Legislative Council: Wednesday, March 22, 2023


Male Life Expectancy

The Hon. S.L. GAME (16:13): I move:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges that, statistically, Australian men have a much shorter life expectancy than Australian women;

2. Recognises that, statistically, Australian men are more likely to die at work than Australian women;

3. Accepts that, statistically, Australian men are more likely to die on South Australian roads than Australian women;

4. Acknowledges that Australian men can also be victims of domestic violence and family abuse; and

5. Recognises that Australian men make up more than three-quarters of Australian deaths by suicide.

Following International Women's Day recently on 8 March when women were celebrated worldwide, we must also acknowledge the significance of the issues Australian men face today. Men seem to be the silent victims continually overshadowed or dismissed due to gender insignificance. I perceive that International Men's Day, held on 19 November each year, attracts far less attention or importance than its gender counterpart.

For example, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian male life expectancy is four years shorter than that of Australian females. Men make up more than three-quarters of deaths by suicide. According to a 2020 study undertaken by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, men make up more than three-quarters of deaths by suicide in Australia, yet surveys show that only 25 per cent of men would seek help when experiencing personal or emotional problems.

The study highlights that around 25 per cent of Australian men experience a diagnosed mental health disorder in their lifetime, with 15 per cent in any 12 months. Concerningly, 80 per cent of adult men who participated in the study experienced depression, anxiety or suicidality in the past 12 months, yet only 40 per cent of those men contacted a mental health professional. They face multiple hurdles, including cost, wait times, stigma and fear of perceived weakness by others.

Men and boys need to know that speaking up is a sign of strength, not weakness. According to media reports, men are our silent victims. Our culture assumes that domestic violence is predominantly committed by men, yet data reveals that a high number of women can also be abusers. Even if men find the courage to speak up, they are less likely to be believed.

Over 200 studies summed up in a recent journal article called '30 years of denying the evidence on gender symmetry in partner violence', written by Professor Murray Straus, a Professor of Sociology from the University of New Hampshire and an editor of several peer-reviewed sociology journals, outlined that women can be as vicious and irresponsible as men, even with a complete absence of self-defence.

The Australian newspaper featured the professor's work in an article entitled 'Silent victims: both mothers and fathers can be violent' in November 2015. Back as far as 1975, Professor Straus published research showing that women were just as likely as men to report hitting a spouse. His report goes on to say that, even if a woman were to use a knife or other household object as a weapon, men feel forced to hold back from retaliation due to cultural prohibitions on using force towards a woman, even if in self-defence. He highlights the need for the domestic violence debate to curb male bashing misinformation.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that a whopping 36 per cent of Australians who experience violence are male, with some reports suggesting this figure is as high as 50 per cent. The types of abuse Australian men suffer at their partner's hands can range anywhere from physical, sexual, emotional or economic. In the 2022-23 federal budget, $7 billion was allocated to drive gender equality and $1.7 billion to address gender-based violence, but it failed to recognise the one-quarter of domestic violence victims who are male.

Seventy per cent of those who die in car crashes on South Australian roads are men. The Centre for Behavioural Health Statistics and Quality states that men are more likely than women to abuse illicit substances of all types and are also more likely to end up in emergency departments or die from overdoses. Australian men, who are suffering in silence and self-medicating with drugs and/or alcohol, find themselves being more than twice as likely to be killed in a car crash than are women, according to the Department for Infrastructure and Transport website.

Men are over-represented, suffering 65 per cent of serious injuries due to South Australian road use. Regardless of the mode of transport, whether the driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian, men are more likely to suffer fatalities on our roads—notably, 26 times more likely to be killed when riding a motorcycle.

A 2019 Safe Work Australia report tells me that statistically an Australian man dies at work every two days. In stark contrast, statistically an Australian woman dies at work every two months. According to the latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website, 93 per cent of workplace deaths in Australia are men and over 64 per cent of the serious injury claims accepted by workers compensation are from men.

Historically, Australian men typically choose more dangerous occupations. Regardless, we must acknowledge these dangers to work towards appropriate and effective solutions to keep Australian men safer at work. According to the Australian Men's Health Forum in May 2021, the federal government unveiled a $3.4 billion women's budget, which included an allocation of $535.8 million to focus on five priority areas identified in the National Women's Health Strategy, yet there was no comparable allocation to cater for the five priority areas outlined in the National Men's Health Strategy.

Male suicide and male health were two of the five priority areas. Further examples of gender funding inequities are as follows:

over the last eight years, the National Health and Medical Research Council invested five times more funding in women's health than in men's health ($707.9 million and $148.2 million respectively);

women's health, albeit including maternal health research, received 7½ times more investment than men's health ($1.1 billion compared with less than $150 million); and

the National Women's Health Strategy, launched by the federal government in April 2019, received three times more than the National Men's Health Strategy ($52.2 million and $17.9 million respectively); and in May 2021, the National Women's Health Strategy received $535.8 million while the National Men's Health Strategy received no funding.

We need to acknowledge the seriousness of the issues South Australian men face, and predominantly face in silence. It is great that women are being celebrated. It is excellent that they are receiving significant funding, resources, acknowledgement, services and assistance, and women must continue to receive these things, but so should men. It is time the inequities cease. More needs to be done for men as a matter of urgency. Lives depend on it. I commend this motion to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.