Questions in the house about lesbian and bisexual women’s health

21 June 2012, Ms Clover Moore (Member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly (until September 2012) and Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney) asked a question of Jillian Skinner (Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research):

“With respect to the joint Sydney University and ACON “Health Check – Sydney Women and Sexual Health” survey which identified that marginalisation and invisibility result in higher rates for some health conditions and lower rates of help seeking:

  • What key health concerns were identified in the Sydney Women and Sexual Health survey?
  • What action has been taken to ensure that all health services acknowledge and provide appropriate treatment to lesbian women?
  • What action has been taken to ensure that lesbian women are aware of health issues and treatments, and seek treatment?
  • What action has been taken to address:
    – lower rates of cervical cancer screening;
    – problematic alcohol, tobacco and other drug use;
    – mental health support;
    – violence against lesbians including domestic⁄family violence;
    – obesity and overweight concerns?
  • What changes have been made to health services in the inner city based on these findings?
  • What support does the Government provide to specialist lesbian health services and programs?
  • What further action does the Government propose to address these concerns?

26 July 2012, Jillian Skinner responded:

“I am advised:

(1), (5) and (7) Summary results of “Health Check – Sydney Women and Sexual Health Survey 2010” are available at http:⁄⁄⁄sites⁄default⁄files⁄SWASH%20Report%20Card.pdf

(2) and (3) NSW Health’s services acknowledge and provide appropriate treatment to all patients regardless of their sexual orientation.

(4) (a) Initiatives undertaken by the NSW Cervical Screening Program include:

  • implementation of a mass media social marketing campaign, Peace of Mind.
  • new reminder strategies targeting women who participate in cervical screening outside the recommended two-year period, including in collaboration with general practitioners.
  • redevelopment of the Program website to ensure it is engaging, accessible, culturally appropriate and supports key promotional strategies, includes an enhanced Pap test provider search tool and a message recommending to lesbians and other same-sex attracted women to participate in biennial screening for cervical cancer.

The Cancer Institute NSW has made available to health professionals and community groups a brochure, Lesbians need Pap tests too, which addresses misconceptions that may prevent lesbians and other same-sex attracted women from participating in screening for cervical cancer.


  • The NSW Tobacco Strategy 2012-2017 sets out the broad range of Government action to reduce the harm associated with tobacco use.
  • The Opioid Treatment Program provides assessment, treatment, and referral services to an already marginalised drug-using population, around a third of whom are women.
  • The NSW Health Club Drugs campaign targets the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community and raises awareness of the risks and harms associated with the use of “Club drugs” which include ecstasy, methamphetamine (speed, base, crystal, ice), cocaine and GHB.
  • There are a number of drug and alcohol treatment services that target women, both in the government and non-government sector. There are a number of residential rehabilitation services specifically for women within NSW. These treatment programs may include beds for women and their children, as well as women participating in the diversion programs – MERIT and Drug Court.

(c) ACON has developed a Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2010-13 to support their work to promote mental health and wellbeing, and reduce the impact of mental health problems on GBLT communities through direct activity, partnerships and service development.

NSW Health provided funding of $450,000 under the NGO Grant Program for the ACON Peace of Mind Mental Health Literacy Project, from 1 January 2011 to 30 June 2012, with two primary aims:

  • To develop and pilot a mental health information and promotion program (adapted from an existing recognised evidence based training package) to ensure relevance and specificity for GLBT communities.
  • To develop and implement a strategic promotion and partnership campaign.

Workshops have been held to pilot the training package. Further information is available on the ACON website: http:⁄⁄⁄home

(d) NSW Health’s response to violence against lesbians is guided by the NSW Strategic Framework 2007-2012 Working Together: preventing violence against GLBT people and the NSW Health Policy and Procedures for Identifying and Responding to Domestic Violence 2003.

Local Health Districts undertake a range of actions including targeted activities such as community information resources, and activities incorporated into other relevant policies and strategies such as workplace bullying and harassment policies.

NSW Health’s Education Centre Against Violence (ECAV) provides training for health staff and interagency partners on working with clients in same sex relationships who experience domestic violence.

(e) NSW 2021 sets out targets to reduce overweight and obesity in children and adults. The NSW Ministry of Health has commenced the preparation of a new cross government overweight and obesity plan.

(6) The NSW Government provides funding to ACON through the NSW Ministry of Health Non Government Organisation Grant Program to support programs to prevent the transmission of blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections in lesbian and same-sex attracted women.”

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