If you read the literature on older women and homelessness, you will find a range of reasons offered to explain this situation. These reasons include:
Women’s quest independence (personal and financial)
The decline of the nuclear family
Increase in the number of single person households
Our increasing longevity
Structural disadvantage entrenched within our political and social system
Reduced public housing
The high cost of rental accommodation
Reduced service options available to homeless and disadvantaged women
Multiple disadvantages within someone’s life
Death of a spouse
Family Crisis etc.
And these reasons are all valid. In an ideal world it would be useful to be able to prioritise these issues, so we know where it would be most productive to direct our resources.
A recent report by the University of Queensland uncovered the top 10 reasons cited by women seeking help for homelessness. These reasons came from unpublished data from the Aust. Institute of Health and Welfare 2012.
These self-reported reasons are:
Domestic Violence (26%)
Financial Difficulties (17%)
Not Stated (12%)
Inadequate Dwelling Conditions (9%)
Housing Crisis (8%)
Housing Affordability Stress (5%)
Previous Accommodation Ended (3%)
Relationship Breakdown (3%)
Mental Health Issues (2%)
This list is helpful but it has some limitations. Self reporting is not always a reliable way to identify core issues.
I am aware that people seeking help often tell the organisation what they think the organisation wants to hear. For these people, this is the way they “play the game”. It is a matter of survival. I have been told by numerous homeless and disadvantaged people in West End that if you want help from a particular organisation, you have to tell them that you are sleeping rough. They contend that if you don’t, they probably won’t help you. In the limited number of times I have referred people to this organisation, this advice is sound.
In the previous self-reported reasons for women seeking homelessness, clearly Domestic Violence is an issue. However the self-reported 2% mental health issues seems low. I wonder how much of the financial difficulties were caused by mental health issues. How much of the Housing Affordability Stress was related to financial difficulties or mental health issues?
On top of this, these reported personal reasons may not take into consideration the larger issues of reduced public housing, low level of financial social support (eg. Newstart Allowance), reduced service options for homeless people and the impact of multiple disadvantages within someone’s life.
Older homeless women identified that their greatest need was for “General Assistance and Support”. This need was listed more than 3 times the amount of the next identified need of “Special Services”. “Long Term Housing Needs” and “Sustained Tenancy and Eviction Prevention” came in as the 3rd and 4th greatest identified need. This is consistent with what I have observed. Homeless people frequently need long term general support. Yes, they have periods of identified crisis within their life, but they nearly always need ongoing general assistance and support. If they can receive this ongoing general assistance and support, many crisis can be avoided or minimised. Frequently, homelessness is a chronic condition. You can’t give a magic pill and expect it to go away. Like diabetes, epilepsy and high blood pressure, homelessness needs ongoing support and maintenance. There maybe periods of acute episodes, but if you keep conditions supported and under control, they are less like re-occur as frequently or as intensively.
Given the wide variety of possible causes and influences on homeless and disadvantaged women, what is the best way to help them?
In a perfect world, the answer is – Permanent Supported Housing. There is much literature and personal experience to support this. If this is not possible, then we still need to do the same things that occur within that supported environment.
· That is: Develop rapport with the client.
· Work with them on a one on one basis to address their issues.
· Develop a good understanding of all their issues (assessment), so appropriate referrals can be made.
· It must be understood though that these people often are not mentally strong. So to tell them to seek advice from XYZ organisation may not be helpful. They may need to be supported and taken to the place that provides the assistance.
· It is important to realise also that there are frequently no quick fixes. The bureaucracies can work very slowly. People in need of help can be confused and reluctant to take good advice.
· Be patient and understanding. Take your time. Don’t expect miracles to happen over night.
Remember “the journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step” (Lao-tzu 650 BC).
