Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 28, 2022


Pelvic Pain

The Hon. C. BONAROS (16:14): I rise to speak on the importance of a silent issue which is taking its toll on thousands of women each day and, in particular, adolescent women. I am talking about pelvic pain, a condition that affects around one in five women, and one in 12 men, and yet a condition which garners little to no attention.

Following work in the period poverty space I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Kirsty Mead, the Executive Director from the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia. It became clear to me in discussing pelvic pain with Kirsty that this issue is not only rarely discussed but is also very misunderstood and subject to broad scepticism by many within professions, including the medical profession.

But pelvic pain is a very real condition. It is a debilitating human affliction which is not only worthy of mention but certainly needs more recognition within the funding and resource allocation setting. In fact, if it were not for the wonderful work that the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia is doing in advancing its mission to support, promote, educate and forge partnerships in advocating for pelvic pain awareness and supports, there would be little or nowhere else for people suffering from this condition to go for assistance.

Part of the mission is the foundation's Pelvic Pain Educational Talk Program, known as PPEP Talk, and that talk is an educational program designed to highlight and destigmatise pelvic pain by offering a new approach to educational health care. It is achieved by incorporating a modern understanding of the neuroscience of pain and introductory self-management strategies for those who have pain, and what those who do not experience pain can do to support those who do.

The program offers informational insight and guidance on how to seek professional medical help. It is free to public, private and independent schools, and has inclusive and modified programs suitable for boys, students with special needs and Indigenous students. Students attending the talk range between the ages of 12 to 19, with well-qualified and trained educators who are supported with medical advisers to ensure the information provided is accurate and helpful. The program has been running in South Australia for the past two years and during that span has already visited 170 schools with 100 per cent of schools who have participated requesting a return of the program.

Importantly, the talk program blends well with the National Action Plan for Endometriosis, introduced by the federal government in 2017, and has been funded by both state and federal governments since 2018. Structurally, the Pelvic Pain Foundation received federal government funding to execute the PPEP Talk program in each state, and there is an expectation that state governments match that funding. Here in South Australia there is a $35,000 shortfall which is necessary for the continued expansion of the program.

The talk's primary goal is to have the program rolled out across every school in South Australia, including rural and regional schools with tailored programs to suit the needs of the area. Without that necessary state government funding it will be next to impossible for the foundation to achieve its mission in expanding the program to every school in the state. The importance of the program is very clear, the linking up of educational, accurate information about pelvic pain and how to manage that pain to accessible clinical facilities and allied health care and medical professionals, and it is essential and unique to this program.

An area of particular concern and interest is the growing number of young female students absent from school due to pelvic pain. Research commissioned by the PPFA highlights that an increase in student absenteeism is directly attributable to pelvic pain, which comes in a variety of symptomatic forms, as is the case with period issues more generally.

The importance of the program's expanded delivery will ensure that students experiencing pelvic pain are able to recognise symptoms and administer self-managed care and have the medical information necessary to guide them to appropriate professional care which, in turn, will lead to a decrease in absence from school and provide a heightened understanding at the school among teachers and students to adequately support students who are experiencing this pain.

The program is proving to be an invaluable education tool throughout the state, specifically in Indigenous and rural communities, but it does need more funding. We should all be doing what we can to promote the PPEP Talk program, educate our kids, educate our communities and ensure that it is reaching our students across the state in terms of its delivery.

Time expired.