Annual Reports

The Auckland Women’s Health Council has been in existence for more than 33 years. Since the first formal meeting which was held in July 1988 the Council has provided a strong voice on women’s health in the Auckland region and has been actively involved in women’s health issues at a national level.

The AWHC continues to maintain a special interest in the issues that arose from the inquiry into the treatment of cervical cancer at National Women’s Hospital and in the implementation of the recommendations in Judge Silvia Cartwright’s Report which was released in August 1988. These issues include the National Cervical Screening Programme, patients’ rights, informed consent, access to patient records, ethics committees, and clinical research.

Almost three decades later, the need for a woman’s voice on these issues remains as strong as ever, owing to advances in technology, the changes in the evidence base for screening programmes, the introduction of electronic medical records and the increasing amount of data sharing, the reduction in the number, membership and function of ethics committees, the increasing influence and power of the pharmaceutical industry, and the increasing lack of informed consent in the health sector…

The most recent annual report is for the year ending December 2020, and lodged with the Charities Services on the 30th of June 2021.

Annual Report 2021

Where Are We Now

Since 1988 Auckland Women’s Health Council (the Council) has provided a strong voice on women’s health issues for the greater Auckland region, and has been actively involved at a national level.

In 2020, the year of the Covid-19 restrictions, the Council has continued to meet, produce bi-monthly newsletters, discuss, and write submissions, and provide a voice for consumers where women’s health issues and those related to informed consent have arisen.

Our Philosophy:

      • Women consumers of health services have the right to make informed decisions regarding their own health care and treatment
      • Women have the right to information necessary to enable them to make informed decisions
      • Health care must be accessible, affordable, and available as well as culturally appropriate and acceptable to consumers
      • Consumer participation on all decision-making processes for health care services is essential

This report details the changes and adaptations to our work during 2020.

In March, Danika Revell took on the management of many elements of the coordinator role on an interim basis. She also researched and presented a proposal to the AWHC executive committee with suggestions on how to modernise and streamline the executive committee communications and redefine the organisation for 2020. Danika left this role in November but has remained a very active member of the executive committee, continuing to provide significant support.

Emphasis throughout the year has been on maintaining newsletter production, re-designing and updating the AWHC website and social media updates, being available for comment when the media picked up issues and developing a strategy to implement in 2021 when anticipated funding will enable the Council to appoint a paid coordinator again.

From November 2020, some key roles previously provided by the co-ordinator have been undertaken voluntarily by committee members.

People wanting to contact the Council by phone have been directed to email and these have been cleared regularly to ensure women contacting the Council continue to be referred appropriately, and responses to media and other queries are managed.


The Council holds a general working meeting each month to discuss the current projects the Council is working on; make decisions on particular health issues the Council is dealing with; discuss grant applications and financial matters pertaining to the operation of the Council; and to deal with the ongoing work of the organisation. Since Danika stepped down, the executive committee has resumed operating without a convenor with various members picking up some of the roles performed by the convenor.

The Council continues to establish ad hoc subgroups to work on issues as they arise such as preparing submissions. Consequently, at our monthly meetings detailed reports from the treasurer, newsletter editor Sue Claridge, members and ad hoc subgroups are presented and discussed.

During the Covid-19 lockdowns the Council met using videoconferencing services such as Zoom to conduct monthly business meetings. Whenever possible, face to face meetings were scheduled at the AUT on the North Shore. These meetings were complemented with Zoom connections for members otherwise unable to attend.

On August 5th, we met with members of the Cartwright Collective to lay flowers in memory of the victims and their whānau, remember the release of the Judge Sylvia Cartwright’s Report into the treatment of cervical cancer at National Women’s Hospital and remember the 33 women who died as a consequence of receiving inadequate treatment.

AWHC Funding

Given the impact of COVID-19 on communities and organisations we were gratified to receive $8,500 across the four greater Auckland COGS committees.

An administrative mix-up with our Lottery Community Grant application meant our July funding request was not considered until we resubmitted it for the December funding round. While we were successful in being granted $20,000 of the $28,000 requested this funding will not be received until March 2021.

Our total income for 2020 has, therefore, been just under $10,000 and consequently our intention to fully recruit to our coordination position has again had to be put on hold. Instead, we have appreciated Danika Revell’s willingness to take on a variable part time contract to cover aspects of this role over a 10-month period.

Published Newsletters

The Auckland Women’s Health Council newsletter is an important link with our collaborators (such as the Cartwright Collective and Mesh Down Under), and other women’s groups, as well as with individual women.

The Council continues to receive very positive feedback on the newsletter including feedback from academics and students in the health sector, as well as readers who are consumers and consumer/patient advocates. The newsletters are made available on the website.

The production of the newsletter has continued to be a key function of the Council, and fortunately Sue Claridge has continued to produce bi-monthly newsletters on a contract basis, supported by the Newsletter sub-committee.

In 2020, the Council published four newsletters; the newsletters were emailed to subscribers, collaborators, individuals and groups, MPs, and selected media.

