2017 was an exciting year for gynaecological health in Australia with the formation of the Australian Coalition for Endometriosis and the announcement from Australian health minister Greg Hunt of a national plan to help improve treatment of endometrosis sufferers.
Western Australian Senior of the Year 2018, Kath Mazzella OAM recently returned from her trip to Canberra for the Australian of the year awards and is sharing her story with us. Congratulations Kath and thank you for advocating for gynaecological patients nationwide.
'I recently accepted my 11th award after being announced Western Australian Senior Australian of the Year 2018. It was an honour to participate, to be part of the fantastic celebrations and to connect up with other future thinkers. It was wonderful that Tony (my husband) was invited to join in the celebrations. After all I know full well, if I didn’t have Tony by my side I would never ever do what I do.
First off, we had celebrations at City of Perth followed by lunch with Western Australian Governor Sanderson and the other WA recipients. Then off to Canberra for more celebrations. I was chuffed to have morning tea at The Lodge and meet the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, all be it for 2 minutes. He mentioned the recently highly published mesh issues. I met Governor General Cosgrove and his wife who just happened to sit at our table, where I asked for her 2 minutes of her time. She suggested I contact her after she showed interest in my work and after giving her a pair of my undies. I will follow this up after a meeting with the Western Australian Australia Day Alumni soon where I wish to liaise more with them how we can work into the future about community Gynaecological Health.
The presentation evening at Parliament House was out of this world. Something never to be forgotten. I was pleased to meet the MC of the evening Chris Bath who was very interested in my work after I handed her a pair of undies. I have since spoken with Chris on ABC Radio NSW. We also met Ita Buttrose and Dick Smith. I am still in awe. It was also exciting to walk into the Australian Museum and see photos of the recipients. It made me chuckle that little Kath Mazzella from down town Perth had her picture in the Australian Museum.
I have found over the years, it takes support from awards such as Australian of the Year, to keep the momentum of change progressing. I still don’t quite understand why I am given these awards yet very little acceptance in speaking out. Am I too fat, too old, too ugly, too confronting for society? I think not. I think the issue dates back to the beginning of time and feel that now is the time for not just changes but extraordinary changes. The time has come for open communication around Gynaecological and related mental health issues. Suffering in silence in no longer acceptable.
It is exciting to see the formation of the Australian Coalition for Endometriosis and the progress being made on behalf of endometriosis sufferers nationwide. It's exciting to have the federal government work with our nations endometriosis organisations and for recognition and an apology from Australian health minister Greg Hunt. We are making progress as a nation let's keep the ball rolling!
How does one change thousands of years of social programming? Given the recent media attention and exposure of years of paedophilia and sexual harassment in the world is it not time for women to have a greater voice around Gynaecological and related mental health issues? Public discussion around Gynaecological issues needs to continue coming out of the dark ages and moving into the limelight. We need to open the doors for greater education and hear the of suffering and stories of women and the impact this has on society. Many women are still compounded with a lack of information and accessibility. Many are left feeling battered physically and emotionally whilst trying to maintain composure in the workplace donning lipstick and a smile on their faces like nothing is wrong.
My goal is to have more community support in the International Gynaecological Awareness day 10 September campaign. A day designed for medical professionals and community to walk the same path together. I know it could help bring women and society together more and have a greater understanding and compassion for one and other. According to Endometriosis Australia, Endometriosis costs the government 7.7 billion (about 2.5 billion of that is in health care costs and the rest is in loss of productivity). So let’s imagine the same cost (7.7 billion) could apply to polycystic ovaries, and lets quadruple that number for the gynaecological cancers, prolapses, fibroids, hysterectomies, menopause, sexual transmitted infections, vulval conditions the list goes on. Now I am not all that great at math however I know that Gynaecological/Mental health is costing the government ridiculous amounts of money. Yet many are still not informed and there is a need for more active and open community discussion. This information should be in schools and the workplace. Many women begin suffering with these conditions in their early teens and continue to be affected into and throughout adulthood.
The impact of all of these issues have ripple effect on parents, partners, businesses and the whole community. YET whilst attending the finals for Australia Day Awards 2018 in Canberra, it became clear to me that Gynaecological health was not a political issue. Now I ask you why would that be so? My answer is that sufferers need to stand up and be heard. I felt a tear in my eye last week when I saw the Country Women’s Association protest rally against the Western Australian Government Education cuts in country areas. The tear was what I wouldn’t do for all organisations to rally behind the Gynaecological Awareness Day 10 September to show there is a demanding community force for these women without a voice and in the dark without education. Many are still doctor shopping, many doctors still don't have answers. It is time to turn on the lights and hear what is “going on down there”. We need to exert information on the next generation, to foster greater acceptance and education. Many tend to share experiences as a way of dealing and coping with adversity to they can connect and grow stronger. I feel Gynaecological health has been run on a male model and is now time for women to contribute as to how they can include in a comprehensive overhaul of all things Gynaecology. I feel in 30 years’ time society will look back in awe as to how Gynaecological health was dealt with in the past. I so look forward to the progress.
What's needed to make immediate changes, is to add life, colour, music, dance, stories and celebration of women’s magnificent bodies and all that comes with their cycle of life. Use the International Gynaecological Awareness Day as a tool to bring out the underlying concerns. It would make future contact much easier and enable women to talk more openly and with confidence. I wish to make a special mention to Hayley Solich my writer and mentor. Again, if Hayley didn’t push me forward with any of my work I could well have given up years ago.' - Kath Mazzella OAM