Page 3983 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 29 November 2022

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As I say, the Liberals will be supporting this motion. My one thought would be: does it really take 12 months to come back to the Assembly with some thoughts on this motion? Obviously, Ms Orr would have spoken to the health minister’s office in order to prepare this motion. We will not be making any amendments. In light of that, I will finish by thanking Ms Orr for bringing the motion to the Assembly. We look forward to seeing what comes out at the end of next year.

MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health, Minister for Mental Health and Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (4.57): I rise to speak in support of Ms Orr’s motion and to thank her for raising awareness of autoimmune disorders and what we as a community can do to be more supportive and inclusive of people with autoimmune disorders. These disorders can affect people of all ages, genders and cultural backgrounds. As is noted in the motion, autoimmune disorders are diagnosed in women more often than in men.

I would like to note the research work done by Women’s Health Matters in deepening our understanding of autoimmune disorders, particularly their 2018 report, written by Amber Hutchison, I don’t have the spoons for that…, which outlines the views and experiences of younger ACT women, aged 18 to 50 years, about accessing supports and services for chronic disease.

The report’s title comes from the spoon theory of Christine Miserandino, to explain the sudden loss of energy that is common in many people with chronic illness, including autoimmune disorders. The idea is that we all start the day with a certain amount of energy, but people with chronic disease have a more limited supply of energy, or spoons, and each task or action we complete during the day uses a number of them. The harder the task, the more spoons are used. The phrase, “I’m out of spoons,” has been adopted as a useful way of communicating to others that the person is running low on energy and needs to rest.

In Women’s Health Matters’ 2018 research into chronic disease in younger women in the ACT, 39 per cent of the research participants reported that they had an autoimmune disorder, and 15 per cent of those with an autoimmune disorder also had a chronic mental health condition. Autoimmune disorders were one of the top three conditions reported by women who participated in the research, along with mental health and musculoskeletal disease. These are all conditions that are not easily visible and can take years to be diagnosed and for treatment to begin.

Women told us in 2018 that their condition impacts on their employment, not only because of the physical effects of fatigue, pain or needing time to attend appointments, but also because of stigma and discrimination. One woman said:

As a young woman with a chronic illness, the biggest issue I faced is wanting to hide it in fear of being unemployed as a result.

It also impacts on their relationships and things that make life enjoyable that many of us take for granted. As one of the research participants said:

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