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Natarsha Belling interviews Anna Burke MP about banning pro-anorexia websites.

Presenter: A disturbing number of pro-anorexia websites are popping up on the internet - sites
aimed at helping young girls develop and master an eating disorder. A new study reveals more than a
third of adolescents with an eating disorder access these sites. MP Anna Burke wants the sites
banned and she joins me now.

Good morning Anna. This is really concerning research.

Anna Burke: These sites are extremely dangerous and we have underestimated them. There's a growth
in these sites. They are encouraging people to starve themselves and how to hide it from their
parents. They're glamorising starving yourself to death. They provide images of so-called
'thinspirational' individuals: emaciated models and people who look as though they are close to
death's door. We need to do something about them.

Presenter: So Anna, do we know who is behind these sights?

Anna Burke: A lot of these sites are put up by people who are suffering from an eating disorder,
anorexia or bulimia, but there is growing evidence that there may also be some paedophilia activity
behind these sites.

Presenter: So we can't ban them - you've contacted the Classification Board. What response did you
get?

Anna Burke: I was very disappointed in the response both from the Classification Board and from the
Howard Government. Both have advised me that they don't see these sites as being dangerous and that
they do not need to be banned. I disagree. I think we should place classifications on them - X18+ -
which would block them out if you have a filter on your computer, and ensure that vulnerable
adolescents cannot access this dangerous information.

Presenter: Do you think parents are aware of this type information on the internet?

Anna Burke: One of the disturbing things about the report that was in Pediatrics, a leading medical
journal in the US, was that most parents didn't even know these sites existed. You can control your
children at home but you don't know what they're doing on other people's websites, at school, in
the library. If we put a block on these websites we would know that vulnerable adolescents could
not access this information. Parents can't always be watching their children.

Reporter: Do you think though if there are restrictions placed on these types of websites, that
teenagers will access this type of information anyway. They're very vulnerable at that stage in
their lives.

Anna Burke: They're incredibly vulnerable. These sites are out there and they're very disturbing,
but we as legislators need to ensure we're making as many protections for these vulnerable
individuals as we can. There have been cases cited of children as young as five being diagnosed
with anorexia. This disease is on the increase. One in 20 women says they have suffered from an
eating disorder. There is a growing alarm at the increase in the disease amongst school-age
children. We need to be doing much more about it.

Reporter: Although we know the high incidents of these eating disorders around the country, they do
have very serious health consequences as well if left untreated.

Anna Burke: People don't realise that the largest cause of death from psychiatric illnesses is
actually from eating disorders. We don't talk about it a lot, but we need to be discussing it more
and ban these websites which tell you how to starve yourself, how to hide it, how to get more
information about it. Instead of a glamorising it, we need to be stopping them as one measure to
fight the horrendous growth in this disease.

Reporter: As you mentioned earlier you're facing a number of brick walls in actually getting people
to take responsibility for banning or restricting these websites. What's your next step?

Anna Burke: My next step is to continue to raise awareness with the community about these
pro-anorexia websites that out there. If you have an adolescent child you may not know that
[pro-eating disorder websites] exist.