Conditions on the Great Barrier Reef: The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) Eye on the Reef program with its component monitoring and reef health and impact surveys programs aims to provide valuable and up to date information on reef health status and trends, the distribution of protected and iconic species, and early warnings of environmental impacts. Marine Park rangers, marine tourism staff, scientists, fishers, tourists and other reef users all contribute by reporting their Reef sightings and observations to the GBRMPA. Since 2007, more than 9000 sightings of interesting marine animals, including humpback whales, dwarf minke whales, dugongs, dolphins, whale sharks, tiger sharks and green sea turtles have been recorded. Sightings of coral bleaching and damage, oil spills and chemical pollution, or strandings of marine animals can help provide early warning of health impacts. Since 2009, the Reef Health and Impact Survey has assessed reef health on hundreds of reefs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park within a series of five-metre radius circles. Participants complete a free basic training program in order to maintain the accuracy and quality of data gathered so that the GBRMPA can effectively minimize impacts and promote recovery. http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/visit-the-reef/eye-on-the-reef Of the 894 surveys across 88 reefs undertaken since 1 December 2013 (83% in the Cairns-Cooktown region, and the majority of the remainder in the Mackay-Capricorn region), 44 per cent recorded healthy coral reefs with no impacts, 30 per cent had one type of impact and another 26 per cent recorded more than one impact. Predation (mainly by crown-of-thorns starfish) was seen in 40 per cent of the surveys. http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/visit-the-reef/current-conditions-on-the-great-barrier-reef Researchers at James Cook University have developed a new method to control crown-of-thorns starfish with a small single injection that produces an allergic reaction in the starfish, causing it to break apart and die within 24 hours. 250,000 have now been culled on the Great Barrier Reef with this new control measure. http://greghunt.com.au/Media/MediaReleases/tabid/86/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/2801/250000-crown-of-thorns-starfish-culled.aspx
As the Chairman of the GBRMPA, Russell Reichelt, has pointed out assessing development applications on a case-by-case basis creates unnecessary uncertainty for local communities as well as the ports sector and heightens environmental risks. The danger of potential cumulative environmental impacts on the reef over a wide geographic area are not being properly assessed when development applications are considered in isolation. https://theconversation.com/lets-dump-great-barrier-reef-dredging-myths-authority-chief-22991
Regional Planning Interests Act 2014was passed on 20 March 2014 by the Queensland Parliament. It aims to guarantee protection of prime farm land and communities from encroaching resource development, especially coal seam gas and coal, and to resolve potential conflicts which may arise from the interaction between competing land uses, including agriculture and resources. In areas of regional interest (i.e.a priority agricultural area; a priority living area; the strategic cropping area; or a strategic environmental area) resource activities and other regulated activities will require a regional interests development approval. However, exemptions include certain activities agreed with the land owner, activity carried out for less than one year, and pre-existing resource activities. While farmer organisations welcome the Act as it helps redress the current power imbalance in land access arrangements and gives some landholders an equal say in what actually will occur on their land http://www.gasfieldscommissionqld.org.au/whats-happening/regional-planning-laws-passed.html, the Environmental Defenders Office, EDO Qld, is concerned that since if a landholder agrees to the resource activity, the mining company will simply notify the Government and undertake the activity without any scrutiny. There will be no public notification of the regional interest activity (RIA) application; no opportunity to make public submissions on the RIA; no third party public interest appeal rights; and no assessment of how significant the impacts are on the regional interest area. http://www.edo.org.au/edoqld/news/parliamentary-committee-recommends-regional-planning-interests-bill-2013-be-passed/
Alternative investment option for regulated point source operators to manage their water emission. Queensland Urban Utilities is undertaking a pilot project using alternative nutrient reduction actions in the Logan River to manage additional nitrogen discharges from the Beaudesert Sewage Treatment Plant, which have resulted from local population growth. 500 metres of eroded riparian corridors on the Logan River are being repaired with structural bank stabilization and riparian planting. It is estimated this will prevent approximately five tonnes of nitrogen and 11,200 tonnes of sediment from entering the Logan River each year due to natural erosion. The nitrogen savings made through the riparian works will be used to counterbalance any potential increases in nitrogen discharge from the sewage treatment plant that may occur during wet weather events. https://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/water/monitoring/voluntary-nutrient-management.html
Threatened Species: At Raine Island this year the reproductive success of green turtle nesting populations is less than 1%. In other green turtle nesting populations it is around 85%. The Raine Island recovery project plan will be reviewed against this findings.
