It was Ladies Night in Canberra at the Australian of the Year Awards for 2015

rosiebattyCongratulations to Rosie Batty, winner of the Australian of the Year Award for 2015.

It was ladies night at this year’s Australian of the Year Awards with all four award categories being won by women – the first time in the history of the awards this has happened. Domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty was named Australian of the Year. Popular children’s author Jackie French won the Senior Australian of the Year Award and deaf advocate Drisana Levitzke-Gray was named Young Australian of the Year. Juliette Wright was named Australia’s Local Hero for her charity work.

There wasn’t a dry eye on the lawns of Parliament House after Rosie Batty delivered her acceptance speech for the Australian of the Year Award. Rosie dedicated her award to her “beautiful son Luke”, who was brutally murdered by his father at a children’s cricket match just over a year ago. After losing her 11 year old son in horrific circumstances, Rosie Batty gave a face and a voice to the thousands of victims of domestic violence who’s stories do not make national news headlines. Today, Rosie devotes much of her time and energy to campaigning for changes to the legal system that failed to protect her son from a violent father.

flickr-large-15401271277@193Senior Australian of the Year Jackie French, is much more than an author of children’s books, she is also a tireless advocate for children with learning difficulties. After overcoming dyslexia herself, Jackie published 140 books in 32 languages and received more than 60 literary prizes for beloved children’s classics such as Diary of a Wombat. As the current national Children’s Laureate, Jackie travels the country to promote literacy and share the transformational power of reading. Passionate about conservation of our native wildlife, 61 year old Jackie is also a director of The Wombat Foundation which raises funds for research into the preservation of the endangered northern hairy nosed wombat.

flickr-large-15546076085@193The fifth generation in her family to be born deaf, Young Australian of the Year Drisana Levitzke-Gray, is dedicated to helping other deaf people. Drisana promotes the deaf community as one without borders that is rich with language, culture, history and traditions. As the only Australian selected to attend the Frontrunners international deaf leadership course in 2012 and 2013, Drisana has worked with communities in Europe and Samoa and in 2014, she became the first deaf Auslan user to fulfil her civic duty as a juror. Drisana was chosen as this year’s recipient of the Young Australian of the Year Award because she embodies the concept of ‘deaf gain’, not ‘hearing loss’, inspiring the deaf community, encouraging others to accept diversity and promoting a positive image of deafness.

flickr-large-15237620948@193Australia’s Local Hero Juliette Wright is the Founder and CEO of GIVIT, an online platform which is changing the way society helps its most vulnerable and marginalised people. In 2011, when Queensland was hit by devastating floods, GIVIT became the state government’s official website for matching donors and recipients – with 33,500 goods matched in three weeks. Juliette’s positive ‘can do’ attitude inspires others to embrace philanthropy and she has just launched GIVIT Kids, a safe online platform for children to give new or pre-loved belongings to kids in need.

Congratulations to all the winners and to all the men and women finalists for this year’s national awards. We are proud of each and every one of you!

Women Dominate List of Finalists for Australian of the Year Awards 2015

Six of the eight finalists for the 2015 Australian of the Year Award and more than half of the 32 finalists across all four award categories, are women. This is the highest number of female finalists in the Australian of the Year Award category since the State and Territory award process was introduced in 2003.

Winners of the 2015 Australian of the Year Awards will be announced on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra at 6pm (AEDT) on Sunday 25 January 2015. You can watch the awards announcement live on ABC TV and ABC News 24, and via live streaming at and ABC iView. The awards will also be broadcast on ABC Local Radio.

Finalists for Australian of the Year 2015 Award

Since 1960 our nation has celebrated the achievement and contribution of eminent citizens through the Australian of the Year Awards. The awards profile leading Australians who are role models for us all. The finalists for the 2015 Australian of the Year Award are:

flickr-large-15408197959@193Deborra-lee Furness (NSW), Child advocate and adoption campaigner
Actor, director and producer, Deborra-lee Furness is fighting for the rights of children in Australia and around the world. Recognising the need to help abandoned and vulnerable children, the mother of two adopted children herself, established National Adoption Awareness Week in 2008. In 2014, Deborra-lee launched Adopt Change and is leading the campaign to overhaul Australia’s anti-adoption culture and lobby for national adoption law reform. As a World Vision ambassador, Deborra-lee has worked with world leaders, travelling through Asia and Africa to raise awareness of the global orphan crisis.

