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Last night domestic violence was the subject explored on ABC’s Q & A program.

The 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty & the Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja sat alongside the Acting Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Tim Cartwright, radio sports broadcaster Charlie King and a Counsellor for Men and Families Simon Santosha.

It was interesting to note that three of the five panellists were men, a fact that immediately caught the attention and ire of viewers last week when the panel was announced and was addressed by Georgina Dent here on Women's Agenda. Dent commented that given women are disproportionately the victims of family violence isn’t this a subject in which women might outweigh men?

Q & A defended the panel on Twitter: “Statistically, more men are the perpetrators of DV. We need them to be big part of the solution and ending the violence.” Executive Producer Peter McEvoy told Fairfax Media: "Family violence is not 'a women's issue'. It involves men, women and children."

WLWA agrees that broadening the conversation about domestic violence from being a “women’s issue” to being a whole-of -society issue is critical. Domestic violence isn’t a crime that occurs quietly in the fringes of society and its damage isn’t limited to women.

Last night's panel sucessfully looked at the factors that contribute to domestic violence in depth. It was enlightening to listen to Rosie Batty chillingly and eloquently talk about how her former partner used subtle ways to maipulate her and ingratiate himself in her life. For those who are unaware, Rosie Batty tragically lost her only child at the hands of his father and has since began a courageous and fearless campaign against domestic violence. It is impossible to imagine a more resilient woman in the face of such tragedy. Last night on the panel Ms Batty says the process involved in reporting abuse "has to change" if victims are to escape violent situations.

Victoria Police Acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright said the way in which courts dealt with some matters of domestic violence was "archaic" and could be frustrating for police."We don't have all sorts of information which might help us on the ground to protect the woman, or at least understand the situation and understand the risk that we are seeing," he said.

Commissioner Cartwright also said there was a "need for cultural change" to help victims who were reporting abuse. "[The] first thing we need to do is acknowledge and believe the women ... one of the things we need to do as a community is to support women in these situations as friends, as family, as leaders in the community," he said.

Ms Batty said she believed a more "coordinated approach" between police and the courts was important in improving the reporting of domestic violence. "We work a lot in silos and if there is some kind of coordinated approach, where a continuum of violence was monitored and looked at, that would be a great help," she said.

"I have great faith in our police force in Victoria. I can see the improvements, I can see the transparency, their keen desire to continue to improve and evolve, and their passion for [stopping] family violence. I just hope that passes through into the court process. I do think you will see some dramatic changes."

Dent's article on the Q & A panel also addressed the statistics and confirmed that domestic violence is horrifically commonplace in Australia and it doesn’t discriminate in the way that, perhaps, it is tempting to believe. Domestic violence is certainly being talked about publicly more than ever. The fact Rosie Batty was named Australian of the Year and the fact an entire Q & A was devoted to this topic reflects as much.

But despite the increased focus, the rate of domestic violence is growing; in the early stages of 2015 it has already claimed the lives of 14 women. That is double the oft-quoted statistic that “one woman a week” dies in Australia at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.

Is this because, despite the increased focus, we are not understanding the issue any better? Prominent British researcher and activist Professor Liz Kelly CBE, who has worked in the field of violence against women and children for almost 30 years, says we are inclined to separate the various dynamics that contribute to domestic violence.

We’re in a space where we never have all of [the dynamics] visible in a conversation with women and policy makers at the same time,” Kelly said. “We’re recognising one part and losing a sense of the other part. How do we hold all of the encounters that women and girls have with intimate intrusion in our vision at the same time? It’s not easy. But it’s the challenge. Not just to hop from one issue to another to see the bigger whole.”

In Sydney to deliver the keynote address at the UNSW Gendered Violence Research Network conference earlier this month, Kelly says that sexual harassment is one area we tend to overlook when considering domestic violence.

“One thing I have observed in Australia and in Britain is how slippery the concepts are becoming. We’ve lost a focus on sexual harassment for example. The everyday harassment that young women in particular encounter is no longer in our plans of action and not what we think of as violence against women,” Kelly says.  But it is a component of violence against women. “Treating harassment as strange and exotic – rather than linked into domestic violence – discounts the harm,” Kelly says.

