Madam Speaker, I rise to give my final adjournment speech for 2021. There are two aspects to this speech, a thank you to all the people who made 2021 a success, and another topic I will save for last.
As mentioned by other members, 2021 has been one eventful year. Despite the lockdown and ongoing COVID situation, my Office and I have continued to ‘chug along’ and I am proud of the work we have done and things we have been setting up for 2022. Together with the Yerrabi Community we have managed to accomplish some fantastic things and met some truly wonderful groups and people throughout 2021.
2021 started with a big focus on my Carers Recognition Act, which I am extremely proud to soon have it officially passed as legislation. Countless hours were spent in the development and refinement of the Bill. I met with many stakeholders, including community organisations, community groups and hardworking carers. I would like to thank all the stakeholders and constituents who provided feedback, inspired and aided me to make my Bill as inclusive and supportive as possible for all carers throughout the territory.
Meeting with carers one on one, who will directly benefit from this Act, was truly special.
Many of these carers opened up about their lives, speaking frankly and fearlessly with me about their experiences. This was brave and I would like to especially thank these individuals.
Carers ACT, ACTCOSS, the Mental Health Forum and other organisations were also fundamental in helping to ensure my Carers Bill will best represent and empower Carers throughout the ACT. So a big special thank you to you all.
As I have mentioned Madam Speaker, there has been a lot going on this year. I would like to make special note of Sanjay and Jasmine Sharma, who are two of my constituents who live in Bonner. Sanjay and Jasmine voluntarily run many, many, many cricket competitions in Gungahlin through the Indian Australian Multicultural Sports Association. This year Sanjay and Jasmin put extra focus on bringing women, particularly the daughters, mothers and grandmothers who come to the men’s cricket matches, onto the pitch.
Brining more women and girls “From the kitchen to the crease” as they call it.
This initiative to get women and girls into cricket has been a big success and I can’t praise Sanjay and Jasmin enough.
Additionally, I was happy to sponsor a petition from Sanjay on the need for a bubbler at Bonner oval earlier in the year. This is the main oval where the club trains and runs competitions. I was excited to see the bubbler installed a couple of months ago, my congratulations go out to Sanjay for his petition!
Moving on Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the Giralang community for their engagement and input regarding the Giralang Shops throughout this year. I have been regularly in the community and talking to community members about their frustration with the lack of progress on the development. This is a really important issue which I hope this place can help to resolve while working with the community in Giralang.
I also want to give a special mention to the Gungahlin Jets, my favourite sporting team that always makes both Gungahlin and I proud. Thank you for your constant support and for inviting me to your events throughout the year. It is always an honour to be able to attend, watch your games and be there to present awards as one of your local members. I would also like to acknowledge Anthony Hambleton, a stalwart of the Jets and as of the last week the most recent Lifetime Member of the club. I look forward to Seeing the club grow and develop further in 2022.
Before I move on to my second part of this speech, I think it is important that I mention all the hard work HelpingACT did throughout the lockdown. Mohammed Ali, from team HelpingACT, is a big inspiration. While the ACT was in lockdown, Mohammed and the rest of the HelpingACT, were out ensuring Canberrans did not go without food while in lockdown. Thank you not only for all the other work you have done this year, but particularly ensuring that families had food during lockdown.
Now Madam Speaker, its time for me to mention that other thing I wanted to talk about. I want to speak to an issue that is slowly but surely receiving attention outside of this place due to the serious nature of the challenges it presents.
Madam Speaker, the ACT is a wealthy community in which most people can comfortably meet their basic needs. Unfortunately, 15% of people who have a period still experience period poverty. Simply put, period poverty is a lack of access to any one of the following: sanitary products, toilets, hand washing facilities, waste management or educational resources about period products.
Madam Speaker it is possible to overcome physical barriers to period poverty, but not without a complete understanding of the most significant barrier to menstrual equity: Stigma. Historically, all cultures have engaged and do engage in behaviour which results in shaming menstruation and those who do it.
This includes but is not limited to more pervasive narratives of disgust compared to other normal bodily fluids (such as sweat, blood, or breast milk); cultural beliefs that a woman is so unclean during her menstrual period she cannot worship with her community; advertising menstrual products in a way that implies any menstrual blood leaks somehow expose an absence of femininity; the restriction of freedom of behaviour due to menstruation that a person may have enjoyed in the past; and the association of menstruation with mood disorders.
Anthropologists have even identified how menstrual blood has been considered magical and poisonous in some circumstances. You can still see this myth pervading modern cultural narratives in the way menstruating women are depicted in popular media as irrational, enraged or ill.
Having a period should be a disadvantage, but while periods remain wrapped up in shame and stigma, many women and people who menstruate still whisper to each other when we need a tampon; feel uncomfortable asking our male boss for time off because of period pain or are shamed if we don’t have periods. This shame absolutely has a material impact on the daily lives of women and people who menstruate.
For instance Madam Speaker, Share the Dignity’s Period Pride Report, the largest report of its kind undertaken in Australia, reveals that in addition to 59% of people surveyed having felt too embarrassed to talk about periods, cost pressures meant that 2 in 5 respondents were using less suitable period products and 1 in 5 respondents were improvising (such as using toilet paper). People are putting their health at risk with almost 1 in 2 respondents wearing a pad or tampon for over four hours because they don’t have any more to use. Participation in school and work was also affected with nearly half of respondents saying they had skipped a whole day of school and 2 in 5 respondents saying they had called in sick to work because of their period.
Madam Speaker, there is an indisputably strong case for efforts to remove the stigma associated with periods so responding to the other barriers that stop women participating in everyday life will be a significantly easier task.
As I said earlier Madam Speaker, I look forward to discussing this matter more in 2022.