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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7083

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (21:55): Earlier this year I moved a private member's motion in relation to children's beauty pageants. I note, Madam Deputy Speaker Burke, you also spoke on the motion and feel equally as passionate about this issue as I do. Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant is the organisation that has been holding these pageants both in Melbourne and, more recently, in Sydney. At the weekend, on Saturday, 16 June, Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant snuck into Sydney and held a children's beauty pageant. There was no advertising and it was held in the utmost secrecy. If this is such a wonderful thing, why would they sneak into town and why would they not tell anyone about it?

The US based Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant featured on the US TV show Toddlers and Tiaras. I think most members are aware of it. When it was in Melbourne last year, there was much criticism from the community. It led Darebin City Council to review their venue hire policy and refuse to host further child beauty pageants. That is what I would like to see throughout Australia: councils and organisations refusing to host these pageants. Despite the outrage last year, the pageant was again held last weekend, in Sydney.

The pageants encourage and require children to make themselves up in a adult manner, requiring make-up and recommending fake tanning and hairpieces. There are two issues here. One is that these pageants teach children to value their appearance above all else from a very young age. Self-worth is intrinsically based on appearance. The pageants distort children's perceptions of themselves. They are celebrated and rewarded for creating a fake and highly stylised image of themselves, often with the photos being retouched. Emphasis on looks and physical attractiveness can lead to negative body image, anxiety, low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders. These effects can last throughout a young person's life.

Secondly, these beauty pageants sexualise and objectify children as they conform to adult perceptions of beauty and behaviour. Fake tanning, waxing, fake eyelashes, hairpieces and make-up are beauty treatments and devices used by grown women and are inappropriate for little girls to use to achieve a narrow, adult, beauty standard. I think it verges on child abuse. It is totally unnatural for a young child. It is natural for young children to dress up in their mother's clothing, put make-up on—with lipstick all over their face—but it is not natural for a young child to be trained to perform in one of these beauty pageants.

Glenn Cupit, senior lecturer in child development at the University of South Australia, believes the young pageant participants are instructed to dress and behave in an adult way. He said:

The title is 'child beauty pageant' but if you look at the way the children are dressed and required to act, it's actually a child sexualisation pageant. The children are put into skimpy clothes, they are taught to do bumps and grinds. It's not looking at children's beauty. It's a particular idea of what beauty is, which is based on a highly sexualised understanding of female beauty.

This is something that as a parliament we should condemn. What is being created here is a generation of young girls who are going to have a plethora of psychological and social problems. We have a chance to say that this is not good enough. There are so many myths around beauty pageants, such as they help young people to develop self-confidence, when in actual fact they have the opposite effect. These beauty pageants stand condemned and all members of this parliament should join together in condemning them. (Time expired)