Sexual abuse of children still continuing in institutions, royal commission head warns

The chair of Australia’s child sexual abuse royal commission, Justice Peter McClellan, has delivered his final address before a room of hundreds of survivors and advocates, telling them: “The sexual abuse of children is not just a problem of the past.”

“The failure to protect children has not been limited to institutions providing services to children,” McClellan told attendees. “Some of our most important state instrumentalities have failed. Police often refused to believe children. They refused to investigate their complaints of abuse. Many children who had attempted to escape abuse were returned to unsafe institutions by police.”

The greatest number of abusers worked in Catholic institutions, he said. Power afforded to leaders and the trust placed in them by parents and other staff, and a desire to protect institutional reputations allowed and facilitated the sexual abuse of children. Aggressive lawyers were engaged by institutions to silence them, he said.

After the hearing, Francis Sullivan, head of the Catholic church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, expressed his disappointment in the Catholic church. No senior church figures attended.


The issue of childcare remains a massive barrier to work for women

While 29% of women suggested that it was very important that they be able to work “school hours” – which would enable dropping off and picking up children – only 8% of men suggested that was a very important incentive for them to return to work.

The barriers to work are only for those who actually are seeking either more hours or a return to the workforce. Most people who are not in the workforce or who are employed are quite happy with that situation.

Just 0.6% of men who are not in the workforce and who do not wish to be so cite caring for children as the main reason, compared with 14% of women.

How an Australian-born grassroots movement won the Nobel Peace Prize

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, now based in Geneva, is a coalition of grassroots non-government groups in 100 countries and has fought for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. It is the first Australian Nobel Laureat for Peace, recognised for it “groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition”.

In July this year 122 countries signed a UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, the first legally binding international agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons. But the signatories do not include any of the nuclear powers, nor many of their close allies.

This was replicated at the award ceremony in Norway on Sunday in what was described an “ambassador boycott“. Russia was the only declared nuclear power with a top diplomat present.

“Australia claims to be committed to a world without nuclear weapons and here’s an Australian-born campaign that has won the Nobel peace prize for the fight against nuclear weapons; it seems a bit silly that they can’t even congratulate us,” Fihn said.

Australia has refused to support the ban treaty and prefers to rely on the protection of the United States nuclear umbrella and the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

‘Get naked if you like’: the Australian working holiday from hell

Stoner found her time working in rural Australia punctuated by intimidation and degrading incidents at the hands of male farmers. At one isolated farm a middle-aged farmer suggested she and her friend Elle Kerridge should pick fruit naked. At another, more disturbing forms of harassment occurred.

Foreign backpackers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation because they must spend 88 days in a rural area in order to secure a second year on their working holiday visas. A whole industry of hostels offering job services has sprung up as a result of the policy. But it has also meant that workers, particularly female workers, are prepared to endure harassing and even illegal behaviour to secure their second year here.

Now studying film-making at University of Lincoln, Stoner has decided to return to Australia to make a documentary on the topic. She’s raising money on an incubator site and working on pre-production of 88 Days, the working title of her project. She hopes to be back in Australia in time to film in the fruit-picking season.

A major study released last month by three Sydney universities, based on responses to an online survey by 4,322 foreign temporary workers, found workplace exploitation was “endemic and severe”.

New South Wales closes Australia’s last loophole allowing pregnant women to be sacked

New South Wales will close a loophole allowing employers to sack a woman who knew she was pregnant when hired.

The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the changes would make sure pregnant woman were not discriminated against.

“It’s unacceptable and out of step with modern standards for a woman to be overlooked for a role because she’s pregnant, or dismissed from a new position once it becomes apparent she’s carrying a child”.

The NSW government acknowledged Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi who had been a fierce advocate for changing the laws.

‘It’s not just about the Weinsteins’: how do we fix the gender problem in Australian film?

The fight against gender disparity, which has underpinned the status quo for decades, has shifted from the margins to the mainstream in five short years – and now it’s driving policy.

Several powerful industry figures have helped lead this change. Producer Sue Maslin, financing the Dressmaker in 2012, refused to give up when told the film’s audience was “limited because it was heavily skewed to females.” It became the highest grossing Australian film of 2015/16, earning $20.28 million at the box office and proving “once and for all there was a business case to be made for a film by and about women, targeted to a female audience,” Maslin told Guardian Australia.

