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Senator Michaelia Cash
Minister for Women, Minister for Employment
Dear Minister Cash
Re: FEDERAL FUNDING FOR THE QUEENSLAND WORKING WOMEN’S CENTRE
I am writing to you to seek your commitment to ongoing federal funding for the Queensland Working Women’s Service (QWWS), located in the Brisbane electorate and providing statewide services to vulnerable women in Queensland for over 20 years.
I understand that QWWS and the other Working Women’s Centres have been informed that their current funding will cease on 30 June 2016, and they have received no commitment to any ongoing funding.
Despite many advances in the last 50 years in achieving rights for women, many poor and marginalised women in Australia are still excluded from the benefits of legislation which should guarantee their right to fair and equitable treatment at work, and their right to personal safety at home and at work.
Some women are more vulnerable than others to abuse and mistreatment by employers and co-workers, due to social and economic factors such as poverty, disability, sickness, experience of domestic violence, ATSI background, mature age, inability to speak or write English, and lack of community support and connections due to recent immigration.
QWWS exists specifically to assist these specially vulnerable women in connection with the workplace, by helping them to understand and exercise their legal rights.
QWWS’s activities include a telephone helpline service, providing support or representation to women in particular need in negotiations with employers or at tribunals and courts, counselling, and publishing online self-help resources. QWWS also collaborates with other women’s centres to advocate for vulnerable women’s rights at the systemic level. This advocacy is incidental to, and supportive of QWWS achieving its main purpose, by helping to reduce the incidence of the problems faced by its clients.
Given the increasing recognition at national level of the problem of violence against women, and the fundamental importance of employment in maintaining health, financial security and social inclusion, the work of QWWS is even more important today than when it began over 20 years ago.
As Minister for Women, you are aware of the ongoing issues faced by working women, and particularly, how these issues continue to impact on their ability to participate in the workforce. These issues include pay inequity, the superannuation gap, sexual harassment, under-representation, pregnancy and sex discrimination, and also domestic violence as a workplace issue.
If QWWS were forced to close, there would be no equivalent service for vulnerable women in the state and we would lose an established voice on systemic gendered employment issues. This would leave thousands of female workers without support, and place additional burdens on legal and community services, FWO and the Fair Work Commission. There would be an increase in unmeritorious claims, litigation and disputes, and further, fewer women would secure their rightful entitlements, with flow on effects to their ongoing economic security as well as their families.
I seek your commitment to ensuring that sustainable funding for QWWS and the other Working Women’s centres is maintained after 30 June 2016.