The endangered northern subspecies of little tern Sternula albifrons sinensis which nests on open ground on South Stradbroke Island, one of the few known breeding sites in South East Queensland is under threat from adverse physical processes and extreme weather events. Continued monitoring and management activities are being undertaken. www.ehp.qld/gov.au Back from the Brink Issue #6
Great Barrier Reef Ports: On 5th December 2013 the NCWQ made a submission to the Queensland Government about the Queensland Ports Strategy raising the following concerns:-
Expansion of ports designated as Priority Port Development Areas within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) to cater for the expected increased quantities of coal and liquefied natural gas to be exported;
Impact of dredging and the dumpingofdredge spoil given the report by Sinclair Knight Merz Pty Ltd of the possible wider than expected dispersion of dredge plumes;
Increased shipping within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GMRMP) and potential introduction of many threats to the reef and marine life.
The concerns raised by NCWQ in Queensland Ports Strategy submission and specifically that of the impact of dredging and the dispersal of dredged spoil from the expansion of the Port at Abbot Point were also raised with the Australian Government (AG) via the NCWA. On the 10th December 2013, the AG Environment Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, gave approval for the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation Ltd (NQBPC) to undertake capital dredging and dredge spoil disposal for three terminals at the Port of Abbot Point, admittedly with several commendable conditions to mitigate or offset any impacts (2011-6213-approval-decision.pdf). However, it is noted that the proposed relocation area for the dredge spoil is within the GBRMP although the Minister’s priority for all future capital dredging projects within the Central and North Queensland coastal zone will be for shoreline, near to shore or land reclamation disposal (mr20131210.pdf).
On 31st January 2014, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) approved the application by NQBPC to dispose of dredge spoil at a deepwater location offshore of Abbot Point, subject to strict environmental conditions. The GBRMPA said they would support the use of an alternative site within the identified investigation zone if the NQBPC found one to be equal to or better in terms of environmental or heritage outcomes. However, the investigation zone is still within the GBRMP. Testing has confirmed there are no identified contaminants in the sediments that will be dredged at Abbot Point http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/media-room/latest-news/corporate/2014/strict-conditions-placed-on-approval-for-abbot-point-permit.The GBRMPA has reported that the uncertainty about the additional effects of sea dumping of dredge spoil is a key concern, particularly given the potential for large volumes of proposed dredge material to be dumped and resuspended in areas of the Great Barrier Reef Region (GBRR) already in poor condition GBRMPA 820 Strategic Assessment in Brief- Low Res.pdf.
The North Queensland Conservation Council (NQCC) considered the Abbot Point cumulative impact assessment (CIA) only considered a limited number of impacts from a limited number of actions and failed to meet the standard established in 2010 by Franks, DM, Brereton, D, Moran, CJ, Sarker, T and T, Cohen,2010, in “Cumulative Impacts: A Good Practice Guide for the Australian Coal Mining Industry” NGCC- comment- on –the draft GBRWHA- strategic – Assessments-2013.pdf. One questions whether given the dredge spoil is uncontaminated, could not better use be made of it on land? The possibility of smothering reefs and seagrass meadows remain. Given the threats from climate change and agricultural run off, why let the additional effect of sea dumping of dredge material put the reef’s world heritage status further at risk, and threaten marine life and the tourism and fishing industries?