Actor Cate Blanchett, accepting the 2014 Oscar for Blue Jasmine, reminded Hollywood that films with female protagonists “make money”. Her comment briefly ruffled the Twitter-verse, before the Geena Davis Institute backed it with proof: of the 100 top-grossing non-animation movies of 2015, those with female leads made 15.8% more money than those with male leads – despite comprising only 17% of the list.

In her first day on the job in 2015, Screen NSW CEO Courtney Gibson introduced the “50:50 by 2020” target across the agency’s development and production arms. According to Create NSW, the policy has since put 150 female filmmakers in contact with previously unreachable distributors, and seen female TV drama directors rise from 18% to 47% in two years.

Arizona congressman to resign after discussing child surrogacy with female staffers

The congressman’s statement said he deeply regretted that his discussion of surrogacy in the workplace “caused distress”, but he left unclear the circumstances of the discussion. A source familiar with the allegations said that Franks asked two female staffers who worked for him at the time to be surrogate mothers for his child. Franks’s office refused to comment on that issue.

He also shared details about the difficulties he and his wife had had conceiving a child, including three miscarriages and two failed attempts to adopt a child before a “wonderful and loving lady” acted as a gestational surrogate for their twins. He said the process was a “pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos”.

Never again: can the royal commission help make our children safe?

To date, not one person has been convicted in Australia for the crime of concealment of child sexual abuse.

Research funded by the royal commission and led by Donald Palmer from the University of California’s sociology department uncovered the organisational culture that exists when children are abused. Palmer found six features conducive to the perpetration of child abuse, one of them being macho cultures where leadership positions are filled by men.

“However, in private sector organisations, men tend to fill upper-level management positions,” the report found. “Further, in the not-for-profit sector, men tend to fill upper-level management positions, while women fill lower-level staff positions There is no evidence to suggest that the situation is any different in organisations that deliver services to children and young people. As a result, it may be that many detected instances of child sexual abuse fail to trigger a robust institutional response simply because they are observed by women and communicated to men. In patriarchal societies, men are assumed to possess strong sexual impulses and their pursuit of sexual gratification is viewed positively and considered normative.”

Read this before you have a baby (especially if you’re a woman)

It seems so obvious: having kids affects men and women differently. Sure, emotionally and financially but most clearly in the simple way mothers and fathers spend their time. And when you actually look at how 10,900 Americans carve up 24 hours, the conclusion is pretty stark: if you’re a woman who enjoys paid work or relaxing activities, having kids will cramp your style.

[C]hildren seem to take women away from the office but drive men towards it. . . .
[F]or women, having young children seems to add an extra two hours 10 minutes to their daily responsibility routine.

Charities criticise ‘bizarre’ appointment of Gary Johns as head of regulator

Gary Johns, a Labor minister under the Keating government, is known for his views that charities should not be allowed to advocate for changes to government policy and was head of NGOWatch at the Institute for Public Affairs, which investigated charities the IPA thought were targeting businesses.

Writing in the Australian in 2014, Johns said: “If a person’s sole source of income is the taxpayer, the person, as a condition of benefit, must have contraception. No contraception, no benefit.”

Appearing on TV with the rightwing commentator Andrew Bolt in 2015, Johns reportedly described Aboriginal women on welfare as “cash cows”. “Look, a lot of poor women in this country, a large proportion of whom are Aboriginal, are used as cash cows, right?” Fairfax Media reported Johns as saying. “They are kept pregnant and producing children for the cash. Now, that has to stop.”

Women harmed because vaginal mesh regulation ‘not fit for purpose’

We now know that women who received mesh implants have been part of a global experiment that in many cases has gone badly wrong.

Concerns have been growing about the serious complications suffered by some women who have had mesh implants and about the introduction of dozens of different devices, most of which have never been assessed in a clinical trial.

Iceland’s new prime minister is Katrín Jakobsdóttir

But perhaps the something new isn’t all bad. In New Zealand something new has come in the form of Jacinda Ardern, the country’s youngest ever Prime Minister. Canada, of course, has got the uber modern Justin Trudeau and France has got Emmanuel Macron. These are leaders that don’t fit the mould. They’re hardly anti-establishment but they certainly aren’t the old guard.

