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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1064

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (20:34): I rise to speak on the motion on beauty pageants that appears on the Notice Paper under my name. This follows on very nicely from the motion we debated earlier about the sexualisation and commercialisation of children. This is a prime example of how young children are sexualised and commercialised. The impact this has on them in later years is as yet unmeasured. It has the potential to have a negative impact on child development, and many authorities have stated this fact.

One of the catalysts for my putting this motion on the Notice Paper was a discussion I heard on the ABC when I was coming home from parliament one night. A psychologist was talking about the impact these beauty pageants would have on young girls' lives. He said if he was interested in growing his business he would be advocating in favour of these beauty pageants because what they do, as the previous speaker said, is create the negative body images and self-esteem issues that can really affect a young person's wellbeing, confidence and overall quality of life and lead to serious problems such as ill health, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, self-harm and social isolation—all things that revolve around body image. As the previous speaker stated, the No. 1 issue for young people is body image.

I have done quite a bit of research on these beauty pageants. There are examples of young girls screaming in terror as their mothers approach them with spray cans. There are some three million children competing in American pageants every year, most of them girls aged between six months—in some reports, as young as two months—and 16 years. They compete locally and nationally, with themes such as swimwear, talent, evening wear and themed costumes. They are creating an unreal image of what a child should be and what a young girl should be. Young girls should be involved in sport or all the activities that growing young children should be involved in. It cannot be good for young kids to be involved in these pageants. I think the cost will be seen in years to come.

I referred to a paper that was done on child beauty pageant contestants associated with eating and mental health disorders. The lead researcher on that paper was Anna L. Wonderlich. The paper showed that results from surveys indicated that women who participated in childhood pageants scored significantly higher on measures of body dissatisfaction. No matter how thin they were, no matter how perfect their body was, it was still not good enough. Interpersonal distrust and impulse dysregulation were higher than in other women who did not participate in childhood beauty pageants. There was also a trend for childhood beauty pageant participants to report greater feelings of ineffectiveness than nonparticipants. A number of other findings are highlighted in this paper, which shows that even the competitiveness and ranking of individuals lead to problems for young people in the future.

I have no hesitation in saying that we need to look at this issue. We do not need this in Australia. There are real concerns around beauty pageants that involve young people, some as young as two months old. It is not good enough. We cannot allow it to continue.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): I should have said at the outset that I want to thank the member for Shortland for bringing the motion before the House. I call the member for La Trobe.