Thursday, 8 September 2022
Women's Health Week
I rise to address the chamber about Women's Health Week, which is taking place this week. Like many girls, I learned at an early age that women and girls would face additional challenges in life. We were told to just put up with period paid. Sexual health wasn't talked about. Many women suffered a miscarriage in virtual silence, and my own mother had a stillbirth that was simply never discussed.
My sisters, friends and classmates all knew our paths in life would be harder in many ways because of our gender. We knew we wouldn't get the same pay at work. We knew that, if we had families, we'd have to do the bulk of the child rearing. We knew that we'd have fewer choices about our own bodies and about if, when and how we wanted to have children. As a woman, a mother, a nurse, a union leader, a member of parliament and now, luckily, the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, I have fought my whole life to change this expectation.
While many things have changed for the better, many may not have. Every woman has a story about how their chronic pain was ignored or played down by the GP, only to receive a diagnosis of endometriosis a decade later; or about a woman who lives in a small town, who had to pay $1,000 to access a termination when she was actually broke; or about a woman who'd experienced sexual abuse as a child, who cried silently while she had a gynaecological examination with a cold speculum. Women's health issues play out every single day, in all communities, all postcodes and all cultural backgrounds.
On Tuesday, I attended the launch of the Jean Hailes National Women's Health Survey, which showed that almost half of all women are reporting that their health has declined as a result of the pandemic. It's even worse for women in the disability, CALD, First Nations and LGBTIQ+ communities. However, the picture is not just bleak. I want to give a huge shout-out to some of the women who are working hard to be part of the solution to this enduring challenge. In my electorate of Cooper, we have the wonderful Women's Health In the North, who have staff like Emily, who has dedicated her career to helping women and girls. She is motivated by the recognition that gender inequality drives bad outcomes for women, from health inequity to family violence. 'What I grew up with isn't what I want other young women to grow up with,' she said, and that is the sentiment that I want to leave with you.
We've all grown up steeped in some version of gender inequality, whether it's taking on the lion's share of housework and child rearing or not being paid the same as males in your workplace. I call on all people of all genders to work to fashion a better world for our next generation, so that everyone can get the care they deserve.