Penny Sharpe speech to Parliament

The Honourable Penny Sharpe - 10 Nov. 2016

PennySharpe.pngWith a big shout out to hip hop artists Salt-N-Pepa, tonight I want to talk about sex, and I want to pay tribute to the organisations and individuals that talk about sex every day. In particular I want to pay tribute to an organisation that this year will celebrate 90 years of talking about sex, educating about sex and providing training to doctors and nurses about sex and human sexuality - an organisation that has talked openly, without shame and with accuracy, about all the good things and the bad things sex may be; and an organisation that understands the role of relationships in human wellbeing and the empowerment that comes from knowledge about sex, especially for women.

I congratulate and acknowledge the work that has been undertaken by the volunteers, the staff, the doctors, the nurses and all who have worked for Family Planning NSW over the past 90 years.

Family Planning started out under very different circumstances as the Racial Hygiene Association. It provided sex education and certificates for women that said that they were free of genetic diseases and free of venereal disease. Uncomfortably, it was part of the eugenics movement at the time. In 2016 our society rightly rejects eugenics, but this history tells us a lot about a time in Australia when eugenics was more accepted than the idea of family planning or women having access to birth control.

In 1933 the first birth control clinic opened in Sydney. Since then, Family Planning NSW has been there with information and services about sex that too often too many in our community do not wish to talk about.

When women were told it was unsafe to have any more children, they turned to Family Planning, often against the will of their families, their faith and their community.

When parents have been unable or unwilling to talk about sex with their children, many have turned to the Family Planning bookshop for resources they can leave around the house for their teenagers to pick up and read.

When a young woman has started to have sex with her partner, she has been able to go to Family Planning and seek confidential advice about options for contraception and for protecting herself from sexually transmitted diseases.

When a general practitioner, a nurse or a community worker has come across people who need this advice they have been able to refer people to Family Planning NSW for help.

When the education of doctors and nurses failed to include information about how to insert diaphragms or intrauterine devices, or perform pap smears, Family Planning has provided the training necessary for medical professionals to provide these services.

Whether it is services, information or advice about contraception, pregnancy options, sexually transmissible infections [STIs], sexuality, sexual function, periods, menopause, vaginas, breasts, pap tests or fertility, Family Planning NSW has been there to provide non-judgemental, factual advice.

In more recent years Family Planning NSW has expanded work with nurses, midwives and other women to support sexual and reproductive health programs in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and other Pacific Island nations. This is important work that is saving women's lives. In the era of the internet, their information is freely available so that women can find the factual and trusted information they need to take control of their own fertility and sexuality.

Family Planning NSW has always been prepared to advocate for better support for education, services and information when it comes to sexual and reproductive health. It has been prepared to promote the very basic idea that as a woman it is a human right to choose when and if to have children. Family Planning NSW has supported law reform that has made contraception such as the pill more freely available without judgement, without shame and without conditions such as having to be married. It has been there to advocate, argue and make the case for women's bodily autonomy. It has been there to speak up for the right of people with disabilities to have access to information and to enjoy sex. It supported the campaign for RU486 to be made available and affordable. Family Planning NSW supports the need for abortion to be taken out of the Crimes Act.

Family Planning NSW's history tells us so much about the history of women in New South Wales as we continue to fight for the right to control our own bodies and make our own decisions when it comes to sex and reproduction-rights well worth fighting for.

Congratulations on 90 years of amazing history. May we see you continue to provide these vital services for many years to come. I stand with you as, in the words of Salt and Pepper, we shout, "Come on all the ladies, let's talk about sex."

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