Women’s Health Services across Victoria came together in September 2022 to deliver Women’s Health In The House (WHITH), an event designed to promote the history, impact and value of the primary prevention work we do. Women’s Health Services received a two-year funding boost in 2022 (the ﬁrst signiﬁcant increase in decades) and as a result we have been able to increase our reach, programs and positive impact across all areas of our work. Our advocacy eﬀorts continue, with a focus on retaining the funding boost as an increase in baseline funding.
In May 2023 we held an immensely successful Change Makers Dinner in Ararat. This event was aimed at sporting clubs in the area and featured Belinda Duarte, Western Bulldogs Community Foundation board member; Paul Kennedy, author and ABC journalist; Kim O’Reilly, family violence victim survivor and advocate; and Scott Arnold, Minyip Murtoa Football Netball Club president. A capacity crowd of 113 people attended, with all feedback overwhelmingly positive, and two new sporting clubs expressing interest in joining CoRE.
‘The presenters were excellent and worked well together to cover the full spectrum of the topic. The change that the Minyip Murtoa Football Netball Club is working with WHG to achieve is long overdue in all football and netball circles.’
‘It was incredibly thought out with speakers that all brought a lot to the event.’
Social media campaigns developed and delivered in 2022-23:
NAIDOC Week, Christmas is a Feminist Issue, Survival Day, National Gender Equality Strategy, National Sorry Day, Refugee Week
We are delighted to now regularly produce three different newsletters: our General Newsletter, our CoRE Friends Newsletter, and our CoRE Onside Newsletter aimed at sporting clubs, leagues and associations.
After an extensive review and redesign process, newsletter open rates have soared. From hovering around 26% (not-for-proﬁt sector average is 25%) in July last year, open rates are now up to 50% (General Newsletter), 39% (CoRE Friends Newsletter) and 51% (CoRE Onside). This is an outstanding level of engagement. It reﬂects genuine community commitment to eliminating gender inequality, and is a testament to our own position as regional leaders in best practice health promotion and primary prevention work.
Our feminism is intersectional. Our feminist convictions give us the tools we need to challenge the systems, structures and beliefs that perpetuate racism, colonialism, class oppression, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, ableism, and ageism. This is because we know that these all contribute to the impact of gender inequality. We recognise the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, over-lap or intersect. We understand that different groups of women will be affected or disadvantaged by programs, systems and policies differently. Our work is fundamentally informed by this approach.
We are honoured to have opportunities within our organisation and partnerships to beneﬁt from the lived experience of others. We all learn from the passion and drive of those who understand what it takes to tackle gender inequality at the intersection. Our approach is underpinned by the principles of listening, learning, being respectfully curious, reﬂecting and applying knowledge.
This year, as part of the funding uplift received from the Victorian Government, we employed a First Nations Health Equality Advisor and a First Nations Health Promotion Officer. We are committed to principles of self-determination, and the First Nations team has spent this year building the foundations for WHG’s approach.
There is a huge appetite in our region to hear from those who have historically been excluded from public conversations, including around equality. First Nations Women Yarn was our keynote International Women’s Day event for 2023. It was proposed, planned and delivered by our First Nations team, and it was an outstanding success. A capacity crowd heard from Yorta Yorta women Rachel Muir and Ashlee Rodgers; Nikki Foy, proud Gunditjmara, Wotjobaluk woman; Nikki Bell, proud Gunditjmara, Ngarrindjeri, Wotjobaluk woman; and Deborah Lowah Clark, proud Meriam Torres Strait Islander woman and renowned Ballarat-based vocal performer. Everyone in the room was humbled by the generosity of these women as they shared their lived experience, hopes for the future, hurt and laughter.
We are committed to listening to, learning from, and working in partnership with First Nations women to build systems of inclusion.
