Page 3709 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 23 November 2022
reading of this motion, I was struck by the way it reminded me of these more ill-informed takes. These positions begin with the notion that somehow public health is apolitical and that actions and strategies on women’s health and LGBTQ health specifically somehow corrupt what is an otherwise level playing field.
Men have bodies; men have lives; men get sick. Why wouldn’t we seek to care for their lives in the same way that we have the lives and bodies of non-men? The answer, of course, is about systemic oppression, and whose bodies have culturally and historically taken precedence in public health and in medicine.
Feminist approaches to public health have been critiquing the idea that public health is apolitical for many decades now, and drawing our attention to the acritical approach leads us to examine not only the connections between gender, disadvantage and health, but also the distribution of power in the processes of public health, from policymaking through to program delivery. Feminist public policy is not just about women and women’s issues; rather, it is an approach that is concerned with identifying and challenging inequality, oppression and injustice.
This government has chosen to undertake particular initiatives that are designed not to favour one grouping over another but rather to try and elevate the level of care and support that some communities receive, by undertaking targeted health interventions within those communities. This government has also chosen to take a feminist approach to public health by understanding that our health systems have, for a long time, been built around the needs of white, able-bodied, male bodies. For example, it is now well known by anyone with an interest in public health that, for centuries, the male body was treated as the default human body in medical testing, and that medical devices and medicines have subsequently been made for these bodies. This example is really just an inroad into thinking about the way that systems, institutions and processes are far too often built with a view to responding to the needs of those who build them.
Those of us with privilege have a tendency to fail to see and truly understand inequality until we either experience it personally or we see someone that we love experience it. Targeted systemic responses to public health enable us to respond to inequality in a considered and targeted way, seeking not to advantage one group over another; rather, to respond to issues which have been neglected and issues which would not have been addressed without very detailed considerations and investments in actions that address inequality. That is why the ACT Greens support and, indeed, drive the development of women’s health services, LGBTQI+ health strategies, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, community-led organisations and disability health strategies.
Since my election, I have consistently demonstrated a keen interest in the impact of poverty and economic marginalisation across all areas of government. Poverty is a risk factor to poor health that applies irrespective of race or gender. Poverty and the effects of poverty are, however, still gendered. Women are more likely than men to be poor; and, within poor households, non-negotiable responsibilities and limited access to resources, including health care, have a greater relative impact on the health and wellbeing of women than on men.