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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1062


Ms BURKE (ChisholmDeputy Speaker) (20:29): I am very pleased that the member for Shortland has brought this important motion to the House tonight. People may think that it is flippant and silly matter but it is not. A beauty pageant caused an absolute outrage in Melbourne and I do not want to see the growth in my society of toddlers in tiaras and baby beauty queens and contests. The organisers of the contest that sparked the controversy and that was probably the genesis of this motion before us tonight said that there was great interest and that people wanted to be there and that it was about giving children confidence in growing up. No, it is not. As we heard earlier during the debate on the motion about the sexualisation of children, this is making our children grow up too soon. We are not even talking about teenagers; these are tots. They are between nought and three years old, and people are dressing them up as adults. They are making them sexual beings; they are putting on make-up. If any of you has had the pleasure or the horror of watching Toddlers and Tiaras—I have not, but I have had lots of reports from my children—there is an infamous scene where a child is done up as Dolly Parton: she has got the fake boobs, the fake bum and the full make-up. She is three years of age. What is this telling our children about how they present themselves to society? Dolly Parton should be a role model for women, in so far as she is actually a fairly fierce independent woman who has made her way in society. Instead, they are portraying her as all about image. That is where it is really wrong. As the organiser of the quest that came to Melbourne from America but did not happen, says, and I quote from the newspaper article:

Ms Hill says Australians need not fear her. They think we're going to bring the flippers (fake toddler teeth)—

So that they have the big teeth you are meant to have to look beautiful—

and the over-the-top tans and the big hair. You know, Australia has so many beautiful contestants.

I do not want my children to think that you are judged by your beauty, that that is the mark you make in the world. That is what these contests are doing. It is interesting to read that, quoting from another newspaper article in respect of this contest:

Photo categories include natural (no make-up), glamour (make-up allowed) and a fun photo.

Children will also perform a talent routine, such as dancing or singing.

In the formal gown section, children over three will be judged on public speaking, sincerity and confidence.

Family psychologist Andrew Fuller said pageants could lead to competition, anxiety and embarrassment.

"This is a good recipe for how to predispose your daughter into having an eating disorder," he said.

"The risk is that they suddenly fear that their body shape is more important than their intellect."

Psychologist Dr Janet Hall said pageants taught children that looks were more important than a good heart.

"It makes a competition out of being more grown up than you are," she said.

That is the issue. I have spoken often in this place about the scourge of body image. It is the No. 1 that children and young adults have cited in a national survey done by Mission Australia for the last several years—the No. 1 issue of concern. When you think about all that is going on in this world for our young people, originally it was just girls, now it is girls and boys, the No. 1 issue is body image. These pageants are instilling it not just in our teenagers but now in our tots. I despair that mothers—and it is a gross rationalisation, I do realise—are living their lives through their children, doing them up and trotting them out in this thing without thinking about the consequences and the impact it has. Another article of the time read:

Australian and New Zealand psychiatrists have backed calls for child beauty pageants to be banned, saying they encourage the sexualisation of children and can cause developmental harm.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists says American-style pageants, like the one slated for July in Melbourne, promote an adult's perception of "beauty".

When asked if they backed a ban of the competitions, chair of the college Phillip Brock told AAP: "Yes we do. We're giving these kids messages that how they appear, how they perform and standards about what they're to come up to is actually more important than what they're like inside," he said.

That is the issue. I am proud to be part of a government that has heard the issue about body image, that is putting money towards establishing fora to develop voluntary codes for the industry about how models look and that is doing more in the space of sexualisation. But allowing this pageantry to creep into our society, which is just so—and I hate this terminology—un-Australian. I just do not see it; I do not want it. I think we need to recognise that it is not just a bit of fun, it is actually quite harmful and it is actually quite damaging. Children need to be children. We need to allow them that space. These pageants should be banned.