flickr-large-15472960295@193Rosie Batty (Vic), Domestic violence campaigner
Rosie Batty has risen above her personal tragedy and the great loss of her 11 year old son, Luke, who was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of his father in a very public assault. Rosie’s story jolted Australia into recognising that family violence can happen to anyone. Rosie now champions efforts to fight domestic violence, making many media and public speaking appearances to shine a spotlight on the issue and call for systemic changes.

flickr-large-15401171776@193Hetty Johnston AM (QLD), Child protection activist
Founder of child protection charity, Bravehearts, Hetty Johnston is determined to make Australia the safest place in the world for children. Hetty established Bravehearts in 1997 after learning her daughter had been sexually assaulted. Since then, Hetty has dedicated her life to creating awareness that child sexual assault is largely preventable and encouraging the nation to prioritise the safety of children. Today, Hetty leads a team of more than 70 employees who provide therapeutic, educational and advocacy services across the nation.

flickr-large-15546915562@193Professor Lyn Beazley AO (WA), Scientist
As Western Australia’s Chief Scientist from 2006 to 2013, Lyn advised governments on science and innovation, worked closely with industry and was a science ambassador in Australia and internationally. She helped establish a nationwide ‘hotline’ for school laboratory technicians, worked for healthier waterways by establishing Dolphin Watch, spearheaded a program supplying microscopes to over 450 primary schools and introduced the international science communication competition Famelab to Australia.

flickr-large-15452476217@193Dr Gill Hicks MBE (SA), Peace campaigner
When she was blown up in the tunnel between London’s King’s Cross and Russell Square tube stations in July 2005, Dr Gill Hicks’ injuries were so severe that paramedics couldn’t even identify her gender. Trapped in the chaos, her legs destroyed, Gill was close to death but made a vow to survive and make a difference. In the nine years since, Gill has dedicated her life to working for world peace. The founder of M.A.D. For Peace, Gill’s work concentrates on ending violent extremism and building sustainable peace.

flickr-large-15359215889@193Rodney Croome AM (TAS), Equality activist
Walking into a Hobart police station with his partner in 1994, Rodney Croome confessed to a serious crime: homosexuality. Rodney’s actions, reported the world over, were a major catalyst for the campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in Tasmania which Rodney took all the way to the High Court of Australia and the United Nations. A champion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights in Tasmania and throughout Australia, Rodney has spent the past 26 years campaigning for decriminalisation, anti-discrimination protections, and the recognition of same-sex relationships and families, including marriage equality.

flickr-large-15288536148@193Glenn Keys (ACT), Business and philanthropic leader
A former Australian Defence Force test flight engineer, as managing director of global healthcare provider, Aspen Medical, Glenn puts corporate social responsibility at the heart of his business. The company has its own foundation which uses a percentage of its profits to attack major Australian health issues, particularly in Indigenous communities. The parent of a child with an intellectual disability, Glenn is passionate about helping people with disability reach their potential.

flickr-large-15522103855@193Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM (NT), Humanitarian
Growing up on the remote Utopia Station in the Northern Territory, Rosalie Kunoth‐Monks learnt the laws of her tribe, the Anmatjere people. After moving to Alice Springs to attend school, Rosalie was cast in the lead role in the classic Australian film Jedda in 1953. Later, Rosalie spent a decade as a nun in a Melbourne convent before leaving to establish the first Aboriginal hostel in Victoria. In 1970 she married, settled in Alice Springs and became involved in social work and politics. Since then, she has been a government adviser, an interpreter, an environmental campaigner and has chaired or contributed to many boards and councils devoted to Indigenous issues.

Finalists for 2015 Senior Australian of the Year Award

The Senior Australian of the Year Award recognises those Australians aged 60 and over who continue to achieve and contribute. The award commenced in the International Year of Older Persons in 1999.

