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The Working Women’s Centres call on the Federal Government to immediately take action and fund the Northern Territory and Queensland Working Women’s Centres.
The funding and establishment of Working Women’s Centres in every Australian state and territory is essential to addressing workplace sexual harassment, and forms a key part of the Respect@Work report, appearing at recommendation 49.
The recommendation is that ‘Australian governments provide increased and recurrent funding to working women’s centres, to provide information, advice and assistance to vulnerable workers who experience sexual harassment, taking into account particular needs of workers facing intersectional discrimination.’
The Federal Government has agreed to this recommendation in the Roadmap for Respect. However, the government has failed to provide certainty as to its funding commitment or timeframes around these discussions.
We cannot wait. The Northern Territory and Queensland WWCs have 10 weeks to find funding or face the prospect of closing. This will be devastating to working women in QLD and the NT and it will fly in the face of the federal governments promises to address gendered violence in the workplace.
The Government must act now and immediately fund the NT and QLD services. Our clients, communities and working women are depending on us. Working Women are depending on the government to save their services, who work and understand the local environment and the challenges in which they live and work.
Funding Working Women’s Centres is an easy, immediate and tangible solution for the prevention of sexual violence. This is the first test for the new Attorney General and the federal government since their response to the Report’s 55 recommendations.
Experts and leaders in gender equity regularly talk about the Working Women’s Centre holistic model as world leading. WWCs form the backbone of the fight to eliminate gendered violence in our workplaces and the community.
Director of the QLD Working Women’s Centre Fiona Hunt says: “All women deserve safe workplaces and someone to champion them when they are treated unfairly. WWC QLD works with the most vulnerable women in QLD to keep them employed, to get what they are entitled and to walk away fairly if needed.”
Director, of the NT WWC Nicki Petrou says: “In a climate when women’s safety at work has again hit the headlines, when the Federal Government has committed to building women’s workforce participation, economic security and making women’s homes and workplaces safe, funding specialist women’s services such as the Working Women’s Centres who are here now continuing to do the work, in supporting women with workplace issues and throughout COVID is especially critical. This also makes good sense.”
Director of the SA WWC Abbey Kendall says: “The South Australian WWC is a great example of what a secure and funded and working women’s center can do for workplaces, vulnerable people and working women. We make a big impact in South Australia but we need a national approach to this issue. We need an alliance of well funded Working Women’s Centres in every state and territory and the first step to achieving that is to save the NT and QLD centres”.
WWC NT Director – Nicki Petrou,
WWC QLD Director – Fiona Hunt
WWC SA Director – Abbey Kendall
The Working Women’s Centres are not-for-profit organisations which providefree advice, representation and support to vulnerable, workers about their rights at work. Additionally, the WWC’s advocate for systemic change to improve women’s workplace conditions and safety, and offer a range of free and fee for service training for workers and employers about workplace rights. This includes bullying, sexual harassment, and appropriately responding to disclosures of domestic violence.
There are currently 3 WWCs across the country (SA, NT and QLD). The only WWC with secure funding is WWC SA with the QLD service now a program of the Basic Rights Centre following non continuation of its funding 4 years earlier.
The Working Women’s Centre is made up of three arms:
Industrial/Legal support – we provide advice and representation to vulnerable workers who contact the Centre with work issues through 1:1 clinic appointments
Advocacy – we conduct advocacy to resolve systemic issues that affect women and other vulnerable workers, such as sexual harassment and precarious work
Education – we provide fee-for-service and free training for workers and employers about workplace rights. This includes bullying, sexual harassment, and appropriately responding to disclosures of domestic violence.
Core practices of the WWC
The Working Women’s Centre model is unique due to the combination of a number of core practices.