The Federal Senate has established an Inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare. The Inquiry was called because the government has acknowledged we have a crisis of sexual and reproductive health access.
On Wednesday 9 November 2022, we hosted an online forum to explore what the inquiry terms mean, how it applies in practice and provided a submission template which you can download here to assist people in writing their own.
Alyssa Shaw gave the following speech at our webinar, which you can watch here.
I want to acknowledge that I’m calling in from Boonwurrung land and also water, I live right next to the beach I’m very lucky, but I say that to acknowledge that the doctrine of aqua nullius has not been overturned, and we still need to return water rights to our First Nations people.
My name is Alyssa, I’m from Fair Agenda. We’re an independent community campaigning organisation focused on gender equity.
We have over 40,000 people that are members from all across Australia.
In this space, we have really looked at decriminalisation and safe access zones in the past.
But the lens we are bringing to this is really focused on abortion access and that’s the campaign that I run, and we do this through thinking about what is the level of public pressure we need to create for this change.
We know social and cultural change is critical to getting political leaders on side, the people making the decisions.
It is about eliminating stigma so that we can have universal access and one day universal acceptance that abortion care is healthcare for anyone who needs it.
So we see this inquiry as a really crucial stepping stone to getting meaningful action on addressing abortion access.
It is a complex area of policy and it is going to require federal, state and territory governments to come to the table to make this possible, and to ensure that wherever you are in Australia you can get access to compassionate abortion care.
Everyone has something to contribute to this inquiry, and it is going to be important that everyone does that in order to get the outcomes we need.
I have met with a lot of government ministers and MPs, and I have heard in no uncertain terms that we will need public support to get this over the line.
So our strategy is around creating volume and a breadth of supporters in order to do this.
Many of us are supportive of change and Fair Agenda did commission national polling in the middle of this year, which shows that the majority of Australians are with us: 3 in 4 Australians support government taking action to address abortion access.
But there are some very well-resourced, influential outfits that don’t agree with us.
They have seen Roe v. Wade as an opportunity to wind back abortion rights here in Australia, and it’s also worth noting that there are several members in the Government itself that don’t support abortion rights.
So there is resistance, I do need to point that out.
This is not a done deal and it is going to mean that we all have to work together, and with the community more broadly to get this over the line and make the progress that we all want to see.
We have a range of activities planned between now when the committee delivers its report at the end of March.
We really need to be loud and a breadth of voices coming together.
This is a really great starting point, and it’s just so wonderful to be here to connect with everyone.
For us we’re going to be starting with an event at the end of the month to launch an abortion access resource.
So one of the things that’s become really apparent to us speaking to politicians and to our members is that there is a really low level of knowledge around abortion policy in Australia.
People think “we have decriminalised it, great, we can all go home, done deal.”
We all know that is not the case so what we are trying to do is really translate in a simple way, what are the key problems, and what are some of the key solutions to addressing abortion.
A lot of those things go to the great content and ideas and solutions that people today have talked about, and trying to do our best to condense that in a way that people can understand really quickly.
What we want is a space for the community to come together, to look at this resource and to feel empowered and supported to make their own submission.
We know that it is going to take a volume of support.
It is going to take people with lived experience of abortion as well writing in and telling the government you’ve got a step up and make this change.
So we will release this resource, we will also be using it as a key part of our advocacy across the Parliament, releasing it to media as well.
As I said, it’s going to articulate key issues and solutions.
Some of the recommendations, or some of our solutions will be recommendations that people here take on as well as members in the community.
The key one is the creation of a national taskforce which has already been talked about here.
We need to make sure that all those different governments come together and deal with the breadth of issues that we know are on the table that need to be addressed to move us to universal access.
We also know that that’s going to take time.
So we need immediate solutions to support people to access the information they need to access abortion care now.
We need the government to step up and fund equitable access to abortion because we know that affordability is a key issue at the moment.
We have heard about the various cohorts that are particularly impacted by that.
So they are gonna have to put some dollars there until they can long term embed this into our public healthcare system.
So I would very much ask you to support us, and to be part of this community campaign through reflecting some of these solutions as recommendations.
We’ll give people the opportunity to endorse this resource so that when we go out to media and to politicians where there is a collective voice talking about all the things that need to be done and also you can promote it through your networks to make sure that members of the community, that you can reach that we cannot, feel empowered and supported to make submissions.
That’s going to be really important, because we know that people and organisations opposing us do that very effectively so we can expect thousands, if not tens of thousands, of submissions from them so we do need to counter that by volume in some way.
We have an ongoing campaign on this if you want updates and to join the Fair Agenda community, otherwise we really appreciate the ability to connect with everyone here today and encourage you to think about how you can disseminate this to your networks and how you can get community members involved.
I’m feeling really optimistic about this opportunity but it’s not a done deal.
So we’ve got to push a little bit more, I know it’s the end of the year and everyone’s really tired but hopefully, we can make this a really great opportunity that sees the great change we need.
Alyssa has held leadership roles across government, private sector and not-for-profit organisations. She has managed national campaigns and projects including Raise the Rate, shEqual, and NAIDOC Week.
She has also served as the CEO of a charity focused on student welfare, driving successful campaigns on housing, economic security and migrant support. As Women’s Officer for the postgraduate student peak Alyssa led the organisation’s national response to sexual violence on campus, helping to secure improved responses and significant ongoing financial commitments to resource support for survivors and prevention initiatives.
Alyssa holds a Bachelor of Commerce and has a Masters focusing on gender studies and intersectional feminist theory, both from the Australian National University.