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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 721

Ms BURKE (9:24 PM) —I think this is a very worthy motion, and it is something I have pursued in previous parliaments. I congratulate the member for Kingston for looking at this vital area. As a mother of a 10-year-old child, I, like many speakers before me, deal with this on an ongoing basis. My daughter is, of course, gorgeous, as all our children are, and I am terrified for her on a daily basis. My husband says we are going to homeschool her from the age of about 12. But this cannot be done. I cannot wrap her in cotton wool and I cannot protect her from everything in life. We as a government cannot wrap the nation’s children in cotton wool, but we do need to do things to ensure that our children get a childhood and that they do not get bombarded with images that lead to negative thoughts that can lead to dangerous areas like eating disorders. Eating disorders is an area I have pursued in this parliament, and I want to commend the government for taking action on it. I will get to that in a minute.

My 10-year-old child was given a dreaded Bratz doll. She burst into tears because she thought her father would take it off her because he had previously told her that Barbie was ‘Satan’. This was pretty bad, as she attended the Syndal Baptist childcare centre and had said she could not have Barbie because Barbie was Satan—because my husband was of the view that it was such a negative image that we should not have it. Lo and behold, her birthday party arrived, and there is the dreaded Bratz doll, with the unbelievably large lips. Anyway, we took the Bratz doll and we have lived with the Bratz doll. We have lived with Total Girl, a magazine aimed at small children, which has pin-up posters of boys and things and also cute kittens and giveaways to attract 10-year-olds to pick it up in the store. We have had the dreaded High School Musical 1, 2 and 3. I recommend them to all of you highly—not! Again, it is bombardment with images of what my child should perceive herself to be. I want my child to be herself. That is a really dreadful thing to ask of any child, and it is a very hard lesson to learn, but we have to teach her resilience so she can get there. We had the dreaded experience of going into a store to buy her an outfit, and a woman saying she looks so grown up. I do not want her to look grown up. I want her to look 10! That is all I require. I want her to have a childhood. I do not want to mollycoddle her, I do not want her to not be a feminist, but I believe that she, like all our children, deserves to enjoy this precious time and not have the mass media somehow consume and take it away from her.

In the previous parliament, I called on the former government to take seriously the issue of body image and eating disorders. A lot of the research demonstrates that this sexualisation, this constant bombardment with what you are meant to look like, does have serious negative consequences for many young women and, increasingly, young boys. The AMA, in its most recent report, states:

Eating disorders are serious psychiatric illnesses. The prevalence of eating disorders among children and adolescents is rising. While it is difficult to assess exactly how common eating disorders are (as many cases may go undiagnosed) it is estimated that one in 100 adolescent girls develop anorexia nervosa, and that it is the third most common chronic illness in girls, after obesity and asthma. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) state that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, with a death rate higher than that of major depression.

And we treat this illness with contempt. We do not take it seriously, we do not fund its research and we do not treat it as an illness, which it is. I commend the Rudd Labor government for finally realising that we need to do something about it. Last year the Minister for Health and Ageing announced funding of $3.5 million over four years to tackle the growing epidemic of eating disorders, including $500,000 for the Butterfly Foundation to establish a national eating disorders collaboration. I have dealt with the Butterfly Foundation for many years, and I again want to congratulate Claire Vickery, the CEO and founder of the foundation, who has been committed to raising the issue of eating disorders and how people end up in this terrible spiral. Nothing had been done for many years, and now we are doing more.

In addition, the federal Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth has tackled this issue, appointing a national advisory group on body image. She received their first report in October 2009. The report notably called for the development of a voluntary code for body image. A lot of this needs to be done on a voluntary basis. There is a lot of angst in the debate. Clive Hamilton, who in 2006 put out a report entitled Corporate paedophilia, raised the issue, and more needs to be done.

The SPEAKER —Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.