Senate debates

Monday, 14 October 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Girls Takeover Parliament

4:13 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

To mark the Senate's involvement in Girls Takeover Parliament, I'm really proud that all the senators here with participants have given over their time so that these young women's voices can be placed on the parliamentary record. I note we have Tara, Sanjoli, Brianna, Dougha, Ashley and Manya in the advisers' box in the Senate where they and other young women belong.

I will let Tara have the three minutes that was allocated for me to this slot. Tara says:

In Australia, 4-16% of the population have an eating disorder, with approximately 1 million Australians, predominantly young women, currently living with one.

Those suffering from eating disorders have a mortality rate 5x greater than the rest of their demographic from physical causes, and death by suicide is 32x higher than otherwise expected, making anorexia the deadliest mental illness

Those who do not die from an eating disorder experience reduced quality of life due to their low weight, which can cause osteoporosis, fatigue, nutrition deficiencies, seizures, immune dysfunction, and organ damage.

Tara says:

The government has pledged $70.2M to eating disorders. This is welcome, but it's also important to start looking at some of the root causes.

Evidence shows eating disorders increase with exposure to Western media and our culture's obsession with thinness. A study in Fiji found that the percentage of young women inducing vomiting to lose weight grew from 0 to 11.3% after the introduction of Western television. 77% of surveyed Fijian girls reported television and magazines made them feel weight conscious.

The fashion industry particularly continues to promote thinness. According to WHO—

the World Health Organization—

66-94% of models are underweight, and at least ¼ classify as anorexic. This is terrible for them to maintain and a terrible example to set for anyone exposed to the media.

Things are improving—many companies are seeking to represent a more diverse range of healthy women in their ads. However, fashion and celebrity culture continues to prioritise very thin models and actors and uses photoshopping technology to erase natural features seen as flaws.

While we perpetuate unrealistic beauty ideals, young women will continue to feel pressure to conform. We can see that exposure to thinness is driving our young women to develop eating disorders, and it is time for that to end.

Other countries, including France, now require magazines to explicitly state when they have modified images. Australia should take action to encourage a broader, inclusive, and more realistic representation of women in the media.

To that, Tara, the Greens say an absolute: 'Hear, hear!' We are particularly pleased at the presence of all 60 girls that are taking over parliament today, and we commit to ensure that their voices will always be heard in this place.


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