professional non-biased research into short, medium and long-term experiences of women undergoing ART. WEL supports the provision of a separate sector of women’s health services, run by and for women, to develop appropriate ways of delivering woman friendly services. WEL calls for the facilitation of women’s participation in all aspects of health decision making. WEL believes that extensive consultations with diverse groups of Australian women should be held on health issues and that the National Women’s Health Policy be revitalised on the basis of the information obtained. WEL calls for Commonwealth funding of a new National Women’s Health Program to implement the aims of the revised National Policy.
WEL considers that the practice of ‘surrogacy’ is highly likely to produce adverse consequences for women and is specifically opposed to commercial ‘surrogacy’. WEL advocates the implementation of uniform legislation prohibiting commercial surrogacy in all jurisdictions in Australia and opposes its validation by the establishment of any public agencies to regulate it.
1. Women and the International System
WEL affirms the necessity to support the conventions and protocols developed through the United Nations system, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW)
WEL further emphasises the need to recognise the interconnection between human rights machinery. In particular, WEL urges the Australian Federal government to ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW as supported by the Australian non-government organisations (NGOs) and the Office of the Status of Women Further to this, the government should incorporate into legislation and policy those conventions Australia has ratified and ensure that Australia fully complies with review processes.
2. Gender & Development
WEL considers that governments should honour the commitments to the world’s women, which they agreed to do in Beijing in 1995 and reaffirmed in 2000.
WEL policy is that, if fully implemented, the AusAID gender and development policy provides a good framework for delivery of Australia’s aid program. WEL in particular supports attention to economic, social and cultural funding priorities. Where appropriate, programs should be delivered through partnerships between women’s organisations and gender-sensitive NGOs.
WEL considers that publicly funded quality health and education for girls and women are of critical importance to the health and status of women. Programs which increase women’s power over their sexual and reproductive lives are crucial to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS which is having a particular effect on women.
Economic globalisation is impacting on women in different ways, creating new job opportunities as well as increasing exploitation of women workers. WEL considers all governments should centre economic development on International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions protecting women’s rights.
Economic globalisation should also be premised on each woman’s right to development which requires governments and corporations to conduct gender impact studies of development programs
WEL supports the development of a gender analysis in Australia’s trade policy and an examination from a gendered perspective of our participation in multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the ILO.
WEL policy is that economic sanctions should be supported by the Australian government and only if clean water, basic housing and medical supplies remain available to women and children affected by them
3. International Violence
WEL rejects all forms of international violence, including sexual, economic, criminal, military and environmental violence. WEL recognises the destructive links between globalisation, militarisation and international arms trade.
WEL considers the Commonwealth government should review its defence policies in terms of its peace impact in our region and develop a peace impact statement in relation to all proposed armament expenditure.
WEL considers the Commonwealth government should redirect armament spending to non-violent means of conflict resolution including peace-keeping and peace building and other social goals.
WEL considers the Commonwealth government should acknowledge negotiation and cooperation as paramount in international relations, recognising that it is essential that the perspectives of women be included on the same basis as men in all policy development and implementation.
WEL calls on the Australian government to undertake full community consultation before entering into any trade agreements. This is to ensure that all possible social and economic effects of the proposed agreements are considered before a decision is made.
Where the reduction of trade barriers leads to a loss of employment within Australia, it is the duty of the government to provide adequate support, such as education and training to assist workers in finding alternate employment. This is especially important in industries such as the textile, clothing and footwear industry which largely employ unskilled women from non-English speaking backgrounds.
WEL further calls on the government to ensure public services such as health and welfare, postal services and water are explicitly exempt from trade agreements. Public provision of services is necessary to ensure equitable access especially by low-income earners, the majority of whom are women.
5. Refugee Status for Women
Australia has a responsibility to accommodate women and their children fleeing regimes or countries whose culture and laws deny women and girls basic civil rights. This includes women at risk of imprisonment, torture, execution or other violence or any other punishment for their association as wife, mother, sister, or daughter with dissident males; that is, men who are politically opposed to the government of their country of origin, women who may be imprisoned or executed for breaking or opposing repressive social, religious or cultural norms and/or taboos, women whose health is impaired because of imprisionment, torture and other violence.
Women as principal migrants, i.e. heads of households and women whose families do not fit the ‘nuclear’ model because of war deaths, must not be seen as a potential burden on the Australian community.
