Women's Health

18 Sep 2018 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby) (19:35): Earlier this month, our government announced that we would provide more support for women with endometriosis by helping to educate employers, doctors and nurses on how to manage this terrible disease. It is estimated that, on average, women with endometriosis can miss up to 11 hours per week of work. Endo causes pain and it costs women for treatment and missed days of work, and some women still often don't feel comfortable talking about it.

Women often feel more comfortable telling their employer or their colleagues that it's a migraine or an upset stomach rather than terrible period pain or endometriosis because, let's face it, most women still don't want to talk about their periods at work or say that tissue like that which lines the uterus is growing throughout their pelvis, causing terrible pain and complications. To help women explain what endometriosis is, Safe Work Australia is developing workplace specific materials to educate employers on endo so that they can provide support to women who suffer from this awful disease.

Tonight I want to acknowledge an incredibly brave woman who is helping so many other women feel they can finally discuss and explain what endo is in the workplace and to family and friends. That incredibly brave woman is Emma Watkins, who is better known to most Australians as the yellow Wiggle. Last night Emma explained her struggle with endo on ABC's Australian Story. Endo has impacted Emma's work and her health, echoing the struggle of so many other Australian women. Emma has been incredibly brave and open in her battle with endo, but not all women feel as comfortable explaining endo.

Awareness and education remain critical parts of our approach to endometriosis. Our government has announced that half a million dollars will be invested to educate nurses and doctors as part of the $1 million committed in the 2018-19 federal budget. Australia's first clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of endo and the first in-depth tertiary unit of study in endometriosis for Australian nurses through the Australian College of Nursing and Dr Melissa Parker will also be developed. To help Australian women, our government has invested nearly $5 million to date to combat endometriosis. I want to acknowledge the member for Canberra and the member for Forrest, two wonderful women who have worked with me to achieve so much in such a short time for endo sufferers, and, of course, the Minister for Health, who listened and acted so quickly.

This evening, I'd also like to raise another issue that primarily impacts women. It has been drawn to my attention by some other wonderful women, Claire Foord and Jenny Hurley, through their work at Still Aware in South Australia. This is an issue that, like endo, has gone under-recognised, undertreated and under-resourced for too long. The tragic fact is that, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 2,200 babies are born still in Australia every year. This is about double the number of road fatalities every year. While we all know about road fatalities and how to prevent them, too many women don't know about stillbirth—the risk factors and signs that could save their unborn baby's life.

At the moment, there is no mandatory education or training for clinicians and no mandatory information provided to women when they are pregnant. Educating expectant mothers on the signs to look for, including reduced fetal movement or unusual fetal movement and safer sleeping positions when pregnant, could help save an unborn baby's life. The message is clear: if you are concerned about your baby, don't wait; seek medical assistance immediately. For the mums and dads who have experienced the terrible tragedy of stillbirth, support is available from organisations like Still Aware, and I encourage everyone to visit their website, stillaware.org, to learn about stillbirth, safe pregnancy and available support for families who have suffered the terrible tragedy of stillbirth.

I believe it is issues like these that highlight the importance of women in parliament. These are issues that primarily affect women. Men are supportive husbands, partners, dads and brothers, and they are affected terribly when tragedy strikes or when they see their loved ones in pain, but they do not and cannot physically go through what women go through. I am proud to be part of a government that is addressing these critical issues for women and their families, and I'm committed to ensuring that they remain at the top of our policy agenda.