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One of the tasks we undertake as part of our ongoing commitment to women's health is to facilitate Regional Women's Health Forums in regional/remote/Indigenous communities across the State. Organised by local agencies and assisted by the Regional Representative for that particular area, the forums have been very successful, and the response to them has been extremely positive. Following are reports from some of the forums held so far.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Regional Women's Health Forums
 please email us at




- WOORABINDA WOMEN'S HEALTH FORUM (March 2012) - See newsletter (pdf)

- Torres Strait Women’s Health Forum (July 2010)








Cartoon of a group of women mingling



Torres Strait Women’s Health Forum (July 2010) 









A Regional Women’s Health Forum is held every 12-24 months (subject to available funds) in a remote and/or regional community in Queensland in order to improve women’s access to health information in these areas. Forums provide an opportunity for local organisations to raise awareness of available services, and promote discussion of women’s health issues. In November 2009 the Management Committee appointed a new Committee member, Romina Fujii from the Torres Strait, who was subsequently accepted as the Far North Queensland Regional Representative at the 2010 AGM. Romina is a prominent member of the local community and involved in many local boards and committees including the Port Kennedy Association. After discussions with local women Romina invited QWHN to visit Thursday Island. The Management Committee agreed to hold the next QWHN Regional Women’s Health Forum in the Torres Strait. The forums took place as

15 July – Thursday Island;
16 July – Hammond Island;
17 July – Horn Island.


The program was developed primarily by local women on topics they considered to be of most benefit and included presentations by local health care workers from the Primary Health Care centre, and 3 workshops by QWHN representatives: ‘Respectful Relationships’ by Sue Manthey (DV Service of Central Queensland); ‘What Can Counselling Do For You?’ by Dr Betty McLellan (QWHN Chairperson); and ‘Accessing Health Information on the Internet’ by Martha Power (Mackay Women’s Centre) and Maree Hawken (QWHN Coordinator). This workshop included a PowerPoint presentation and booklet handout developed specifically by QWHN Regional Representative Belinda Hassan providing basic information about computers and how to access, and determine the reliability of, health information on the internet plus a comprehensive list of recommended websites.

Other organisations involved in the forum included Women’s Health Queensland
Wide who provided reusable showbags promoting their Toll Free Health Information Line

and website. QWHN in
serted health promotion items (pens, wristbands, notepads,
stickers, ‘tattoos’, etc) and information brochures gathered from a range
of organisations including: Queensland Health, beyond
blue, Continence Foundation,
Heart Foundation, Arthritis Queensland, Central Queensland University.

Topics included: depression, dengue fever, smoking, bowel cancer screening, breast screening, incontinence,

nutrition, exercise, Women’s Infolink, pap smears, eating issues, relationships, osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, heart health. Where possible much of this information was designed for Indigenous, or specifically Torres Strait Islander, women.


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The main forum on Thursday Island was attended by approximately 50 women, primarily high school-aged students, while the other smaller forums were attended by predominantly middle-aged and older women, including representatives of various local groups and organisations.

The main issues reported by local women were:

·         The need for progress on plans for a health centre on Hammond Island

·         issues caused by isolation, particularly for those living on the more remote islands

·         the gradual loss of knowledge about traditional food cultivation and practices

·         the impact of overfishing and climate change on local fish stocks, and subsequent effect on the health of residents

·         the challenges of a highly transient population

·         the need for a permanent doctor and ambulance service (Horn Island)

·         the need for a transit bed for outer islands

·         a stronger focus on preventative health measures

·         need for more counsellors/social workers with the suggestion that there would be great on-going benefit in providing young local women with training in this field

·         re-establishment of the Community Health Management Group to increase community access and feedback to local people


The QWHN Committee also met with the Health District CEO, Christine Giles, at the Thursday Island Hospital, and Janelle Wilkey at the Primary Health Care centre, to discuss local women’s health issues.

The Thursday Island Forum was also attended by a reporter from the local newspaper Torres News which featured the Forum in the 28 July – 3 August edition. The paper is distributed throughout the Torres Strait and Queensland.

The forum and meetings also increased QWHN Committee Members’ knowledge and understanding of TSI women’s health issues enabling QWHN to more effectively advocate on their behalf. QWHN was invited by local women to return to the Torres Strait in the future and is committed to working alongside Torres Strait Islander women at every opportunity.