6. Trafficking of Women
WEL believes that trafficking of women and children for sexual servitude amounts to a gross violation of their human rights. The Australian Government should take all action necessary to ensure people traffickers are investigated and punished appropriately.
Women who have been trafficked themselves are not criminals but victims of crime. Gender based violence; war and poverty in their country of origin make women vulnerable. Therefore women who have been trafficked should be allowed to remain in Australia to rebuild their lives, as well as provide assistance in prosecuting people traffickers.
A full range of services must be available to trafficked women, to allow them to recover from maltreatment by traffickers and become part of the Australian community if they wish to do so. Such services should include accommodation, counselling, English language classes and assistance finding employment.
G.) HEALTH AND HABITAT
WEL affirms the social view of health, encapsulated in the World Health Organisation’s definition of health as the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Health depends upon access to housing, secure income, physical and mental safety and a full range of public services.
2. The Health System
WEL affirms the principle of a universal, high quality health system for all Australians, which provides equal access to a full range of hospital, medical, primary care and reproductive health services, and opposes the transfer of public money to support private health insurance and elite health systems.
Such a system must be built on adequate remuneration of services for all staff in the system to ensure equitable access to the community, such as through bulk billing.
3. Health Services
WEL supports the funding of allied health professionals such as midwives and nurse practitioners, to ensure services for women in aged and community care services, hospitals, primary and community health services.
4. Sexual Health
WEL believes that women’s complete command of their own sexuality and sexual function is an integral part of women’s health.
5. Sport & Physical Activity
WEL considers that the participation of women and girls in sport and physical activity is essential to their health, personal development and self esteem.
WEL supports access for women, equal to that of men, to recreational facilities, coaching, sports education, competition, media coverage and funding. Equal opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation should be applied to the administration of all government funded and other sporting bodies. Elite sportswomen should be recognised for their skills and achievements and receive the same rewards and acclaim as their male counterparts. Government agencies responsible for awards and allocation of funding should ensure that discriminatory practices are stopped.
WEL acknowledges the diverse cultural needs of women with respect to sporting facilities.
WEL supports the Australian Institute of Sport Code of Conduct in relation to sexual harassment and assault.
The environment handed on to future generations should be better, not worse, than the one we inherited. All life on Earth must be respected and nurtured to ensure their survival. WEL supports the preservation and equitable sharing of the Earth’s resources, sustainable production and consumption, access to clean and safe energy, food and water, and corporate accountability.
WEL endorses an appropriate framework for governments, businesses and communities to operate within:
- The protection of biological diversity and the maintenance of ecological integrity
- The use of material resources in accordance with the earth’s capacity to supply them and to assimilate waste
- Equity between men and women, and between generations
- The active participation of women in decision making and policy development
- Gender analysis of the impact of environmental programs and policies
- Indigenous ownership, occupation and management of areas of cultural significance
A legal framework which ensures the social and environmental costs of any activity are paid by the person or company undertaking that activity.
WEL affirms that adequate housing is a basic human right. All women must have access to wide range of quality, affordable and environmentally friendly housing. Planning for housing must include full consideration of social and economic infrastructure including the provision of community services to enable independent living. Special consideration must be given to meeting the needs of older women, sole parents, carers of people with disabilities and dependent older people (the majority of whom are women), and unemployed people.
8. Urban Environment
The planning and design of the urban environment affects people’s quality of life, their health and well being and their access to opportunities. WEL affirms the need for the planning of our urban areas to consider the needs of women, men and children to ensure that our cities, towns and suburbs provide all citizens with an acceptable standard of living and the opportunity to improve their life chances.
WEL calls for greater involvement of women in all aspects of planning. WEL supports affirmative action to increase the number of women architects, designers and engineers involved in creating the urban environment.
WEL supports planning policies that address the needs of women in the urban environment and the planning of urban environments that reduce the barriers of access to opportunities that are essential for the well being of the population. WEL calls for the provision of affordable and appropriate housing options that cater for a range of housing needs and household types. WEL supports the design of safe and secure urban areas.
9. Public Transport
WEL believes that the development of urban areas must offer people a choice of safe transport options. Options such as public transport, walking and cycling should be provided as realistic and affordable alternatives to the private car.
WEL believes that transport planning should consider the elderly and provide access to services including hospitals, doctors and recreational venues as well as shopping centres. All public transport services including pedestrian and cycle paths should be safe and well-lit at night.