Demand for female genital mutilation prevention and support services
has ''significantly increased'' in Victoria due to a rise in migration
and refugee settlement, the Health Minister, David Davis, has warned.
Davis has written to federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, urging
her to match state government funding of $900,000 in 2013-14 for the
Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program, to meet growing
demand for female circumcision support and prevention services.
changing demographic pattern of this settlement requires increased
efforts in responding to FGM [female genital mutilation] and providing
support to disperse settled communities,'' Mr Davis said. He said a
cost-share agreement with the Commonwealth would let the program
''significantly increase its reach and effectiveness.''
''I think this issue is a very serious one,'' he told The Age.
''There's obviously a number of cultural sensitivities and we need people who can reach across these cultural divides.''
extra money would be used to implement a professional training course
for health professionals, another dedicated FGM clinic in a public
hospital in outer-metropolitan Melbourne, a leadership course for young
women and improved data collection.
Jacinta Waters, the acting
director of women's health services at the Royal Women's Hospital, runs
Australia's first nurse-led deinfibulation clinic, which has repaired
the effects of the circumcision of 33 women and seen 90 women for
consultations since it opened in 2010. She said there had been an
increase in women visiting the clinic in the past six months.
clinic opens every second Friday and nearly all the clients are from
African countries, including Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan.
per cent of clients are pregnant and need to be deinfibulated - or
opened up - to allow for a natural birth. ''They can have mental health
issues, sexual difficulties, urinary concerns, they may require sexual
counselling. The procedure is the easy bit, the eliciting of that
sensitive information in a cultural sensitive environment is the
Waters said she was not aware of female genital mutilation occurring in
Victoria. But she said counselling was provided for parents in the
post-natal section of the hospital about the legal restrictions and
health impacts of the practice on baby girls.
''We tell them it is
illegal in Australia, and it is illegal for your family member to take
the baby girl overseas to get it done.''
A spokesman for Ms
Plibersek said the Department of Health and Ageing would discuss with
the Victorian government ways to collaborate on the delivery of
services. He said the federal government had doubled its grants for
non-government organisations to tackle FGM to $1 million and the
minister would ensure the issue was on the agenda at the next
ministerial Standing Council on Health.
''The Commonwealth would
welcome additional investment by all states and territories on FGM as a
national priority. The usual process to determine Commonwealth and state
and Territory cost share arrangements is through joint ministerial