And now, another young and progressive politician is taking a spot on the global stage. Iceland has elected an environmentalist and feminist Prime Minister in Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

The new prime minister of Iceland is Katrín Jakobsdóttir: a 41-year-old democratic socialist, feminist, anti-militarist who says Iceland will expand its health-care system, “go farther than the Paris Accord” in fighting climate change and strive for increased gender equality.

Dealing with discrimination missing piece of the puzzle for advancement of women in law

The issue of retaining talent in law, especially women lawyers, relies on workplaces that are committed to dealing with discrimination.

That is the message of Law Society of NSW president Pauline Wright, who last week urged employers to ensure that their organisations do not “tacitly permit or tolerate a culture of sexism, harassment or bullying”.

A panel of eminent women leaders in law discussed similar challenges that the legal profession had to overcome before it could claim there was true equal opportunity for both men and women.

The sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump – the full list

A growing list of powerful men have faced serious consequences for sexual misconduct allegations but the most powerful one of all has faced none. Instead Donald Trump’s official position, as his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders recently clarified in a White House press briefing, is that the 20 women accusing him of assault and harassment are lying. Trump has also suggested some were not attractive enough for him to want to sexually assault. As the conversation around sexual conduct continues to evolve, and new abusers are revealed, here are the cases against the president.

Female facial hair: if so many women have it, why are we so deeply ashamed?

What can be dismissed as trivial is a source of deep anxiety for many women, but that’s what female facial hair is; a series of contradictions. It’s something that’s common yet considered abnormal, natural for one gender and freakish for another. The reality isn’t quite so clearcut. Merran Toerien, who wrote her PhD on the removal of female body hair, explained “biologically the boundary lines on body hair between masculinity and femininity are much more blurred than we make them seem”.

The removal of facial hair is just as paradoxical – the pressure to do it is recognized by many women as a stupid social norm and yet they strictly follow it. Because these little whiskers represent the most basic rules of the patriarchy – to ignore them is to jeopardize your reputation, even your dignity.

Scientists have turned their sexist and homophobic expectations of body hair to racist ones, too. After Darwin’s 1871 book Descent of Man was published, male scientists began to obsess over racial hair types as an indication of primitiveness. One study, published in 1893, looked for insanity in 271 white women and found that women who were insane were more likely to have facial hair, resembling those of the “inferior races”.

UK transgender rights row intensifies as book fair is cancelled

An annual book fair that has served for more than three decades as the most important meeting point for the British anarchist movement has become the latest casualty of widening splits over the issue of transgender rights.

The acrimony follows highly publicised splits in universities, women’s organisations and political parties over the issue. Lily Madigan, a 19-year-old who has just won a vote in Kent to become Labour’s first women’s officer from a transgender background, has been at the centre of a row within the party.

The increasingly angry disputes follow government proposals to streamline the process for how people can change their gender, under the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). A public consultation is to be held on speeding up and demedicalising the process, with the current need to be assessed and diagnosed by clinicians seen by some as intrusive.

Susan Sarandon: ‘I thought Hillary was very dangerous. If she’d won, we’d be at war’

[I}n 2001, Sarandon supported Hillary Clinton’s run for the Senate. There are photos of them posing chummily together, grinning. Then Clinton voted for the war in Iraq and it all went downhill. During the last election, Sarandon supported Bernie Sanders, then wouldn’t support Clinton after she won the nomination, and now all the moderates hate her, to the extent, she says, that she had to change her phone number because people she identifies as Hillary trolls sent her threatening messages. “I got from Hillary people ‘I hope your crotch is grabbed’, ‘I hope you’re raped’. Misogynistic attacks.

Wait, from the right?

“No, from the left! ‘How dare you! You who are responsible for this!’”

Earlier, she makes the point that Clinton’s refusal to back the $15 minimum wage, “tells you she’s not a feminist, when 50% of the households in America are headed by women.”

‘A high-grade, twisted abuser’: Don Burke a sexual harasser and bully, claims series of women

For almost two decades Don Burke was one of the most powerful men in Australia’s entertainment industry. His popular gardening program Burke’s Backyard was a ratings juggernaut for the Nine Network until it was unceremoniously axed in 2004.