Strategic Assessments of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and adjacent coastal zone: Draft assessments were released on 1 November 2013 as part of AG’s response to the World Heritage Committee’s concerns about the impact of development on the GBRWHA. It was reported that, while the outstanding universal value of the GBRWHA remained largely intact, the overall health of the Reef, especially in the southern two thirds of the GBRR, south of about Cooktown and Port Douglas, has declined significantly. Key habitats such as coral reefs and seagrass meadows are in serious decline and populations of some iconic and highly vulnerable animals e.g. southern dugong are on a downward trend. While agricultural practices are improving, and the loads of sediments and nutrients being washed into the GBRR are decreasing (Reef Water Quality Protection Plan 2013), there is likely to be a lag of some decades before water quality significantly improves. High concentrations of nutrients in Reef waters are likely to promote continued, more-frequent outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish. With sea dumping of dredge spoil, the cumulative effect of these impacts require additional management intervention. With a concerted international effort to reduce global climate change, action at the national, state and local levels is needed to build the Reef’s resilience by reducing impacts GBRMPA 820 Strategic Assessment in Brief- Low Res. The GBRWPA advocated strengthening current management strategies as well as a number of initiatives GBRMPA Draft Program Report sml.pdf.
However, the North Queensland Conservation Council (NQCC) has drawn attention to the dangers of “ Strategic assessments remove the need for the assessments of individual projects, instead they mean a range of developments can proceed without further approval if undertaken under a policy, program or plan endorsed under the EPBC Act, (p2)” in the AG’s Strategic Assessment Prospectus. The NQCC stressed that as the Strategic Assessment focused on the management of the GBRWHA any acceptance of the proposed Program can only demonstrate Ministerial approval of individual management approaches within the proposed Program, not a range of development proposals. In reviewing the effectiveness of the GBRMPA, the NQCC concluded the GBRMPA needs to be strengthened to be able to exert greater control over the range of activities having an impact on the GBRWHA. The NQCC urges that the condition of all aspects of the GBRWHA be linked to causes of degradation and the associated proposed changes to deliver targeted quantified benefit. The NQCC questioned whether the claims in the QG’s Draft Program Report – Coastal component that management have been effective. For example, the recent revelations of the failure of the wall designed to retain dredge spoil at GladstoneHarbour and systemic failings in the monitoring, managing and reporting hardly confirm effectiveness.
The NQCC highlights a number of other deficiencies e.g. the proposed offset policy appears to be designed for quicker development application/assessment rather than an empirical assessment of the ability or failure of existing offsets to deliver net benefits for the environment; the claim that the Abbot Point CIA to be an innovative model for this kind of assessment given it failed to meet the standard NGCC- comment- on –the draft GBRWHA- strategic – Assessments-2013.pdf. The independent review of the Coastal Zone Strategic Assessment (draft in progress 13 September2013) by Sinclair, Knight and Merz commissioned by the Department of Environment of the AG found the reports to be consistent with the terms of reference if key gaps identified were addressed. They concluded further explanation was needed on how the Strengthened Management and Forward Commitments of the Program are sufficient to reverse the declining condition of Matters of National Environmental Significance. A number of recommendations were made e.g. expanding the assessment of port development and associated activities such as shipping and dredging to provide further justification for the assessments of risks and considering the cumulative impacts of multiple port projects across the GBR; and describing the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification are likely to be manifested on the GBR and how managing for resilience could partly address these challenges. Great Barrier Reef Coastal Zone Strategic Assessment Independent Review Report 25 October 2013
State Party Report on the State of Conservation of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (Australia) was released by the AG on the 31st January 2014, in response to the World Heritage Committee Decision Whc 37 Com 7b.10.The above Strategic Assessments and Programme Reports form the basis for the claim of that substantial progress has been made in responding to the World Heritage Committee decisions and mission recommendations. Work on Reef 2050 – Longterm Sustainability Plan has commenced. gbr-state-party-report-2014-hi.pdf
Environmental threat from the nickel refinery at Yabulu near Townsville: A GBRMPA report obtained by FOI by the Australian newspaper stated that there was 5000 million litres of “hazardous waste” in the refinery’s tailings pond and the nitrogen concentrations were more than 150 times the maximum for sewage discharge in the GBRMP. There are concerns about the risk of a spill in the event of a major downpour or cyclone or the possibility of unpermitted discharges. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/investigations/clive-palmers-yabulu-refinery-a-reef-risk-says-report/story-fnk76wj3-1226824182234
Coal Seam Gas and ground water: The work undertaken by Geoscience Australia, the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA) and Gas Industry Social & Environmental Research Alliance (Gisera) is acknowledged and commended. Geoscience Australia is investigating potential recharge zones to the GAB aquifers of the Surat Basin from downward leakage through the Quaternary alluvial aquifers, usually via rivers and potential areas of upward leakage from the GAB to the Quaternary alluvium and river systems http://www.ga.gov.au/groundwater/our-capabilities/great-artesian-basin.html.
