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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2064


Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (12:28): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) eating disorders and poor body image present a significant problem for both males and females in Australia; and

(b) the social messages given to people by their family, friends, teachers, medical professionals and the media can have a significant negative or positive impact on a person's body image; and

(2) calls on:

(a) all Members of Parliament to take a leading role in the promotion of healthy living, exercise and positive body image in Australia; and

(b) the Government to commit to continued support for the National Body Image awareness program.

It is highly likely that there are now more than one million people in Australia with an eating disorder. At the end of 2012, Deloitte Access Economics estimated that there were more than 913,000 people with eating disorders in Australia, and the number was climbing fast. It was estimated that more than 25,000 Australians suffer from anorexia, more than 100,000 from bulimia, almost 430,000 from a binge-eating disorder and another 350,000 from other eating disorders. The numbers are staggering and, truthfully, frightening. Eating disorders ruin lives and, in some cases, take lives. They are not lifestyle choices or diets gone too far; they speak to the state of our mental health and wellbeing.

I am pleased to note that, in my electorate, a new service will commence in the new year for adults with eating disorders. The 10-week outpatient program to be delivered by Hunter New England Health will give patients a new treatment option, filling the gap between the existing options of a one-hour counselling session or treatments requiring hospitalisation. Regional and rural residents often have to travel to major cities for treatment such as this, so I commend Hunter New England Health for introducing this new treatment option in Newcastle.

A major risk factor for developing an eating disorder is poor body image, which can manifest in a number of ways. While body image is a perception of oneself, it can be significantly influenced by external factors and social messaging. Poor body image like eating disorders does not discriminate in Australia; it affects men and women, young, old, Indigenous and non-Indigenous—and that has been a very significant change over the decades.

Mission Australia's 2013 youth survey, released last week, found that almost one-third of young Australians have serious body image concerns. Body image was a top 3 concern for the fourth straight year and for the first time was listed as a major concern for young Indigenous women with almost half of young women affected. Family, friends, teachers, medical professionals, public figures and the media all play a major role in influencing body image, both negatively and positively. Organisations like the Butterfly Foundation for Eating Disorders are helping to bring about change and improvement to practice in the prevention, treatment and support of those affected by eating disorders and poor body image. Their backing of initiatives like the Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image for the fashion, advertising, media and entertainment industries is to be commended. The code of conduct was developed by the National Advisory Group on Body Image, appointed by the Labor government in 2009.

Unfortunately, their job of leading change is often made harder than it should be. Just two weeks ago, a fellow member of this House, the member for Bowman, who is the self-confessed 'most innovative user of social media in politics' made a disparaging comment on Facebook about what constitutes the average Australian woman. He claims that he was just trying to 'simply ask a question to promote debate'. Well, member for Bowman, can I suggest that in the future when you want to have a debate, rather than innovate using social media that you bring your point to this House and debate it here. As public figures we need to use our influence for good, both here in this House and in our electorates through our actions and through the media. Some of us are good at this already, but we can all improve.

The Deloitte and Mission Australia reports have made clear the extent to which eating disorders and poor body image are impacting our national health and wellbeing. Let us not ignore the evidence. It is time for this parliament to face the issue head on and I call on the government to assist in this by committing to the proper funding of initiatives like the national body image program. Organisations like the Butterfly Foundation for Eating Disorders are working hard to make a difference and it is our duty to lead debate and allow them to continue their good work.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Mitchell ): Is the motion seconded?