Equality for All is a project that aims to increase understanding of how women from diverse backgrounds are disadvantaged by structural barriers exacerbated by gender inequality. As part of the funding boost from the Victorian Government, we welcomed and trained nine new Equality Advocates to WHG in 2022-23. These women, all of whom have experienced hardship as a result of their intersecting marginalised identities, now speak at events, training, and workshops. Their voices and lived experiences have the potential to become a powerful tool in the ﬁght to reduce barriers to gender equality and facilitate systemic change.
Women with disabilities are at a much greater risk of experiencing violence than other women (or men with disabilities), and over a longer period of time. These women also face a range of other challenges that intersect with their gender. In 2022-23, WHG employed a Gender and Disability Advisor with funding from the City of Ballarat Empowering Communities program. She is working with those Equality Advocates who have lived experience of disability to co-design a tool kit and training for workplaces, and a community safety campaign.
The Grampians region is lucky to have a rich multicultural community including many migrant and refugee women. While newcomers are welcomed with open arms, women from migrant and refugee backgrounds can face signiﬁcant barriers to full participation. Our Migrant and Refugee Health Equality Advisor commenced in September 2022, and has been instrumental in leading the Equality for All project. As part of this, we identiﬁed three focus areas for our work with migrant and refugee women: employment, health access and leadership. Our Equality Advocates from refugee and migrant backgrounds are already doing stellar work raising awareness. They are educating others by sharing their experiences, and empowering themselves and their communities by speaking out.
It was also our privilege to nominate staunch advocate for women, equality and multiculturalism Joy Juma for the Victorian Honour Roll of Women. We were delighted to witness Joy’s induction onto the Honour Roll in October 2022. Joy’s work with mothers, babies, and migrant communities in Ballarat and Horsham has changed thousands of lives for the better. Recognising and celebrating the outstanding, tireless, and often unsung work of regional women is an important component of working towards of gender equality.
Stereotypical attitudes toward gender are a key driver of violence against women. Evidence shows that these attitudes are particularly challenging to shift in regional and rural areas. We ﬁrmly believe that all men can and should be involved in eliminating violence against women. WHG has always employed male trainers to work alongside us in delivering sessions, and our new work in masculinities is an extension of this approach. We engaged a Gender Equality Advisor – Masculinities this year to lead our new WHG Men’s Initiative, aimed at engaging and working with men in hopes of effecting long-term cultural change in small communities across our region.
WHG is proudly partnering with Federation University to co-sponsor a PhD Candidate, Jessie Duncan, to undertake research focussed on the question: Rurality as a dimension of intersectionality – Understanding the drivers of family violence and violence against women in a rural context. This project, which is well underway, will examine the intersection of place with the primary and secondary drivers of gendered violence in the Wimmera Southern Marlee, examining cultural and structural barriers and the role they play in the high rates of gendered violence. The overall aim of this research is to develop a deeper understanding of how living in a rural region interacts with the drivers of gendered violence, and how the region is currently positioned to address those rates.
For International Women’s Day 2023 we partnered with Federation University, Rotary Club of Horsham East, Horsham Rural Shire Council and MIX to run a panel event: How does being rural impact us as we aim for equality? This event explored the opportunities and challenges that come with working towards equality in a rural area. Speakers at the panel included Dr Cathy Fleischer, Future Regions Research Centre, Federation University; Dr Niki Vincent, Commissioner for Gender Equality in the Public Sector; Onella Cooray, Program Associate, Champions of Change Coalition (and WHG Board member); and Ashlea Edwards, WHG Gender Equality Advocate.
We also worked with Horsham Regional Art Gallery IWD Panel to convene and MC a panel of inspiring women who discussed women’s health surrounded by Ponch Hawkes’ powerful photographic exhibition ‘500 Strong’. A sold-out crowd heard from WHG Equality advocate Bernie O’Shannessy, WHG board member and pharmacist Cobie McQueen, Horsham Gallery Director Lauren Simpson, and Dr Kate Graham from Lister House Medical Clinic. The importance of representation and visibility, particularly of and for older women, was the central theme – a perfect complement to Hawkes’ arresting images.