Applying a gender impact assessment to a media and communications policy

Grampians Health was formed on 1 November 2021 as a merger between 4 regional health services and has campuses in Ballarat, Dimboola, Edenhope, Horsham and Stawell.

Before Grampians Health could embark on its first gender impact assessment (GIA), they needed a procedure. Kathryn, the Gender Equality and Diversity Project Officer at Grampians Health, developed a toolkit to help staff:

  • understand what gender impact assessments are and why they are important
  • understand if they are likely to need to conduct GIAs as part of their role
  • determine if there is a direct and significant impact on the public or service users
  • follow the step-by-step process of gender impact assessment.

Determining whether a gender impact assessment is required

GIAs are required for policies, programs and services that have a direct and significant public impact. This should be done early in the planning process so organisations can make appropriate adjustments.

The toolkit includes a pre-screening tool to help people determine if a GIA was needed. It used a matrix with scores of 1 to 3 for the level of impact, the number of people impacted, the cost, and the duration. Based on the final score, staff can see if a gender impact assessment is required, is recommended but optional, or not needed.

If a GIA is required, the template helps staff consider and reflect on gendered impacts for service users and the public. This includes considering intersectionality.

One of the first GIAs was the Media, Communications and Public Relations Policy, which was under review.

Step 1: Define the issues and challenge assumptions

Kathryn worked with the marketing and communications team to identify the policy aims.

What is the purpose of the policy?

This policy covers media and public relations procedures, advertising, events and the website. It aims to:

  • provide clear communication and engage effectively with consumers and the public
  • increase positive public perception in the community across Grampians Health
  • relay essential information to the community.

Challenging assumptions

Kathryn and the team then considered the impacts of the policy for different members of the community. They applied a gender and intersectional lens to understand needs and barriers.

They found men, women and gender diverse people might need:

  • inclusive language
  • use of pronouns and preferred names
  • gender inclusive forms, documents and resources
  • gender neutral bathrooms and toilets.

People with different abilities might need:

  • document accessibility
  • digital accessibility
  • plain English and Easy Read format in communications
  • accessible parking and building access
  • audio induction and hearing loops.

People from different cultural backgrounds might need:

  • translated materials
  • access to interpreters.

People from different religions might need:

  • accessible prayer room
  • recognition of religious holidays
  • gender sensitivity (for example, women-only facilities).

LGBTIQA+ people might need:

  • inclusive language
  • awareness of LGBTIQ+ issues
  • gender neutral bathrooms and toilets.

People of different ages might need:

  • age-appropriate language and content
  • digital accessibility
  • training in using digital devices
  • age-appropriate safety considerations.

Step 2: Collecting evidence – data, research and consultation

To better understand the context, the team needed to conduct research and gather data on how issues such as gender, race and disability would shape how people accessed communication from Grampians Health.

Kathryn used information from the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Healthcare, the Wimmera Development Association Settlement Services and Women with Disabilities Victoria.

Who is likely to be affected?

One group that was likely to be impacted were the Karen people living in the area.

Kathryn was aware of the Karen refugees who had settled in Nhill. When she contacted the Wimmera Development Association Settlement Services, she learned more than 300 Karen people lived in Horsham.

The Karen people are an ethnic minority group from Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. They speak the Karen language, which wasn’t included on Grampians Health websites. Through her research, Kathryn also identified barriers for people with disability. She looked at website accessibility, including accessibility menus, colour contrast and layout. She investigated how to get feedback from the public.

Key research consulted

Step 3: evaluate options

Based on the information collected, Grampians Health identified options to improve its communications policy.

It’s important that consumers can access and understand important information on the website.

An accessibility menu will also help people with:

  • different levels of literacy
  • low vision
  • reading disabilities
  • different language backgrounds.

To avoid gender stereotypes, another option is to review images to show a range of women, men, and gender diverse people in different roles

The next step was for costing the different updates to the Grampians Health websites or for developing a new corporate website.

Step 4: Finalise recommendations

After considering the options, the team made recommendations for the new Grampians Health website. It will:

  • include an accessibility menu and improve contrast and layout on all websites
  • review all symbols, pictures, language, used in public areas and online to ensure a diverse representation
  • investigate adding language menus to websites.

The new website will be developed in the first half of 2024.

Preparing for progress reporting to the Commission

Organisations must report back to the Commission every 2 years, including on GIAs.

In preparation, Grampians Health developed a GIA register on its intranet. This will keep track of gender impact assessments that are planned, underway and completed. As Grampians Health is currently merging hundreds of policies and other documents from the previous organisations, many will be reviewed and may require a gender impact assessment.

When the first progress report is due in February 2024, they will be able to report on how many GIAs have been completed.