Radio interview with Assistant Minister Kearney and Sammy J, ABC Radio Melbourne - 14 March 2024

Read the transcript of the radio interview with Assistant Minister Kearney and Sammy J on the National Women's Health Summit; End Gender Bias Survey.

The Hon Ged Kearney MP
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care

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SAMMY J, ABC: Hey, how are you feeling right now? You're feeling a bit sick? You're feeling a bit unwell? Aches and pains? No, you're probably just faking it. Don't worry love. No, you’re just getting a bit hysterical. Just get over it, you'll be fine. They are the kind of attitudes that a whole lot of women have had to face in their healthcare journeys for far too long, according to the End Gender Bias survey, which has just been released ahead of the National Women's Health Summit being held in Canberra today. And overseeing that is none other than Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care and Member for Cooper, Minister Ged Kearney. Minister Kearney, thank you for your time this morning.
 
GED KEARNEY, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: It's a great pleasure to be here. Thanks, Sammy.
 
SAMMY J: And before we turn to matters of health, I want to congratulate you as the Member for Cooper overseeing High Street in Northcote, Preston and Thornbury. You- I guess the coolest Member of Parliament now, aren't you, since that's been voted the coolest street in the world?
 
KEARNEY: It is the coolest street in the world. I'm not sure that I contribute to it being cool, but I'm certainly very proud to live along that area and to be the Member for Cooper. It's fantastic.
 
SAMMY J: Indeed, Minister…
 
KEARNEY: … I know, of course, it's your hood too, that you would make it very, very cool.
 
SAMMY J: Yes, I think statistics would prove otherwise, but happy to be a member of it. Minister, let's talk about these findings. First of all, the attitudes that the survey has revealed, are they coming as a shock to anyone, or at least to any women who has heard these results?
 
KEARNEY: They are not coming as a shock to any women at all. But what I'm hearing is it is an absolute relief that finally women are being able to tell their stories, talk about it, and that we have a lot of people who really want to do something about it, including the Government. So that's where I come in. When I first became Assistant Minister in this portfolio, so many women just approached me and just randomly started to tell me their experiences. It was terrible. They've had their pain dismissed. They're told to suck it up. They're told: oh, well, it's just a woman's lot. You get periods, you’ve got pain. That's bad luck for the rest of your life. We know that that is not true. We know that there are a lot of reasons why women have the conditions they have, and they are treatable. So I decided I needed some evidence. We had the End Gender Bias survey. Nearly 3000 women told their stories – some very tragic, I've got to say, but all very worrying. There were some good stories about what can make it better and people that did have good experiences. But mostly we know that two in three women have experienced discrimination or bias in the health system, and that's just not good enough.
 
SAMMY J: How do you even begin to tackle the cultural change needed to make improvements here? When we're talking about women who are- and many, many listeners I imagine are right now feeling very heard about being patronised or told that they're drama queens or hysterical in a healthcare context.
 
KEARNEY: Yeah, that's exactly what they're told. They’re told worse – they're told they're drug shopping, they're told they're promiscuous, they're told they're faking it, it's just not real. It's really awful. So good question about where do we start. Well, this is a systemic problem that has developed for- well, ever since we've known the world of medicine, really for hundreds of years. It's been developed by men, for men. In fact, we describe default man as a 50-year-old white man from Pennsylvania. So- and that's pretty much who and how the system has been designed by and for.
 
So how do we change that? Well we accept there's an issue. And I've got to say, I'm incredibly proud that the RACGP, the General Practitioners College, the gynaecologists and obstetricians, the AMA, all of the nursing and allied health professional groups have agreed that this is a problem. And they're going to work with us, with people with lived experience and advocates to see how we can change it.
 
SAMMY J: You, of course, have a background in healthcare yourself. What role do female practitioners, doctors, nurses beyond have in this? I imagine that more women working in that field will help, at the very least.
 
KEARNEY: I think it's made a huge difference that more women are working as health professionals, and more health professionals- female health professionals are having their qualifications recognised. But at the same time, they're still working in a system that has, for example, guidelines for symptoms of how diseases present are written sort of in concrete, if you like. And even if you're a woman GP, you will look up those guidelines. And those guidelines are not always designed to reflect how women experience disease processes. So they're restricted too by the system because the system that they use has been designed by and for men predominantly. So we need to change those guidelines. We need to make sure they do reflect women's experiences and how women present with problems. We need to look very seriously at the workforce, how we train our workforce. Is there awareness? We need to look at national standards. We've got Senate inquiries happening into menopause. We had a reproductive- a Senate inquiry into reproductive healthcare. There's a lot happening in this space, Sammy, and I just need to bring it all together and point it in the right direction.
 
SAMMY J: Well, that is what's happening today at the National Women's Health Summit in Canberra. Look, I was- I'm from Frankston, not Pennsylvania, but beyond that I am the man who has benefited. So I think the least I can do is to shut up and listen to- on a day like today. And I’m really, really excited to hear what comes from it.
 
Ged Kearney, are you excited about the election next year?
 
KEARNEY: Am I excited about the election? I'm not sure excited is ever the right word when we're facing an election. But there will be an election next year and we'll be ready. I think we've got- particularly in the area that I work, I think we've shown that in healthcare we are a government that's willing to take the lead, take all the difficult issues and really make changes for the Australian people.
 
SAMMY J: Well, I look forward to chatting again on Breakfast soon, and appreciate your time. All the best for the summit today.
 
KEARNEY: Okay. Thanks, Sammy. Bye.
 
SAMMY J: Ged Kearney, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care.

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