The New South Wales MLC Greg Donnelly raised the issue of sexualisation of children and young people yesterday in NSW Parliament. See below for a copy of his speech.
SEXUALISATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE
The Hon. GREG DONNELLY [9.19 p.m.]: It is my view that later this century people will look back on those who held public office at this time in Australia and judge them harshly for their lukewarm, almost indifferent, attitude to dealing with the issue of the sexualisation of children and young people in our society. In our legislatures and among those in government bureaucracies charged with the responsibility for policy development there is—with a few notable exceptions—what amounts to a wilful blindness pervading this issue. The cause or causes of such blindness can be a matter of much discussion and debate. In the meantime, it is no exaggeration to say that incalculable damage is being done to the health and wellbeing of many children and young people in New South Wales, around Australia, and indeed around the world. As I speak to those on the front line who are treating and caring for those affected by exposure to certain material that one struggles to find words to describe adequately, there is real concern developing that full recovery may not be possible. If it is possible, the path to recovery is long, intensive and costly. Such statements may seem exaggerated—even alarmist. However, I believe the incontrovertible evidence is mounting and the time has come for those in positions of power to act without further delay.
On 5 March 2012 another significant report was released in France. The parliamentary report by Senator Chantal Jouanno is entitled "Against Hyper-Sexualisation: A New Fight for Equality". It is a hard-hitting report, some 160 pages in length. The inquiry that led to the report was initiated by the French Government following public outcry over the December 2010 edition of Vogue. The edition featured in a multipage spread a 10-year-old girl and two other girls who were photographed while heavily made up and powdered, wearing lipstick, tight dresses, jewels and high heels. The report notes that the sexualisation of children is increasing and becoming acceptable because of what it describes as an insidious "normalisation of pornographic images in the popular culture". Research cited in the report concluded that this precocious sexualisation affected mostly girls and caused "psychological damage that is irreversible in 80 per cent of cases". The report makes a number of strong recommendations designed to address this issue.
On 3 April the Australian Medical Association issued a media released entitled "AMA calls for a new inquiry into the sexualisation of children in advertising". Australian Medical Association President Dr Steve Hambleton stated he believed that self-regulation by the advertising industry was clearly not working. He noted that highly sexualised advertisements that specifically target children continue to be displayed in public spaces. He said there was strong evidence that premature sexualisation is likely to be detrimental to child health and development, particularly in the areas of body image and sexual health. Stronger action is needed to stop the practice of pushing adult themes onto young children, especially preteen girls. The Australian Medical Association has called on the Federal Government to commence a new inquiry with a view to introducing tougher measures, including legislation, to protect the health and development of children by shielding them from sexualisation and other inappropriate advertising.
On 18 April 2012 a further United Kingdom report was published entitled "Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection". More than 60 cross-party members of Parliament and peers supported the inquiry. The inquiry chair was Mrs Claire Perry, MP. A particular feature of the report is the significant amount of oral evidence collected from community members. It is extensive and revealing in its content. The inquiry found that four out of five 16-year-old boys and girls regularly accessed pornography on the internet. It was also reported that more than a quarter of young patients at a leading private clinic in London are being treated for addiction to online pornography. The inquiry also heard that young children at schools frequently trade memory sticks that contain hardcore pornographic images. The report concluded that the Government and internet service providers both needed to do more to stop children from easily gaining access to pornography and websites with violent content.
These reports and many others like them are readily available for members to read. They are on the internet and can be accessed quickly through any well-known search engine. I encourage members to take the time to read these reports. Some of the material is confronting and disturbing to say the least; however, it must be faced up to and challenged. In my view, we all have an obligation to take this issue on, not just for our own children but also for future generations.
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