Senate debates

Monday, 14 October 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Girls Takeover Parliament

4:45 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

It is fantastic to have 60 young women and girls striding through the corridors of this place, clashing so brilliantly with the otherwise male, pale and rather stale hue that descends upon it. For me and my team, it has been a pleasure and an honour today to be guided by Havana of inner Western Sydney. If I could, I would reach behind me and tear down the golden balustrade and allow Havana to speak her words herself right here. In the absence of that ability, I will read her words directly to the chamber. From her perspective: 'As a young woman, I was raised in a single parent household alongside three children. It was thanks to social security support that we were able to put food on the table and pay for a roof over our heads. However, due to the lack of care and support for public services, we often had to rely on non-government organisations and charities to be able to pay for school fees, buy uniforms, attend most of our activities and be part of our community. This situation is not good enough.

'As a young woman who has spent too many weeks in hospital due to the lack of mental health support throughout my life, I have seen the injustices and lack of care given to those who use our public services. I've had people in my life suffer with suicidal ideation and psychosis rejected from emergency departments because they weren't sick enough. This is not good enough. My own personal experience is of being admitted to units and left to my own devices without seeing a doctor or psychologist, because there simply wasn't enough funding given to the public healthcare system to provide the resources necessary to help those at disadvantage in our society.

'Being a young person with a disability, having been forced to drop out of school due to mental health reasons, the government cut me off Centrelink support when I turned 18 because my mum had only just reached the threshold at which she was no longer eligible for Centrelink. It left me in a position where I was almost housebound by my mental health and therefore unable to maintain a job and was unable to feel part of society. I was left feeling like a burden on my family.'

Despite these challenges, Havana is an incredible leader and advocate, a joy to work alongside today. I call upon everybody in this place to move beyond words and take the actions needed so that folks like Havana feel and know that this place is working for them.


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