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Diabetes Victoria Blog

Join the discussion in our blog where a variety of writers from all walks of life take a stance on current diabetes issues.

International Women’s Day 2021 | Talking inequalities for women and diabetes

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. To help us unpack the inequalities that exist for women within the diabetes community, we spoke with our very own advocacy coordinator Susanne Baxandall. Susanne has been an advocacy coordinator for 20 years and is a trained social worker and a former division one nurse. 

The importance of advocacy  

We asked Susanne about the importance of advocacy work. Susanne describes advocacy work at Diabetes Victoria as listening to and working alongside people living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes who have a concern that is impacting their life. Some of these concerns can range from addressing discrimination and stigma in the workplace, to providing access to community services such as connecting health professionals and peers.  

Another aspect of our advocacy work involves seeking suggestions from people living with diabetes about how we can improve community services and health policies. As Susanne puts it: “If it’s important to people living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes, then it is important to the Diabetes Victoria advocacy team – Julie, Ruairi and myself”. 

Inequalities faced by women living with, or caring for, someone with diabetes 

Upon reflection about the last year living through the coronavirus pandemic and women’s inequalities, Susanne says a few issues in particular have been further perpetuated during the crisis. These include the gender pay gap and the need for equal pay for equal work. While attending to paid work, women living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes also take a lead role in various forms of unpaid work, including, but not limited to: 

  • During the lockdown; supervision of home learning of kinder and school aged children 
  • Additional home care tasks for older relatives with diabetes 
  • Completing forms for Centrelink payments and healthcare cards 
  • Contacting Diabetes Victoria or other community organisations for current information on diabetes and COVID-19 
  • Transporting and accompanying family members with diabetes to health appointments, in person or virtually 
  • Family budgeting, food shopping, picking up diabetes supplies from chemists and home cleaning 
  • Encouraging family member to seek help for emotional health concerns including diabetes related distress 
  • During the public housing lockdown in North Melbourne and Flemington; helping neighbours and those from their cultural groups to get supplies. 

These extra responsibilities can take a huge toll on women, not just physically, but emotionally too. 

Furthermore, research has also shown that women have copped the brunt of financial impacts from the pandemic as women are more likely to have casual or part-time roles within industries that were heavily impacted by lockdowns, such as retail and hospitality. Susanne noted that her team received more calls from women living with diabetes aged over 21 who were seeking support as they had missed out on new diabetes technologies because they did not have the financial means to afford the costs of private health insurance. 

Susanne says raising awareness of the services and support available can help reduce some of these burdens. On a day-to-day basis, Susanne and her team help people understand their rights in areas of public life such as work, education and recreation as well as helping to link them with the services they need. 

Bridging inequalities – how far have we come? 

Taking a quick look back at the Australia healthcare system, Susanne remembers a time when women with diabetes did not have access to Medicare funded diabetes education and group programs. Now, you’ll find these are Medicare funded. However, Susanne reminds us, we still have a lot of work to do to enable women with type 1 diabetes to have Medicare funded evidence-based programs like OzDAFNE

The National Diabetes Services Scheme and Diabetes Victoria now provide more resources and engagement with our First Nation peoples and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities – which is a huge step in the right direction for bridging the health inequalities that exist for these communities. 

Susanne eloquently puts it that “the more we learn from women with diabetes from all walks of life, the more we need to do” and that perhaps “we all need to think of others and put in some advocacy work of our own, so all of us can enjoy better health, including mental health”. 

Lastly, we posed the question, what does International Women’s Day mean to you? Susanne wholehearted said it’s “a reminder of the hard work always needed by women to make lives better for all people”, and that the day calls for us to remember “the strength of Australian women who have chosen to challenge inequalities that exist in our communities”. 

An ode to the suffragettes 

On a side note, Susanne shared a photo of her suffragette pin (pictured below) which she wears with pride every International Women’s Day. The suffragettes were a British women’s activist group who fought for the right for women to vote. The group was established in the early 20th century by Emmeline Pankhurst. Interestingly enough, in 1889 Australia women formed a similar organisation with the aim of educating people about women’s right to vote and to stand for parliament. Although New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant the vote to women aged over 21 in 1893, South Australia wasn’t too far behind and passed the legislation in 1902. This was well ahead of the UK who, in 1918, gave the vote to women over the age of 30 who met certain criteria. It wasn’t until 1928 that women gained electoral equality with men. 

Susanne explains the suffragette colours - purple, white and green - have a particular meaning. Purple represents the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette who also has the instinct of freedom and dignity. White stood for purity in private and public life and, lastly, green represented the colour of hope and the emblem of spring. 

Susanne’s pin below is made up of an oval cut purple amethyst, white opaque enamel, and green round cut peridots. 

Suffragette pin

We're here to help

In addition to your current healthcare team, Diabetes Victoria is here to help. Our advocacy service provides support as needed and our health professionals can provide diabetes-related advice through the NDSS Helpline. Simply call 1800 637 700.
The new helpline hours are: 
  • Monday to Friday – 8.30am to 8pm  
  • Saturday – 9am to 2pm  

For urgent support

For those needing more immediate support, you can also get in touch with the services below, which operate 24/7 by phone, text or online chat: 

Susanne Baxandall

Susanne Baxandall is our advocacy coordinator; a position she has held for 20 years. She is a social worker with a bachelor's degree from RMIT and a Master of Social Work by research from the University of Melbourne. Susanne is a trained division one nurse who worked at Melbourne’s Prince Henry’s Hospital. 

She has worked in the health not-for-profit sectors, having had many opportunities for innovation, advocacy, leadership and policy implementation. Susanne has worked at the Australian Red Cross - Victorian Division and the Anti-Cancer Council now known as Cancer Council Victoria. While working there Susanne was the first female director to have a baby and continue working – this was only in the mid 1980s! 

Susanne enjoys volunteering with Trades Hall, is passionate about plants and having walking holidays.