Kelly established the concept of sexual violence occurring on a continuum and identified common elements in different types of violence and connecting them to structural gender inequality. She explains that the everyday encounters and experiences with sexual harassment that most women have at some point, are connected to the more extreme forms of violence that get written up in newspapers.

The everyday is connected to the extreme and it’s connected in two ways. First in terms of women’s experiences but it’s also connected in the sense that it’s not deviant, crazy men who do this,” she says “There are some crazy and deviant men but the majority are relatives, colleagues, or friends. A lot of this violence is normalised; it’s only by challenging it and identifying it that we perceive it as violence.”

Sexism and power are fundamental factors in domestic violence that need to be addressed. “Institutional sexism is one the reasons why agencies and institution still continue to not respond effectively [to harassment and domestic violence],” Kelly explains. “It’s still minimised and not seen as that important.”

This is partly because it’s easier to blame victims than it is to call out power. “For many people to name men’s violence feels complicated and difficult. There are so many ways in which their behaviour can be excused and minimised, and victim blaming is the other side of that,” she says. “The minimisation and the excuses are a mirror image of the extent to which women can be made responsible. It’s fundamentally about not holding men to account for their behaviour and that’s one of the things that happens with power. To call out power feels like a slightly dangerous thing to do. It’s much less dangerous to blame the victim.”

The sexism debate is timely given the Oscars ceremony yesterday when Patricia Arquette injected some political fervour by calling for equal pay for women at the end of her acceptance speech for best supporting actress. Arquette's speech concluded with the impassioned words: “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Her speech received wild cheers from the audience, with Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez getting out of their seats and waving their arms.

Earlier this month a White Ribbon Ambassador, Dr Tanveer Ahmed, wrote a controversial column asking whether the empowerment of women – and the subsequent disempowerment of men – was contributing to violence against women. (He has since stood down from White Ribbon.)

Professor Kelly says the critical issue is what power is legitimate. “It is about men’s power and if we’re going to end violence then men do have to lose that power. They don’t lose the power we all have to act as human beings. They lose power over other human beings,” she says. “If a White Ribbon Ambassador is suggesting that power over women is legitimate then I have a problem with that.”

Kelly says men who want to stop the cycle of domestic violence need to model respectful relationships – with their partners and children - that are not dependent upon control.

WLWA encourages members to speak up. Volunteer at the various services that support victims of domestic violence. Petition your local member about the changes we need. Reject sexism. Lend your support to anyone in your life who might need it. Our Watch has a comprehensive guide about the many and varied ways that teenagers, parents, women, men, and professionals can help to prevent violence.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Click here to read the original article on Women's Agenda.

The Final Report of the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning was released on Friday 20 February 2015 by the Australian Government.  

The task of the Productivity Commission was to undertake an Inquiry into future options for child care and early childhood learning, with a focus on developing a system that supports modern families’ working circumstances and children’s learning and development needs.

The report brings to completion months of extensive research and consultation with the child care and early childhood sector, peak bodies, stakeholders, families and the broader community. Over the course of its Inquiry, the Productivity Commission received more than 908 formal submissions and 1173 online comments.

To download a copy of the full Final Report and Recommendations visit the Productivity Commission website. Click here to read the Minister for Social Services media release. 

Summary of the key points from the Final Report:

  • Formal and informal Early Childhood Education and Care ECEC) services play a vital role in the development of Australian children and their preparation for school, and in enabling parents to work. The number of formal ECEC services has expanded substantially over the past decade. Over the same period, Australian Government funding has almost tripled to around $7 billion per year, and now covers two thirds of total ECEC costs. Despite this, many parents report difficulties in finding ECEC at a location, price, quality and hours that they want.
  • Current ECEC arrangements are complex and costly to administer and difficult for parents and providers to navigate. There are over 20 Australian Government assistance programs, some poorly targeted.
  • The benefits from participation in preschool for children’s development and transition to school are largely undisputed. There also appear to be benefits from early identification of, and intervention for, children with development vulnerabilities.
  • The National Quality Framework must be retained, modified and extended to all Government funded ECEC services. To better meet the needs and budgets of families, the range of services approved for assistance should include approved nannies and the cap on occasional care     places should be removed. All primary schools should take responsibility for outside school hours care for their students, where demand exists for a viable service. The Commission’s recommended reforms will achieve, at minimal additional cost, an ECEC system that is simpler, more accessible and flexible, with greater early learning opportunities for children with additional needs. The reforms would also alleviate future fiscal pressures, establish a system that is easier to adapt to future changes in ECEC, and tax and welfare arrangements.
  • Assistance should focus on three priority areas:
    • mainstream support through a single child-based subsidy that is: means- and activity- tested, paid directly to the familys choice of approved services, for up to 100 hours per fortnight, and based on a benchmark price for quality ECEC. In regional, rural and remote areas with fluctuating child populations, viability assistance should be provided on a limited time basis.
    • support the inclusion of children with additional needs in mainstream services, delivery of services for children in highly disadvantaged communities and the integration of ECEC with schools and other child and family services.
    • approved preschool programs funded on a per child basis, for all children, regardless of whether they are dedicated preschools or part of a long day care centre.
  • Additional workforce participation will occur, but it will be small. ECEC issues are just some of a broad range of work, family and financial factors which influence parent work decisions. The interaction of tax and welfare policies provide powerful disincentives for many second income earners to work more than part time. Shifting to the recommended approach is nevertheless estimated to increase the number of mothers working (primarily of low and middle income families) by 1.2 per cent (an additional 16 400 mothers).
  • Overall, more assistance will go to low and middle income families and their use of childcare is expected to rise. However, high income families who increase their work hours may also be better off. Enabling the lowest income families (those on Parenting Payments) some access to subsidised childcare without meeting an activity test may boost ECEC participation and improve child development outcomes for this group, but this comes at the cost of potentially higher workforce participation.

Specific key findings and recommendations supporting workplace participation have also been identified:

  • FINDING 6.1 -The workforce participation rate of mothers with children aged under 15 years has grown substantially in recent decades, in line with that for all women. However, the participation rate of mothers is below that of fathers and women without children. The employment rate of Australian mothers is also below the OECD average.
  • FINDING 6.2 - Of employed mothers with children aged under 15 years, more work part time than full time. The part-time share of employed mothers is much higher than that of fathers and women without children. Australia has a higher proportion of couple families where one parent works full time and the other part time than the OECD average.
  • FINDING 6.3 -Roughly 165 000 parents (on a full-time equivalent basis) with children aged under 13 years who would like to work but are not able to because they are experiencing difficulties with the costs and accessibility of suitable childcare, could potentially be added to the workforce.
  • FINDING 6.4 -Secondary income earners in couple families and single parent families with children under school age could face a significant disincentive to work more than 3 days a week due to high effective marginal tax rates from the cumulative impact of income tax and the withdrawal of childcare assistance, Family Tax Benefits and the Parenting Payment.
  • FINDING 16.1 -Reforming subsidies for early childhood education and care services on their own can only partially address disincentives for mothers to work. Greater workforce attachment can be achieved by simultaneously reforming childcare subsidies, taxation, family income support and transfer payments. Other factors that can encourage greater workforce participation of mothers include fathers being willing and able to work flexibly and take on more child caring responsibilities and having ECEC services that offer rich and engaging experiences (particularly in relation to outside school hours care).
  • FINDING 6.5 -The workforce participation of mothers of children aged under 15 years is affected by the preferences of parents to look after their own (particularly very young) children. These, in turn, can be affected by such factors as costs and availability of suitable childcare, the stresses of managing paid work and unpaid work at home, the provision of flexible work and other family-friendly arrangements by employers, the level of contact with the workplace, long-term career prospects and the effective marginal tax rates facing mothers.
  • RECOMMENDATION 6.1 - The proposed White Paper on the Reform of Australia’s Tax System should include consideration of how taxation and the design of family income support and transfer payments impact on effective marginal taz rates.
  • RECOMMENDATION 6.2 - Employer and employee association, the Fair work Ombudsman, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency should all trial innovative approaches to:
    • Increase awareness about legal rights and obligations with respect to flexible work.
    • Promote positive attitudes among employers, employees and the wider community towards parents, particularly fathers, taking up flexible work and other family friendly arrangement

To download a copy of the full Final Report and Recommendations visit the Productivity Commission website. Click here to read the Minister for Social Services media release.