  • Jackie French (NSW), Author
  • Professor Sam Berkovic AC (VIC), Neurologist
  • Fred Hyde AM (QLD), Philanthropist
  • Graham Mabury OAM (WA), Radio presenter and social justice leader
  • John Swan (SA), Musician and volunteer
  • Professor Henry Reynolds (TAS), Historian
  • Sandra Mahlberg (ACT), Humanitarian and volunteer
  • Eddie Robertson (NT), Elder and community leader

Finalists for 2015 Young Australian of the Year Award

The Young Australian of the Year Award recognises those aged 16 to 30 who are outstanding and exceptional young Australians. The Young Australian of the Year has been awarded since 1979.

  • Genevieve Clay-Smith (NSW), Film maker and social entrepreneur
  • Thomas King (VIC), Environmental activist
  • Yassmin Abdel-Magied (QLD), Engineer and social advocate
  • Drisana Levitzke-Gray (WA), Deaf advocate
  • Kristin Carson (SA), Scientist
  • Adam Mostogl (TAS), Business mentor
  • Patrick Mills (ACT), Basketball superstar
  • Chantal Ober (NT), Community leader

Finalists for 2015 Australia’s Local Hero Award

The Local Hero Award was introduced into the Australian of the Year Awards in 2003. It acknowledges extraordinary contributions made by Australians in their local community.

  • Kevin Robinson (NSW), Charity founder
  • Louise Davidson (VIC), Breast cancer fundraiser
  • Juliette Wright (QLD),
  • Western Australia – Stacy Dunbar
  • South Australia – Vince Coulthard
  • Tasmania – Mary Kay
  • Australian Capital Territory – Damian De Marco
  • Northern Territory – Ray Palmer

For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit the website

Female Politicians gather in Canberra to Inspire our Female Leaders of Tomorrow

7. Group shot with Julie BishopJulie Bishop may not be a feminist, but she’s happy to take some time out of her busy schedule to do her bit for gender equality in Australia. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, joined other female politicians and executives on Wednesday, in welcoming three of our leaders of tomorrow to the nation’s capital.

The winners of Country to Canberra’s inaugural essay competition on gender equality, Libby O’Brien, 16, from Beaudesert in Queensland, Nullamanna’s Hannah Worsley, 17, and Vesna Clark, 16, from Mittagong, both in New South Wales, were invited to attend a ‘power trip’ in Canberra.

The three teenagers jumped at the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the country’s most powerful women at a “Powerful Women’s Breakfast” held at Farmers Daughter in Yarralumla. In attendance were ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, Federal Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann, the highest female executive at the Department of Defence Rebecca Skinner, and the Deputy Australian Public Service Commissioner Stephanie Foster.

Later, the girls attended a special lunch at Parliament House, co-­sponsored by Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash, Senator Anne Ruston, Senator Jan McLucas and Senator Lee Rhiannon. But the highlight of the day was meeting Australia’s first female Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, after Question Time.

Founded by Hannah Wandel with the assistance of a Great Ydeas Grant from YWCA Canberra, Country to Canberra provides opportunities for young women in rural communities throughout Australia, to meet and learn from female politicians and other female leaders working in the nation’s capital.

Hannah Wandel says Country to Canberra aims to bridge the gap between rural areas and the nation’s capital, connecting girls to mentors, and motivating more young women to become leaders in their local communities.

“Taking into account Australia’s 18.2% gender pay gap, and considering just 30.5% of federal politicians are female, it’s clear girls face more barriers to success,” said Hannah. “Distance, time and funds can also isolate rural females from education and career opportunities. Country to Canberra gives these students a helping hand.”

When asked to comment about her trip to Canberra, Libby O’Brien said, “As a young woman about to leave school, Country to Canberra’s ‘power trip’ has been incredibly inspiring. The lessons learned will really help me forge a successful career.”

Winners of  "Country to Canberra" essay competition with (from L to R):  Senator Lee Rhiannon, Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash, Senator Anne Ruston, Hannah Wandel, and Senator Jan Lucas.

Winners of “Country to Canberra” essay competition with (from L to R): Senator Lee Rhiannon, Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash, Senator Anne Ruston, Hannah Wandel, and Senator Jan Lucas.

