Standing up for Canberra

Endometriosis Finally in National Spotlight

I want to thank the member for Forrest for this motion and for her years and years of fighting to have endometriosis recognised by the leaders of our nation. And I want to thank her daughter, Kylie, for her courage. I want to thank the member for Boothby for reaching across the aisle to join with the member for Forrest and me in establishing the Parliamentary Friends of Endometriosis Awareness, which we launched last December.

I want to thank the journalists and the media outlets that have been reporting on this issue in the past 18 months. I want to thank Esther Han and The Sydney Morning Herald, Gabrielle Jackson and The Guardian, and the Huffington Post. I want to thank the Yellow Wiggle, Emma Watkins, for talking with the nation about her battle with endo.

And I want to thank the endo warriors and endo activists who've been advocating on this issue for decades. I want to thank QENDO, EndoActive, Endometriosis Australia, the Pelvic Pain Foundation, the Canberra Endometriosis Network, the Canberra Endometriosis Centre and the Australian Coalition for Endometriosis.

Most importantly, out of the hundreds of thousands of endo sufferers in Australia, I want to thank the hundreds who have bravely and candidly shared their stories of living with endometriosis, and I want to thank their fabulous families and friends for their support. They have shared their stories of being seen as 'the sick person in the office' when they are normally fit women.

They shared stories of losing their self-confidence and self-esteem because of not being taken seriously by the medical profession, of being told to go home and have sex to burst a cyst, of being told to suck it up because period pain is difficult and painful and you just have to get on with it, that this is 'part of being a woman'. They shared stories of lost educational opportunities because they needed to have so much time off school or TAFE or university.

They shared stories of not being able to socialise like any normal 20-something and go out for a drink or a dinner or a movie because they were too exhausted or too broke or in too much pain. They shared stories of the lack of understanding and discrimination in the workforce and in the medical profession, of the horror of seeing the scars on their beautiful young bodies for the first time after their first operations.

There were stories of the incredible financial burden of endometriosis: the cost of drugs, the cost of specialists, the cost of operations. And there were stories of not being able to work full time, or even part time, because of the endless interventions and the recovery time required after them. They shared stories of having to live at home in their 20s, when their peers were moving into share accommodation or were saving for their first home, because they were not working or they were working part time or they were working sporadically and so they couldn't sustain rent let alone savings.

There were stories of hysterectomies too young, of hysterectomies in their 20s, of multiple radical operations by their mid-20s, of battles with infertility. And there were stories of mental health challenges, of depression, of anxiety, of anguish due to constant pain and constant bleeding and constant financial stress and the deeply confronting operations and—to put it in the words of an endo sufferer here in Canberra—'The horrifying realisation at a young age that they will never ever, ever, ever reach their potential.'

Thanks to the efforts of so many over so many years we now have investment in research, as the member for Forrest has highlighted. We now have investment in awareness, particularly targeted at GPs and the medical profession. We now have a draft national action plan that is being finalised after months of consultation.

I, too, want to thank all the endo sufferers, the endo warriors, the endo activists, the medical professionals, the members of parliament and others who were involved in that national consultation process and involved in that draft national action plan.

Finally, we now have the leaders of our nation talking about endometriosis, about the one in 10. I want to thank the Minister for Health for his apology last year which acknowledged these women had been ignored for too long. Finally, these women who had been so, so frightened, so, so voiceless and so, so powerless are now not on their own. At last, we have begun the conversation on endometriosis and the one in 10. We now have to make that conversation louder. We now have to make that conversation broader. We now have to have that conversation every day and end the silence on endo.