Endometriosis Awareness Month

As the co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of Endometriosis Awareness with the member for Bendigo, we work to raise and increase awareness of endometriosis in this House, in the communities and wherever we possibly can.

I want to acknowledge the suffering, crippling pain and impacts on the lives of the one in nine women recent research shows it could be as low as one in seven women, so the prevalence is increasing—that advocates are now saying are suffering from endometriosis. I understand that the rate of hospitalisation has doubled amongst women aged 20 to 24 in the last decade. As we know, it is a progressive and chronic condition for which there is currently no cure.

I want to acknowledge my colleagues the member for Boothby and the member for Canberra who worked closely with the coalition government to develop and introduce the first ever National Action Plan For Endometriosis, with record funding directed to improve diagnosis and primary care support to help more women find appropriate care and better manage the impact of endo on their lives, on their families, and on their social, work and study lives.

In that 2022-23 budget, the coalition announced funding for 22 new specialised endo and pelvic pain clinics in every state and territory. This commitment was the largest ever investment in endometriosis treatment and research in Australia. I’m pleased that the Labor government has continued with this policy and have introduced the pelvic pain clinics, but you can understand that I’m desperately disappointed and frustrated and hurt for the women in my electorate that there is not one in the south-west of WA, one of the fastest growing regions in Australia.

I’ve previously shared my daughter’s very personal endo experience, and I’m constantly approached by women who are doing their best to live with endo every day. I have the greatest respect for the courage and the determination of the women who literally live and work with endo every single day, with the excruciating pain —with the lower back and abdominal pain, the exhaustion, the bloating and the nausea, and, far too often, the fertility problems.

Recently, I heard from an amazing young woman, Brooke Gibson, who lives in Busselton. She’s overcome so much in her endo journey but has refused to let the debilitating effects stop her from being a proud member of the Souwest Jets team, playing in Western Australia’s netball league. She’s also studying to become an occupational therapist. But she’s grappled with endometriosis. It took her many years to receive a definite diagnosis. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. It’s often seven, ten, or more years, during which time the damage caused is well advanced and sometimes irreversible when the actual diagnosis is made. Brooke says her greatest struggle was with the health professionals who simply did not understand endo or had not been educated to diagnose endo.

In my first speech in the parliament on endo, I asked every GP and health professional to please take these young women seriously. I know it can be difficult to diagnose, but, for goodness sake, I asked them, ‘Can you please take these young women seriously or send them to an experienced gynaecologist who actually specialises in endometriosis?’ Brooke is just one of the young women who would have benefited from a dedicated pelvic pain clinic in the south-west of WA. There is absolutely no doubt that the struggle to access or receive accessible treatment and care is much more challenging and often impossible in regional and remote parts of Australia.

I just want to give a special shout-out to every young woman with endometriosis and mature-age woman who has realised later in life that she has endometriosis. The clinics themselves need to really be able to deliver. I want to see much more pelvic pain education in schools so that our young women know what is not normal and when to seek and get the help that they need early in their lives so that they don’t have to suffer in the way that so many others before them and right now are suffering.

As I said, our regional Australians, our women in regional and remote parts of Australia, are already facing additional and significant challenges in accessing medical and health services and support. It is no different with endometriosis. In fact, it’s far worse. So these areas actually should be prioritised. They don’t have all of the services that are often available in cities and outer-metro areas. They are much more isolated. So I’m going to ask the government to, please, prioritise those regions outside of Sydney for pelvic pain clinics.