Oxfam Unwrapped Charity Gifts for Christmas 2014

18576117This Christmas marks 10 years of Australians buying goats, chickens, cow manure and other quirky charity gifts through the Oxfam Unwrapped charity gift program. More than 1 million Oxfam Unwrapped gifts have been purchased since the program began in 2005, raising over $40 million for Oxfam’s life-changing work in communities around the world.

The charity gift program which sells real items Oxfam provides to people living in poverty, including goats, chickens, piglets, veggie gardens, plant seeds and even toilets, has become a popular gift choice for Christmas. The 2014 Oxfam Unwrapped Christmas catalogue includes more than 40 products ranging from $9 to $150.

On the 10th anniversary of Oxfam Unwrapped, the charity is asking Australians to continue to support this unique charity gift program by purchasing Oxfam Unwrapped gifts in-store or online at the Oxfam Shop.

Oxfam Unwrapped spokesperson Jez Hunghanfoo said, “Looking back at the last 10 years of the Unwrapped program, the impact these gifts and donations have had on the lives of families living in poverty is astounding.”

“More than 450,000 Unwrapped animals have been purchased over the years, proving to be the most popular gift choice, as well as countless litres of clean water for schools in South Africa, seeds to grow food in Sri Lanka and even training for farmers in Timor-Leste.”

“We believe Australians have shown such great support for Unwrapped because it really appeals to our national sense of humour and fun. The silliness of receiving something as unusual as a goat for Christmas generally gets a good laugh,” said Mr Hunghanfoo.

“Both giving and receiving a gift which benefits someone living with so little also makes people feel really good at a time when consumerism is at its peak. And it’s definitely more interesting than the usual stocking fillers!”

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Elizabeth Broderick Awarded Top Honour at 100 Women of Influence Awards 2014

L to R: Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, Westpac Group CEO Gail Kelly

L to R: Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, Westpac Group CEO Gail Kelly

Elizabeth Broderick, was recognised for her leadership in the field of sex discrimination, as well as her significant contribution to the social and economic advancement of women, at the Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards held in Sydney last night.

In her role as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick has been an influential voice for many important initiatives and policies, including the Commission’s Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force and the Male Champions of change strategy.

Speaking at the Gala Awards Event at Sydney Town Hall, Westpac Group Chief Executive Officer Gail Kelly said: “Elizabeth has dedicated a significant portion of her professional career to the advancement of women in Australia and internationally.”

“Elizabeth’s excellent work as Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner has been far-reaching, ranging from preventing violence against women to improving lifetime economic security. Her dedication to ensuring women have access to more flexible balanced paid work and unpaid caring is something I particularly commend, as I believe this will make a tangible difference to the economic prosperity of Australia.”

The 100 Women of Influence Awards 2014 recognised ten women in the categories of Board/Management, Public Policy, Young Leader, Social Enterprise and Not-for-profit, Philanthropy, Global Influence, Innovation, Local/Regional Community, Diversity and Business Enterprise.

  • Overall Winner and Diversity Winner: Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Human Rights Commission
  • Board/Management: Anne-Marie Corboy, CEO, HESTA Super Fund
  • Business Enterprise: Dr Alex Birrell, CEO, Paftec
  • Global: Professor Ann Henderson-Sellers, Professor Emerita, Macquarie University
  • Innovation: Professor Rebecca Ivers, Director, Injury Division, The George Institute for Global Health
  • Local/ Regional: Linda O’Brien, Principal, Granville Boys’ High School, NSW Department of Education
  • Philanthropy: Janette Savage, Regional Coordinator/ Funding Chairperson, Cancer Care Western NSW Inc
  • Public Policy: Professor Jane Halton, Secretary, Department of Finance, Australian Government
  • Social Enterprise/ Not-for-Profit: Jo Cavanagh, CEO, Family Life
  • Young Leader: Genevieve Clay-Smith, Co-founder, Bus Stop Films & Taste Creative

Now in it’s 3rd year, the 100 Women of Influence had some healthy competition in 2014 for the hearts and minds of Australia’s highest achieving women, from the Australian Women’s Weekly Power List published in the October edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly.

While the Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards chose to give it’s top honour for 2014 to Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, the Australian Women’s Weekly Power List gave theirs to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, ahead of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin. Judges for the AWW Power List considered Ms Broderick to be only the 20th most powerful woman in the country.