But now a major Fairfax Media/ABC investigation can reveal that behind the scenes those who worked with Burke claim he was a “psychotic bully”, a “misogynist” and a “sexual predator” who indecently assaulted, sexually harassed and bullied a string of female employees.

Watch out, manspreaders: the womanspreading fightback starts now

“Cross your legs.” “Don’t sit like that.” “Be more ladylike.” Like most women, I’ve been subjected to these kinds of messages since I was a child. Everyone from my mum to primary school teachers and distant relatives has chastised me to “sit like a lady”. Translation: rest your legs together, Duchess of Cambridge-style, and take up as little space as possible.

But now #womanspreading is officially having its moment. Women all over the world are uncrossing their legs in the name of feminism. Fashion models including Bella Hadid and Chrissy Teigen and the actor Emily Ratajkowski are all starting to ignore the female-only rules about sitting “nicely”. Instead they’re spreading out as wide as they want, and sharing the results on Instagram. Hundreds of women have joined them with similar posts.

Workplaces can be safe spaces for women at risk:

Our report, Safe Spaces: A study on Paid Family/Domestic Violence Leave, is published today in the lead up to 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, starting tomorrow (Saturday 25 November).

As we recently found interviewing Jenny (not her real name) regarding her experience of domestic violence, a lack of support and understanding from a superior or boss can put women at serious risk. In Jenny’s case, when she requested to work from a refuge while waiting for an intervention order, she was told she needed to be in the office. Jenny felt no choice but to quit her job for the sake of her own safety, leaving her unemployed for over a year.

The vast majority of respondents to our online survey (84%) said paid family/domestic violence leave is important in mitigating family violence in Australia.

BRAZIL – Developments regarding Amendment No.181 banning abortion – Safe Abortion : Women’s Right

Amendment No.181, a provision to include protection of life from conception to the text of the Constitution of Brazil, was approved by the Special Commission of the Chamber of Deputies on 8 November. It would criminalize abortion under all circumstances. Since it was passed by 18 men to 1 woman, the mobilization against the measure has been intense.

[M]embers of the Congress have been overwhelmed by a stream of public statements and opinion pieces in the main news and media channels, depicting this measure as absurd.

Then a Joint Note by UN agencies – UNFPA, UN Women, Pan American Health Organization (WHO) and the OHCHR Regional Office for South America – was published on 20 November. It expressed grave concern that the measure, if passed, would create a great risk to the health and lives of women and girls.

Milo Yiannopoulos invited to speak in Parliament as a guest of honour

Responding to Fairfax’s query about the peculiar invitation, Leyohjelm’s office said “Milo was already touring Australia and I thought it was a good opportunity to give those in Parliament (MPs, staff and media) a chance to hear from him there and put their questions to him.”

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young, responded to the email with words of confusion.

“I question how this man has secured a visa to Australia, let alone access to Parliament House. After all, aren’t we building a fence around the building to keep dangerous people out?” she wrote.

“It astounds me that a member of Parliament would roll out the red carpet to a white supremacist and paedophillia apologist. A man who travels the world spreading racist and sexist drivel, who believes there is no such thing as rape culture is not welcome in our safe and respectful house of democracy.”

A new employer perk? Australia gets first dedicated egg freezing clinic opens

Announcing the new clinic today, fertility specialist Dr Devora Lieberman said that while egg freezing can’t guarantee a baby and is not an insurance policy, it can help women who want to take control of their fertility.

“Egg freezing provides many with a sense that they are doing all they can, investing in themselves and ensuring that when they are ready to have children, they are confident they considered all the options available to them at an earlier age,” she said.

Such options could see employers offering to pay for their female staff to freeze their eggs, following the lead of tech giants including Facebook, Apple and Google who already offer such options in the US.

(ed: Options? Or pressure not to take maternity leave from paid workforce?)

NT royal commission finds girls in youth detention subjected to ‘inappropriate sexualised behaviour’

Young women and girls in the Northern Territory’s youth prisons were inappropriately touched by some male guards and received less access than male detainees to education and hygiene facilities, the royal commission has found.

The report includes CCTV still photographs of a 2009 strip search of a 15-year-old girl being placed in a cell in Don Dale. The girl was held down by a guard named by the commission as Trevor Hansen while a female officer removed her clothes.