The newsletter provides information on a range of women’s health issues and activities, notifies members of discussion documents and reports on women’s health issues and submission deadlines, reports on District Health Board activities, and keeps members up to date with the work of the Council. In the last year, the newsletter has included researched articles on:

      • breaches of informed consent rights in our DHBs and hospitals.
      • racism in our health system.
      • An AWHC review of the Health and Disability System Review.
      • the gendered impacts of Covid-19.
      • the HDC and whether or not it has fulfilled its promise.
      • women’s health through the centuries and attitudes to women’s bodies and health and well-being.
      • rheumatoid arthritis as a women’s health issue.
      • the harm wrought by surgical mesh.

In addition to topics above, the pre-election September edition of the newsletter was an in-depth review of the health issues that we believe must be a priority for the Government in the current term:

      • inequities and disparities affecting Māori, Pasifika and women with disabilities.
      • ongoing issues around facilitating patients to provide truly informed consent to medical tests and procedures as provided for in the Code of Rights.
      • flaws in the Health and Disability Commission and complaints process.
      • the inadequate response to the surgical mesh crisis.
      • issues in the provision of maternity services.
      • the impact of socio-economic factors and poverty on health.
      • consumer representation and engagement of consumers with their own health, health policy and the DHBs.

The manner in which we distribute and make available the AWHC newsletter is currently under review and changes are expected to accompany the website upgrade in 2021.

Website and Facebook

The Auckland Women’s Health Council Facebook page continues to engage with the community by providing feminist commentary and analysis of current health issues for women.

Hot topics that achieved high levels of engagement in 2020 included the 32nd Anniversary of the release of the ‘Cartwright Report’ and AWHC’s visit mentioned above, to the Spirit of Peace statue at the old National Women’s Hospital (now the Greenlane Clinical Centre). Another hot topic was our analysis and promotion of surgical mesh victim Renate Schütte’s petition urging change to the Health and Disability Commissioner Act to allow for the appeal of complaint decisions.

Facebook activity has increased during 2020. Not surprisingly the biggest group of visitors are women (92%) and from Auckland; mostly in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups. The number of people impacted/reached via Facebook increased by 105% (from 1835 in 2019 to 3768 in 2020).

The website has been kept updated with Covid-related links, issues of the Newsletter (all newsletters from February 2012 to the present), written submissions and letters on a variety of women’s health and patient rights issues.

Website Activity

During 2020:  5,299 visits from 5,272 unique visitors, 4,389 new visits and 910 returning visits.

Total annual visitor numbers have increased by 1139 compared with 2019, and the average daily visitor number has increased from 11 to 14 per day.

Top ten topics:

      • Cervical cancer
      • Abortion
      • Free Access to the Emergency Contraceptive Pill
      • Essure Contraceptive Device
      • The legacy of National Women’s Unfortunate Experiment
      • Cartwright Inquiry
      • A2 Milk Story
      • Breastfeeding/ Result of Complaint to Ministry of Health Compliance Panel
      • Gardasil
      • Breast implants

By their very nature, websites are always a work in progress and review, and we are currently engaged in an update/upgrade of the website which will continue in 2021.


AWHC has continued to collaborate with the co-convenors of the Federation of Women’s Health Councils. This is achieved through regular communication with the Federation on a wide range of issues. The networking and support that the two co-conveners of the Federation have continued to provide to the AWHC over the past few years has been much appreciated by the AWHC’s members. In addition, the AWHC provides the newsletter to several New Zealand women’s groups, both directly and indirectly via the Federation.

Links continued with Charlotte Korte from MESH Down Under (a support group for those injured by surgical mesh, the Cartwright Collective, the CCS Disability Action’s Health & Wellbeing group, and the Period Place (an organisation that works to end period poverty). Requests for ongoing participation in the healthAlliance Consumer Group are being considered for 2021.

In 2020 the AWHC increased its support for Cartwright Collective meetings and activities relating to the following issues:

      • a face-to-face update from the National Screening Unit on progress on the NZ Cervical Screening Programme
      • raising the issue of DHB adherence to the requirements for informed consent when trainees and students are involved in treatment
      • a Health and Disability Commission forum, starting with a meeting with the new Commissioner.
      • addressing the lack of legal obligation for participant compensation when trials are funded by pharmacy companies.
      • development of an enhanced website as a repository for all documents, references, resources, and accurate information relating to the Cartwright Inquiry.

DHB and Ethics Committee Meetings

Reduced capacity has meant that fewer DHB and no Ethics Committee meetings have been attended this year. We consider this an important function for the Council and will be ensuring our attendance restarts following the appointment of a co-ordinator.

Submissions and Advocacy

Each year the Council makes written submissions and attends consultation meetings on a variety of health issues that affect the health of women and patient rights. Submission that that AWHC has made in the last year included the Smoke Free Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill.

The Future

Danika presented a proposal based on her review in June 2020 and a further strategy meeting was held in January 2021. The review included plans to maximise the usefulness of the AWHC website and the Facebook page and the intention to use current technology to offer Women’s Digital Health Webinars. This will be pursued when the Council has a paid coordinator, drawing on our network of experts and researchers, as well as our own committee members to increase awareness and debate around women’s health issues on a regular basis; a space where anyone on any device can participate.

The Council has also identified opportunities for new and active members who may be able to contribute to key tasks in 2021 and a likely time-frame, based on funding, for re-establishing the role of Co-ordinator.