The complete list of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence 2014 can be found online at the Financial Review website.

2014 Women of Influence (22)

Senator Fiona Nash pays tribute to health professionals in remote Australia

Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash

Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash

Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash, today paid tribute to the nurses and other allied health professionals who deliver health services in Australia’s remote communities.

Opening the Council of Remote Area Nurses of Australia’s CRANAplus 32nd Annual Conference today in Melbourne, Minister Nash acknowledged that it was a tough life for health professionals living and working in remote locations as it was for the many people who rely on their services.

”As a rural person I know how rewarding it is to live and work outside the big cities, however, there are special challenges in delivering health services in rural and remote Australia,” Minister Nash said.

“The facts are that, compared to metropolitan areas, rural and remote Australians generally experience high rates of death, morbidity and chronic diseases and they often have shorter life expectancy.”

“People in rural and remote communities often face higher living costs, difficulties sourcing fresh food, harsher environmental conditions and relative social isolation. This means their health is compromised and without health care professionals making the choice to live and work in these remote centres, life would be much harder for many people.”

Minister Nash congratulated CRANAplus on the work they do for their 1400 members organising and undertaking education and support, and the advocacy they provide for all health professionals working in remote Australia.

“For its part the Australian Government is investing an additional $13.4 million over the next three years to provide around 500 additional nursing and allied health scholarships, targeted to people from rural and remote areas, or in an identified area of need including primary care, aged care, mental health and Indigenous services,” she said.

“To all of the health care professionals at this conference who are out there in some of the most isolated parts of Australia doing an incredible job, well done.”

CHOICE announces the winners (losers) of the Shonky Awards 2014

Shonkys-poll-lead.ashxEvery year we look forward to one awards ceremony more than any other – the Shonkys! Yes, it’s that time of year when consumer organisation CHOICE names and shames the shonkiest of all shonky products and services, and the unscrupulous companies who unleashed them on an unsuspecting public.

After receiving a record number of nominations, CHOICE whittled the list of contenders down to seven.

Commonwealth Bank
A senate inquiry found that some of Commbank’s financial planners orchestrated a “calculated deceit” and deliberately in some cases fraudulently put clients into risky and inappropriate investments to meet bonus goals. According to CHOICE the bank then offered up a slick PR campaign apologising for the failure, but at the same time lobbied to water down financial advice protections that could protect consumers in the future.

Arnott’s Tim Tam
CHOICE discovered the newest peanut butter flavoured biscuit contains no peanut butter, had two fewer biscuits and weighed 35g less than the original and yet, cost the same as a regular packet of Tim Tams. Furthermore, most consumers wouldn’t have noticed the difference at the supermarket as the package size was still the same as the original biscuits.

Amazon Kindle
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite model received a Shonky Award for trying to convince consumers that the e-reader only needed one charge for 8 weeks of battery life. Buried in the fine print was the fact that this claim was based on thirty minutes of use per day, meaning the actual battery life is 28 hours and not the 1344 hours promised.

S-26 Gold Toddler and Junior
S-26 milk drinks are marketed to parents concerned about ensuring their children receive adequate nutrition. Despite the fact that these type of milk drinks aren’t actually required for healthy children over the age of one, the company’s advertising campaign ‘guilted’ many a conscientious parent into buying the product.

Kmart’s swimwear has given sun-loving Aussies the first swimwear you can’t actually swim in as it may become transparent when wet. The label also cautions the wearer against coming in contact with rough surfaces, heated pools or harsh chemicals like… chlorine?

On the surface, the Bankwest Kids’ Bonus Saver account’s 5.75% interest rate is a great way of teaching children the benefits of saving money. However, read the fine print and you’ll discover that this amazing rate only lasts for 1 year, after which the rate plummets to a very unimpressive 1% but only if you don’t make any withdrawals. Make a withdrawal and the interest rate drops to just 0.01% for the month. Ouch!

Vorwerk, makers of the cult all-in-one mixer the Thermomix received a Shonky Award for not alerting their customers ahead of time to the fact that a new model was being released. Customers continued to buy the TM31 model right up until the launch of the TM5 which would wipe off hundreds of dollars from the resale value of the TM31 literally overnight. To add insult to injury, the TM31 model was the subject of a recall by the ACCC.