 

WLWA would like to encourage its members to support Belinda Lonsdale, Barrister at Wolff Chambers, who is saddling up once more with Team Budget to ride from Albany to Perth to raise money to prevent Youth Suicide and to support people suffering from depression.

Youth Focus is a Western Australian not-for-profit community-based organisation working with young people aged between 12 and 18 years who are showing signs of depression, self-harm and who are at risk of suicide. It is a little known fact that there are more suicides than road deaths each year yet government funding for this community problem is miniscule in comparison.  In Western Australia last year we lost an average of one person to suicide each week. Click here for more information.

An important feature of the Ride for Youth is that the riders will visit schools along the way to educate young people about issues such as bullying, depression, self-harm, suicide and the services offered by Youth Focus.

Over the last 12 years, riders from the Ride for Youth Raised have raised in excess of $10.2 million all of which went to Youth Focus to fund much needed counselling services for young people. This year, Youth Focus has identified a number of areas in rural Western Australia in desperate need of help for their young people.

For the first time, Team Budget will be pedaling from Albany to Perth via the Wheatbelt route, visiting schools at Gnowangerup, Kojonup, Kattaning, Wagin and Narrogin.The route is a particularly challenging one.  They we will be riding an average of 150kms per day, including one day where the team will be riding nearly 200km.

If you would like to sponsor Team Budget and Belinda by making a tax-deductible donation to help Youth Focus with its important work, you can do so online at www.rideforyouth.com.au by clicking on Donate Now then nominating Belinda as the rider you wish to support and following the prompts.

Belinda would like to thank all who have supported her campaigns in previous years and who continue to support the important work of Youth Focus.

Women Lawyers of Western Australia endorses the statement made by The Law Society about the death penalty.  See President, Matthew Keogh's message released 19 February 2015 and published on the WLWA website here.

WLWA encourages women who wish to stand against the death penalty to take this opportunity to let your voice be heard.  We hope that the international attention will embolden all nations who rely on this form of corporal punishment to reconsider whether it is truly meeting the needs of their modern penal system.  

When a person pays for a crime with their life the community loses a potential resource.  We encourage our members to take a moment to consider the parents, siblings, spouses and children of the men currently awaiting execution.  For them this is a life sentence of grief.

We hope you will join the legal community’s moment of silence next week and will post details as soon as they are available to us.

The Law Society of Western Australia President, Matthew Keogh has reiterated the long standing position of the society to oppose the death penalty in both a message to Law Society members and in a welcome address to the Society's Law Summer School this morning.

A message from the President

Dear Law Society member,
  
It has been a  longstanding position of the Law Society of Western Australia, the Australian   legal profession and our nation to oppose the death penalty (see Law Council of Australia
statement).
  
I will be reiterating this position in my welcome address to the Society’s   Law Summer School this Friday. It has also been heartening to see legal   practitioners in
Western Australia stand in solidarity with our   fellow lawyers in Victoria, South Australia and the ACT who have attended   vigils and stood tall in silence this week to make their opposition to the death penalty known.
  
As the week concludes   you may wish to observe a minute of silence privately to consider those in  jurisdictions still subject to the death penalty and its implications on   civil society.
  
While not excusing the actions of those who have committed crimes in   Australia or overseas, the Society believes it is incumbent on the profession  to stand tall in calling on other nations to treat their offenders humanely,  as we seek to do in Australia.
  
 Yours sincerely,


  
 Matthew Keogh
 President

Women Lawyers of Western Australia agree with the Society that it is incumbent on the profession to stand tall in calling on other nations to treat their offenders humanely, as we seek to do in Australia and has also published a statement to oppose the death penalty.

Click here to read the original article on the Law Society website and here for the Law Society media statement. 

 

Join us for the fifth annual Women Lawyers High Tea to celebrate International Women's Day on Friday, 6 March 2015 from 2:45 - 5:00pm.  Get together with friends and colleagues and hear from a panel of speakers discussing the topic of "Let's not wait another 20 years for gender equality".

 

Registration includes sweet and savoury treats and a selection of beverages including tea and sparkling wine.  Make sure you register soon as last year's event was a sell-out.

Registrations close Friday, 28 February 2015. Speakers to be announced. 

