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Information for Supporters and Services

This page is to help family members, carers, support people, services and organisations to understand and support the rights of women and girls with disability.

Across Australia, women and girls with disability experience violations of their human rights in the form of discrimination, violence and exclusion from services.

While there are laws to protect people from discrimination, they only work if they are supported by people in the community.

Watch WWDA's video: 'Women with Disability Talk About Human Rights':

The situation

Approximately 20% of women and girls in Australia live with disability. That’s around 2 million people. [1]

Women and girls with disability have the same rights as woman without disability, however the reality is that their rights are often not supported.

In Australia, women and girls with disability:

  • experience high rates of poverty (29%) compared to people without disability [2]
  • have both lower workforce participation (53.4%) and higher unemployment rates (10.3%) than people without disability [3]
  • are more likely to experience and face homelessness and are much more likely to be affected by the lack of affordable housing. Twice as many people with disability who are over 55 seek help from homelessness services compared to people without disability [4]
  • are often denied the ability to make choices about basic things like what to eat, where and who to live with, when to go out and where to go [5]
  • experience high rates of forced contraception, sterilisation and abortion [6]
  • experience violence at much higher rates (47%) than people without disability (36%) [7]
  • are forced to live in institutions, like residential care facilities and aged care facilities in order to receive social and personal care supports [8]
  • are often denied the right to experience their sexuality, to have sexual relationships and to found and maintain a family [9]
  • are less likely to successfully secure National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) services than men with disability [10]
  • are almost twice as likely to experience sexual harassment and/or violence compared to men with disability. [11]

National anti-discrimination laws

Australia has 4 national anti-discrimination laws. These are:

A photo of a silver statue of a person with wings, and their arms in the air.

1.    The Age Discrimination Act 2004

2.   The Disability Discrimination Act 1992

3.   The Sex Discrimination Act 1984

4.   The Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

As well as protecting people from discrimination, these Acts require businesses, professionals, support workers and services to ensure that people who are marginalised are included and protected.

If you are an employer, for example, you are required to ensure your organisation’s policies are fair to women. Policies should recognise the fact that women with disability are more likely to need to take time off work for healthcare, accessing service supports, and/or parenting responsibilities. The needs of women with disability should be reflected in clear policies on flexible work arrangements, parental leave and carers leave.


National Disability Standards

In all parts of Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act requires businesses, government organisations, schools and workplaces to follow three standards for accessibility. These are:

1. Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (external link)

2. Disability (Access to Premises - Buildings) Standards 2010 (external link)

3. Disability Standards for Education 2005 (external link).

These standards provide guidelines for state governments, councils and private businesses on their responsibilities to make sure that public services are accessible to people with disability. This includes ensuring public transport, public buildings and education services are:

  • free or at a low cost for those that need the services
  • physically accessible for people who use wheelchairs, or people with other physical support needs
  • accessible for people with learning and/or psychosocial disability.

Organisations that protect rights

There are state and national organisations in Australia that protect the rights of women and girls with disability. You can find out more about the rights of individuals and the obligations of services and organisations on their websites:

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was introduced to support the rights and well-being of eligible people with disability and give them choice and control over their lives.

The NDIS supports services and organisations to provide support to eligible people with disability. To be eligible to become a registered NDIS provider, you must provide services that are consistent with:

If you are a service provider or worker, you can undertake an NDIS online training course (external link)
that explains the obligations of workers under the NDIS Code of Conduct (external link).

Tip: You can learn more in the NDIS provider toolkit (external link).


Footnotes

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) People with Disability in Australia (external link).
[2] Australian Council of Social Service (2018) Poverty in Australia (external link).
[3] Australian Network on Disability (2019) Disability Statistics (external link).
[4] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017) Specialist Homelessness services report 2016-2017 (external link).
[5] Women With Disabilities Australia (2016) Position Statement 2: Right to Decision-Making.
[6] Women With Disabilities Australia (2016) Position Statement 4: Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
[7] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) People With Disability in Australia (external link).
[8] Senate Community Affairs References Committee (2015) Adequacy of existing residential care arrangements available for young people with severe physical, mental or intellectual disabilities in Australia (external link).
[9] Women With Disabilities Australia (2016) Position Statement 4: Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
[10] Malbon, E and Carey, G (2019) Women, Rural and Disadvantaged Australians may be Missing Out on Care in the NDIS (external link).
[11] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) People with Disability in Australia: Sexual Harassment (external link).