Now in it’s 9th year, the Shonky Awards is looking for the public’s help to decide this year’s winner of the People’s Choice Award for the shonkiest of the 7 shonky award winners for 2014.

Cast your vote at the Hall of Shame website:

Re-focus App puts help at fingertips of ‘at risk’ women

Domestic Violence survivor and campaigner Rachel Kayrooz speaks with Michaelia Cash, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Women, at the launch of the new App

Domestic Violence survivor and campaigner Rachel Kayrooz (left) speaks with Michaelia Cash, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Women, at the launch of the new App

By Angela Lynch, Women’s Legal Service Queensland

Often the only thing a woman has when separating from a threatening partner is her mobile phone.

Now that phone can be the tool needed to break down the isolation and threat that is so common for too many women in this situation. Separation is the most dangerous time for a woman and her children.

A new free, easy-to-use national App called Re-focus puts legal advice, referrals on domestic violence support, accommodation, financial help and coping tips at the fingertips of any woman with a smart phone.

Re-focus has been developed by the highly-trained and experienced legal team of women from the Women’s Legal Service Queensland (WLSQ) for women who have, or are thinking of separating. Follow this link for details and how to download Re-focus.

Re-focus will help give well-considered advice to as well as ‘live link’ referrals that can be activated with a tap on the screen.

Shockingly, most of the women that use our service have suffered domestic violence. In fact, one in three women over the age of 15 will suffer some form of violence in their lives and one in six will experience domestic violence.

Domestic violence survivor Rachel Kayrooz (pictured with Senator Michaelia Cash) who spoke at the launch of Re-focus, said such an App would have made a big difference to her fight for survival.

Rachel’s story is as inspiring as it is shocking, but nothing like this existed when she was experiencing the brutality that left her with lifelong injuries and risked the life of her unborn baby.

“I felt completely isolated and had no idea about my rights or the help that may have been available,” Rachel told the launch.
“Access to the information and services in Re-focus would have reinforced I was not alone and that an exit strategy with support was an option.”

“Abusers utilise control over every aspect of your life including any pathways that lead to your escape –information, professional help, friends, relatives and money.”

“There are  unfortunately many women who cannot download the App due to the risk of the perpetrator detecting it on their phone.  I therefore urge anyone who even suspects a woman they know is at risk, to download it instead and show it to the victim in a safe environment, away from prying eyes and ears.”

Re-focus takes the user through a quick and simple ‘yes, no, maybe’ quiz that the App then uses to gather all the relevant information needed for her specific situation.

It includes information on domestic violence, children, property, financial support, reaching an agreement and safe accommodation.

Many women are not aware that domestic violence is broader than physical abuse and can include sexual, emotional, financial, verbal, spiritual or cultural abuse and stalking against you or your children. Re-focus asks about this to help women understand their situation.

Re-focus also includes special coping tips to help build the resilience of women going through separation or post-separation difficulties.

The specially-designed tips by mindfulness experts Mind Gardener focus on simple steps to help overcome five common feelings: out of control; anxious; frustrated; regret and remorse; and feeling stuck.

The App advises women to ensure their phone is password protected or to think before downloading it if they have any concerns their phone may not be secure from a threatening partner.

WLS is grateful for the support of the Commonwealth Department of Social Services that funded Re-focus as part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

The support of Senator Michaelia Cash, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Women, at the launch was an important statement that domestic violence is a national problem that needs national solutions.

Senator Cash spoke of the shocking statistics of abuse against women – such as one woman is murdered each week by their partner or ex-partner – and the plans the government has to turn them around.

We hope news of Re-focus – which is just one small step – spreads far and wide so that at risk women can get the information, contacts and coping tips they need to move to a better, safer place in their lives.

Food Rating Stars website launched in Australia

Picture: © AntonioDiaz -

Picture: © AntonioDiaz –

While the Federal Government continues to drag their feet on re-launching the original Health Star Rating (HSR) website, the George Institute for Global Health in Australia, has launched an alternative. The FoodSwitch STARS website provides health star ratings for 55,000 supermarket food products.