On 18 May 2007 the members of the Queensland Women’s Health Network Management Committee returned to the town of Cherbourg to present a Women’s Health Information Forum in cooperation with Barambah Regional Medical Service and Graham House. QWHN South-West Queensland Representative Lillian Gray coordinated the event which was attended by twenty-eight women, including health professionals and community members. QWHN South Queensland Representative, Gillian Myers, commenced the forum by outlining the history and purposes of the Queensland Women’s Health Network, and the important role of forums and newsletters in awareness raising, maintaining links between women and women’s services, and in keeping women’s voices heard. Guest speaker Moira Riley, Coordinator of Responsive Connections, St Mary’s Centacare Kingaroy, spoke on ‘Women and Mental Health’, including the importance of bringing mental illness into the open, particularly as one in five Australians experience mental illness in their lifetime, most of which can be treated. She also raised the concerning issue of drug-induced illness which is becoming more prevalent. Tarita Fisher, Community Nutritionist at Cher-bourg Community Health Service, spoke about ‘Women and Diabetes’, and in particular the prevalence of diabetes in Aboriginal communities, which is the fourth highest in the world and two to six times the rate of non-Aboriginal communities. Tarita also highlighted the associated higher incidence of kidney disease among Aboriginal women, and the important role of lifestyle, physical activity and food choices in prevention and management of diabetes. Dr Betty McLellan, Chairperson of QWHN, gave a presentation on ‘Oppression, Suppression, Depression and Expression’, which highlighted how Aboriginal women have been, and continue to be, subjected to simultaneous multiple oppressions in the white patriarchal Australian society, and the importance of resisting the subsequent suppression and depression in order to find means of personal and cultural expression, to transcend these barriers. The final presentation was by Shirley Slann, of North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service (and QWHN West Queensland Representative). Shirley’s topic of ‘Domestic and Family Violence’ offered an overview of the current focus of the NQDVRS and the ongoing efforts required to improve the outcomes for Aboriginal women and children.





by Central Qld Rep. Sandra O'Brien

The Domestic Violence Service of Central Queensland hosted our first Women’s Community Health Forum in Emerald on Friday 9 May attended by Chairperson Betty McLellan and Central Queensland Representative Sandra O’Brien. Betty gave a paper on Global Violence and its effect on women’s emotional and mental health. The lively discussion which followed led directly into the next session which focused on the effects of domestic and family violence on women and children in the home. After lunch, we had a structured but informal discussion around the topic “Working with Male Perpetrators of Domestic Violence”.

This session was attended by men and women who work with perpetrators and/or with Anger Management groups in the Central Queensland region.

In addition to the input and discussion, the opportunity for networking was very much appreciated by  Queensland Women’s Health Network members. Agencies and groups represented at the Forum were the Domestic Violence Service, Sexual Assault, Mental Health Queensland, Family Support, Community Corrections, QCWA and Life Line.

Our visit coincided with the Tenth Anniversary celebrations of the Domestic Violence Service and we were pleased to be able to offer congratulations to Coordinator, Robyn Cross, and the rest of the hard-working team in Emerald at the Dinner/Dance which had been organised to mark the occasion. What a night we had!




by Jeane Griffiths (Coordinator)

The theme for the Townsville Regional Women's Health Forum was “Working Together for a Healthier Community”. There were approximately fifty women in attendance over the course of the day. The Forum was opened by Townsville's Deputy Mayor, Ann Bunnell. Our Chairperson, Betty McLellan, was the keynote speaker presenting a wonderful paper entitled, “The World Is Not My 'Home': A feminist ethical inquiry into women's experience of Alienation”. A lively discussion followed.

A panel discussion, with Betty McLellan as the moderator was next on the agenda. The topic, “How is your Service Working to Improve Women’s Health?” was discussed by the panel members: Ann Bunnell - Townsville City Council, Meg Davis - Townsville Multi-Cultural Support Group, Liz Wilson - Mental Health Services, June Kain - Community Health and Sharon Isle - Family Planning Queensland. So a broad cross-section of the services was covered, and the enthusiastic involvement of the audience showed that this was a topic of great interest to all present.

This was followed by five minute speeches from the following Services Providers on their service delivery to women: Penny Kenchington - Sexual Health Services, Janelle Cook - I.M.P.S., Sholeh Boyle - Breast Screening Clinic, Joan Brown - Vietnam Veteran's Wives Support Group and Penny Jansen from North Queensland Combined Women's Service. Women's Health Service. It was obvious from the questions asked and the discussions that ensued, that these services were all learning invaluable information about each other.

