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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (20 October) . . Page.. 3342 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

breastfeeding of their child because there are societal pressures on them apparently to do so. I think it is important that we encourage the practice of breastfeeding, and I believe this legislation will do that. As I said, the Government will support the Bill.

MS TUCKER (10.55): The Greens will certainly be supporting the Discrimination Amendment Bill 1999. By passing this legislation, the ACT will be joining Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory in having legislation that specifically mentions breastfeeding, thus affirming that we as a community recognise the importance of breastfeeding and welcome breastfeeding in our midst.

Some literature from the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia makes the point - and I think it is important - that some young women may rarely have seen, if ever, a baby at the breast before becoming pregnant, and they may feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed about breastfeeding in front of friends and families, much less when out and about in their daily lives. Men who see breasts as sexual objects may worry about their partners or daughters feeding in public, and some can be jealous of the breastfeeding relationship. Women who feel that they must hide themselves away to breastfeed are likely to see breastfeeding as unnecessarily difficult or restrictive and may choose to wean early.

Our babies are the most vulnerable members of our society. They are totally dependent on us for their survival. Biologically, they need frequent feeding because their stomachs are small, and breast milk is so efficiently absorbed. Hungry babies should not be expected to wait. They have the right to be offered the breast whenever they need a feed. As Mr Humphries has already listed the benefits of breastfeeding, I will not repeat them because they are on the record. It is clearly demonstrated that breastfeeding is the appropriate way to feed a young baby. Breast milk is easily digested, and it is normal for young babies to feed frequently. So it is obviously very important that there not be limitations on when women can feed their babies.

I experienced discrimination on only one occasion. It occurred at a cafe in Melbourne. I remember it very clearly because it took quite a long time for the penny to drop. I sat down in the cafe with my very young baby and one of my other children who was about four at the time, and ordered two orange juices. The waiter said that they did not have orange juice, which was a bit interesting. I was breastfeeding, by the way. I said, "You don't have orange juice. Okay, I will have two apple juices". "We don't have apple juice". I said, "Right. Could we have a glass of water?". "No". Then the penny dropped. I realised these people did not want to serve me because I was feeding my baby.

I was not very assertive in those days. I was not as assertive as I am these days. I was utterly embarrassed and uncomfortable and had to leave the cafe. I was very surprised and hurt as well. I found a more friendly place to buy a fruit juice. But it was terribly inappropriate, and it was clearly discrimination. I do not know if that still happens. Maybe it does still happen. It never happened to me in Canberra. But I think it is important that we, as parliamentarians, make a really strong statement by enacting legislation such as that which has been proposed by Mr Stanhope and by Mr Humphries, I understand. It is a very good statement for us to make, and I am delighted to be able to support it.

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