Easy to use, consumers need only type in the name of a food product into the website’s search field to see how it rates and compare it with similar products on the supermarket shelves. All consumers need to remember is that the more stars a product has, the healthier it is.

Initially, the FoodSwitch STARS website only allows you to search by product name, but it’s anticipated that in time the site will also have the functionality to search by product category.

When using the website, consumers will find there can be quite a lot of variation between similar food products on our supermarket shelves – and that’s makes food manufacturers nervous.



The George Institute for Global Health uses the health star rating scheme’s calculator, plugging in nutrition and ingredient information already held in the database in the FoodSwitch app, to award a HSR for each product.

The George Institute said at the time of launch their database is accurate to December 2013 but it will be updated on a regular basis.

Earlier this year, the government’s original HSR website, designed to help businesses roll out the new system and provide information about the ratings to consumers, was pulled down within hours of its launch.

Speaking to ABC News on Thursday, Professor Bruce Neal of the George Institute and the University of Sydney, said: “We got sick of waiting for the Government’s website. Poor diet is now the leading cause of premature death and disability in Australia. One of the key changes over the past 50 years has been the progressive addition of salt, fat and sugar in our food.”

A spokesperson for Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash said the Minister does have concerns about the FoodSwitch STARS website because “food companies are best placed to calculate star ratings for their products as they may hold information not available to the Institute”.

The spokesperson for the Minister said the Health Star Rating label would be displayed on food packages voluntarily over the next five years and “should be considered the primary source of information.”

In response, Professor Bruce Neal, told consumer organisation CHOICE: “I think to say that companies are better placed is wrong. Big companies may have the internal expertise but small to medium entities in particular are likely to need help using the system.”

“We have the fox looking after the chook house. What we need is health experts setting health targets and industry experts to help figure out how to achieve them.”

Some food products should start displaying star labels in the coming months. The George Institute said it will be conducting a trial of the new star labelling system to assess it’s effectiveness. Consumers can participate in the trial at

Straight Talking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women head to Canberra

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from all over the country are heading to Canberra for some Straight Talking with women Parliamentarians. Oxfam Australia’s fifth national Straight Talk summit will see 58 women of all ages, backgrounds and locations converge in Canberra from the 1st to the 4th of September 2014.

From Moa Island in the Torres Strait, to Devonport in Tasmania and west to Broome, women from all walks of life will bring their issues of concern to women from all sides of politics in an effort to develop new strategies to bring about positive changes in their communities.

Oxfam Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Program Manager Karrina Nolan said participants would discuss common issues of concern, generate strategies for bringing about change and develop new skills to engage with the political system before meeting with women parliamentarians at Parliament House.

The participants will be welcomed to Parliament House on Wednesday 3 September in an Opening Ceremony co-hosted by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash, Labor Senator Claire Moore and Greens Senator Rachel Siewert.

Straight Talk participants also will hear from three inspiring trailblazers – actress and activist Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, Aboriginal Hostels Limited Chief Executive Officer Joy Savage, and soprano, composer and academic Deborah Cheetham.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have a powerful role to play in solving the challenges our communities face,” Ms Nolan said.

“Straight Talk gives our women the opportunity to come together to share stories and solutions and build on our capacity to shape the decisions that affect our lives and our peoples. Parliamentarians need to hear from those on the ground to make better, informed decisions.”

Ms Nolan said past Straight Talk summits had inspired women to run for parliament or local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander council elections, where, like our federal parliament, women were under-represented.

“Many not only come away from Straight Talk with a clearer understanding of how the political system works, but also with more tools and networks to really bring about the change they want to see,” she said.

Participant Elaine Peckham, 66, of Alice Springs, said she was looking forward to meeting other women from across the country to share stories and strategies.

“We go through a lot in the Northern Territory,” she said. “While we have the strength, we can’t sit back and say ‘I‟ve had enough’. We’ve got to support the young ones and be mentors for them as well. The learning never stops. Women need to have a voice and we need to keep supporting each other.”

Straight Talk 2013. Photo: Wayne Quilliam/OxfamAus

Straight Talk 2013. Photo: Wayne Quilliam/OxfamAus