Important resources

Guides
Guidelines: Equivalent Access under the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Cth)
These guidelines have been developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to assist organisations and governments to comply with the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002.
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WWDA Human Rights Toolkit
A toolkit split into 8 sections with information to help women with disability understand and stand up for their rights.
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Australian Human Rights Commission: Disability Standards
Information on the Disability Standards in Australia.
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Australian Human Rights Commission: Good Practice, Good Business Fact Sheets
Factsheets to help employers and businesses support people with disability.
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Australian Human Rights Commission - Equal Before the Law: Towards Disability Justice
A guide about improving the treatment of people with disability in Australia.
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Australian Human Rights Commission Guidelines: Special Measures Under the Sex Discrimination Act
A guideline about implementing the Sex Discrimination Act to support the rights of women.
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WWDA Easy English Human Rights Toolkit
A toolkit split into 4 parts with information in Easy English to help women with disability understand and stand up for their rights.
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1800RESPECT: Disability Support Toolkit
The 1800RESPECT Disability Support Toolkit has resources for front line workers supporting people with disability who have been impacted by violence and abuse.
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Women Enabled International Accountability Toolkit
A toolkit with information to help organisations use the UN human rights mechanisms to support the rights of women with disability.
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Australian Human Rights Commission: Access for all: Improving Accessibility for Consumers with Disability
Practical tips for businesses and organisations on improving access to goods, services, facilities, premises and information for people with disability.
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Centre for Applied Disability Research: Disability Knowledge Clearing House
This website exists to help supporters of people with disability to understand what works, for whom, under what circumstances, and at what cost.
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Australian Network on Disability: Event Accessibility Checklist
This web page provides an overview of considerations that should be made to ensure inclusion of people with disability.
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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) General Comment 3: Women and Girls with Disability
United Nations document about the rights of women and girls with disability in Plain English.
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Checklist
Our Site Accessibility Checklist: Public Events
This checklist has been adapted from one produced by Equal Access Australia to help individuals and organisations make sure their events are accessible.
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Our Site Accessibility Checklist: Written Information
A checklist to help individuals and organisations make sure that any public information they provide is accessible.
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Guides
Women With Disabilities Victoria: Our Right to Safety and Respect
A guide for people that support women with disability who have experienced, or are at risk of, violence and abuse. The guide is available in PDF, Word, Auslan, Audio and Braille formats.
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Publications
WWDA: Using a Holistic Human Rights Framework to Advance the Rights of Women and Girls with Disability
WWDA paper on using a human rights framework to support women with disability
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Guidelines for Providing Rights-Based Services to Address Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Health and Rights for Women and Young Persons with Disabilities
A guide about providing rights based services to address gender-based violence and the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and young persons with disabilities.
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NDIS Provider Toolkit
Information for registered National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) service providers.
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United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Training Guide
A training guide for people running workshops or educating others about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) General Comment 2: Accessibility
United Nations document on accessibility for people with disability.
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Where to next

External website
Australian Human Rights Commission
The national organisation in Australia that supports your rights.
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United Nations (UN)
The international organisation that supports your rights around the world.
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United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
The UN organisation that works in over 190 countries and territories to promote the rights of children.
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Equal Access: Disability Access Consultants
A website with advice on how to make buildings and public spaces accessible for people with disability.
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UNWomen
The United Nations organisation that promotes the rights of all women.
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Videos
ITalk Studios Human Rights Videos
Human rights educational videos for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander schools.
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Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)
WWDA website where you can find a range of government submissions, reports and publications about women and girls with disability.
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National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
Information about the NDIS for eligible people with disability as well as their supporters and services.
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Women Enabled International (WEI)
Women Enabled International is the only international organisation for women with disability.
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United Nations Population Fund
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. Its website has information about supporting the sexual and reproductive health rights of people around the world.
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Disability Awareness
Introduction to Disability Awareness is a free online course that focuses on promoting an awareness of disability and the impact that societal attitudes and inherent stigma and discrimination have on the lives of people with disability.
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