Gisera has current research projects looking at maximising the amount of treated coal seam gas water that can be re–injected into aquifers:- Geochemical response to re-injection project to understand how treated coal seam gas water interacts with groundwater; Re–injection of coal seam gas water to understand how to minimise clogging of re–injection wells; Groundwater modelling to determine the possibility of large scale re–injection programs and Groundwater baseline study to understand the origin and age of groundwater prior to and during initial stages of development GISERA Research progress December 2013.
A regional groundwater flow model was constructed to predict the impacts of current and planned CSG development on water pressures in aquifers for Surat Underground Water Impact Report (UWIR) which was approved in December 2012. At that time there was little monitoring data to assist in understanding the interconnectivity between the formations Surat underground-water-impact-report.pdf July2012.Condamine Connectivity Project is being undertaken to improve understanding of the hydrogeological relationships and potential for interconnectivity between the Condamine Alluvium (CA), the underlying Walloon Coal Measures (WCM) and other associated formations. Outputs from this project will improve the representation of the formations in future groundwater modelling that will support the revision of or the Surat UWIR in December 2015. However the existing UWIR groundwater model is continuing to be used for assessing regional impacts Annual Report 2013 for the Surat UWIR December 2013. It is understood the collection of baseline data, research and computer modelling all take time and substantial progress is being made. However, given that water resources are such an essential resource to life, the environment and other industries would it not be prudent to slow the pace of CSG development?
Cape York Regional Plan:On 25th November 2013, the QG released for comment a draft plan aimed at balancing economic development opportunities such as agriculture and mining, with protection of the regions’ significant natural and cultural resourceshttp://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2013/11/20/newman-government-releases-plan-for-cape-york. Land use was categorised General Use Areas (GUAs; areas where economic development activities are prioritised including agriculture, tourism and resource activities, while recognising that site specific environmental and cultural values remain important considerations in any development/resource proposal; 53% Cape York Region); Strategic Environmental Areas (SEAs; areas containing regionally significant values for biodiversity, water catchments and ecological function. Development supported if the development outcome does not present risk of irreversible or widespread impacts to the ecological integrity of the areas in supporting the region’s significant biodiversity; 32% Cape York Region) and National Parks (Development and activities in national parks may be facilitated where they are ecologically sustainable activities that protect an area’s natural condition and values; 15% Cape York Region) http://www.dsdip.qld.gov.au/resources/plan/cape-york/draft-cape-york-regional-plan.pdf. The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve was drafted as an SEA.http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2013/11/20/newman-government-releases-plan-for-cape-york
The Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013 introduced in Parliament on 20 November 2013 requires resource activities authorised under resource acts and other regulated activities to align with the regional land use policies in the regional plans as well as other government policy Regional planningB13.pdf. At a State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee Hearing into the Bill 2013,Mr Barry Lyon, Senior Conservation Ranger, Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve, Australia Zoo put the case that bauxite mining and land set aside for nature conservation purposes such as the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve were incompatible. With strip mining, large areas are cleared and bauxite, which is the supporting substrate for the ecosystem, is taken out and the landscape is lowered. When that substrate that supported the original ecosystem is gone, the hydrology is affected. Monsoonal rain that falls on the bauxite plateau filters through the bauxite into the deeper aquifer and feeds the springs, which then feed the Wenlock river Public Hearing—Inquiry Into The Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013 Transcript Of Proceedings Wednesday, 12 February 2014 Brisbane.
