Since 1988, Women’s Health Services (WHS) have been fundamental infrastructure in the provision of preventative health measures in Victoria, delivering projects, programs and services to 50.9% of the population. But the history of Women’s Health Services goes much further back, with origins in the women’s equality movements of the 1970’s, when health information was delivered through grassroots consciousness raising. The first women’s health service, now the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health, was established in 1978 to provide peer, bilingual health education to migrant women.
Today, Women’s Health Services are centres of excellence in gendered health promotion and prevention, winning awards for their innovations and achievements. But despite decades of policy and health reform success that has made the lives of Victorian women safer and stronger, they remain small, dedicated but undervalued services. Women’s Health Services funded under the Victorian women’s health program have not received an increase in core funding since their establishment in 1988 – and, in fact, received a 5% cut in funding in 2012-13. This is despite exponential population growth, particularly in the outer suburbs of metropolitan Melbourne.