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Men's Health

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I rise to speak in support of Ms Castley’s motion today – as Shadow Minister for Families, Youth and Community Services, this is another opportunity for me to advocate for improved support and awareness of men’s health in the ACT, as I have been doing for many years now.

With the recent passing of International Men’s Day last Saturday, this is a great time to talk about men’s health. Yet we should not limit these talks to an awareness day – conversations about men’s health should be ongoing throughout the year.

It is my firm belief that when we support the wellbeing of men in our community, we strengthen the rest of our community: women, children, elderly, people with disabilities, those who are diverse in gender, faith or culture – including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – any combination of the above and more. The men we are talking about are our fathers, our brothers, our sons, grandfathers, uncles and friends.

I’d like to add 3 more facts and stats to the ones my colleague has noted:

1. Australian men are more likely than Australian women to get sick from serious health problems, and their mortality rates are also much higher. Some causes of death are directly related to your sex – for example, men cannot die during childbirth and women cannot die from prostate cancer. But men die in greater numbers than women from just about every non-sex-specific health problem: for every 2 women who die, 3 men die.

2. 96 percent of people who die at work are men, with the most fatal occupation being machinery operators and drivers, followed by labourers. And finally –

3. Even in the case of children, boys account for 2 out of 3 deaths in deaths due to accidents or drowning.

There are many theories about why women enjoy greater health than men, such as:

· Greater government investment in women’s and children’s healthcare;

· Men being traditionally encouraged to perform high-risk jobs such as mining, logging and construction;

· Barriers to accessing healthcare professionals due to employment circumstances, particularly difficulties in receiving access to male doctors for intimate issues.

As my colleague Ms Castley notes, it is critical that we examine the social determinants of health for men in the ACT and implement strategies that will ultimately promote the health and wellbeing of men and the rest of our community. For example, there is strong, research-based evidence that demonstrates a direct link between employment status and men’s mental as well as physical health. Men suffering from depression are twice as likely as depressed women to abuse alcohol and other drugs, which consequently lead to an increased risk of violent behaviour and suicide. We know that men are the predominant perpetrators in cases of domestic violence, with women and their children as the predominant victims. We also know from relatively recently collected national data that LGBTIQ+ people report high levels of domestic violence, with men as the predominant perpetrators still. It is clear that when men in our community experience poor health outcomes, the harmful impacts disproportionately affect women, children and other vulnerable members of our community.

Our community has noticed the gaps in support and services when it comes to looking after men. For years, I have persisted in questioning this Government about addressing the increasing demand for men’s counselling services. I welcome the increased access to counselling services from our latest Territory budget, but I will continue to keep close watch on whether the funding is sufficient to cover ongoing demands. I would like to thank the local organisations that work tirelessly to support at-risk and vulnerable men such as Menslink, EveryMan, the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul Society, Relationships Australia and DVCS. I am also grateful for organisations such as our several Men’s Sheds, YMCA and other special hobby groups popular with men that promote their health and wellbeing.

In particular, I would like to make mention of an initiative in my electorate of Ginninderra that was recently featured in the media: The Belconnen Man Walk, which was started by local resident, Mr Craig Durbidge as part of a nationwide network. Every Saturday at 7am, a group of local men meet in the front of the Lighthouse Pub on Emu Bank for a relaxing lake walk and talk, where they can warm up both physically and mentally. What a wonderful initiative – a place where men can go walk and talk about anything that’s on their minds - they have said that it’s life-changing! There is now also a Man Walk for the Tuggeranong district as well, who meet every Wednesday at 6:30am outside Bunnings. I encourage all men who may be interested in this initiative to join them when you can and support these simple but incredibly positive initiatives.

The ACT Government needs to do more, and I join Ms Castley’s call, especially for the need to develop an ACT Men’s Health Plan. As she has noted, there is no parallel strategy focused on improving services and initiatives for men’s health and wellbeing in the ACT, and the ‘gender lens’ as described in the ACT Women’s Plan must be applied to our health care services when it comes to men as well, for the benefit of everyone else in our community.

I commend this motion to this Assembly. Thank you.


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