 

Proudly sponsored by KBE Human CapitalCentia and Bellanhouse Legal.Registration is through the Law Society - please click HERE to link to the event flyer including details of how to register. http://www.lawsocietywa.asn.au/visageimages/Events//150306_HighTea.pdf 

WLWA encourages its members to join the 2014 Senior Counsel appointees on Thursday 12 March 2015 as they reflect on the ethical issues arising in their careers in the law. A structured CPD panel discussion will be followed by drinks.

The 2014 appointees are Martin Cuerden SC and Mr Michael Berry SC.  A panel discussion will be hosted by Gail Archer SC with other panel members to be announced shortly.

Doors open at Central Park Lecture Theatre at 5:15pm for a 5:30pm start .  Attendees may claim one CPD point in Competency Area 2 – Ethics/ Professional Responsibility. Tickets start at $25 and the event includes an opportunity to network with other members of the profession and members need to book soon before they are all sold out.

Tickets are available at  http://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/meet-the-silks-tickets-15723882556?aff=es2&rank=1

The event is co-hosted by the Piddington Society and Women Lawyers WA, sponsored by Pitcher Partners, Law in Order and KBE Human Capital, and supported by DLA.

Dear Members

 

A quick reminder that Early Bird Registrations for the 2015 Honours Dinner closes this Friday 20 February 2015 and the closing date for acceptance of nominations for the Woman Lawyer of the Year Awards is on Saturday 28 February 2015.

 

Full details are on our Honours Dinner Flyer (attached) and early bird registration is open on our Events Page of the website. Selection criteria for the Woman Lawyer of the Year Awards is (attached) and further details about the awards are on our Awards Page of the website.

Join us at the annual WLWA Honours Dinner on Friday 13 March 2015 to acknowledge the appointment of Her Excellency the Honourable Kerry Sanderson AO (Governor) and to honour the appointments of the Honourable Judge Vicki Laura Stewart (District Court), Magistrate Ciara Tyson (Family Court), the Honourable Member Karen Whitney (State Administrative Tribunal) and the Honourable Member Hanna Leslie (State Administrative Tribunal).

We will also celebrate the winners of the Woman Lawyer of the Year Awards and the Aboriginal Women's Legal Education Trust (AWLT) scholarship recipient. Further details about the AWLT Scholarship can be found on the Awards Page of the website.

Please note that partners and non-members are welcome, so grab your significant other and friends for a lovely evening celebrating women's achievements!

Please also note that WLWA is calling for donations from members at the Honours Dinner to assist WLWA with the costs associated with implementation of the recommendation in the 2014 Gender Bias Report. Further details in the attached flyer and on the Projects Page of the website.

WLWA would like to thank the sponsors of our 2015 Honours Dinner for their valued support:

GOLD SPONSOR: John Toohey Chambers (website HERE)

 

 

SILVER SPONSOR: LawCPD (website HERE)

 

BRONZE SPONSOR: Ipac Western Australia (website HERE)

 

WLWA encourages members to register for the CASE for refugees fundraising CPD Seminar "Evening with Dan Mori" scheduled for this Thursday 19 February 2015 from 6.30 pm to 8pm at King & Wood Mallesons.

The presenter, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Dan Mori will talk about the Australian Government systems for supporting Australians facing trail overseas and the relevant procedures from extradtion t the transfer of prisoners back to Australia to serve any sentence.

All the profits raised by this seminar will go to the A Fair Go For Asylum Seekers Appeal. The Appeal provides asylum seekers with access to specialist legal expertise, maximising their chance of a successful outcome if their claims are genuine.

The event will attract one CPD point. Please see attached flyer for more details and to register.

WLWA encourgaes members to register for the CASE for refugees fundraising CPD scheduled for this Thursday 19 February 2015 from 6.30 pm to 8pm at King & Wood Mallesons.

The presenter, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Dan Mori will talk about the Australian Government systems for supporting Australians facing trail overseas and the relevant procedures from extradtion t the transfer of prisoners back to Australia to serve any sentence.

All the profits raised by this seminar will go to the A Fair Go For Asylum Seekers Appeal. The Appeal provides asylum seekers with access to specialist legal expertise, maximising their chance of a successful outcome if their claims are genuine.

The event will attract one CPD point. Please see attached flyer for more details and to register.

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