Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 19 November 2015) . . Page.. 4232 ..

This is a matter that affects not only women parliamentarians but women aspiring to be parliamentarians and women throughout the community who are thinking about what they would like to do with their lives and how their work lives will intersect with their family aspirations.

The House of Representatives are currently considering changes to their own methods. They have an option in the House of Representatives whereby women can vote by proxy from their offices, presumably when they are breastfeeding and a division is called and women are required to come to the chamber. So they have that option, and they are now considering whether to also allow breastfeeding in the chamber.

Our situation, though better than most parliaments, is still quite out of step, I would imagine, with community expectations. If we are to tell young women today that the world is their oyster and they can succeed, and if we do not change these systems so that they work really well, we do not mean what we say.

I do not think anyone today would argue that breastfeeding is not important for babies and for mums. The World Health Organisation and the National Health and Medical Research Council recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months or more where possible. By three months, 60 per cent of mums, for many reasons, have had to stop breastfeeding—either they have had to or they have chosen to stop exclusively breastfeeding—and by five months about 85 per cent of mums have chosen to or found that they had to stop breastfeeding. This can be something that makes women feel content. It can also be a very distressing experience. The process of stopping breastfeeding as well as the actual decision that has to be made are both quite exhausting and difficult moments in a mum’s life, on the whole.

If breastfeeding rates decrease, babies are less protected in many cases against infection. If we have a lower breastfeeding rate, we see more infections in the first year of life, more doctors visits due to such infections, and high antibiotic use and hospitalisation.

For older children, we see lower infection rates, as part of the population as a whole for kids who have been breastfed for longer, such as ear, nose and throat infections. We also see a better effect on the rates of overweight and obesity. Nationally, it is estimated that between $60 million and $120 million could be saved annually across the Australian hospital system just for these childhood illnesses.

In my submission to the federal parliament’s procedure committee on their investigation into breastfeeding practices in their parliament, I wrote:

Babies come with a variety of behavioural patterns, and mothers have a variety of breastfeeding experiences. I was fortunate to have been quite an experienced mother and breastfeeder by the time I had my fifth baby and was working as an elected member in the ACT Legislative Assembly. However, many parliamentarians who have babies were elected before beginning to have their children. As a result, they are experiencing the ups and downs of managing the baby’s behavioural patterns and learning breastfeeding skills for the very first time.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video