Data on 2022 women’s health shows that rates of breast, gynaecological, bowel and lung cancers are higher in Gippsland than the state average.

Adolescent births continue to be much higher than the state average, almost three times higher in some areas of Gippsland, and sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia have increased alarmingly, according to figures released by the Victorian Women’s Health Services (WHS).

Key points include:

  • Women’s educational attainment is much lower than the state average, with almost nine per cent fewer women achieving Year 12 or equivalent than their state counterparts.
  • Gippsland women are 50 per cent more likely to experience homelessness than anywhere else in the state, and women represent higher than the state average for anxiety, depression and psychological distress.
  • Family violence rates in Gippsland are also amongst the highest in the state, with East Gippsland having the second-highest numbers for family violence between June 2021 and July 2022, Latrobe third highest and Wellington Shire fifth highest.

The chief executive of Gippsland Women’s Health, Kate Graham, said women took much more carer’s leave, used flexible working arrangements and were still affected by the pay gap.

“They also suffer with more mental health concerns, are admitted to hospital with self-harm more than men, and we have seen the rates of heart disease and dementia significantly increase in the last five years,” she said.

Ms Graham said all Victorian WHS agreed that parties must take action to support the health and wellbeing of Victorian women.

“We need to keep the momentum of change going and build upon the last 30 years of reform, not the least of which is the recent significant reform to our family violence system, gender equity policy and practice, and women’s health,” Ms Graham said.

“We know that the foundations of inequity are found in the systems and structures that embed discrimination and negative gender stereotypes”.

The Victorian WHS 2022 Victorian election platform provides key health, equity and social data demonstrating that more work needs to be done.

“The good news is that we can do something about this, and the Women’s Health Services have come together to outline what we know is key to ensuring that the last 10 years of reform is sustained and improved upon,” Ms Graham said.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, acknowledged the importance and need for the priorities outlined by Victorian WHS.

“I, along with my colleagues in The Nationals, recognise the need for gender equality and acknowledge the importance of the priorities highlighted by Victorian Women’s Health Services,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the Victorian Women’s Health Services to provide solutions and are already taking steps to do so should we form government.

“We will shelve the $35 billion Cheltenham to Box Hill rail project and redirect 100 per cent of the funds that frees up into improving health services and reducing surgery wait lists,” he said.

“This will mean those waiting for important surgeries to improve their health, such as endometriosis treatment, will be able to get help far sooner.

“The Nationals also have a plan to improve access to childcare and reduce the barriers many women and single parents face when attempting to re-enter the workforce.”

A re-elected Labor Government has promised to completely change the way women’s health is treated in Victoria, creating new clinics to provide wrap-around support for a range of issues.

Labor will invest almost $58 million to create 20 comprehensive women’s health clinics across Victoria, and provide cost of living relief, investing $23 million in free period products in public places.

The party will install 1500 free pad and tampon machines at up to 700 public sites, including public hospitals, courts, TAFEs, public libraries, train stations and major cultural institutions like the State Library of Victoria and the Melbourne Museum.

A re-elected Andrews Labor Government will invest $5 million to support the creation of a Women’s Health Research Institute, to help women find new ways to identify and treat diseases such as endometriosis.

It will also invest $64.8 million to double the number of surgeries for endometriosis and associated conditions, invest $3 million to establish an inquiry into women’s pain management, and invest $2 million to establish support groups and mental health programs for women tackling challenging health issues.

“For too long, women have had to fight too hard to have their health issues recognised and acknowledged – and to be believed about their own experiences,” a Labor campaign spokesperson said.

“Labor is doing what matters – ensuring Victorian women and their health are given the focus, funding and respect they deserve.”

For more than 30 years, Victorian WHS has been at the forefront of gender equality, women’s health and primary prevention and is calling on all parties to take action on the three key policies: sustain, embed and expand the Gender Equality Act; equitable healthcare for all; and address stigma and stereotypes in the labour market.