Most of the burden of disease due to poor nutrition in Australia is associated with excess intake of energy-dense and relatively nutrient-poor foods high in energy, saturated fat, added or refined sugars salt, and the inadequate intake of nutrient-dense foods. Deficiency in nutrients such as iodine, folate, iron, Vitamin D is also a concern for some people.
Work-like pressures are blamed for bad food choices. A new survey shows the increasing habit of eating out, the convenience of fast foods, buying take-away, ready to eat meals.
Almost a third of Queensland adults were measured as obese in 2011-2012. The Queensland Government has launched a $7.5 million ad campaign using images of fat as it appears around vital organs. Deep-fried and sugar laden foods being sold in the state’s public hospital canteens are on the “hit list” as the Newman government rolls out its new obesity program.
Queensland Health has a $45 million package of initiatives to help children and young teenagers improve their health and to stamp out chronic disease. With more than one in four
Queensland children now overweight and obese, the Healthy Children program aims to improve children and young people’s food choices, focusing on positive healthy lifestyle choices. The program includes thirteen initiatives across government and partnership with many external organisations to improve the nutrition and physical activity of children. An example includes the Trim Kids project which aims to support families to adopt healthy lifestyles and to promote healthy weight through sustained change.
Dr. Jeanette Young, Chief Health Officer has a free help hotline for the obese and overweight.
Queensland’s Chief health Officer, Doctor Jeanette Young has called on parents to ban children from drinking soft drinks and fruit juice. A 375ml. can of soft drink contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar. Young children should be drinking only milk or water.
The Good Start Program for Maori and Pacific Islander children employs seven part-time multicultural health workers to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity among the young people.
“Need for Feed” is a fun and interactive “healthy cooking and nutrition” program tailored to students in years 7-10 in some Queensland schools. The program funded by Queensland health and managed by Diabetes Queensland, teaches students basic cooking skills and gives them confidence to prepare and eat a variety of nutritious foods at home. This is the third year of the program and to date Diabetes Qld. Has run 44 programs across the state with plans for more. Each program must be run outside of school hours for a total of 20 hours with 15-20 participants aiming to influence the long-term health benefits of young Queenslanders.
Educating families on improving their diet in the battle against obesity was the key plank to Jamie Oliver’s International Food Revolution Day on May 17 – aimed to highlight the importance of cooking wholesome healthy food from scratch. Following the success of the 10 week course in Ipswich, Jamie Oliver is set to launch another of his Ministry of Food Cooking Schools in Toowoomba. Great outcomes have been seen participants knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards healthy cooking and eating.
A survey of 500 Australian parents shows 92% of children are eating less than the recommended daily serves of 4-5 vegetables and 35% not eating the recommended 2 pieces of fruit.
The Brisbane Produce Markets “Healthy Lunchboxes” book developed with dietician and nutritionist Maree Ferguson is intended to kick start the healthy switch by offering ten simple lunch boxes that tick off the five food group. “Healthy Lunchboxes” is available from local greengrocers in S.E. Queensland. Visit www.brisbanemarkets.com.au
A glance into lunchboxes at 5 Queensland and day care centres revealed 38% of sandwiches had vegemite, jam or nut spreads, more than one third had junk food such as biscuits, potato chips, doughnuts or chocolate bars. On average there are 11.1 gm. of sugar and 10.21 mg. of salt in the products – twice the daily recommended daily intake for children.
75% of salt comes from our processed foods – stock, canned soups, breads, tinned tomatoes, ready meals, some cereals, peanut butter, vegemite are on the list. A 350 ml can of soft drink 40gm, 200 ml bottle of fruit juice 15gm.
