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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (20 October) . . Page.. 3340..

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Debate (on motion by Mr Humphries ) adjourned.


Debate resumed from 25 August 1999, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (10.48): The Discrimination Amendment Bill 1999, which is before the Assembly, is an amendment to the Discrimination Act, which provides for discrimination on the basis of a woman breastfeeding becoming discrimination which is illegal under the legislation. The Government welcomes the legislation and will support it. Indeed, the amendments are to the same effect as changes that I announced to the media on 3 August this year during Breastfeeding Awareness Week. It was my intention to bring it into the house in my own capacity as Attorney-General, but Mr Stanhope has done it for me. I am very happy to welcome his amendments and to indicate that the Government's view is that discrimination of this kind is clearly out of step with community expectations.

The benefits of breast milk are evident to anybody who examines the nature of a healthy lifestyle for very young children. It is the most healthy, balanced and appropriate food available for infants, bar nothing. It is full of antibodies to protect children from various illnesses. It is a known factor in the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome. It is available on demand and does not need to be heated up, opened or prepared in any way, and it provides opportunities for mothers and babies to bond and to build a healthy relationship.

Breastfeeding should be encouraged by the community. Breastfeeding mothers ought to feel supported by those around them, not just by other mothers but also by the general public and, in particular, by employers. Mothers should not be made to feel embarrassed or inhibited. We have all heard stories about women in restaurants feeling embarrassed by glances or comments being made about their breastfeeding a child. This is a perfectly natural process which has gone on for countless generations, and we need to encourage women to feel comfortable in providing that kind of nourishment to their children. While social values put pressure on women that discourages them from taking that step, then clearly there are incentives for women not to breastfeed or to cut short the period of breastfeeding.

A couple of generations ago, breastfeeding was discouraged, and women were encouraged to move onto formulas as quickly as possible after a child was born. We are more enlightened these days. We understand that breastfeeding plays a very important part in the process of raising healthy children and therefore should be encouraged. This legislation will facilitate that.

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