Australian women deserve the best possible standard of health care. 

While women enjoy longer lives than men, they spend more years with conditions like heart disease – the leading cause of ill-health for Australian women. 

Overall life expectancy figures also mask stark disparities for some women. On average, First Nations women live eight years less than other Australian women. And women in disadvantaged areas have twice the rate of potentially avoidable deaths than those in higher income areas. 

Australian women also face unique health challenges. For example, they are more likely to experience physical violence, and much more likely to experience sexual violence – with one in five Australian women reporting sexual violence since the age of 15. 

Such challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare research shows throughout the pandemic, women were nearly twice as likely to have experienced loneliness than men. In July 2020, 19% of women surveyed had used a mental health support service since March 2020. In November 2020, the research showed that women were more likely than men to have experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress. 

Women are also more exposed to COVID-19 in health care settings as nearly four in five workers in Health Care and Social Assistance are female. 

The Liberals' record

Scott Morrison doesn’t understand women’s health needs. He told Parliament that the lack of maternity services in regional areas could be addressed with better roads. The Government’s Assistant Minister for Women last week addressed a rally campaigning against women’s access to reproductive health care. But Labor knows that Australian women face unique health challenges that deserve urgent attention. 

But Labor knows that Australian women face unique health challenges that deserve urgent attention. 

Because women seek health care more often, they are more exposed to record out-of-pocket costs for care under Scott Morrison. Australian women are around 50 per cent more likely than men to delay or avoid GP visits due to cost, with over 350,000 women forced to skip seeing their GP each year. Even more women skip seeing a specialist (375,000 a year) or filling a prescription (612,000). And a staggering 1.2 million Australian women skip dental care each year due to the cost of seeing a dentist. 

Budget 2021

Additional funding for women’s health is welcome. Labor will work through the Budget announcements and consult with women’s health stakeholders on the measures announced. Many health measures just continue existing funding, or add new items to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme – this is ordinary government business.