Meeting of the COAG Select Council on Women’s Issues
18 November 2011, Adelaide, South Australia
The Hon. Kate Ellis MP, Australian Government Minister for the Status of Women, chaired the inaugural meeting of the COAG Select Council on Women’s Issues (Select Council) in Adelaide on Friday 18 November 2011.
The Select Council replaces the former Commonwealth, State, Territory and New Zealand Ministers’ Conference on the Status of Women (MINCO) and was established by COAG in September 2011 following a reform of the Ministerial Council system to better focus on, and progress, nationally significant reforms.
Women’s Ministers reasserted their commitment to progress reform through the following three projects:
- implementing the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (National Plan)
- developing and recommending a national framework for gender equality and
- developing a national approach to promote the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in governance and decision-making for communities and organisations.
The National Plan
The Select Council will work with other relevant COAG Councils, particularly the Law and Justice Standing Council to oversee the implementation of the first three year Action Plan. They discussed the draft national implementation plan and signalled they would finalise the document for publication early in 2012.
Ministers considered progress in the priority areas of:
- primary prevention activities
- building the evidence base and
- supporting improvements to service delivery.
Ministers agreed that primary prevention activities were the most critical element of the Plan in changing attitudes within the community and therefore reduce the level of violence against women. They agreed to ongoing collaboration and coordination to bring together knowledge and experience from across jurisdictions and to link with other relevant social marketing and educational campaigns, for example around mental health, drug and alcohol, and cybersafety. This will include sharing research, tracking and evaluation material on existing campaigns and wherever practical linking or cross promoting campaigns. Ministers also agreed that the economic empowerment of women underpins successful responses to domestic violence and, particularly, successful primary prevention responses.
In recognition of the importance of the evidence base to build understanding of issues in relation to domestic violence and sexual assault and to help guide future policy development and service delivery, Ministers agreed to continue to work together to progress development of options for establishing a national centre of excellence to enhance research on domestic violence and sexual assault, and the planning for the development of a national data framework.
Ministers also discussed the importance of ensuring the quality of services available to women who have been victims, or are at risk of, violence. They agreed in principle to the development of national standards for domestic violence and sexual assault telephone and online counselling services. This work would be undertaken in consultation with the service sector, and would draw on existing research from Australia and overseas.
Ministers agreed the standards need to focus on the clinical and professional standard of support provided to the clients as well as operational arrangements, including the ongoing support needs of the counsellors who provide the service.
In addition Ministers discussed the need for increasing the availability of support and assistance for people working in a wide range of different services and professions who might regularly have to deal with the effects of domestic violence and sexual assault on their clients. While recognising the responsibility of employers to ensure safe working conditions for their employees, including providing adequate professional supervision and support, Ministers agreed to work together to develop and implement increased assistance nationally.
It was also agreed the Commonwealth, states and territories would work together with the non-government sector to draft national standards for perpetrator interventions designed to stop their violent behaviour.
Ministers discussed the significance of the workplace as an important site of support to women experiencing domestic violence and the role workplaces have in providing women’s financial security. The heads of workplace authorities are developing guidelines to address violence in the workplace titled “Prevention and Responding to Violence at Work”. It was agreed that the Select Council would write to them to recommend the inclusion of violence against women as a workplace issue in these guidelines.
Gender Equality Framework
Ministers discussed the ongoing development of a national framework for considering gender equality, with a focus on reporting and analysis of equality of outcomes between women and men, including across the COAG Council System.
Ministers agreed to work with relevant Chairs of COAG Councils in highlighting the inclusion of gender equality in all areas of work.
Promoting the Leadership of Indigenous Women
Developing strong leadership capabilities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and encouraging organisational change to facilitate more Indigenous women in leadership positions, is a vital step in Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage. Ministers will explore a variety of ways to promote the leadership of Indigenous women and will consult with Indigenous women on successful leadership initiatives.
Sexualisation of women and girls
Ministers expressed their concerns about the impact of sexualisation of women and girls on gender equality, and noted in particular the potentially negative impact of child beauty pageants.
The Ministers will ask Chairs of relevant Ministerial Councils to consider a range of options including writing to media outlets and organisers of such pageants expressing concern about the overt sexualisation of girls and the safety and wellbeing of participants in these pageants.
Individual jurisdictions will consider their options for action relating to this issue.