In September, the Parenting, Eating and Activity for Child Health (PEACH) program was launch and to be run by the QUT. The program is for families with an overweight or obese child aged 5-11. The government program estimated to cost $5 million, aims to address childhood obesity in Queensland. Over 6 months, parents will be educated on how to overcome pitfalls such as contents of lunchboxes and take away meals. The children will be in involved in physical activity. Since 2002, a similar program has been successful in South Australia.
Eating a large breakfast and a smaller dinner may help weight loss according to recent Israeli study.
According to the World Health Organisation, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Therefore, when thinking about health and the impacts on women’s lives it is necessary to consider where women live, the work they do, their family and social roles as well as the opportunities they have for relaxation and self care.
It is known that the higher the income someone has the greater is their potential for health. In most countries income is closely linked to education. Societies with the best outcomes on a number of health and social scales are those with the least variation between high and low income earners. One way this can be achieved is with social support systems that keep this difference to a minimum.
Therefore, it is important for the NCWQ to continue its bursary program. These programs assist and enable girls to undertake and complete education and indirectly impact on their health. The NCWQ can also advocate against systems that adversely affect women’s earnings. These can include advocating for equal pay for equivalent work; review of superannuation systems and social support programs that minimize the gap between men and women and between the high and low income earners.
The following are issues that the NCWQ should be aware of because of their impact on women’s health.
Women’s homelessness is usually linked to their decreased earnings because of their caring and parenting roles. If a woman is homeless she is more vulnerable to violence and exploitation. In Queensland, even though 40% of homeless people are women, there are 10 times more beds for homeless men than women.
Family violence and sexual assault:
Violence is a risk factor for homelessness. An ABS survey in 2005 found that in the previous 12 months 4.7% of all women had experienced physical violence and 1.6% sexual violence. In 2003, 81% of female victims of sexual violence knew their offender while for that year only 47% of male victims did. In that same year, 49% of female victims were killed as a result of a domestic altercation. An Access Economics report for the Office for the Status of Women estimated that the total cost in 2003-04 for domestic violence was $8.1 billion. A report on violence against women for VicHealth in June 2004 found that ‘violence is responsible for more ill-health and premature death among Victorian women under the age of 45 than any other well-known risk factors including high blood pressure, obesity and smoking.’
Our current lifestyles put us at risk of a number of chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease. We don’t get enough physical activity, our diets often include insufficient fruits and vegetables, we smoke, we have risky alcohol intake and are a leading country for obesity. While most women fear developing breast cancer, they are often unaware that heart disease is the no. 1 killer of Australian women and are possibly 3 times more like to die from this than breast cancer.
Sexual and reproductive health:
From menstruation to menopause, women’s sexual and reproductive health impacts on their lives. The rates in Australia of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia especially in young females aged 15-29 and young Aboriginal women aged 15-35 is increasing. While teenage pregnancy rates are falling, Australia still has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy compared to other developed countries. Indigenous teenage women are 5 times more likely to give birth as non-Indigenous teenage women.
Indigenous women and women from non-English speaking backgrounds are over represented in maternal death statistics.
Mental and emotional health:
Pregnancy and birth are a key time for women to experience anxiety and depression. The Queensland Maternal and Perinatal Quality Council Report 2011, showed that for 2004-08, suicide was the leading cause of death for women within 1 year of giving birth. A Price Waterhouse Coopers report found that for 2010, the cost of postnatal depression to the Australian economy was $500 million.
According to beyondblue, 1 in 5 Australian women will experience depression and 1 in 3 will experience anxiety in their lifetime. And women experience these at higher rates than men. There is an increasing amount of research into the links between physical ill health (including some chronic diseases) and emotional ill health (such as depression).
Access to services:
A key issue for all women is access to and choice of services. Not all Queensland women have equal access to all services they require. Women living in rural, regional and remote areas often experience poorer health than women living in urban Queensland. To access the services they require, women may need to travel hundreds of kilometres, which increases the cost to them and means they are less likely to seek the care and treatments they require to prevent ill health or to maintain their health.