Page 4234 - Week 13 - Thursday, 19 November 2015

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One of the keys to ensuring the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, mothers, employers and the broader community is to set up situations where mothers are, where safe, able to breastfeed their baby, ideally until six months of age or longer. To do this, we need to have a range of options available, including breastfeeding rooms, allowing them to take breaks to breastfeed their babies during work hours, and providing flexible work hours.

Workplaces, where possible, should provide breastfeeding rooms. We have one here in the Assembly. Our breastfeeding room here in the Assembly does not have a lock on the door, so while most women feel comfortable to breastfeed a baby there, it is not really appropriate for breast pumping, when a woman is half-naked. It is really quite difficult to relax in a position of breast pumping when you do not have a lock on the door. Women feel that they would be more comfortable in the toilets of the Assembly while breast pumping rather than in the breastfeeding room because it is not set up quite right.

With such significant benefits to babies, mothers and the broader community, I urge the administration and procedure committee to investigate how the Assembly could instigate a system which seems to work in the federal House of Representatives so that breastfeeding women can have the option to vote from within the Assembly precinct by proxy, as well as having the option to vote in the chamber with their baby—as preferred by the mother, based on the needs of her baby. I am of the opinion that here in the Assembly we should be leading the way to make it possible for mums to be able to breastfeed as needed.

Slater and Gordon’s Vicky Antzoulatos wrote in a statement recently:

I understand there is a concern that a “dangerous precedent” could be set by introducing proxy voting for nursing mothers in parliament. I struggle to understand how anything that reduces the stigma around breastfeeding could be described as “dangerous”.

Again I remind those in the chamber, those listening and those who will read the Hansard containing this debate that if we do not continue to make changes to make the system more workable for breastfeeding mothers, rather than just having a basic capacity for mums to feed, and if we do not continue to improve the system then we do not really mean it when we say that women and their babies are welcome.

Currently a breastfeeding mother can have a baby in the chamber if she is breastfeeding, but if, partway through feeding the baby in her office, the bells ring for a division, she will need to stop feeding and leave the baby or carry the baby down to the chamber to continue feeding. Sometimes babies will not continue feeding when they have been interrupted like that.

Not being able to vote by proxy certainly impacted on my decision to stop feeding at 4½ months. If I stopped—and I am a very determined woman—then how many other women have had to make similar decisions? How many women in other workplaces have felt the need to make such decisions? It would be better for the baby not to have

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