Another girl who had attempted self-harm was stripped of all her clothing, including bra and underwear, with a Hoffman knife and described feeling “real shame [being naked] with all those men in the room”.

The commission’s report also gave examples of inappropriate behaviour by some male youth justice officers, including one who sent unsolicited sexualised Facebook messages to a teenage girl who had left Don Dale.

I Grew Up In A Fundamentalist Cult — ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Was My Reality

Women in this world were treated much like those in The Handmaid’s Tale — most, like my mom, didn’t have their own bank accounts, didn’t have their own email addresses, and couldn’t leave the home without permission from their husbands. They were called helpmeets, a word taken from the King James Version of the Bible, which refers to wives as created to meet the needs of their husbands and be helpers to them.

I even participated in a super-conservative worship church dance troupe for young women, called His Handmaids — again a term taken from the Bible, from the Virgin Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel telling her she’s going to be pregnant with the Messiah, which some translations open with “I am the Lord’s handmaiden, let it be unto me as you say.”

Just like Offred, women existed within the community to serve higher purposes than our own desires. Young girls who led the congregation wore white dresses and were stripped of identifying features — no jewelry, no nail polish, hair tied back and not in the face — while wives were submissive helpers to their husbands, with my mother used as the fertile ground for my father to breed a quiver full of Christian culture warriors.

The Minister for Women supports Cory Bernardi’s anti-abortion bill

On Thursday Cory Bernardi, the Australian Conservatives senator, moved a motion in the Senate to criticise White Ribbon Australia for its pro-choice stance.

Such a position is hardly surprising from the staunchly conservative Bernardi but what is extremely surprising is that the Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash, crossed the floor to vote for it. Her vote wasn’t enough and the motion was defeated 31 to 21.

Women’s Agenda was told the Government supports women exercising choice in relation to reproductive rights and neither the Minister nor the Government wish to change any laws in any way that would diminish reproductive rights.

It still begs the question – why did the Minister for Women support Bernardi’s motion which called for senators to express their concerns to White Ribbon Australia about it’s advocacy for access to abortion?

When no woman of ‘merit’ has been found in 28 years

ARB is Australia’s largest manufacturer and distributor of four-wheel drive accessories and it remains one of only six ASX200 companies without a single female on its board.

When pressed about shareholder concerns, ARB told ACSI that they do not discriminate on the basis of gender, age, ethnicity or cultural background and instead focus on merit.
ACSI CEO Louise Davidson told Fairfax Media that it’s hard to grasp that no meritorious woman has been found in the 28 years the company has been listed.

Given the conclusive empirical evidence that indicates the economic benefits of diversity it is curious that more companies haven’t embraced it as a commercial priority.

In Australia companies with the largest market capitalisations have the highest proportion of female board members which isn’t a coincidence.

The transformation of Hollywood: Meet the woman who’s bidding for the Weinstein Company

The businesswoman, who led the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama, has launched a $275 million bid for the Weinstein company, but she’s laid down some pretty distinct parameters.

Under the bidding terms, investors aligned with Contreras-Sweet have agreed that she serve as executive chairwoman, with a majority female board, and a fund be set up for victims of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assault.

How we failed Bill Clinton’s accusers.

Paula Jones, who reached an $850,000 out of court settlement with Clinton after she accused him of exposing his penis and demanding oral sex when he was governor of Arkansas in 1991, wonders if there is genuine remorse among the “liberal women” who disparaged and demeaned her two decades ago.

Juanita Broaddrick finds little comfort in her account of being raped by the former president finally receiving wider backing from some quarters over her claims. . “This great epiphany that should have occurred 20 years ago, coming about now, I should feel ecstatic about it. But I don’t. I feel very disappointed that they waited two decades to do this,” she told Fox News.

Amazingly, we are now at a cultural moment where many women (and some men) are courageously coming forward to tell stories about harassment. The #MeToo movement teaches that sexual abuse and harassment are far more prevalent than previously acknowledged.

Are we finally learning to recognize the abuse of power wherever it may happen? This rises above party politics. Instead of questioning the motivations of the accusers, we should listen to them. Let them tell their stories. I hope that more will speak up when they see sexual harassment or the abuse of power. Only then can we end our shameful culture of silence.