After lunch a Keynote Address was presented by Amanda Ostrenski who is the Nurse Practice Coordinator of the Maternity Unit at the Townsville Hospital. And then, giving their perspectives on women's health in ten minute addresses, were: Morgan King, North Queensland Combined Women's Service - "Feminism and Women's Services", Joanne Baker, North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service - "Domestic Violence and it's impact on women's health", Heather Lee, THAIS - "Indigenous Health alongside and within the mainstream system", and Diana Innes, Primary Health Care - "Health care provision to women from diverse cultures".

In summing up, the Townsville Women's Health Forum was an outstanding success, and a wonderful opportunity for a wide range of services to collaborate and network.




by Western Qld Rep. Shirley Slann

On 3rd October, 2003, Betty McLellan, Pauline Woodbridge (WESNET Qld Rep) and myself made the 7 hours drive to Doomadgee from Mount Isa.  At Doomadgee, Aboriginal Community Health hosted our  Queensland Women’s Health Network Forum on their premises.  Many women discussed the issues that were facing them as indigenous women living in a rural and remote community.  The Forum was well attended by women and children and women discussed the need to form a Women’s group for Doomadgee.  The group agreed that Doomadgee Aboriginal Community Health and the Women’s Shelter would work together to have the women meet regularly.  A video presentation “Who’s the Loser” and domestic and family violence resources and information including Queensland Women’s Health Network and Newsletters were presented to the women. It was a wonderful women’s gathering and we thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of the women at Doomadgee and appreciated them sharing their personal experiences and concerns with us.  The workshop concluded with Pauline cooking a delicious sausage sizzle, which was enjoyed by all.  The women commented that they would like to see more forums being held in Doomadgee.

Queensland Women’s Health Network in conjunction with WESNET (Women’s Services Network) “Australia’s peak women’s organisation working to eliminate domestic and family violence”, held a combined Forum in Mount Isa on 6th October 2003.  The Forum was well represented with 30 people in attendance.  WESNET’s consultation was “Examining Progress in Accommodation & Support for Women experiencing Domestic Violence.  Julie Oberin (WESNET Research Team), Wendy Weeks (WESNET Research Team) and Pauline Woodbridge (WESNET Qld Rep) and myself (WESNET Indigenous Rep) & Betty McLellan were in attendance at the Mount Isa Forum, which was held at the Terrace Gardens Function Room.  There were numerous speakers from the different agencies in Mount Isa who presented on the day.   The research team consulted with services to identify:

- Service models for accommodation, outreach and support

- Preferred models (and why)

- Principles and/or features of effective and/ or innovative models

- Risks and costs (for women service users and for service providers)

- Options for women who choose not to access crisis accommodation

- Major problems or difficulties faced by women

- Major challenges and issues faced by services

- Your recommendations for the future.




by South Eastern Qld Rep. Lillian Gray

Shirley Slann, QWHN rep from Mt. Isa, and Betty McLellan, QWHN Chairperson, travelled to Cherbourg in May 2004 to connect with Lillian Gray, QWHN rep from Cherbourg, for a Regional Women's Health Forum.  Lillian is to be commended for her excellent organisation of the event.  The forum was held at the TAFE College in Cherbourg and there were a number of women in attendance.  To begin the forum, Betty gave input on the role of Queensland Women's Health Network and conveyed greetings to the women of Cherbourg from women around the State.

It goes without saying that domestic & family violence was on the agenda.  After Shirley's input,  the women engaged in some very important discussion.  Some women commented about how difficult it was being a mother and having their daughter experience domestic violence.  They talked about the frustration of feeling that their hands were tied and about the stress they were feeling.   

A very important segment of the program was focused on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. The speaker's presentation highlighted the effect that alcohol has on the foetus and how the damage can be passed on from generation to generation.  It was a very informative presentation.  Some of the mothers and grandmothers in the audience were quite distressed and alarmed to hear that the damage that is done to the foetus cannot be reversed.  One of the grandmothers at the forum was expressed concern that her granddaughter who was pregnant may have done irreversible damage to the baby she was carrying.

At the close of the forum, women expressed their gratitude to Lillian for organising such a relevant and helpful program and thanked Shirley and Betty as representatives of the Network for their important input.



  "I am in the world to change the world." Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945) German artist.

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