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Monday, 23 October 2017
Page: 11617

Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (11:12): I am pleased to be following on from the member for Forrest and, indeed, the member for Canberra. I thank the member for Canberra for bringing this motion to this House so that we can raise awareness about endometriosis. Endometriosis is a hidden women's health problem, generally because women tend to suffer in silence. We have already heard accounts of this. It is, after all—and many will be familiar with this—often defined as just period pain and part and parcel of our menstrual cycle. Or my favourite way for it to be described is, 'It's just a woman's lot and you just need to deal with it.' But when period pain is so excruciating it leaves you debilitated, having to take time off work, resorting to heavy painkillers and spending days in bed, for those who need to stay home, we have to recognise this isn't just the plight of menstruation anymore. This is something more serious.

One in 10 Australian women suffer from endometriosis. It is a health issue that causes significant pain, as we've heard. If it goes untreated it can often lead to infertility and to more serious complications, which we have just heard about from the member for Forrest. For all too long endometriosis has been dismissed by GPs and doctors in Australia, as I said, as just as heavy, painful period pain. It is a common condition where tissues similar to the lining of the endometrium which normally lines the uterus are found in abnormal sites around the body. It can be diagnosed only by undergoing a laparoscopy or biopsy. When women are eventually diagnosed or seek additional health attention in relation to endometriosis it often follows a long and arduous road of misdiagnosis, pain, anxiety and, more often than not, silent suffering.

Adding to this 'women's lot' syndrome are the many cultural and religious attitudes towards women's menstrual cycles. You can find a situation in this instance which almost ensures that women of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds find it harder to speak let alone have the courage to seek medical advice. I have a very large number of culturally and linguistically diverse women in my electorate. This is a very pertinent issue for them. I'm very concerned for those who are unaware or too embarrassed to seek help from their local GPs and, more importantly, I'm concerned for those women who don't feel their female menstrual health is important enough to seek medical advice. So I am always grateful for the great work that women in my electorate do to help each other on a raft of issues, endometriosis awareness being one of them.

I want to pay tribute to Dr Umber Rind, who established a medical practice in my electorate that focuses primarily on women's health so that refugee and migrant women in particular have a safe space to discuss their issues. Raising awareness, diagnosing and treating endometriosis tackles cultural and religious taboos associated with menstruation head-on and ensures that the women in my electorate seek help and understand that, left too long or untreated, endometriosis can lead to infertility—and this is a more serious issue for CALD families in particular, who place a significant importance on starting a family. My refugee and migrant constituents are more often than not from a low socioeconomic background. IVF treatment may not be an option they can afford, lending itself to a whole host of other psychological health issues associated with not being able to have children. Dr Rind and her staff help women talk about these issues and encourage them to seek help.

I also want to acknowledge this new generation of younger women from CALD backgrounds, such as Dr Rind, and others, who are shifting taboos about women's health. I want to acknowledge in particular another young woman, Nelly Skoufatoglou, the English edition editor of the Greek Australian newspaper Neos Kosmos, for her work in using her personal experience of endometriosis to raise awareness. Nelly has been vocal about her experiences with endometriosis in ethnic media and social media in an attempt to debunk any myths around this condition and highlight the importance of treatment and, importantly, recognition, specifically in the core communities. In an article published earlier this year, Nelly talks about her journey with endometriosis—her eight years of silence suffering numerous misdiagnoses, several GP visits, specialists and surgeons. She talks about the effect this has had on her day-to-day life: the pain, the bleeding, the exhaustion, anxiety, tests, hormones, antibiotics, frustration, failed relationship after failed relationship, and her secret fear of losing her sanity. This is a courageous young woman who knows that the only way to change perceptions about this silent disease is by going public with them. Raising awareness is important because there is no other way to encourage women to seek advice and to speak up about this very silent condition.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Buchholz ): I thank the honourable member for Calwell for her valued contribution. The question is that the motion be agreed to.