Endometriosis Awareness

18 Jun 2018 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby) (11:28): Much more remains to be done to raise awareness on endometriosis and to find better treatments and, hopefully, even a cure for this awful disease. This parliament has made a very strong start in finally recognising and addressing this devastating condition. In June last year, the member for Canberra—I'm glad she is in the chamber—and I started the Parliamentary Friends of Endometriosis Awareness.

We brought together the hardworking and dedicated advocacy groups—EndoActive, Pelvic Pain Foundation, Endometriosis Australia, the Canberra endometriosis support group and QENDO in early September. These wonderful volunteers worked together to identify their key priorities for action on endo. The member for Canberra and I presented the priorities to the shadow minister for health and the Minister for Health. Our quest for action was supported by our colleague the member for Forrest in many ways, but most powerfully by her sharing with parliament and the Minister for Health her personal story of the truly awful impact endometriosis has had on her daughter, Kylie, and the member for Forrest's family. I want to thank the member for Forrest for her tireless
advocacy and support, and for moving this motion today so that we can keep endo front of mind for everybody but, most importantly, for women and health professionals.

We are making sure that women no longer suffer in silence and we are acknowledging their pain. That is precisely what the minister for health did late last year when he apologised to women who have suffered from endometriosis, announced funding for endo expert Dr Grant Montgomery and announced that the first-ever National Action Plan for Endometriosis would be developed. In February this year in Melbourne, my colleagues and I joined advocacy groups, health professionals, the Jean Hailes foundation and others to further identify the key actions that should be taken on endo. Extensive public consultation has also been undertaken, and I look forward to the launch of the plan in July.

The plan will focus on awareness and education, treatment and research. The minister for health has also announced a $1 million investment in the May budget to be put towards awareness of and education on endometriosis among the medical and health professions. This means that health practitioners will have increased access to resources and training and will better understand appropriate treatment pathways. The minister for health has also announced that $2½ million from the Medical Research Future Fund will be used to accelerate research translation in the medical research priority areas identified in the National Action Plan for Endometriosis. The minister has further announced that endometriosis will be a feature of this year's Women's Health Week, from 3 to 7 September 2018, which will raise the profile of endometriosis with women around the country.

Awareness and education remain a critical part of our approach to endometriosis. I am determined to ensure that women and doctors understand what endo is and the signs and symptoms of this terrible disease. Endometriosis causes the cells that line the uterus to grow as lesions in other parts of the body and within the pelvis, causing inflammation, severe pain and scar tissue. These lesions can stick organs together, so that women have to have parts of their bowel removed, their ovaries removed, surgery to their bladder and even full hysterectomies. They may have terrible trouble starting a family and have to undergo IVF to do so. When I talk about the pain of endo, I mean pain that is so severe that women can't get out of bed to go to school or to university or to work. This might be pain during their period, but, due to the severe nature of the pain and the condition, pain can be present
constantly. When pain is so regular that it becomes chronic pain, it's far more complicated to treat.

Women delay, for years, consulting a doctor for their condition—in part, because we fail to educate women as to what levels of period pain are normal and what levels of period pain are not normal and need medical investigation. When women do consult a doctor, there's an average delay of eight years before they are diagnosed with endometriosis. We have started a conversation, and we must ensure that it continues, in homes, in schools, in medical practices, in hospitals and in the workplace. We have seen people like US actress Lena Dunham, Yellow Wiggle Emma Watkins and radio personality Mel Greig bravely come forward to publicly share their very personal stories and to help end the silence on endometriosis. I was similarly delighted to learn that students at Mercedes College, one of the local high schools in my electorate, recently hosted a presentation with the Pelvic Pain Foundation to raise awareness among their peers about the condition. We, here in parliament, are doing everything we can as well
to work for the policy change we know that these women need, and for our future generations of young women.